It’s more than just slapping together two slices of bread.
As a pudgy kid growing up, I wasn’t allowed to eat rice. My dad mistakenly believed that it would contribute to my ballooning appearance so it was bread only for me, and it had to be toasted because toasted bread had fewer calories. (Oy, the things we believed then!) I still remember the times I got “busted” for eating rice when I thought he wouldn’t catch me. All in all, I was only “legally” allowed to eat rice regularly at meals when I was 11 or 12.
It’s this somewhat strange beginning that prepared me for my lifelong preference for bread. Sure, I can put away two cups of rice with that crispy pata and I can eat risotto until it starts to come out of my nose, but in the end, I still choose bread. Freshly baked bread warm with steam and slathered in butter is what I want to eat when I’m on my deathbed.
So Good I’ll Jump Off A Cliff
So it’s no surprise that I like sandwiches: simple stuff like egg salad drowning in Miracle Whip on soggy supermarket bread, the type I squish with my fingertips as I take a bite; to fancier stuff like UCC’s Cliffhanger (P285). Available only at selected branches, this sandwich is an upmarket Monte Cristo, that clubhouse-slash-ham-and-cheese classic elevated to utopia because it’s dipped into beaten egg and bread crumbs and then deep-fried.
The Cliffhanger has all that but more stuff makes merry with the addition of cheese slices and a plain omelet ensconced in buttered bread. Then, instead of bread crumbs, the whole lot is dredged in panko, those deafeningly crispy Japanese bread crumbs, before meeting the scorching embrace of hot, hot oil. There it is, this three-tier Titanic teetering with the titillation that good fried food brings. Not at all oily because it’s fried in clean oil at a steady temperature, it’s impossible to just dig in with a knife and fork, mouth agape. I sit briefly in mute admiration as I always do, paying homage to the temple of fried, doughy things. And when I finally take a bite, it’s a cascade of crunchy, soft, and squishy. Admittedly, this sandwich is more of an exercise in texture since its ingredients are rather bland ”“ there is no single topnote of flavor. Easy to fix.Â Salt,please.
See website for store locations.
Similar Sandwich: Aristocrat’s Cliffhouse.
Charlie’s has a problem with consistency. At all hours of the day, swarms gather upon this dive of a place not minding in the least the occasional stray spray from its car-wash neighbor. Here, reading the menu is akin to reading a meat maniac’s manifesto ”“ pulled pork sandwiches, Black Angus burgers, and ah, those cheesesteaks. Cue the stomach growl and watering mouth. If you can stand the long line and can deal with the risk of not sitting in the air-conditioned space, the efficient, patient staff and relatively quick service makes it all worthwhile. I only wish that I could count on getting the same thing on every visit.
For instance, the first time I went to Charlie’s, the cheesesteak (P220/P380) was everything people had told me it’d be: bread amply stuffed with juicy meat, liquid cheese sauce dripping down my arms, the ka-pow of whole jalapeÃ±os, an utterly satisfying five-napkin affair. Succeeding visits to Charlie’s with various friends and my Bin in tow, revealed cheesesteaks that should’ve been renamed cheese and jalapeÃ±o sandwiches with the beef serving as mere afterthought. Disgusting stuff. In cases like these, thank goodness for the pulled pork sandwiches, the fish and chips, and the buffalo wings. Even the Black Angus burgers vacillate between being just barely cooked to spot-on. I don’t like playing guessing games with my food.
Charlie’s Grind & Grill
16 East Capitol Drive, Bo. Kapitolyo, Pasig
11 am ”“ 2am, Monday-Sunday
Similar Sandwich: Elbert’s Cheesesteak
Flying Pig’s Fried Oyster and Calamari Po Boy
I’m reading a culinary mystery set in New Orleans and my mind is mad with visions of food like muffulettas, beignets and chicory coffee, and ah, po’boys. A contraction for poor boy, it’s also known as a sub or hoagie, essentially a long sandwich (at least 6-inches) made with Italian or French loaves sliced in the middle and heaped with meat, cheese, veggies, and other delicious what-have-yous.
The po’boy (P285) at Flying Pig has breaded, fried oysters, large squid rings and what I call faux coleslaw (sizable cabbage and carrot strips blanketed with Thousand Island dressing). This is no “stuffed” sandwich since it can obviously do with more filling but it suffices because it’s a unique offering in Manila and is fairly priced. I like them finger-sized fries too.
Because the Flying Pig specializes in barbeque, I like the baby back ribs on my hungrier days; which taste a lot like the ribs at Texas Smoke ”˜Em, yet another restaurant in the eating empire owned by Raymund Magdaluyo.
The Flying Pig
Level 1, Eastwood Mall, Eastwood City Libis, Quezon City