Each week, Justin Bitner goes hunting for DFW's most interesting sandwiches. Have a sandwich suggestion? Leave it in the comments and he'll check it out.
Venue: Captain Nemo's
Sandwich: The Sizzling Steak ($5.49)
Bread: Newborn hoagie straight from the depths of the on-site oven
Toppings: Chopped steak, provolone, lettuce, tomato, oil, vinegar, special seasoning salt
The Case: Just down Grauwyler off Loop 12, about a mile southwest of dirt pile that used to be Texas Stadium, sits a tiny, understated strip center that houses one of the better sub slingers in Dallas. Captain Nemo's, a name that used to boast several outposts across town, now exists only in its singular, original location. A spot next door used to be a pizza joint carrying the same Nemo's brand, but that's long since closed as well. As I approached, the mirrored glass covering the façade of the building gave off a slightly imposing, exclusive vibe. I was tempted to rap on the glass with some sort of covert, rhythmic knock, but instead just opened the door and stepped inside.
Upon entering the restaurant, a waft of freshly griddled meat hit me right away, sending my carnal synapses into a heightened frenzy. I placed my order for the regular-sized Sizzling Steak sandwich, when the corner of my eye caught note of a small placard on the counter: "Back by Popular Demand - Navy Bean Soup." Anytime something has the appeal to spark such widespread clamor, it's worth a try. Finishing up my order, I scanned the adjoining dining room and picked out a worn, wooden chair at a table towards the rear.
Within mere seconds of plopping down on the timber seat, I'm presented with a large cafeteria tray with a bowl of my maritime stew. The soup, emitting wave after wave of steam, contained a decent medley of beige beans and occasional ham chunks below the surface. For $1.79, it was a great dish to get the stomach warmed up for the impeding sub.
After only a few moments alone with the first course, a meshed plastic basket was set down in front of me containing the main attraction. At first blush, the sub didn't look like much. To the naked eye, the giant hoagie dwarfs the scant amount of toppings, a move right out of the Subway handbook. However, as the old saying goes, "Don't judge a movie by its poster." So it goes with sandwiches. The first bite reveals an excellently baked bun and substantial amount of steak and vegetables, with a melted gasket of provolone lining area between bread and toppings.
Each ingredient tasted effortlessly great. The seasoning salt used on the steak, which I'd gather is a secret blend akin to Lawry's, imparted an addictive salinity on the meat. The oil and vinegar coating the top layer of vegetables was applied with a medium hand in order to provide a lighter contrast to the heavy protein strata below. The bread, which has been baked on-site for 38 years, has the ideal taste and texture for the sandwich, maintaining its soft consistency from tip to tail.
This place is a dive in the most charming, non-commercialized sense of the word. It may not have received a visit from the Mayor of Flavortown, but if you dropped this place in the middle of Oak Cliff or Lakewood we'd be referring to it as a Dallas institution and there'd be polychromatic pudge-prints all over the walls.
The Verdict: For a place to lay low and scarf down a great sub, hop in your Nautilus and head down to Captain Nemo's.
More 'Wich Trials: The Falafel Pita at Milk and Honey The Doc Brown at Pecan Lodge Smokehouse The Challah French Toast at Coffee House Cafe The Gotham Kitchen at Eno's Pizza Tavern El Pambazo at Tortas La Hechizera