"We think a lot about sandwiches," John Bates says.
He doesn't mean civilian lunchtime thoughts we might have like, 'Mmmm, I'd like to eat a sandwich.'
Bates and Brandon Martinez, his business partner at Austin's Noble Sandwich Co., meditate on some pro-level sandwich theory like, 'How do you balance flavors while making sure nothing gets lost in the bread?' and 'How to avoid lame bites?'
"When we do a club, I freak out if the turkey isn't on the bottom layer with mayonnaise," Bates says, sincerely sounding like he might freak out at the thought of unadorned protein. "You have to think about the order of flavors, how it hits your palate. You lose them if that first bite sucks, if it's just dry turkey and bread."
A solidly built sandwich, Martinez says, can be "as good as any fine dining dish, but hand-held." The two walked us through the construction of their sausage, apple and Manchego sandwich (see the recipe). Along the way, they shared some tips for taking your sandwich game to a level higher than what Martinez calls disparagingly mere "meat stackin'."
Big Is Not Always Better
"We don't do overstuffed," Bates says. "People come in sometimes thinking it's going to be a Katz's-style giant pastrami sandwich, and that's not what we do. We don't stack things with six different veggies and five meats and a bunch of sauces. For us a sandwich is about simple ingredients brought together to make something better. If one element is wrong, you're screwed because there's nothing to hide behind."
Bread Is Not An Afterthought
"If you come in and you're not into bread, you're probably not going to like our sandwiches," Bates says. Martinez: "If you have good bread, everything else will follow."
Balance Is Everything
"We're always looking for the balance between rich and sweet and sour," Bates says. "We want things that pair well together. You have to make sure the filling's got enough jump to cut through the bread."