The Grand Sandwich in St. Paul

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Editor’s note: The Grand Sandwich has closed.

There was kind of a good vs. evil thing going on in the comments section for our post announcing the opening of The Grand Sandwich in St. Paul. Or perhaps it’s “enthusiast vs. skeptic” or “shill vs. competitor” or “lover vs. fighter.” Take your pick:

DLT wrote: “It has been opened for about a month and the sandwiches are great! … This is a welcomed addition to the Grand Avenue/Macalester neighborhood. A real plus is the owner who seems to really be interested in what the customers think and suggest!”

and WilliamVB wrote: “Not worth the money. Sandwiches were uninspired. I could have made better at home. I wouldn’t really call this a deli, either. With Cecil’s close by, I don’t think this place will last long.”

A quick sampling of the menu shows both commentators are a little extreme in their viewpoints. The Grand Sandwich does a decent job of delivering relatively big sandwiches to students in search of fuel and seems likely to prosper on that basis, but it doesn’t — as of yet — offer a whole lot more than that.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

A Grand Reuben ($7) stood out as a way to leverage ingredients of marginal quality to yield overall good flavor — while the corned beef wouldn’t pass muster over at Cecil’s (or, well, any actual deli), the overall proportions of meat, Swiss cheese, and Thousand Island dressing were good, and the final package was tasty. The accompanying cole slaw tasted fairly one-note and food service-y, unfortunately.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The Turkey With Cranberry sandwich ($6.70 with a side of tomato bisque soup) was a through-and-through dud. While there was a lot of sandwich to be eaten, the turkey was Oscar Mayer-grade, and the cranberry chutney was little more than a slightly sweetened red smear. Overall flavor levels were turned down almost to mute, and an accompanying tomato “bisque” (it was actually fairly rustic and chunky) was dangerously close to a marinara sauce in flavor and texture.

And the milkshake. Oh, man, the milkshake. At $2.75, it seemed like a deal, particularly since the place has an honest-to-goodness milkshake machine on premises. But their chocolate shake tasted eerily close to the McDonald’s equivalent, which is mind-boggling. How does one even get a shake with such an unfortunate texture and so little chocolate flavor? If you just went to Cub, bought some vanilla Edy’s, added a tablespoon of Hershey’s Syrup and some 1% milk, you’d get a richer, tastier, far more plausible milkshake.

It seems likely that The Grand Sandwich is going to serve a need, providing local students an accessible place to grab a relatively cheap and comforting lunch. But it won’t amount to much more than that unless it mans up and starts incorporating a better class of ingredients… not that changing business models in midstream is ever necessarily a good idea. In this case, it probably makes more sense to listen to the banker, not the food critic.

BEST BET: The Reuben. Not glatt kosher excellent, but not bad.

The Grand Sandwich

1672 Grand Ave, St. Paul, MN 55105
651.797.3853
HOURS:
Mon-Fri: 11am-12am
Sat-Sun: 12pm-12am
OWNER: Daniel Esrig
RESERVATIONS: No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Yes
ENTREE RANGE: $6-7
BAR: No

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James Norton

James Norton is editor and co-founder of the Heavy Table. He is also the co-author of Lake Superior Flavors, the co-author of a book about Wisconsin’s master cheesemakers, and a regular on-air contributor to Minnesota Public Radio.

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9 Comments

  1. How does it compare to a similar place like Cheeky Monkey or the old Cliquot Club Cafe?

  2. Author

    I’d say Cheeky Monkey puts a bit more effort into both the sourcing and overall quality of its ingredients, and therefore comes closer to the “deli” ideal. I only ate once at Cliquot, a long time ago, so I don’t know about that.

  3. Thanks for the review! I live in the neighborhood and was contemplating a stop…but will head to Shish instead.

  4. Fantastic sandwiches only a little further down on grand

    http://www.france44.com/cheese-shop/

  5. Soleil 10/15/2010 Reply

    That logo is terrifying.

  6. Author

    In Soviet Russia, sandwich eat you!

  7. Sarah G. 10/18/2010 Reply

    I’ve been here a couple times and wouldn’t mindlessly absorb James’ shallow criticisms without trying it yourself. I was curious about the food, too, so I asked the owner about it and he was really informative. Somehow I doubt James did the same… as his claims seem to be totally off.

    I would say the meats are high quality – they’re from a place in Chicago that isn’t cheap by any means. I grew up there so I was pretty interested :) The coleslaw sauce is homemade, as are each and every soup. I watched them make a shake for someone – granted it wasn’t for me – but it’s chocolate ice cream and milk… if you want some artificial syrup in your shake to make it more flavorful, fine, but I prefer as au-natural as possible.

    I’m not saying this place is for everyone. I like it, and in fact it was recommended to me by a family friend in the community, but everyone is different. I would just caution everyone to taste for yourself and form an opinion of your own, rather than taking one guy’s word for it.

  8. Hun-Gree 10/19/2010 Reply

    Because an ingredient is “from a place in Chicago” (whatever that is supposed to imply) and not cheap, doesn’t mean it is a quality item, nor will the fact that a dish is “homemade” in the store guarantee that it tastes good. The proof, as always with food, is in the eating.

    As it happens, I have eaten here, and I agree with this review. The corned beef sandwich I had was a shame! Unfortunately, most people think that making a sandwich is easy, and to a certain extent, it is true; but making a really spectacular sandwich takes every bit as much knowledge of flavors, artfulness, subtlety, and passion as crafting any other fine meal does.

    Foodies with cultivated tastes — or for that matter, anyone who has been to a really good deli, like Cecil’s or Kramarczuk’s — won’t likely find anything of interest here. Cuisine for college kids who want something cheep and convenient and don’t know any better? Yeah maybe…I pretty much lived off the 3-for-dollar boxes of mac and cheese and Totino’s Party Pizzas when I was a student at Augsburg, but I give the Macalester kids much more credit.

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