This time last year, it was revealed on Gerry House’s morning show on WSIX-FM that my favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal is the turkey neck. I was outed via a telephone call from a very reliable source. For the next few days, wherever I went, I was asked about it, in tones ranging from curious to scornful. It’s true, I admitted, further explaining that my two younger sisters and I used to fight over the neck every Thanksgiving. To keep peace around the family table, my mother was forced to keep track of whose turn it was to partake of this peculiar delicacy.
While this may be an appalling confession for a food professional to make, I feel better for having made it. My second favorite part of the Thanksgiving dinner is the leftovers, particularly the leftover turkey. There are many ways to make good use of the remnants of the big birdturkey tetrazzini, turkey-rice soup, turkey pot pie, turkey saladbut I think the very best way is the simplest: cold turkey on thick slices of good white bread with tomato, lettuce, and a thick layer of Hellman’s mayonnaise. I could eat turkey sandwiches for days.
This year, my children and I are going to my parents’ house in Hot Springs, Ark., where we will meet one of my sisters and one of my brothers and their families. There will be no fight over the neck this year, nor will there be leftover turkey for sandwiches, as there will be no turkey to begin with. After cooking a turkey for more than 30 consecutive Thanksgivings, about 10 years ago, my mother made a confession of her own: She had always hated cooking turkeys and vowed never to do it again. So far, she hasn’t. We’ll be having ham for Thanksgiving dinner, which means we’ll be having leftover ham sandwiches; I am quite fond of those as well.
With the harried holiday shopping season officially underway, lunch is often grabbed on the run; and with so much of my counter and oven space being taken up by Christmas cookie baking, I foresee a few sandwich-for-dinner nights in our future. Maybe in yours too. Following are a few places around town that can lend a hand when time is short, the leftovers are gone, and your inner Scrooge is threatening to thwart your holiday spirit.
The Original Jimmy John’s (2318 West End Ave. 341-0036. Open seven days a week, 11 am-midnight.)
According to the menu, Jimmy John’s was established in 1983 in Charleston, Ill., “to aid students’ GPAs and general dating ability.” The eatery also touts itself as “the world’s greatest gourmet sandwich shop.” A sense of humor and self-confidenceI like that in a sandwich shop. The sense of humor is consistent throughout the menuwith whimsically named sandwiches like the Italian Night Club, Country Club, Big John, and Sorry Charlieand in the wry signage posted in the takeout-only shop on West End Avenue, across from Vanderbilt’s Carmichael Towers.
I would have to disagree, though, with Jimmy John’s claim as “the world’s greatest.” A recent Scene lunchroom taste testing did not provoke any glory hallelujahs, but it can be said that Jimmy John’s has decent sandwiches for the best prices in town. The 8-inch gourmet subsdressed with lettuce, tomato, and, where appropriate, sproutsare just $2.95 each. If you’re taking your sub home and not back to the office, the plain Slim Jims are an even better bet: the same meats and cheeses, but without the veggies and mayo or dressing, for $1 less. I’d rather dress mine up at home anyway. The giant clubs, on either a roll or honey wheat bread, have twice the meat for $3.95 apiece.
One warning: Jimmy John’s does not take credit cards, which I found particularly odd, considering its location across from Vandy, where Daddy’s credit cards reign supreme.
Out to Lunch Cafe (95 White Bridge Road, Suite 108. 356-2469. Open Mon.-Fri. 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sat. 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.)
I received a tip on this place from a reader; otherwise, I would never have seen it from White Bridge Road, as it is tucked away in the Cavalier building, next door to the vacant former Chinese restaurant. More fortuitously, it is just across the street from Target, where I will be spending an inordinate amount of time in the coming month.
The Cafe is open for a limited breakfast menu as well as lunchthe execution of which far surpasses expectations, given the teensy-tiny kitchen space. The young Asian couple who own Out to Lunch not only offer a full slate of cold and hot sandwiches, but also baked potatoes with various toppings and two hot daily specials ($4.95). The specials are determined by the day of the month; for instance, Szechuan chicken and Arizona chicken are served on the fourth day of every month, Mandarin chicken and meat lasagna on the 28th day, broccoli chicken and Italian meat loaf on the 17th.
