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: Off-Site Kitchen
Sandwich: Brough Ham Fleetwood ($5.95)
Bread: Toasted bun imported from Village Baking Co. less than a mile away
Toppings: Tavern ham, slow-roasted pork shoulder, Swiss cheese, jalapeño bacon relish, 57 Thousand slaw
The Case: Upscale comfort food is a trend that has washed over Dallas like a mid-August heat wave, but what about the downscale folk? There is a massive shortage of places that push the envelope of the everyman cuisine, infusing life into things as simple as a bologna sandwich while still offering said bologna at a reasonable price point. Nick Badovinus' new joint, Off-Site Kitchen, fits that bill perfectly and hopefully brings about a sea change in the Dallas ultra-casual dining scene.
Getting to the restaurant feels like a culinary reconnaissance mission in itself, as there is no giant marquee on Irving Boulevard, simply a meshed-steel sign with the letters "eat." Parking can be tough to come by (but hey, no valet!), especially during peak hours. Like a speakeasy for food, there's a certain fulfilling cache that comes with tracking the place down and slipping in as if it's your own personal lunch find.
Off-Site has been on the backburner for more than a year, acting as an actual "off-site kitchen" for Badovinus' Neighborhood Services flock while its own menu has been tinkered with. The amount of thought and planning Chef Dan Riley has put into the lineup shows in the hyper-sensory rush felt as soon as you step in the door. Aromas of sizzling meats hit the nostrils, while churning tanks of root beer, Hawaiian Punch and "OG Gatorade" bubble away to the delight of the eyes and ears.
Instantly transfixed upon entering, the friendly staff was more than accommodating to snap me out of my daze. On my visit, a couple different people stopped by to run through the menu with my friends and I to answer any questions. While not a voluminous menu by any means, it reads like the Encyclopedia Brittanica of sandwiches, each item containing a roster of unique and delicious sounding ingredients. After scanning through the options, I settled on one the Brough Ham Fleetwood, which appeared to be packed with tons of hand-crafted elements.
The sandwich itself is deliciously gaudy. Tavern ham, which is their deli ham brought in daily, makes up a majority of the meat element of the sandwich. Off-Site takes its ham to the next level, impaling the pork and cooking it tantalizingly in a glass rotisserie case alongside other proteins. Sliced thin, it's then thrown on the flat top to get a nice little char on a few edges before being added to the sandwich. The griddle action gives the ham a very subtle crunch on certain bites, but doesn't take away from the great juiciness achieved through the rotisserie process. The roasted pork plays a secondary yet delicious role, providing not only the flavors of the onions and peppers with which it's roasted, but also picking up the smoke and tang of the relish.
Made on the premises like darn near everything else, the relish is another example of Off-Site taking an ordinary ingredient and injecting a little time and creativity into it. Chunks of smoked bacon and jalapeños offset the tart pickle to give a mature version of the classic sweet/salty play. Chef Riley describes the creation as "a bit of a chutney base, which we fold the smoked bacon into." As Riley said those words, I imagined them appearing in a little comic bubble, allowing me to reach up and grab them to take a bite. The 57 Thousand slaw, which despite its saucy name is thankfully not overly drenched, hangs out at the bottom of the sandwich, providing mainly a crispy textural element along with a balancing creaminess and spice. The final layer to this delicious concoction is brought by the Swiss, melted just under that gorgeous bun and humbly comprising the obligatory dairy backbone of the sandwich.
In my opinion, there are two restaurants in Dallas that make an upper-level sandwich for a moderate price: Jimmy's Food Store and now, Off-Site Kitchen. Much like Jimmy's, I believe this place will develop its own devout following, making it one of the can't-miss lunch spots in town and giving the upstart Design District yet another fantastic spot to eat.
The Verdict: Combining a great idea with brilliant execution, the Brough Ham Fleetwood stars among a slew of fantastic sandwiches at Off-Site Kitchen. Get there, get in line and go to work on it.
More 'Wich Trials: Tha Nooner at Jonathon's Oak Cliff The Fried Oyster Po' Boy at Po' Melvin's The Sizzling Steak at Captain Nemo's The Falafel Pita at Milk and Honey The Doc Brown at Pecan Lodge Smokehouse