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Grandwich 2014 sampled: First seven sandwiches swing strongly towards sweet or salty

We are out to try 33 Grandwich competitors in the first week. Our first day of tastings found some edits that could still be done to many of the competitors to make them a great sandwich, with one clear winner rising to the top.
First choice from day one was Reserve's "PBAB&J"

First choice from day one was Reserve's "PBAB&J" /Holly Bechiri

Try it for yourself

[See day two's assessment here.]

[See day three's analysis here.]

[See day four's final sandwiches here.]


Descriptions and information culled from the Grandwich website. See the full list of options and descriptions here.

Reserve Wine & Food

  • PBAB&J (Pork Belly, Almond Butter, & Rhubarb Jam)
  • $12.00
  • Crispy pork belly from Little Town Jerky Co. (Falmouth), house-made marcona almond butter, Reserve's rhubarb jam made with Pond Hill Farm's rhubarb (Harbor Springs) and red vein arugula from Vertical Paradise (Caledonia) served on a toasted house-made brioche. Served with a side of Pork Fat Fries.
  • Hours: 11:30AM-11PM Mon-Thur and 11:30AM-12:00AM Fri and 2:00PM-12:00AM Sat
  • 201 Monroe Ave NW
  • Grand Rapids, MI 49503

San Chez

  • Phoenix
  • $10.99
  • Black pepper turkey from Golden Legacy with smoked Wisconsin cheddar, mojo marinated onions, jalapeño slices, roasted garlic, Michigan Bee Co. jalapeño honey, spicy yellow mustard, and an Eggland's Best over-medium egg. 
  • Hours: 11am - 2pm
  • 38 West Fulton
  • Grand Rapids, MI 49503

The Cheshire Grill

  • Madame Cheshire
  • $12.00
  • Cinnamon raisin french toast bread from Van's Pastry Shoppe with lean shaved ham, dijon hollandaise, featuring a Big G wine reduction from Heavenly Vineyard in Morely, creamy provolone cheese, orange, balsamic wilted micro greens, two over-medium eggs, and fresh fried green tomatoes from Real Food Farms in Caledonia. 
  • Hours: 8:00AM-4:00PM Sun 7:00AM-4PM Mon and 7:00AM-8:00PM Tues-Sat
  • 2162 Plainfield Ave NE
  • Grand Rapids, MI 49505

Skywalk Deli

  • The Fresh Start
  • $6.95
  • Grand Rapids has shown us so much love during our struggle to find our new location, and we want to return the love with this sandwich made using only the best local ingredients! We start with Sobie Meats smoked bacon which we candy in house, thinly sliced locally grown apples, verde gorgonzola from The Cheese Lady, and crunchy in house grown sprouts, all on grilled Traverse City cherry bread, made exclusively for this sandwich by Schnitz Bakery. We're looking forward to a great future here in our new home. Fresh ideas, fresh ingredients, and a "Fresh Start" at Skywalk Deli!
  • Hours: Mon - Fri: 7:00am to 6:00pm Sat: 9:00am to 3:00pm
  • 940 Monroe Avenue NW
  • Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Flanagan's Irish Pub

  • Rueben Cuban
  • $8.95
  • Braised and seasoned pork shoulder and Flanagan's own corned beef from slow cooked beef brisket, homemade dill pickles, swiss cheese, and roasted red pepper on french loaf bread from Schnitzelstein Baking Co. Topped with Jameson whiskey sauce.
  • 139 Pearl St. NW
  • Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Bulls Head Tavern

  • $10.00
  • Smoked ham, pepperoni, salami from Little Town Jerky, mortadella, turkey, colby, provolone, and swiss from Grassfields Farm, toasted and served on Roadhouse Bakery Sweet Onion and Parmesan Focaccia. Topped with lettuce, marinated tomatoes, red onion from Holmstead Farms, roasted red peppers, sweet & spicy banana peppers, dijon mustard, and a homemade roasted garlic herb aioli. Accompanied with homemade potato chips.
  • Hours: 11:00AM to 11:00PM Mon-Thurs; 11:00AM to 12:00AM Fri-Sat
  • 188 Monroe
  • Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Fat Johnny's Cheesesteak Co.

