by John Canning
Hats off to the folks who organized and carried off the 2012 Northside Sandwich contest last June.
It was a pleasure to watch Rick Sebak’s recent segment about the event and the local eateries that entered into the contest on WQED last month.
The mouthwatering sandwich shops set the stage for an even more successful event this year on June 20.
While watching Sebak incorporate sandwich entries with their culinary creators my mind wandered to great Northside sandwiches of the past – my past. So I’ve decided to list just a few.
Two Niedersts. Two different sandwich traditions.
The “Club Sandwich #1” at Mrs. Marcella Neiderst’s great restaurant on the corner of East and East Ohio Streets was on the menu for decades. It was the classic triple-decker filled with turkey (from real roasted turkeys), bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayo. This never failed to satisfy. A few blocks away, tucked in the heart of “Deutchtown” was Mr. Niederst’s tavern where one of the big draws was Limberger on rye with a cold draft. It was my Uncle “Bun” who introduced me to this “other” Niederst’s. The big draw here was Limberger cheese served on rye, a specialty no longer found on any Northside menu. I am certain, however, that there are many Limberger lovers scattered throughout our neighborhoods.
These two great sandwiches were taken off the Northside by government food inspectors or Health Department regulators. Fritz Rohler’s tavern on Troy Hill was known throughout the city for its “cannibal” specialty.
Freshly ground round steak mixed with salt and pepper and topped by a sprinkling of chopped onions was served raw and open-faced on a slice of dark rye bread. This was no surprise to me in that I was brought up in a home where my mom always had the butcher grind the round steak twice before taking it home. She would often fix herself a “baby cannibal” prior to making meatloaf or spaghetti sauce.
The Mayfield’s Baked Ham
While delivering mail from the Observatory Hill Post Office in the summers of 1960 and 1961, I was introduced to the Mayfield Restaurant’s fantastic baked ham sandwich. Located at the corner of Perrysville and Kennedy, the Mayfield was always packed at lunchtime.
On the bar was a wire stand holding a giant baked ham. I imagine there were other items on the menu, but it seemed to me that every lunchtime customer ordered a ham sandwich, a high stack of thin slices from the ham on the bar.
Bard’s Ham Salad
Fridays, in our family, was shopping day, and so my sister Judy and I were given money to buy lunch near John Morrow School. Sometimes we went to the lunch counter at Munsch’s Drug and Novelty store, but more often, we headed to Bard’s, which was near the corner of California and Termon Avenues.
Bard’s was part of a chain of dairy stores similar to Islays. There my sandwich of choice was Ham Salad. Although our Dad cautioned us that you never know what they ground into the “Ham” Salad. It was probably very little ham, but, at Bard’s it was always tasty, fresh and cheap. A well-filled sandwich on Town Talk was only 20 cents – a bargain in its day.
The California Inn’s Fish Sandwich
Several years later, while at Oliver High, I had a daily after school job cleaning cookie sheets, cake pans and mixing kettles at Evan’s Bakery on California Avenue – not far from Bard’s.
Frequently, on Fridays, I would stop by the California Inn and order several of their fish sandwiches for our family’s dinner. In the days before the massive number of Lenten fish frys, I thought the California Inn’s giant fish sandwich was about the best you could get.
At the time the ultimate fish place on the Northside was Wiegands atJames and Foreland. But in terms of cost and size the California Inn’s sandwich was definitely the better deal. Alas both Bard’s and the “inn” are part of the long gone history of California Avenue.
The Shamrock’s Ground Steak Sandwich
In the 1950s the most upscale restaurant on the Northside was the Shamrock Inn on Western Avenue. The Shamrock was primarily a steak place that often had jazz musicians performing on weekends. You had to look nice at the Shamrock – no jeans. It was here that my friends and I learned that another name for a hamburger was a ground steak sandwich. It was more pricey than hamburgers but really delicious – a good memory.
Folks throughout our Northside neighborhoods could add many similar sandwich memories to this list. But with new creations in the works, I am looking forward to the ground bacon/beef slider that will entered by the chefs at the Penn Brewery in the 2013 Northside Sandwich Best Contest.
Keep your eyes on the Northside Chronicle for the dates and location of this year’s sampler.