Today marks the first post in my Atlanta Sub & Sandwich Tour series. For those of you just hearing about this, you may want to peruse the rules page. The criterion for each tour is VERY different than my criteria for a general review. The goal of this particular tour is to focus on the sandwich, the whole sandwich, and nothing but the sandwich. I really don’t want to even bring up service, vibe, or other food that may be consumed at a given location. That said, as the series matures, I am sure I will find the right balance between the focus of the report and what is superfluous yet good to know information.
For my visit to The Mercantile, I was joined by the world famous Adam Harrell. Ya’ll might remember him for his guest appearance way back when. Maybe this call-out will guilt him into providing more good content! It was nice to have the company of a good friend and competent (to say the least) foodie. We ordered two sandwiches and each tried a “half” of both. As luck would have it, I’m pretty sure our feelings were universally consistent (I’m sure I’ll hear otherwise if this is not the case!)
With that, let’s dispense with the formalities and get down to business:
Sandwich One: The Candler
Ingredients: Roasted turkey, cranberries, crisp pancetta, smooth cream cheese, bread of choice (white or wheat)
We had to choose the bread for this one; I was feeling the wheat and Adam acquiesced. I would say it was the weakest element of either sandwich. While we both had problems with other elements; those shortcomings were less about quality and more about the execution and/or use of a given ingredient.
Back to the bread, it was fresh, but not particularly flavorful. It sort of tasted like the faux-gourmet breads you might find in a chain grocery store. I did some eyeballing of the place, and I’m nearly certain that the breads are not baked on-site. Adam was also underwhelmed with the wheat bread.
Initially, we were both adverse to the flavor of this sandwich. Adam quickly ascertained that the culprit was the pancetta. We both removed the offending meat and found that the sandwich was much improved as a result. The pancetta was not bad by itself; however, it simply did not work well on this sandwich. In addition, despite the description on the menu, the pancetta was soft.
The turkey was fine, nothing to write home about but far from bad. After seeing the spread of goodies behind the counter, I expected Herr Turkey to be home roasted. I don’t *think* that’s the case. Regardless of where it was cooked, we both seemed indifferent to the quality of the meat.
The cranberries and cream cheese added flavor to the sandwich. Much like the turkey, the combination was good, but nothing more. Both ingredients stood up fine when I sampled them individually.
The Candler, which the Mercantile claims is their most popular sandwich, is certainly serviceable. While the soft pancetta overpowered the sandwich, the rest of the ingredients were perfectly acceptable.
Sandwich Two: The Inman
Ingredients: grilled eggplant, zucchini, roasted red peppers, and goat cheese. Served as a Panini on eight-grain bread.
To satisfy my veggie requirement, we ordered up an Inman. While the lows of this sandwich were not as acute as the lows from the Candler, we walked away from it with similar feelings. The initial bites were highly intriguing; the sweetness of the eight-grain bread provided an interesting texture against the warm vegetables inside. The further I got with it, the more subdued I became. Overall, I liked what it did for me. Unfortunately, both Adam and I felt the amount of goat cheese that had been globed on was a bit excessive.
The vegetables and cheese came across much like the turkey did. Certainly, they were not bad; however, they failed to provide the crescendo I was expecting from this type of sandwich. Simply put: this sandwich was overshadowed by the amount of cheese but otherwise solid.
Conclusions & Notes
Remember, we’re grading Top Chef style. You’re only as good as your last sandwich. Despite what might seem like a fairly harsh review, I can assure you that the food here was pleasant. Remember, all I’m talking about here is a small sample of their food. I would not make it a point to drive a great distance just for a sandwich here; however, they do a fine job and are as tasty as anything I have had in the area (or … so far in that I’m not going to reveal any of my other findings … yet!).
Additional notes: As a tip of the cap to my opening paragraph: Adam grabbed a cup of gumbo while we waited for our sandwiches. He was actually quite impressed with it … so much so that he felt it alone would constitute a drive to the Merc. He specifically noted the quality of the roux.