Matt Bonner's Sandwich Hunter: Nov. 23, 2009 - Dallas
Entry #4 - Jimmy's Food Store, Dallas
by Matt Bonner
The news is spreading. My reputation in the sandwich world is growing. More and more people are learning of my quixotic quest to find the hoagie grail. As a result, the recommendations are coming in droves. Everyone swears they know the best place to get a sandwich and my notepad is filling up with suggestions. So it's no surprise that I received one such recommendation upon my arrival in Dallas.
It came from my friend Marshall; who I grew up with in Concord, New Hampshire. He now lives and works in Dallas running a wicked awesome sports bar/lounge called The Boardroom. I trust his recommendation because for those of you who do not know, our hometown has a ton of great sandwich spots. That's right; Concord, New Hampshire is a regular sandwich shop hotbed. You have The Yellow Sub, Ordway's, Milano's, Constantly, D'Angelo's, Beefside, Brown Bag Deli, etc. Anyone who grows up in Concord knows sandwiches... and Marshall is no exception. So come game day he picked me up and was very excited about a place called Jimmy's Food Store.
Jimmy's is not your typical sandwich spot. It's tucked away in an unassuming Dallas neighborhood and the deli in the back is hidden behind rows of Italian imported foods. As we walked past the pastas, wines, chocolates, sauces, meats and cheeses, I couldn't help but think about my time in Italy. My very first year after graduating from the University of Florida (Go Gators!), I played a year in the Italian League. For nine months, I lived in the city of Messina, Sicily. I endured numerous hardships off the court: not getting paid, eviction notices, electricity getting cut off, salmonella poisoning, stray dog attacks, etc. But despite all the adversity, I consider my time there a great life experience and something I will treasure forever. It was an amazing opportunity to immerse myself in the history, culture, and natural beauty of Sicilian life. And perhaps my fondest memory was the food.
The local Sicilian pasta, pizza, focaccia, meat, cheeses, wine, pastries, and seafood was some of the best I've ever had. Despite all the great cuisine, sandwiches are not a big part of the Sicilian food world. Keep in mind that Messina is virtually untouched by western chains and franchises. The only American restaurant in the whole city of almost 500,000 people is a single McDonalds. Every other restaurant in the entire city is a "mom and pop" establishment... or should I say "mama and papa" (wow that was a bad joke). It's really a beautiful thing.
So why are sandwiches so underrepresented in Sicily? I have two theories. The first is because of the culture. Sicilians really enjoy taking their time to eat. Since the sandwich is generally consumed by people looking for a quick meal, it really has no place in Sicilian culture. The typical feeding schedule in Sicily goes like this: Breakfast is almost nonexistent. People will have some cereal or a croissant with a cappuccino or espresso. That's it. Omlettes, pancakes, french toast, home fries, bacon, and breakfast tacos are nowhere to be found. When lunch time rolls around, civilization comes to a halt. Everyday between 1:00 and 4:30 in the afternoon the entire city shuts down. Businesses close, kids come home from school, and families utilize this afternoon break to enjoy a family meal and rest. Then it's back to work and school for a few more hours. Dinner occurs later in the evening, sometimes as late as 9:00 or 10:00 and they take a long time to eat. Some Italian dinners I attended lasted for over 3 hours! Clearly, the sandwich does not jive with the eating habits of Sicilian culture.