Bon Fresco - Columbia
A new sandwich place has opened in Columbia, just off of Snowden and Oakland Mills. I think that today was their first day open, so hopefully things will shake out well. On the plus side, the sandwich that I tried was really good. I had the Venice, I think, and the ciabbata that it was on was very well made, nicely crisped on the outside without being tough. There was arugula on the sandwich, which I really liked, but this isn't on the menu description. The sandwiches are maybe a little on the high price side (all $6.50) and don't come with any sides. This is a confusing part of the menu. I think right now the menu is overly long and confusing. There don't appear to be side items available, so no chips or side salads. There are a few platters with side salads, but these aren't for sandwiches. They also have soup, but the type of soup available wasn't posted anywhere. Counter service was ok, except for one odd experience. People, seemingly at random, we're given free cookies "since it's our first day open". But they weren't just giving them out to everyone...seemed a little elitist at the time. One other oddity: as I mentioned, that sandwich list is overly long. Most of the food has an italian/mediterranean flair to it, and there are four variants on Italian meat sandwiches (and I love this variety). So why the need for corned beef...served with mustard on ciabatta bread? It just seems wrong (and they're not going to make rye for one sandwich) and out of place.
I thought Bon Fresco was terrific. I'm with you that $6.50 is a high for a regular sandwich, but I thought that these sandwiches were absolutely exceptional.
We went today, and each sandwich had great ingredients. Thick slices of real roasted pork loin with grilled squash and a spicy sauce. A pile of salami that looks more like a gourmet deli than a sandwich shop, topped with green-leaf lettuce and cream cheese. Cream cheese? We would never put cream cheese on salami, but Bon Fresco offers this kind of inspiration in everything from tuna to turkey, prosciutto to grilled vegetables. These are sandwiches with real flavors. Each ingredient stood out, and it came together with the beauty of Thanksgiving leftovers -- a simple sandwich made scrumptious because someone spent an entire day cooking the parts.
Of course, great sandwiches start with great bread, and Bon Fresco's baking is every bit as attractive as its meals. In the open kitchen, Bon Fresco bakes baguettes, ciabatta, focaccia and other loaves. You won't buy better bread in Howard County. This is the bread that I love -- crisp crust, light interior. They're sandwich breads so they don't have filings or flavors. We ate two ciabattas right out of the oven. So hot that the crust cracked rather than tore, and we juggled pieces as we drove home. We brought home a separate baguette, and that bread matches Bonaparte Bread for sandwiches, French toast or just to accompany pasta.
Like so many Columbia joints, you can't see it from the main road, and I hope that people will search it out. This is the kind of place that I hope would become a chain, and it has the clean, modern look of the renovated Maiwand Kabob, the perfect example of a way to expand without losing the magic that made the first store so memorable.
I just wanted to follow up after a few more visits. The sandwiches here really are incredible, especially the light, crisp ciabatta rolls that they use. I think they're still working through some menu changes, but the seem very adaptable. They've already streamlined ordering by changing their ordering versus pickup setup. And they seemed to have addressed my biggest complaint, the lack of sides, by including small sides of couscous or lentils with the purchase of a sandwich. Service has been very good to. They seem to be on the right track, and with a really high quality product. Let's hope they can keep this up.
I just stumbled across this place the other day while running errands. (can I just say that I hate how hard it is to 'stumble' on things in Columbia? )
Definitely a big fan. They are clearly still working out the bugs, but the bread was absolutely stellar and the sandwich ingredients were excellent. (though my SO thought there was an excess of roasted red pepper since he's not a fan)
And regarding the corned beef - it does seem a little out of place with the rest of the menu, but the mustard they serve it with is PERFECT. Nice and spicy.
While we were there they owner was chatting with a customer about baking and ended up sharing a piece of what appeared to be his sourdough starter. Definitely a good sign in my book. We'll be going back.
i live almost walking distance from this Bon Fresco, and just tried it today (am ruminating on the last bits of my sandwich - brie). albeit $6.50 seems high for a sandwich, this isn't a "turkey on rye" deli sandwich. This is certainly much higher quality fare. And all the comments about the owner are also spot on - the guy is friendly, chatty, and seems to genuinely enjoy his endeavor. He offered me half a loaf of free bread (olive loaf - insanely soft) which he plans on charging $5 for the entire loaf once things are settled. And when i was asked which side i wanted, couscous or lentil, i hesitated for a moment and he said "try both". I certainly don't expect that he will be able to offer things like this for long, but he sure knows how to make a friend and create goodwill. And don't worry, the sandwiches are THAT good - i agree with the other assessments. Probably the best non-classical american deli "sandwich shop" i have been to. of the sides - i prefer the couscous - it is lighter. The lentils are nice, but i'm not use to them with feta. I will DEFINITELY be going back.
Love this place...dare I say I like it better than Panera!! I really wish this place was more visible from Snowden as it is worth the visit. I tried the Mozzarella and tomato with pesto on ciabatta...with lentil soup. Everything was fantastic. They fresh brownies, cookies and cinnamon rolls as well. I think this place is a keeper and a light refreshing lunch was well overdue in Columbia!
We went to Bon Fresco this evening at a little before 8. The sign on the door says that they are open until 9 but the door was locked and a worker saw me and just turned around and went the other way. Maybe the food it good, but, this sort of service surely is not going to help them stay open in these economic times.