  • $5.25 for a half sandwich (6")
  • Michigan ribeye steak with provolone and American cheese on an amoroso roll. 
  • Hours: Mon - Sat: 11am-8pm
  • 95 Monroe Center St
  • Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Second in rankings for day one was San Chez's "Phoenix"

Second in rankings for day one was San Chez's "Phoenix" /Holly Bechiri

A close third in rankings from the first day was Cheshire Grill's "Madame Cheshire

A close third in rankings from the first day was Cheshire Grill's "Madame Cheshire /Holly Bechiri

This week, four Rapidian reporters are trying every Grandwich they can in the first week of the competition. The Grandwich competition runs from Tuesday July 8 through July 27. Top 10 sandwiches are determined by public vote online, and on August 1, the top 10 will be ranked by a team of judges in Rosa Parks Circle.

Our team of food critics consists of Tory O'Haire, owner of Propaganda Doughnuts, The Starving Artist and the future Bandit Queen; Wendy Hammond, Eat Local West Michigan website creator; Holly Bechiri, Rapidian Managing Editor with entirely too many years as a server in her past; and Kendra Vanderlip, Rapidian intern this summer who describes herself as a "budding foodie," who first became passionate about food by learning how to cook.

Our method is simple: Each sandwich gets divided in quarters and everyone samples as we discuss together as a group. We'll share our daily discoveries, and hope that this analysis will help our readers decide - out of the wide array of options available for only a short time- which sandwiches they themselves may want to try. Once we have tried every sandwich at the end of the week (minus the B.O.B. entry, which is unavailable until next week when they reopen), we'll select our top sandwiches and let you know which ones we'd look forward to going back to enjoy again. 

On Tuesday, we tried the offerings from Reserve Wine and Food, San Chez Bistro, Skywalk Deli, The Cheshire Grill, Bull's Head Tavern, Flanagan's Irish Pub and Fat Johnny's Cheesesteak

Flanagan's featured a meat-heavy sandwich. Flanagan's had some solid flavors going for it, but the mustard flavor in the sauce overpowered the rest. With that ingredient toned down, we'd be able to better enjoy the rest.

Bull's Head, another meat-heavy option, didn't seem to offer much you would find many other places. It ended up feeling like just a big pile of meat and cheese, and we didn't see much originality. This was the sandwich that looked the most appealing visually, and we recognized that to certain demographics- perhaps the meat lover's pizza fans among us- this would be a satisfying meal. For us though, we were looking for more.

Fat Johnny's Cheesesteak provided the least expensive sandwich of the day. We're not convinced that a unique sandwich was created for the competition, and found it excessively heavy on both salt and a distinct "cheese wiz" flavor, so much so that more than a quarter of this half sandwich would have been difficult for us to continue eating.

The Cheshire Grill's "Madame Cheshire" sounded more varying than it ended up being. A little too much on the sweet side, we wanted to taste the orange and balsamic flavors provided in the description. To use a symphony analogy, all of the instruments were just too quiet- and we wanted some volume turned up on those great strong flavors to balance out the sweet notes. All were in agreement that if some flavors were turned up to balance out the sweet and the side dish was changed or just eliminated, this would be an enjoyable sandwich.

San Chez Bistro's "Phoenix" had just one instrument- heat- that was noticeable. Although it didn't get "too hot" despite numerous ingredients capable of overwhelming the tastebuds, it just didn't have other balancing notes. We noticed that Eggland's Best eggs were used, and wondered if even switching to local freerange eggs, known by chefs and home cooks alike for their stronger, richer flavor, might add a rich smooth note to the sandwich to create more of a complex flavor profile.

Reserve Wine and Food's "PBAB&J (Pork Belly, Almond Butter and Rhubarb Jam)" was the most considered and thoughtfully executed sandwich of the day. Satisfying flavors balanced together, unlike every other sandwich of the day which swung to either the sweet or salty/savory side nearly exclusively on one side or the other. We wished for a little more "crunch," whether it was from the almond butter not being as smooth or more greens, but this was a tiny mention in possible improvements to bring the sandwich from great to perfection. This is the one we all wanted more of after our quarter was devoured. The Pork Fat Fries sent it over the edge of awesome.

Skywalk Deli, back after their win two years ago, was a disappointment- though more from our expectations for it to be a winner than anything else. The sandwich was thin, and gets its "Fresh Start" name from apple slices and a little bit of 80's-granola-mom-inspired sprouts. The gorgonzola cheese was sparse but still overwhelming in flavor, but overall we just wanted more. We look forward to this one working out the kinks in upcoming days, as everyone works to finesse their competing sandwiches, showcasing local Michigan foods and chef creativity in their own ways.


Let us know in the comments what you've tried, or hashtag #RapidianEats on Instagram or Facebook with shots of your own Grandwich experiences.

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