Each week, Justin Bitner goes hunting for DFW's most interesting sandwiches. Only for the last few weeks he blew off this very important assignment to attend to way-less-important ones, including getting married. Apparently he was a little excited because he filed about 4,700 words about a chicken sandwich. I was going to edit it down, but then I thought, Screw it, they're pretty decent words and this way I can make fun of him for it, and so can you! -- Joe Tone, editor
Venue: Holy Grail Pub
Sandwich: Balsamic Chicken Sandwich ($10)
Bread: Sourdough, buttered and seared on the surface of a fiery griddle
Toppings: Thoroughly smited chicken breast, balsamic dressing, spinach, sliced strawberries and pecan ricotta
The Case: A while back Reitz put out an APB for a quality grilled chicken sandwich. Tons of folks responded, and it got me thinking of joints that might be able to sate Scott's deep burn for the perfectly pressed poultry. I was scouting out places to try when I found what looked to be a pretty unique take on the sandwich being served up at the Holy Grail Pub in Plano.
The Grail has made quite an imprint on Dallas folks, evidenced by its double-fisted appearance in our most recent Best of Dallas issue as well as numerous write-ups from some of our bygone brethren. It sits rather furtively in a giant strip along Preston, just a Rabbit of Caerbannog's leap away from the Stonebriar gargantuplex. Upon entering, the atmosphere is instantly shifted from well-lit strip center into a darker, warmer tone. A looming bar wraps around the left hand side, while candles at each table team up with the 11 watt ceiling bulbs to stave off complete darkness. It's a very cool and unexpected vibe.
Before setting foot into the restaurant, my mind had already been made up as to my sandwich, so I dispensed quickly with that order. It took a bit longer to make my mind up on which beer I wanted to try, but was greatly pleased to find Peticolas' Velvet Hammer on the tap list. At $6, the 9% ABV Imperial Red is a no-brainer of a deal. Plus, it's made here in Dallas. Triple plus, it's really good. By my count, that's about seven shades of greatness there.
As I sipped my brew and watched the Rangers toy with yet another opponent, I was presented with the fruits of my travels. The sandwich arrived, cut diagonally and split to reveal the varied inner workings of this salad-like creation. The stack was flanked by the Grail's hand-cut fries, dusted with a couple sprinkles of sea salt.
The thing that struck me instantly when picking up the sandwich was the great crunch of the sourdough. Thanks to a nice walk along the griddle before accepting its ultimate fate, the bread gets a light brown char while retaining its soft interior layer. The chicken breast is pounded nice and thin, which does two things. First, it keeps the chicken from getting burnt, which thicker breasts suffer as the cook tries to avoid a medium-rare bird. Second, it helps the protein fit the size of the bread it's on. Oftentimes, chicken sandwiches will feature half of the breast hanging out the side like a Lindsay Lohan court hearing outfit. Not here, the breast stays fully enrobed in the sourdough, maintaining a healthy bread/meat ratio in each bite.
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Sliced strawberries dot the layer between spinach and bread, playing perfectly in concert with the tart balsamic dressing applied throughout. The dairy component may be the most unique I've tasted, as finely chopped pecans mingle with a whipped ricotta cheese in an awesomely creamy spread. At first I wondered if the cheese would work with the rest of the elements, but each is applied in the right proportion that it gives the sandwich an overall incredible taste, one that just might pass the test of even the most discerning chicken critic.
The Verdict: Grab your coconut shells and head to Holy Grail Pub, the Balsamic Chicken Sandwich is definitely worth the trip.
More 'Wich Trials: The Croque-Monsieur at Nosh The Turkey Ciabatta at Bolsa Mercado The Brough Ham Fleetwood at Off-Site Kitchen Tha Nooner at Jonathon's Oak Cliff The Fried Oyster Po' Boy at Po' Melvin's