Thursday, April 17, 2014

Big Mama's Sandwich Shop

2416 Lake Street 
Open Mon – Fri 10:30am – 2:30pm, Sat 11am – 2:30pm, closed Sun
Big Mama has some experience with sandwiches, and it shows. (She's fat.) 

So, um, can everyone please stop thinking Rotella's is good bread? Just because their stinking factory is located here doesn't mean the stuff is any different from the other pliable, springy, memory foam mattress-like, preservative-laden breads on the shelf at Hy-Vee. If a local restaurant carries it, it is not a nod to fresh, local, or quality. It's fine if you don't care at all about bread, but it is most certainly nothing to brag about. 

Big Mama's Cold Fried Chicken Sandwich
on Rotella's wheat hoagie roll

Big Mama's Sandwich Shop serves Rotella's bread. But I can get over it. 

At the counter on a fine spring afternoon, when prompted to choose white or wheat for my cold fried chicken sandwich, I seized up. My mind went a mile a minute trying to resist the urge to go for my knee-jerk choice of wheat (which is usually just brown white bread anyway), because something like cold fried chicken sounds like it's on the list of Reasons Why White Bread Exists — along with grilled American cheeses, BLTs, and baloney sandwiches they serve in prison. Why were they even asking me? So I asked her which one I should get. To which she responded:

"I don't know. Do you like white or wheat bread?"

Feeling like a doofus, I said "wheat" and immediately regretted it. But after that whole episode, I don't think it really mattered, because it was indeed brown-colored white bread encasing this particular sandwich. You know, Rotella's. Whatever. 

Down the hatch.

Other than that, the fried chicken strips had a hefty, flavorful breading and were pleasantly juicy. I thought Big Mama's secret sauce — something akin to a marriage of honey mustard and Italian dressing — had a nice, just-out-of-the-food-processor zing and an interesting, earthy spice I couldn't quite put my finger on 'cause my palate was busted from a hangover.

One very solid pastrami sandwich

My dining buddy's pastrami pepper jack melt thing came on pumpernickel that was ridged with the markings of a panini press. He said it was a solid sandwich but generally unremarkable. I had a bite and immediately forgot what it was like. The kosher dill pickle spear we paid extra for was on the level of a Vlasic®, reminding me why I always feel like such a putz when I pay extra for a pickle. 

Oxtail soup with swimming meat fibers and dissolving vegetables

The oxtail soup had okra, which was a nice touch, but it was smushy okra, so it didn't matter. Actually, all of the veggies were smushy, and the broth under seasoned. The pulled oxtail was pulled apart to the max, reduced to individual strands of meat fibers, rendering it undetectable. It was definitely homemade, it was just in need of some attention to detail.

I don't doubt Big Mama is a great cook. Because I have a heartbeat, I love the idea of opening a good sandwich shop to lure people of all races from all corners of Douglas County to a part of town with a dangerous reputation, as any forward-facing, liberal-slanting millennial would. Her story is very attractive to television producers: in addition to appearances on several national programs, Big Mama was even picked up for her own reality show on the Food Network (which seems to have immediately been canceled).

She's certainly the face behind the food. Or on the food. Y'know.

The problem is that here, it's too over-branded to feel authentic. Big Mama's face stares up at you in places you wouldn't expect. I just don't see the place making its way into anyone's regular rotation on the merit of the food alone. In quality and menu items, it could be an alternative to Worker's Takeout, but the sandwiches are half the size and twice as expensive.

$7.50 for a sandwich pre-tax and chips? Hmm.

I should stop posturing as if Omaha is just brimming with fantastic sandwich shops that could take this place down. It's not. And the over-the-top marketing might just seem like a lot because so many restaurants in this town either don't even bother or fail miserably at it. I think I was just offended by the chip selection. I just don't want to believe that Big Mama expects us to subsist on Lay's as the sole side dish offering, unless it's on purpose to take you back to the hard times of the early '80s, long before kettle chips were a thing. I mean, having to choose between original, BBQ, or sour cream and onion is some old-school shit.

Still, everyone should pay Big Mama's a visit, if not just to see what it's like. Counter space is limited; I'd recommend takeout. If you do eat in, be sure to bring your own chips.

Part of the Carver Bank development, an art exhibit and performance space.

A note: The Sandwich Shop's mother restaurant, Big Mama's Kitchen, was the subject of one of my very first blog entries three years ago, before I knew how to write. It's a little bit of an embarrassing time capsule, much like logging into MySpace and looking at your profile. 

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Your major butthurt over Rotella's is funny as hell.
    Anything else you want to whine about?