Meat & Bread

Restaurant: Meat & Bread
Cuisine: Sandwiches/American
Last visited: January 4, 2010
Location: Vancouver, BC (Gastown/Downtown)
Address: 370 Cambie Street (At Victory Square)
Price Range: $10 or less

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: 5
Service: n/a (self-serve/pay at cashier, but friendly)
Ambiance: 4
Overall: 5
Additional comments:

  • Specializes in gourmet hot sandwiches
  • Popular for porchetta
  • Created by fine dining trained chefs
  • Fresh/Made daily
  • House made sauces
  • House made/slow roasted meats
  • Quick/Casual
  • Busy/Fast line ups
  • Affordable
  • Limited menu
  • Daily special sandwich
  • Limited selection of beer & wine
  • Private bookings available
  • Catering available
  • Mon-Sat 11-5pm

**Recommendations: Porchetta Sandwich

Finally! I have been dying to try Meat & Bread. With the break they took during the holidays I was super antsy to try this extremely hyped up Meat & Bread and my expectations were high. I heard so many rave reviews that I even anticipated it making my 2010 Follow Me Foodie Favourites & Best of List, but I just didn’t get to them in time. I felt like I was the last “foodie” or food blogger in Vancouver to try this place. It’s almost embarrassing.

Was it worth the wait? Yes. Did it live up to expectations? Yes. But was it the best sandwich I’ve ever had in my life? Not exactly. But was it the best sandwich of it’s style in Vancouver? I’d say so! There’ s nothing else really like it and Vancouver is long overdue for something like this.

It’s basic, casual, yet still trendy and gourmet. It’s pretty much the perfect concept and location for Gastown. I’m not going to comment on the service because it’s no secret that I’ve been anticipating my visit since it first opened. Also one of the owners/creators of Meat & Bread is the previous chef from La Brasserie, who happened to make the poutines featured in my poutine series I did last year – The Best Poutine on Davie Street. (LOL, looking back at those videos are fun… and funny). Nonetheless the meal was fully paid for and I did watch them welcome and explain the menu and concept to every single customer that walked in.

I mentioned in my recent post on Dirty Apron Delicatessen (located just a couple blocks up) that I wanted to try them and Meat & Bread on the same day. They’re both new to Gastown and specialize in gourmet sandwiches and they generally have great reviews from most Vancouverites. However after trying Meat & Bread I can say it’s like comparing apples to oranges. Dirty Apron Delicatessen specializes in deli meats and Meat & Bread specializes in slow roasted meats, so it’s a whole different meat game. I did prefer the made upon order sandwich system at Meat & Bread much better than the pre-made system I experienced at Dirty Apron Delicatessen though.

The menu and ingredients are much more simple at Meat & Bread, but not the execution. The atmosphere is quite simple at both offering the pay at cashier method, wooden cutting boards as serving plates, and a big, long, hard wood… en communal dining table. Ha! I know. I’m a geek. But the prices are similar and overall I would prefer Meat & Bread, although the “healthier” route would be Dirty Apron Delicatessan. I just see more value and satisfaction in slow roasted meats rather than meat and cheese that I could more or less put together myself. Anyways we did the most sensible thing and ordered everything on the menu at Meat & Bread. There’s always one daily special and the sides change frequently… but you come for the famous thing…

I know. This is what you’re waiting for…

The Porchetta. This is the highlight here and the best thing on the menu… or at least the most popular. I actually really did find it the best thing though. It’s the star of the show and the first thing you see as you walk in. It’s slow roasted daily and chopped upon order. Not to be missed… unless you’re religious.

Actually, no. THIS is what you’re waiting for!

YES! The cracklings! It’s the crispy pork rind/skin/fat on a pork roast that gets slowly caramelized to the point of being super crunchy and nice and salty. This is man candy.

The MEAT

They can pretty much take out the “Bread” part in the name. This is a Meat shop. The ratio for meat to bread is 2:1 and all the better. It’s stacked just high enough to wrap your mouth around it too… wow that sounds dirty… I’m on a roll today! The meat is easily seasoned although it pretty much dominates all the toppings and sauces, which they don’t use much of anyways; but I do like a well balanced sandwich at the same time and I enjoy the sauces as much as the meats.

