I embarked into the afternoon with a culinary challenge: To eat my way through North Branford, one sandwich at a time.
My journey began, therefore, in high spirits. I entered Mario’s Italian Import with a bias, having eaten there for two sets of teeth.
The endless photographs of satisfied customers staring back from the wall did not lie.
I ordered a chicken parmesan sandwich. Wrapped like a gift from the gods in white paper, it took masking tape to keep the entire beast shut. Perhaps most appealing about the sandwich, besides the perfection of tender chicken, homemade Italian tomato sauce and melted mozzarella, was its girth. Any sandwich at Mario’s can make neighboring Subway’s heaviest creation look like a featherweight.
It might have been, I realized, a mistake to eat the entire sandwich with such a long road ahead but I could not resist.
I had three more restaurants to tackle, so I swigged the end of a Foxon Park birch beer and entered my vehicle, prepared to explore new lands whose sandwiches I had yet to encounter.
A mile and a half down the road, I reached the Good to Go Deli, now in its third year under new ownership. Having gotten my tomato sauce fill, I opted to go with the lighter but popular Chicken Waldorf wrap.
The Waldorf dominated, folks.
For starters, it was large. Yet the wrap held its weight and did not unravel. The Waldorf contained large chunks of chicken salad, shredded cheddar cheese, apples, walnuts, raisins, romaine lettuce and balsamic vinegar. For those uncertain of whether to eat a salad or sandwich, this wrap's for you.
I trudged out the door and took a deep breath of winter air before pulling left out of the parking lot toward my next spot: Jay & Lucy’s Deli. I learned at the counter that Jay & Lucy’s has been in business for twenty-two years, making it one of the oldest delis in town.
When I inquired as to the most popular item for sale, I was given a breaded chicken tender sandwich with melted provolone and roasted red peppers. What sold this sandwich to me was the roll. The crust crackled, as it should, and gave way to a chewy interior. Best of all, everything in that sandwich was homemade.
My fourth and final destination of the afternoon took me further down Foxon Road to Kate’s Country Kitchen. Defiantly, I kept in line with the day’s tradition and ordered breaded chicken with provolone and roasted red peppers.
It was the beginning of my tragic end to a glorious day.
The plate was placed on the table before me (with a pickle and chips!). I bit into the delectable looking assortment with great anticipation, and sorrow. For as delicious as the chicken was, I knew that I had not paced myself well.
I struggled before giving up entirely. Self doubt plagued me. My eyes began to water. My stomach began to bulge. My head pounded. Without finishing the first, I ordered, in denial, a second sandwich - roast beef, lettucetomatomayo, mushrooms and peppers - but there was not even room for red meat in what I thought was a bottomless stomach.
I left with a doggie bag and struggled to make the long, slow walk back across the small parking lot to my car. I was defeated.
But as a lifelong resident of North Branford, I challenge you to question your biases and explore without hesitation the attractive array of local restaurants that this small town has to offer. It is my hope that in your culinary exploration, you too can make that slow walk back to your car a new man or woman.