April 2013 Update: It appears that Chef Mike closed the venerable mall cart, but you can still enjoy his sandwiches and flair at his freestanding Metro Grill at the Waterfront at 13th and Webb.
One conundrum that occurs with the chain free establishments are the limited hours that some choose to operate. Many of the places we encounter have a lunch service only or they may be closed after lunch until the dinner crowd arrives. Most places are usually closed by 9pm and due to some of the locations you really wouldn’t want to be there after 9. Damn those snazzy chain places and their ability to sling out food till midnight! This anecdote leads to the problem my sister and I were having trying to locate a place to have a late lunch at 3 pm on a weekday. Suddenly, as if I had been shot with a bullet, a diamond bullet through my forehead I suggested going to the mall food court. Yeah, you guessed it, I had a craving for Sbarro pizza.
There was actually some method to my madness. In the eastside mall food court there exists a unique place that while it may look simple, is serving out really special food. Denise Neil of the Eagle as well as Tanya Tandoc(local celebrity chef) rave about this place, so I had no reservations about trying it out. As we approached the small stand located near the mall Santa display, the loud beat of salsa music was emanating from within. One look at the menu and you know this is not your typical mall food. It starts out with a list of fairly intricate sandwiches, but they also offer pasta dishes and hot dogs. The menu could stand up next to any dine-in free standing restaurant out there. Mike Gonzalez who is the owner/operator was busy cooking, chatting, and singing away as we placed our order. My sister, mom, and I all ordered the Infamous Bob sandwich, with sides of asparagus ( I don’t think Aunt Annies offers asparagus). We watched in awe as Mike donned black PVC-coated gloves and went to work on our sandwiches looking like an ninja attacking the dreaded panni press. The Bob sandwich came with chunks of grilled chicken, a nice balsamic dressing, greens, a large chunk of mozzarella, and the optional pepper to kick it up a notch. This sandwich was amazing! It was a perfect blend of sweet, spicy and savory. All three of us thoroughly enjoyed our selection. The side of asparagus was equally pleasing.
This is one place that I really want to go back to, because if the rest of the menu items are as good as this sandwich its going to be real enjoyable. For those of you leery about going to the mall don’t worry, there are plans to open a Metro Grill II in Andover at the beginning of January. There is a rumor that it will be a BYOB type establishment. But you shouldn’t wait for the Andover location to open up. This Holiday season when you are at the mall doing some power shopping why not stop by for a power sandwich?