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Most of the restaurants you'll find in Anaheim's Downtown Disney are table-service restaurants that appeal more to the apres park crowd. But you do have a handful of counter service options. The most popular might be the west-coast outpost of Earl of Sandwich.
I've not eaten at the wildly popular Walt Disney World location, but I did first try Earl of Sandwich at Disneyland Paris's Disney Village last summer. And, I must concede, I didn't like it. Earl of Sandwich bills itself "The World's Greatest Hot Sandwich," and the "Hot" part isn't simply marketing hype. Each sandwich comes wrapped tightly in foil, like a Chipotle burrito, and steaming hot. While that's not bad on a sandwich that's just meat and cheese, such as the roast-beef-and-cheddar Original 1762, on a sandwich that features lettuce and tomato, such as the Full Montague, the heat and tight packing are a disaster.
To me, part of the appeal of a loaded sandwich is the contrast of its various elements. A hot, juicy burger with cool, crisp lettuce. The snap of crisp bacon coupled with the luscious texture of a ripe, fresh tomato in a BLT. In the Earl's sandwiches, everything's smushed together, like a panini without the exterior sear.
Knowing that this time, and wanting to give the Earl its best shot, I ordered what I understood to be the shop's most popular sandwich, the Holiday Turkey.
Loaded with turkey, stuffing, gravy and cranberries, this is a day-after-Thanksgiving dream. And it would work all smashed together and hot, just like so many of us make them at home, straight out of the microwave. It would have worked for me, too, had the Earl thrown on an extra slice of turkey and left off the gratuitous slather of mayonnaise. With mayo, gravy and cranberry sauce, this was less a sandwich and more like soup on a roll.
Just too goopy for me. I picked the sandwich apart after a few bites, to try each component alone, and I liked them all. But the sum here isn't even equal to the addition of its parts, much less an improvement.
Earl of Sandwich also makes a point of noting its freshly-baked bread. But who can tell, when it's toasted this dry? Toasting's a time-honored trick for hiding less-than-fresh bread. I wonder if I could order a Holiday Turkey on untoasted bread, without the mayo, and unwrapped so that the darned thing could breathe a bit. That'd be delightful. Alas.
I also ordered a cup of the Butternut Squash soup, thinking it'd make a perfect accompaniment to my mid-summer faux Thanksgiving meal. Again, meh. Decent butternut squash flavor, but beaten down a notch by a vegetal broth.
If Earl of Sandwich was too fussy for its own good, Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen Express offered an example of how good simplicity can taste.
I ordered the Red Beans and Rice, with a small baguette on the side, from the counter service window next to the main Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen table service restaurant. If you're not familiar with this Louisiana classic, don't be fooled by the name — this is no vegetarian dish. Brennan's Red Beans and Rice comes loaded with ham and sausage and delivered such a peppery kick that I was happy to have that baguette and butter to cool my taste buds after every few bites.
And that baguette! Perfectly fresh, with a crisp crust surrounding an airy interior, this loaf reminded me how good bread can be. No one would dare toast this.
Good bread. A simple, meaty stew. This is a lunch that will wake your taste buds and keep your tummy filled until dinner.
What's your favorite place to eat in Disneyland's Downtown Disney? Please tell us, in the comments.Tweet
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