With few exceptions, I try to avoid chain restaurants. Okay, I admit I do have my "guilty pleasures" now and then and one of them involves a national chain restaurant.
But by and large, I avoid them because the food is so mundane, bland and truly forgettable. Sadly, even those places that start out as local chains go national and everything falls apart (I give you Mimi's as an example).
Now, speaking of local chains, I will go to them if they offer interesting products. I figure that it could be a real find and just happens to have people that could expand a bit and share the food. But, places like that have to be monitored by the owners to ensure consistency.
I decided that I wanted a "gourmet" sandwich. Nothing outlandish, but a nice, different, tasty sandwich. So, I ventured out and discovered Sacks Art of Sandwicherie. This is nestled right along West Thomas Road, across the street from St. Joseph's Hospital. It was a bit after the main lunch hour and I pulled up in my car and parked, prepping myself for a quick jaunt to escape the heat.
I entered the restaurant and was, to be very honest, disappointed. The place was spartan at best, with a few art pieces on the wall, several tables and chairs, and a bare floor. To my right was the register and the ordering counter, with several chalk board hanging from the ceiling listing the various choices.
However, what troubled me the most was the conditions of the restaurant. It was, in a word, uncomfortable. On the floor was enough trash to fill a good-sized waste paper basket. (I am getting genuinely concerned about this as this problems seems to be cropping up in more and more lunch places.) The table were cluttered with empty sacks and used plastic dinner ware. The chairs were scattered around the room.
The place was empty except for myself, the staff and a table with two health care professionals finishing up their sandwiches. I was beside myself wondering how it was that out of the four staff members all vying for my attention, not one could be bothers to tidy up the place.
But, I persevered and scanned the menu for a sandwich. I stumbled across a special called "The Giovanni." It was described as marinated grilled chicken, smoked onions, provolone cheese, peppers, artichoke hearts and a pesto sauce on a toasted 8" baguette ($5.95). I decided I was a bit more hungry than that and also ordered the Oriental Noodles ($1.05). I capped it off with a Diet Coke.
I paid for my meal and then set out to get my drink and find a table. I filled my large styrofoam cup and then picked a table to bus myself so I could eat. I found one, cleared it and took a seat. While I waited for my sandwich, I scanned the latest New Times reading all the letters going after Steve Lemons for his critical review of Christopher's at the Biltmore Fashion Park.
My lunch was brought to me and I emptied the bag on the table, finding my sandwich, the noodles and a cookie. I unwrapped the warm sandwich and took my first bite. The bread was soft and yeasty, but the overwhelming flavor was that of olives. I didn't see that in the menu description. They were just so overpowering - super salty and bitter. I managed to get most of them off and was finally able to taste the rest of my sandwich. It was pretty good. The chicken was flavorful and the cheese and peppers were a nice combination. I wasn't sure if there were any artichoke hearts on there, however. If there were, they were tasteless.
Finishing the sandwich, I dove into the Oriental Noodles. They came in a small plastic bowl with a lid. I took the lid off and the scent of soy sauce hit my nose. I put my fork in the noodles, twirled the utensil to get a forkful and put them into my mouth. Well, there was $1.05 down the drain. These were awful. The noodles were mushy and the sauce didn't have soy sauce in it - it was soy sauce. On top of that were a few sesame seeds and then the whole thing was salted. Why, O, why would you salt something with soy sauce? I was only able to handle two mouthfuls before I surrendered to the salt.
The only thing left to try was the cookie. This was a freebie and I wasn't expecting much. It was about 2" in diameter and I took a bite. There are two possibilities I considered: 1) the salt has killed my tastebuds or 2) the cookie had no taste at all.
I finished the second bite of the cookie, finished my Diet Coke and got up for a refill. As I started for the door, one of the staff finally came out and started clearing tables.
My excursion to Sacks was a $9.37 adventure. The sandwich (sans the olives) was decent. The noodles were abysmal. The cookie will remain a mystery.
Perhaps the cleanliness issue set it all off on the wrong foot, but that wouldn't explain the noodles. It was all just disappointing for something claiming they are the "art of sandwicherie."
Perhaps "amateur art" is more the case.
Sacks Art of Sandwicherie
3rd Avenue and Thomas Road
Phoenix, AZ 85012
Notes: Three other Valley locations.