Having been monitoring this place’s rise since I first heard about them a while back, I finally found myself some time to get over to Frogtown to this little place. It seems as if they literally opened up smack at the tail end of a neighborhood as if the demand for sandwiches was so ardent amongst the people here that the community passed legislation demanding a place open up right next door. The Waze app was sure that I was driving to a residential address on my journey. So either people in Frogtown eat a tremendous amount of sandwiches, or these guys are suggesting they are worth an adventure. From the fairly brisk business they were doing in the late afternoon on a Tuesday, one can surmise that whatever the case, they are succeeding in their vision.
In any case, I decided to order the entire list of sandwiches named after radio celebrities (only 6 sandwiches mind you), so that I could get a full idea of what is happening in this remote remodeled shipping container.
Once I got my sandwiches, I started the tasting in the hot sun outside (there are maybe 2 seats inside, and I’m not sure anyone actually uses them because the interior is so tiny.
The Ira Glass was at the top of the pile. This is a tremendous sandwich that defies explanation for the powerhouse of flavors. The melange of fresh vegetables strike the perfect balance between creaminess and crunchiness and evoke a feeling of biting into a piece of a California farmer’s market. The hefty seeded bread perfectly balances out the brightness of the vegetables, and tang of the cheese. Truly excellent.
Next up was the Larry Mantle, which was served kind of open-faced, but could be folded closed when eating. This is the most baller sandwich I have eaten in a while, and is one of the best things I’ve eaten in some time. On the face of it, it seems to merely be another Italian hoagie type thing, but it’s constructed out of herbed bolgna, capicola, and provolone DOP with fresh veggies and housemade oregano vinaigrette on a stunning sesame seed roll. The flavors packed into this sandwich are gargantuan. It is almost preposterous to attempt a description of the joys of eating this as everything combines into something greater than the sum of its parts, something ineffable, and sublime. The extreme quality of the ingredients, the precision of the ratios, the unusual choice of meats…it is something like the best Italian sub you’ve ever had, but suped-up by master food mechanics. Bursts of oregano and vinegar leap onto the palate in a symphony of fresh vegetal notes and carnal meatiness with undertones of sesame. This is how Italian subs taste in your dreams.
Next up was the Kai Ryssdal. Maybe because the first two I tried were so prodigious this fell somewhat flat for me. I would not say it was unenjoyable, but it was much more basic than the others. It’s ostensibly a very simple, fresh tuna salad sub on a sesame roll. Lovely with lemon, and a bit of hot sauce, but I don’t think I would ever drive out of my way to get this. Still, they certainly had the ratios of mayo in the tuna, and tuna to bread, etc… very nicely constructed. Also, their killer side pickles/cauliflower helped quite a lot as well, as they pack a wollop of vinegar-y goodness, some of the best pickles in the city.
I moved to the Audie Cornish, feeling quite excited by the looks of the glistening ham, cheese, and cornichon vinaigrette bursting out of a very crusty baguette reminiscent of Bay Cities. With this sandwich I was back in the land of the unusual that I had enjoyed from the first two. How you will feel about this sandwich depends upon how inventive you like your ham and cheese sandwiches. The ham itself was particularly porcine and rich, but the cornichon vinaigrette really lends an intense acidity and bit, especially juxtaposed against the honey butter and sea salt on it. I was reminded of Trois Mec’s Parisian ham sandwich, but less butter, more cheese, and much more intense from the cornichons which are integrated fully. While thoroughly enjoyable, my only wish would be for a more generous helping of the butter, and an elimination of the shredded cheese. Still, this is one of the most interesting ham sandwiches being made in LA at the moment.
The beautiful Steven Julian is another sandwich on one of the beautifully crusty baguettes. I’m afraid I was getting a little bit full, and perhaps didn’t properly try this sandwich entirely, I will give it another try when I return. It’s artfully constructed, and pleasant to look at, and the roasted pork and carrots and daikon were superb. I feel I didn’t get the jalapeno vinaigrette or the miso and bacon fat aioli coming through though, which is a shame because those things sound utterly amazing. Still, this was sort of like a paired down, precise version of a banh mi that showcased roasted pork very nicely, with each element supporting it; Knead & Co should pay these guys to be consultants to reimagine their porchetta dip.
Finally, the Lakshi Singh, another gorgeously colorful sandwich. This is one of the most unusual sandwiches I’ve eaten probably ever. It’s built from pickled vegetables, very sweet balsamic onions, and a very nutty pecan pesto. When taken with a dab of the habanero hot sauce they had available it was seriously remarkable. However, it was perhaps a bit overly saccharine taken by itself as the caramelized balsamic onions were very prominent, and dominated the palate. They must be congratulated for their forward-thinking attempt at another all-veggie sandwich; it’s quite unique, though it feels like one more element could really make it even better.
In the end, these guys have only been open for two months, so things are probably still getting somewhat worked out, yet there are no substitutions allowed here because nearly every element of the sandwiches have been carefully thought out. You cannot even have different bread because they have tested all of the sandwiches and selected precisely the bread to go with the sandwiches. This may be offputting to many, but one thing is absolutely certain about Wax Paper Co, and that is that they have a particular vision in regards to sandwich making. It is obviously an art form to them; having them setup in your neighborhood must be like having Picasso set up a studio in your neighborhood and display his painting on the street. The sandwiches are inventive, yet classic, and impeccably constructed. If the title of “Sandwich Architect” applies to anyone, it is these two dedicated sandwich makers at Wax Paper Co. When the location sells the food, we call that business, but when the food sells the location, that’s art, and Wax Paper Co certainly sells its location.
Is it worth the hassle to get out there? That will depend upon how much you enjoy good sandwiches that satisfy the soul and the mind at the same time, and how bored you are with the sandwiches in your neighborhood.