Bloomington, Ind. - The Village Deli
by Matt Bonner
For my entire NBA career, I have been eating sandwiches for lunch on game days. Whether at home or on the road, whether hoagies or grinders or subs or heroes, it doesn't matter. I have searched high and low, braved the elements, walked great distances, so that I may satisfy my appetite for the greatest food on earth... the sandwich.
I've ordered them at fancy restaurants, from room service, from mom and pop shops, from national chains; you name it and I have tried it! I am a self-proclaimed "sandwich guru", and I think I've earned the title. So I've decided to take my expertise and put it to use by searching for the greatest sandwich of all. The hoagie grail, if you will.
The NBA schedule is a great opportunity for me to achieve my goal while I travel the country and explore the best sandwich shops in the cities we visit.
The first stop in my quest for the ultimate sandwich is the lovely town of Bloomington, Indiana. This picturesque college town is home to Indiana University, two of my favorite record labels (Jagjaguwar and Secretly Canadian), and Zappos (for all you shoe junkies out there). But that is not where I will spend my free time. No, I have a greater purpose... a mission to find the greatest sandwich in all the land.
This story begins on our team plane. It's a two hour flight from San Antonio to Bloomington. How do we kill the time? Some guys are napping, some are watching DVDs, others read (myself included: Ask the Dust by John Fante... great writer).
Finally, we begin our descent and break the cloud barrier. I look outside the window as the view explodes from white emptiness to bright yellows, oranges, and reds. The fall foliage is in full effect and the vast Indiana countryside appears like an endless postcard. As I look at the sea of fiery trees below , I feel a pang of nostalgia and think about the good memories of New Hampshire autumns past. Apple picking, hay rides, football games at the park, hawk watching, raking leaves, raking leaves, and raking leaves...
We land, and I walk off the plane half expecting Jimmy Chitwood himself to come out of the woods and take me to his farm for a game of H-O-R-S-E. No Jimmy, no game of H-O-R-S-E, just the bus waiting to take us to the hotel.
I keep an eye out during the ride in case we pass any good sandwich shops, but we don't. It turns out that our hotel is a couple miles outside of town so there is nothing within walking distance except the omnipresent Subway. I consider this as I check into my room and prepare for dinner with my parents and sister, who were in town to visit and see the game.
I come to the conclusion that I cannot go to Subway. Don't get me wrong, Subway is good. But I know I'm not going to find that which I seek at Subway. So I go to dinner, eat some homemade apple pie my mom brought for me (gotta love moms) and then talk to my beautiful wife and baby daughter on Skype. I go to bed that night knowing that I will be making the adventure into town the next day, not knowing what I will find.