One late weekday afternoon, we arrived too late to sample the specials, but we loved the tuna sandwich with lettuce and tomato ($3.75); a chicken quesadilla with chicken, artichokes, spinach, and cheese ($4.50); and a grilled pita veggie delight with mushrooms, onions, tomato, artichokes, spinach, and cheddar cheese on a thick, folded-over pita ($4.25). There are about six tables in a clean, light-filled room, or you can take it to go. No credit cards accepted.
Star Bagel Cafe (4502 Murphy Rd. 292-7993. Open Mon.-Fri. 6:30 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat. 7 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun. 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. 992 Davidson Dr. 352-2435. Open Mon.-Fri. 6:30 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat. 7 a.m.-4 p.m.)
Bagels are baked fresh all day at Star Bagel, and while I tend to subscribe to my nice Jewish girlfriend Jayne’s theory that any bagel made outside of New York City is just bread with holes, Star offers an exemplary Nashville version. Breakfast items center on those bagels, which come in at least 14 different varieties, but they are available all day long.
Hot deli sandwiches can be ordered on fresh-baked muffuletta buns (similar to, but much better than, Schlotzsky’s bread), sourdough, wheat, or pumpernickel. We were well pleased with the generous amounts of meats and cheeses on the roast beef and cheddar on sourdough, fluffed out with lettuce, red onion, tomato, and mayo ($3.79 for small, $4.89 regular); the pastrami with melted Swiss and spicy mustard on pumpernickel ($4.29/$5.69); and the Starz Classic, sourdough with mozzarella, provolone, cheddar, ham, Genoa salami, black olives, lettuce, tomato, onion, and mustard ($3.89/$4.99). The Reuben, though its presentation on a soft pumpernickel bun is hardly New York-style as advertised, had a nice flavor with corned beef, Swiss, spicy mustard, and a big pile of tangy sauerkraut ($4.49/$5.99).
Dimples Deli (5111 Peter Taylor Park, Brentwood. 376-7757. Open Mon.-Fri. 7:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Sat.-Sun. 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m.)
The oddly named Dimples Deli is located in the heart of the mammoth Maryland Farms office park, and last Friday at about noon, it seemed that every member of the area’s populous workforce was there. That didn’t faze the friendly employees, who moved everyone through the eat-in and takeout lines efficiently and with apparent ease, throwing in a personal greeting with nearly every sandwich order. Dimples resembles more an old-fashioned diner than a deli, and the warm ambiance invites cheerful banter between tables. I took my order to go, as there was a large contingent of hungry journalists (the most dangerous kind) awaiting delivery back at the Scene offices. But next time I find myself in Brentwood at lunchtime, I’ll make it a point to eat in. The restaurant does so much lunch business that there is no reason to open for dinner, and they no longer do.
The menu is huge, with 34 specialty sandwich interpretations that include subs, wraps and pitas, muffulettas, and loaded deli sandwiches, along with basics like plain roast beef or pimento cheese on bread. Also available are soups, chili, red beans and rice; prepared salads and a fresh salad bar; and 10 varieties of stuffed, baked potatoes. Favorites that we sampled included the tuna melt on multigrain bread ($5.25); the BBQ beef brisket sub with melted cheddar and sautéed onions ($5.25); and the light chicken salad, made uniquely flavorful with artichoke hearts and lots of chopped green onions ($5.25). Though not 100-percent authentic, both the original muffuletta (the New Orleans staple is $9.99 for a whole, $6.50 for a half, $4.95 for a quarter) and the N.Y. Reuben ($5.75) were acceptable versions of their respective cities’ signature sandwiches.
All sandwiches come with chips and a kosher pickle spear. Kids 10 and under have their own menu of 99-cent selections: ham, turkey, or PB&J sandwich; grilled cheese; hot dog or mini meatballs. Like any respectable deli, Dimples has Dr. Brown’s sodas, I.B.C. root beer, and domestic and imported beer.