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Jun 23, 2008 08:53 AM

All Star Sandwich Bar: a late first look

I can't believe I live nearly within walking distance of the All Star Sandwich Bar, but didn't get there until this past weekend. Regardless, it was perhaps a blessing in disguise to have let the buzz, hype, and chatter die down and let the chow speak for itself. Bottom line: if I had never heard that this was a Schlesinger project, if I had never read post after post after post about it on the Boston board, but had just stumbled in after spotting it while walking in the 'hood, I'd have been really happy with my lunch, as indeed I was in this case. I enjoyed the concept of upscale sandwiches kinda sorta pretending to slum it; ordinarily the faux downscale thing tends to irritate me, but these sandwiches had real personality and soul, so it was easy enough to wink at the wink, so to speak.

Beef on weck - I'd never had one before, so I have no direct points of comparison, but I really liked this sandwich. Crusty roll with some nice savory herbs baked on top. Horseradish and au jus served on the side. Deliciously rare roast beef. This was everything a sandwich is supposed to be: not too many ingredients, and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Turkey melt - turkey, bacon, avocado, watercress, and gruyere on toasted bread. A big, greasy mess of deliciousness, this tasted just like I want my day after Thanksgiving to taste. I loved that they used both white and dark turkey meat (I want to *taste* the turkey), and must also say the watercress was an inspired choice of green, not overpowering, but hearty enough to stand up to some not-especially-dainty other ingredients.

Poutine - quite good gravy and cheese curds, but the small cut fries got soggy quickly. It's always a treat to find this on a menu outside of Quebec, so although I've had much better, this hit sufficiently close to the spot that I'll brand it Worth the Calories.

Coleslaw - I can't say I'm much of a coleslaw fan in general, and although I was pleased the ASSBar didn't try anything fancy with theirs, I didn't especially enjoy it.

So if you haven't been, I'd say it's probably not worth a pilgrimage from miles away, but if you find yourself near Inman at lunchtime, this can make for a very, very tasty spur-of-the-moment meal.

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    1. I've had the beef on weck once before and you're right. It's delicious. The problem with this place is that everything on the menu sounds so good that i haven't found my "go to" sandwich. I've had the pulled pork, their version of banh mi, the haddock po'boy, the burger, the chili dog. The burger is probably the least impressive thing on their menu for me. every so often they'll have a special sandwich with chicken livers and those are always amazing. Once it was pastrami with chicken livers. I always get the fries, sometimes with the gravy and cheese. They're addictive.

      on a side note, I can't help refer to this place as ASSbar, and I always make myself giggle from it. Probably because I'm immature.

      3 Replies
      1. re: ysb

        Y'all know it's not a Schlesinger joint anymore, right? It was sold about 3ish weeks ago. We went the day after the sale went through and had a long talk with our waiter about the new owners... most of which I can't remember right now. He said they were going to try to keep what works and make some changes, as well...

        1. re: ysb

          Beef or Weck was an interesting variation of the real Buffalo/Rochester sister sandwich that I've become very fond of. My expectations were high but the roll was too way crunchy and dry and not nearly enough juice as compared to the Schwabl's original. May have just been a bad assembly.

          I'd love to find a place that makes these Weck rolls (Salted with carraway seeds) in the Boston area.

          1. re: ysb

            "haven't found my "go to" sandwich"

            Try the meat loaf. Then try to order anything besides the meat loaf.

            (and I actually thought the burger was quite good, but hey...)

          2. If you are looking for a really nice poutine that's as close to the Québec version as I've ever tasted you should try Montréal Fries off Rte. 24 in West Bridgewater (exit 16B). The fries are handmade and fried twice and the chicken gravy is also homemade. The curds are super fresh and squeaky. Poutine is one of those foods that you either love or hate but I love it.

            1. I just went on Mon. and got the infamous beef on weck, my first time. It was fine altho I think I'll stick w/ a small sandwich from Mike's in Everett. Good roast beef, the roll was fine but seemed a little stale and I personally don't need all the carraway seeds or whatever kind they were. I assumed the horseradish was gonna be more of a sauce rather than straight HR. The au jus container had spilled all over the bag but that and the beef was flavorful. Huge sandwich, $8.75 I think w/ an okay side of cole slaw. People working there were very nice. Price for a burger & fries seems high at about $12 but I'd be curious to try other stuff like the aforementioned turkey melt.

              1. Have been to All-Star twice since the apparent ownership change (going solely on the date of the website redesign).

                Can't say I'm too thrilled with the direction the place seems to be taking. First off, I've noticed that there is a lot less turnover of the daily specials. Specials (including veggies) now stay on the menu for 4-5 days at a time, whereas Schlesinger would swap things out after a day or two. Of course I understand this from an operational standpoint, but one of the main attractions of All-Star, for me, is the variety. Checking the specials used to be a daily activity, and it's now reduced to weekly.

                Secondly, the food itself is starting to take a turn for the worse. I went on Monday for a Spicy Pork Loin, Pineapple Honey Mustard, and Roasted Red Pepper Slaw sandwich with Jack cheese. Without notification, my sandwich arrived with no cheese, and a red onion-heavy slaw, with no peppers. Each half of the sandwich fell apart after two bites. Similarly, the poutine was skimpy on the gravy and cheese, compared to previous orders, though the fries are still excellent.

                A return for the Beef on Weck also disappointed. It was only my second time trying it, but the roast beef was lukewarm, bordering on cold, and I remember my first one being pleasantly warm. The horseradish also tasted like it lost some kick. Still a great bun and top quality roast beef, but like the restaurant itself, it just isn't up to the previous standards.

                I'll continue visiting, it's one of my favorite Cambridge lunch spots, but I hope the new ownership can work out the kinks quickly.

                2 Replies
                1. re: GabeEatsWrite

                  Glad to hear that they still have beef on weck -- what a great sandwich. Do they still have their chili (that was also a classic IMO)?

                  1. re: steinpilz

                    Yep, chili is still there, along with the cornbread. Why it was a soup of the day for nearly all of last week in addition to being on the main menu is a mystery to me.

                    The main menu itself is unchanged, and hopefully it stays that way. Just looking for a little more variety and inventiveness in the specials. Dessert specials are a good start, though.