The BREAD

Good bread doesn’t hurt either, and I can’t say I was a fan of this one. It’s a soft ciabatta from Swiss Bakery and I found it very medicore, although nice and thin considering it’s for a sandwich. However it doesn’t have that crusty exterior, or chewy centre, or airy large hole qualities, or the tangy flavour of an authentic Ciabatta.

Overall they are pretty orgasmic sandwiches that we inhaled, and there’s nothing to really complain about, so you can call me picky… I also can’t help but to draw comparisons to other places I’ve tried that offer similar things. They aren’t located in Vancouver though, so I’ll confidently say that they boys at Meat & Bread put out some tough competition.

On the table:

**Porchetta – 5.5/6

  • $8 + $4 (side) = $12
  • It’s not cheap but not too bad for a slow roasted gourmet meat sandwich and a side. The $8 for the sandwich is worth it though.
  • What’s preventing me from giving it a 6/6is a few things:
    • 1) It wasn’t served hot. That really bothered me and it would have made a huge difference because the meat would have been juicer.
    • 2) The mediocre bread and the fact that it wasn’t grilled, personal preference, but I like the added crunch and slight charred flavour.
    • 3) I’ve had a better Porchetta sandwich from RoliRoti Gourmet Rotisserie – see here.

  • The meat itself was delicious and tender and still quite moist from the layers of soft fat, but it still wasn’t as tender as the pork belly fat from Tapenade Bistro – see here.
  • The crispy salty bits of chopped cracklings they give you are great! They just chop a strip up and top your sandwich off with them, using them like bacon bits, it’s the highlight!
  • I actually think I liked it better than the one from Salumi Artisan Cured Meats in San Francisco, although the porchetta there was super tender and more flavourful, but it didn’t have the added cracklings.
  • The Meat & Bread porchetta is stuffed with garlic and fresh herbs like parsley and then it’s topped with a salsa verde sauce which tasted like a fresh herb pesto without the cheesiness or nuttiness. I didn’t even know it was salsa verde until I re-read the menu.
  • The salsa verde is mild and savoury and it just brightens up the flavours of the pork as well. The sauce  totally helps to cut the richness of the indulgent pork fat, yet it didn’t overwhelm the natural good qualities of their porchetta.

Meatball – 4/6

  • $7
  • If they called it a “Spicy Meatball Sandwich” I would have enjoyed it more, but I wasn’t expecting the spiciness. I like spicy, but it wasn’t my idea of a meatball sandwich.
  • It was the most heavily seasoned meat and had the strongest flavour of all their sandwiches.
  • I was expecting a messy, drippy sloppy joe like meatball sandwich and this one was similar, but it didn’t taste as good as one made with Italian meatballs and sauce. I’m more keen on the old fashioned Italian version.
  • The meatballs itself were pretty good, but not actually balls… yes, let me continue. They were tender, and quite crumbly with no added fillers and smothered in a spicy slightly tangy tomato sauce. It was missing the sweet and savoury notes… and more cheese please!
  • It was also all very smoky, woody and earthy as well. I could taste cumin seed and lots of dried herbs like parsley and oregano, but it wasn’t really a traditional meatball sandwich. It was very good, but nothing out of this world.
  • I couldn’t taste the Parmesan cheese at all. It had a couple shavings of it, but I couldn’t taste the salty bite and it would have been better if I could.

**Braised Beef Brisket – 5/6

  • Braised Beef Brisket, Roast Garlic Paprika Aioli, Red Cabbage Blue Cheese Slaw $8
  • This was the daily special.
  • This was the sweetest sandwich compared to the others, but it wasn’t even sweet. It’s definitely savoury, but I couldn’t taste the smokiness or heat of the paprika aioli and I couldn’t taste any Blue Cheese at all. I was eating with a “I’m sensitive to Blue Cheese” eater who couldn’t taste it at all either.
  • The brisket itself was pretty much divine. It was tender, soft,  and flavourful and definitely the highlight of the sandwich. I barely had to chew it and it didn’t have any distracting chewy fat bits. The pieces were shredded and falling apart with also a few bigger chunks in there. It’s not heavily sauced or seasoned so that natural beef flavour really shines through, although I enjoyed this one much more with the Dijon mustard they served on the side.
  • I wouldn’t have minded it to be more juicy though. If I see braised beef I do expect a juicy saucy beef that’s slowly braised in flavourful beef stock and I do want that stock in my sandwich or at least well absorbed throughout the meat as well.
  • I honestly barely paid attention to the cabbage slaw which was pretty much “decoration” to the sandwich, although it did add a nice crunch texturally.

