You may know that we have a slight obsession with sandwiches. Philly itself is a sandwich kind of city- it seems you can't say "Philly" without someone thinking "cheesesteak," and of course we have many variations of the roast pork sandwich and the Italian hoagie as well. We grew up eating what seems like a million sandwiches (plain peanut butter every single day during high school), as well as watching (and continuing to watch, on occasion), our dad's strange habit of making a sandwich out of whatever is left on the table at the end of a meal. We even listened to quite a few renditions of the "Sandwich Song."
However, a sandwich is not just a sandwich. There are the sandwiches you make for yourself at home (although I've made some pretty good ones, if I may say so myself), the ones you get at a local deli, and then the "artisanal" sandwiches. As documented here, we pretty much rave about the sandwiches at Paesano's to anyone who will listen. However, there are quite a few other specialty sandwich shops around town, some of which we've visited (Garces Trading Company, John's Roast Pork, and DiBruno's come to mind), and some of which are waiting for us to discover. An addition to the sandwich-making list was recently made near J's place of work, and early on in its fledgling restaurant life, some ventured to compare it to Paesano's. So for this, we were "forced" to check it out.
Jake's Sandwich Board actually has quite a few uncanny similarities to Paesano's. The menu is laid out similarly- large chalkboard menu, and all of the sandwiches have special names. Even some of the gourmet flavors are similar- fried eggs, cherry based sauces, whole roasted pig... a little disappointing that Jake's doesn't have a LOT of originality in terms of their sandwiches. But, I guess if the flavors work, and they make good sandwiches, I shouldn't complain too much. Jake's does have a few more options though- up by 3 with 13 options on their regular menu as opposed to Paesano's with 10. One great option at Jake's is the ability to design your own sandwich- to a degree. The base consists of whole roasted pig, but you can pick from a variety of toppings, condiments, and even choose your roll, all for a single price ($8). I went for roasted long-hots, broccoli rabe, sharp provolone, and cracklings as my toppings (forgoing raw onion, crushed chili, and roasted peppers) and also asked for the addition of horseradish sauce, all served on a multi-grain Carangi roll.
One more great thing about Jake's is the variety of sides- while not extensive, they cover the basics (classics?)- fries, shakes, and floats. You can add these to your sandwich as a "combo" for not a whole lot extra, although with the fairly high price of the sandwich, it can add up (granted you get A LOT of food). J decided to order the Village Turkey sandwich and made it a combo with a vanilla milkshake and fries. She drank the milkshake, I ate the fries (guess we weren't on the same sweet/savory side at the time, but hey, it worked out well). The Village Turkey consists of roasted turkey, cherry wood smoked bacon, arugula, and black cherry spread ($8), with the combo adding an additional $4 to our bill.
The restaurant is airy and laid-back: order at the counter, grab a table and wait for your order to be called. At lunch time on Saturday, there were VERY few other customers- great for us, as we didn't have to wait long, but odd. Perhaps it experiences more of a lunchtime rush during the weekdays, as Jefferson Hospital is pretty much next door. (Note: Jake's also serves breakfast sandwiches and free coffee in the mornings-- something I would totally hit up if I worked nearby). The service was a little slow- I'm fairly certain at least one of the employees was learning the ropes, but like I said, it wasn't a problem since we were the only ones in line.
The "do it yourself" sandwich turned out great- I was very happy with my choice. The roast pork was deliciously juicy, but not in a fatty way- the juice ran clear and thin. The horseradish definitely hit me with each bite (much stronger than Paesano's, if I remember correctly). My choice of toppings was perfect- not too much, but just enough to add extra flavors and textures to the pork. The roasted long hots and broccoli rabe contributed earthy, moist vegetable goodness, while the sharp provolone gave it all a salty kick. The provolone was oddly shredded onto the top of the sandwich- I prefer slices, as they tend to meld better with the rest of the sandwich. General rule of cheese: parmesan is for shredding, provolone is for slicing. The cracklings were perhaps one of my favorite parts- little crumbles of fried pig skin sprinkled all over the sandwich. I'm not going to lie, I picked most of them off so that I could experience their flavor all alone (and share a few with J). Overall, a great sandwich. Am I going to rave about it? Probably not. Am I going to crave it in a few days? Absolutely.
J's turkey sandwich was a little subpar (particularly in comparison with Paesano's). While each component shone in its own right, it just didn't come together in the right way. Concept=there, execution=needs some work. I think my own opinion was biased due to my own sandwich (we actually didn't share half and half this time!), but it just seemed sort of measly. As you squeezed the bread to take a bite, everything flattened out and seemed unsubstantial. Perhaps if the meat and arugula portions were stepped up a notch, this sandwich would be even more enjoyable. But, like I said, each component was a bit special, especially the cherry sauce. It was somewhat creamy- I wouldn't think to combine mayo and cherries, but I believe this is what was done, and it was delicious.
The fries and shake were good sides- not spectacular, but exactly what each of us was wanting at the moment. The shake was creamy and more on the thin side, but with obvious vanilla specks and good flavor- definitely heavy on the sugar. The fries were greasier than I would have liked, but they were hot and crispy and I realize I can be altogether too picky. Jake's definitely makes a solid sandwich, perhaps one of the best that can be found in Center City. As an everyday lunch spot for the average person it may be a little pricy, but as I know quite well, you get what you pay for. Fresh, quality ingredients, and huge portions means $8 is worth it for a sandwich (in my book). Now if Jake's could move a little closer to University City (in a related note, why can't Paesano's open a food cart?) I would probably make it a more regular lunch spot.
Jake's Sandwich Board
122 S. 12th Street