This is the epic conclusion to Bryan's two-part sandwich tour of Burbank. Read part one here.
We sat on hard benches at McCambridge Park, barely taking time from bites of pastrami to offer our customary assessments of the food. It was late in the day, and Jack Swiker, of the Danger Sandwich blog (thedanger
sandwich.blogspot.com), and yours truly had already tried several of Burbank's delis.
We found Tony's Market by accident, and if you're asking “which Tony's,” I don't blame you. There are five different Tony's delis, plus Tony's Darts Away, if you're looking for sausages to pair with beer. But there can only be one Tony's Market.
Lining the walls are dozens, if not hundreds, of photos of customers, dignitaries, you name it. Behind the counter is Dom Manente, a guy you'd swear was shipped out that morning from a legendary deli in New York and dropped on North Glenoaks.
He makes several suggestions for the shop's “best” sandwich, but when your store has been around since 1948, it's hard to name just one. We pass up the meatball and assorted subs for the sandwich that proceeded to change my outlook on cured meats.
“Buttery” was indeed the best way to describe Tony's pastrami sub. For $8, you get a meal and an experience wrapped in a pillowy, light bread. The tender meat was mild, yet could still master the mustard. Danger Sandwich and I said little after returning to the car, words failing us while our tastebuds cheered.
Tony, I assumed, was some mythical sandwich king from the land of Lunch, where people traverse canals of Italian dressing in their subroll boats. How else could one sandwich-slinger maintain so much dominance over the deli scene in Burbank?
The Tony's Italian Deli at the corner of Magnolia and Shelton was, at one time, part of a chain. Today it serves traditional fare for about the same price as most delis in Burbank — this time, $7.25 got Danger Sandwich and me a large “Assorted” containing five deli meats and sliced mozzarella.
As we picked up our order, my companion's eyes grew wide.
“A double decker!” he whispered in awe.
Tony's packs the sandwich with so much meat and veggies it needs a middle layer of bread to provide a support structure to the thick cuts of bologna, ham and mortadella. I like a thicker crust on a heavy sandwich, so that by the end, the bread hasn't soaked in the toppings and produced a drippy mess. For this sandwich, the crust-to-slop ratio was in perfect balance, and all was right and at peace in the sandwich world.
But if world politics teach us anything, it's that peace doesn't last long.
To shake things up, we tried Tony's Deli on Olive near NBC, which we were told is the same as Tony's in Toluca Lake on Riverside and Tony's on Alameda and Glenoaks. There we had a new item on the menu that was popular with the regular crowd, and I could see why.
The jerk turkey with colby jack cheese was the spiciest offering we tried in Burbank. Again, about $8 gets you a sandwich large enough in two parts, though the combination of cheese and turkey made us wolf down the creation in short order. I opted for the lettuce and onions, as they lent a cooling effect to counter the spice attack from the meat.
But Tony's isn't the only name in sandwiches in Burbank.
Otto's European and Hungarian Import Store & Deli has character. I mean that in the truest sense — though Otto Hubert died three years ago, his personality is lovingly infused in every aspect of the store. Otto's is honored and upheld by his son, Tom, who runs the store at lunchtime and manages a considerable online business after.
The Otto's Special is $6.75. It comes with Hungarian peppers, ham, bologna and a few other fixings. As Danger Sandwich and I relished the lovely concoction handmade by Tom, he visited us in the seats outside the store to offer us a couple samples of some homemade sausage to complement the meal.
Appropriately, Otto's is “sandwiched” between some houses on Clark Street in the middle of a neighborhood. Occasionally a studio will call and order 120 or so for a last-minute lunch. Jay Leno once called to fuel his sandwich-throwing contest.
Within Otto's walls are a whole lot of tradition and family history — like Tony's Market, it's a community gathering place where business isn't all bologna and bulky rolls. Lunch there — and at many of Burbank's restaurants — is about people.
As I learned in this journey with Danger Sandwich, there's no better way to learn about them than by breaking bread with them.
BRYAN MAHONEY is a recent transplant from the East Coast. When he's not sandwiching, which he insists is a verb, he can be reached at 818NewGuy@gmail.com and on Twitter @818NewGuy.