Grilled Cheese – 4/6

  • White Cheddar & Onion $7
  • It’s a very generous amount of white cheddar cheese, and it’s super rich and decadent so a whole one is indulgent.
  • It was the only really hot off the grill sandwich and it’s more like a grilled cheese panini. It’s simple, but made well.
  • I was a huge fan of the crispy bread that worked really well with the thick layer of creamy ooey gooey rich cheese. They put a chili oil drizzle over the bread before grilling it, but I couldn’t taste it at all, although it helped with the crispiness. I really liked the bread as much as the cheese here.
  • The cheese is strong and it has a grainy Aged White Cheddar cheese texture which I don’t mind, but I wasn’t a fan of the crunchy white onions. I prefer sweet caramelized onions in a grilled cheese like this.
  • It was very good, but the cheese ends up tasting like a ricotta/feta mix because the oils start separating.
  • I like the grilled cheese at Urban Solace in San Diego better – see here.

Salad (Changes frequently) – Orzo – 4/6

  • Side $4
  • It was orzo tossed with sweet bell peppers, brussel sprout leaves and some red onions. It was pretty light, but well dressed with good olive oil and a slightly tangy lemon note.
  • It tastes like a pasta salad made with Italian dressing. It was good, simple, fresh and the orzo was al dente.
  • I actually liked having this as a side because the meats were quite heavy… so this made it “lighter”… funny how it’s still a starch 😉

Soup (Changes frequently) – White Bean Bacon Soup – 2.5/6

  • Side $4
  • I wasn’t a fan of the soup. It looked like mushroom soup, but the texture was of white beans and potatoes with that grainy starchy texture.
  • The flavour was a bit smoky, with subtle hints of bacon, but it was predominantly white bean. It was creamy, but the depth of flavour didn’t go far beyond white bean.
  • Although completely different, I would have like a side of baked beans instead…. they should do that as a side!

Mustard

  • They give you a sample sized dollop on each order and they’re available in jars to go.
  • It tastes like Dijon mustard and it’s not grainy, but I think they put grated horseradish in it. The horseradish looses it’s flavour although there’s still quite a kick, but it was just noticeable by texture.
  • I think it’s the same Dijon mustard La Brasserie serves with their bratwurst.

Sambal

  • It’s doesn’t taste like that Asian Sambal sauce or “cock sauce” with the green lid.
  • The sambal taste like a puree of those pickled peppers and bell peppers you find in a glass jar. It’s pretty spicy with added sweetness from the peppers, but it’s also quite bitter and I wasn’t to keen on it.

Dessert

Bacon Maple Ice Cream Sandwich – 2.5/6

  • $3
  • I really like original desserts, and love exploring sweet and salty ones. This one wasn’t too bad, but not that great.
  • It’s such a “man’s dessert”. For any guy that’s ever said “my dessert is bacon” (I’ve heard that so many times)…. well this is for you!
  • As much as I love the concept, this wasn’t my favourite recipe for it. I’ve had home made Maple Bourbon Bacon Ice Cream Sandwiches before which were great!
  • This pre-made ice cream sandwich was a unique idea, but I was hoping for more of a cookie and more of a dessert.
  • The cookies were soggy and very lightly sweetened so it tasted like a thin, semi-flimsy soft waffle.
  • I can’t say I was a fan of the quality of ice cream. It tasted more like frozen whipped cream and it reminded me of the tub of frozen cream puffs you get at Costco. It had an ice cream texture, but a rather bland and waxy or greasy flavour and aftertaste.
  • It’s actually not that sweet and they use a ton of bacon in it so you bite into salty frozen bits of bacon, which makes it come across as crispy.
  • You can definitely taste the bacon, but I couldn’t taste the maple.
  • I think they should use a maple base ice cream because I think they’re just cooking the bacon in maple, but it still tastes predominantly salty and not sweet enough.
  • The best salty and sweet desserts I’ve had are at Redd Restaurant in Napa Valley – the pastry chef there seriously nails the balance.
  • There’s also a Maple Bacon Doughnut at Voodoo Doughnut who perhaps started the bacon in dessert craze.

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