Here's a tip: Do not attempt to eat a sandwich from Bogtrotters Doorstep while driving. You might end up heading home on a tow truck.
Colossal, dripping with juice, and unwieldy as a baby slathered in Vaseline, these hoagies require your complete attention. (A post-meal shower might not be a bad idea either.) Built atop an artisan-baked baguette and overstuffed with quality house-roasted meats, the sandwiches here are some of the most agreeable foods a human can eat.
Ohio City-based Bogtrotters joins downtown's Cleveland Pickle as two of the most talked-about new sandwich shops in years. And for good reason: Both are run by seasoned chefs as opposed to mere sandwich enthusiasts, meaning that quality and creativity shine through with every bite.
Bogtrotters' Nate Williams worked in the fine-dining kitchen of Flying Fig for a dozen years before striking out on his own. He chose sandwiches because they filled a need and, well, because who doesn't love a great sandwich?
"I've always wanted to do something fun like this," Williams explains. "And there was a need on the street for something late-night and quick."
Accessed from a separate side entryway to the Old Angle Tavern, Bogtrotters is mainly a carry-out operation. If the tavern is open, you can order and enjoy your sandwich in the pub along with a beer. Optionally, a few tables out front offer sidewalk seating.
The menu is as crisp as Abbey Road's track list. There are just eight sandwiches: no salads, no sides, no desserts. All the meats are marinated, brined, and roasted in-house, and the drippings from each are reserved for use as gravy.
Most of the sandwiches are modeled after classic American varieties: The Philly is loaded with a half-pound of roast beef, grilled onions and mushrooms, and cheese sauce. The Porkopolis is crammed with sliced pork loin, pleasantly bitter greens, and provolone. Others are built around roast turkey, Italian sausage, or roasted veggies. If we have a complaint, it's that some meats could be sliced thinner.
Once you settle on a sandwich, the only other decision is whether to get it "wet" or "dry" and with or without "crunch." Order your sammie "dry" and it will come with a side of that amazing jus. Get it "wet" and that gravy will be ladled right onto the meat. Say "soaked" and the whole beast will be baptized by broth. "Crunch" is just like it sounds, provided by a shower of crushed chips.
Best of all: On weekends, Bogtrotters keeps the lights on till 3 a.m.
In contrast, Cleveland Pickle is more suited to a midday lunch than a late-night binge. Wedged into a pint-size shop near the corner of East Ninth and Euclid, the newly opened Pickle already is a hit with the downtown lunch crowd, thanks to its big, tasty, but more manageable sandwiches.
Former Reddstone chef Josh Kabat and his fiancée Kiaran Daley run a bustling and efficient operation. Despite a line out the door, it took less than 10 minutes to reach the cashier, and another 8 to score our lunch. Most people take their food to go, but there's room for a dozen or so dine-in customers.
Kabat calls his sandwiches "Nu-Skool," with almost a dozen Cleveland-themed creations. The Terminal, for example, combines Black Forest ham, brie, mustard, and apricot jam in a soft 8-inch sub bun. The Classic Pickle is a meaty, Italian-themed hoagie with capicola, sopressata, prosciutto, provolone, and a spicy pickle relish. We adore the Payne Avenue: a twist on the Vietnamese banh mi. It features airy pork meatballs, fresh cilantro, carrot threads, lime, and kicky adobo spread.
Sandwiches are well balanced, with a good meat-to-fixings ratio. Most come with some form of pickle relish and include pickles on the side, and often boast a welcome surprise too — like that apricot jam, adobo, or roasted tomato. Half are served cold and half get toasted in a panini press. Breakfast sandwiches, soups, salads, and deviled eggs round out the menu.
Now let's have a hand for these two great new shops. Better make it two hands.