Sandwiches with intriguing flavor combinations

April 18, 2012 9:49:54 AM PDT
The humble sandwich is getting an ethnic makeover in Evanston. Students have known for months about the little shop that combines French bread with Asian fillings.

Soulwich resembles, in some ways, the successful hybrid sandwich operation known as Zenwich in Elmhurst. The concept is definitely fast food, geared toward students, but their ambitions seem to reach well beyond the ho-hum turkey sub.

Sometimes, fusion doesn't always work. But in the case of the sandwich, it's hard to mess things up, especially when you combine great bread, earthy spices and crunchy, fresh vegetables. That's kind of the mantra at Soulwich, in downtown Evanston, where they're fusing Asian ingredients with European bread in a classic, American staple.

"We use Labriola bread, and all the sauce is different; all the sauce has a flavors different," said co-owner Bhavini Patel.

Like the vibrant green chili aioli that coats the interior of most of the sandwiches. They all have a few things in common, like thinly-sliced cucumbers, shredded and pickled daikon radish with carrots, plus a few sprigs of fresh cilantro. Some of the combinations are inspired, like mascerated figs with creamy goat cheese.. or a Burmese curry, featuring chicken, beef or pork.

"Burmese coconut curry has raisin, coconut, tamarind, ginger-garlic..Has a little bit spice, little bit sour, not too much sweet," Patel said.

The Indonesian ginger barbecue offers the same choice of chicken, beef or pork.. then includes pear juice, sesame seeds, fresh ginger, garlic and soy sauce. There are also a couple of salads on hand.. like this Ginger Peanut version, jammed with organic greens, those same pickled carrot-radishes, plus roasted peanuts and toasted sesame seeds, as well as cilantro rice. Sides are pretty simple, either an Asian slaw with no mayo, or seasoned chips featuring wasabi or Burmese spices. Even the drinks are unique for fast food: pomegranate lemonade and green jasmine tea. But it's the sandwiches that make up the bulk of the offerings, and Patel says she and her husband are trying to really offer something unique.

"I want to like make a different something; why not we make sandwich," Patel said.

It's not all pork, chicken and cheese; The shop also offers plenty of options for vegans.

1634 Orrington Ave., Evanston
(847) 328-2222

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