That is why I am embarking on an occasional experiment to see who makes truly inspired, original sandwiches that are also delicious.
It is a little feature we'll call "Anatomy of a Sandwich," and we begin in Lakeview in an unlikely location.
It is breakfast and lunch only at The Southport Grocery and Cafe in Lakeview, and they sell a lot more sandwiches than salads during lunch. Recently, plans changed, when their supplier ran out of pea shoots.
"So I had to substitute it with sunflower shoots. And at the same time we were looking at creating a new fish item, a new fish sandwich, and I had sunflower shoots, and I was like, why don't we do a spin on that, make that into a sandwich?" said Derrick Dejaynes, the Chef at Southport Grocery and Cafe.
And oh, what a sandwich it is. At its base, a griddled Tuscan loaf spread with basil aioli; then pan-fried walleye fillets, topped with crunchy sunflower shoots and thinly-sliced green tomatoes, both of which are dressed in a citrus vinaigrette.
"We get the bread, it's called a Sammy Tuscan Loaf, it comes from Highland Bakery up in Highland Park, Illinois... we go with a basil aioli. Which is a mayo, lemon juice, fresh basil and lemon juice and a little salt and pepper," said Dejaynes.
The thick, vibrant aioli is spread onto the bread while it sears on the grill. Meanwhile, the walleye is dredged in a unique combination.
"Dusted a little sunflower flour, which I take toasted sunflower seeds, toast them off, blend that with all-purpose flour, and that's what the fish will be dredged in before it's sauteed with the skin on," Dejaynes said.
While the fish is pan-frying, Dejaynes slices green tomatoes on a mandolin, to get them extra thin. He whips up a tart citrus vinaigrette, containing lemon juice and red pepper flakes, then slowly adds olive oil to emulsify the dressing. The tomatoes and sunflower shoots are lightly dressed with the vinaigrette, then placed atop the fish and crowned with the other toasted Tuscan loaf. Dejaynes says it's important to consider three key elements when making a sandwich.
"Start with a sauce. A good aioli or a good dressing for the base of the bread. Definitely a good bread. And then seasonal condiments. Seasonal accoutrements that go on top of the sandwich," he said.
Due to the season change, the walleye sandwich has only another two weeks or so on the menu.
Southport Grocery & Cafe
3552 N. Southport Ave.