Members of the Club

Everybody welcome

My husband travels a lot for his job. Which means he gets to (read: has to) eat a lot of unfamiliar foods. This might sound glamorous, but when we’re talking 300 days a year it's simply tiresome. Not to mention gastrically taxing.

Luckily he has found an ally in the almighty club sandwich, that tidy stack of meat, cheese and toast triangles that are both satisfying and trustworthy. Even in Mexico he was able to find a club sandwich on every menu, which he always ordered. At first it was for the comfort of it but then it became a more invesitgative pursuit. What makes the perfect club sandwich? He is the guy to ask.

I was grateful to have my husband’s club-savvy palate along on my exploration of the club sandwiches of Lake Minnetonka. He has definitive standards but they aren't what you'd necessarily think. Deviation from the classic formula of turkey, ham and cheese was fine—walleye? Sure! Lemon aioli? Why not? Other things were non-negotiable: hand-held manageability (key), bacon (never miss a chance to eat bacon!) and bread that didn’t shred the roof of his mouth.
I love my job and I'm always paranoid about saying anything that may sound like a complaint. But sometimes having to eat nine or more iterations of the same dish gets a bit overwhelming. Willing dining companions are invaluable assets for me. One evening my club-expert hubby invited his stepson (we'll call him "Chad") to join us. Chad is also a great fan of the club sandwich. While enjoying a dynamite grilled chicken club sandwich at one of my favorite restaurants, Jimmy’s Food and Cocktails, Chad dropped a bombshell: “When I think of club sandwiches, I think of Perkins. That's the gold standard.”

Perkins! I’d never even been there. All I knew was that it flew the same outsized American flags as car dealerships do, and people go there after the bars close in order to neutralize a night of imbibing. But his declaration struck a chord, because I’d been recently playing with the idea that “mainstream” doesn’t necessarily mean “mediocre,” a knee-jerk assumption that I have been trying to shake. I thought: why not? After all, the best chicken wings I tasted for a different assignment were at the Buffalo Wild Wings chain. Maybe the kid was onto something.

I was determined to add the Perkins experiment to my lineup for May’s restaurant column, but my editor put the kibosh on it. Again—not complaining. She’s absolutely right; everyone already knows what Perkins is about (or doesn't want to know). I’m supposed to reveal hidden gems and share transcendent gustatory experiences, right?

But I remain curious. I tasted wonderful club sandwiches in our haven over the last few weeks but I’m dying to know what a 20-something considers “the ultimate club.” Stay tuned for my report and in the meantime don’t miss May’s restaurant lineup on club sandwiches. There’s even a sushi club in there. Really.

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