Sunday, February 10, 2013

“This Must be the Most Popular Restaurant in Tucson”

…I exclaimed to Chuck as I surveyed the nearly jammed Beyond Bread one Saturday afternoon. Was it just because it was Saturday or because that’s the one day that the café has its acclaimed sandwich—Ernie’s Everything Reuben—on the menu?
“Tucson's Beyond Bread snagged second place in the sandwich segment of the first-ever World Food Championships last weekend in Las Vegas. The popular bakery and sandwich shop took home a $4,000 prize, losing out on the $10,000 grand prize to Las Vegas chef Robert Butler. Butler, a chef at The Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, ended up winning the overall title and $50,000 grand prize. (Ed. Note: Wait a minute. The competition is in Las Vegas and the grand prize winner is from Las Vegas. Is there something rotten in Denmark? Or in Las Vegas?)

“Beyond Bread was represented by owner-baker Shelby Collier and cooks Matt Boling and Michael Schehl, who re-created the Tucson bakery and sandwich shop's popular Everything Reuben sandwich to advance to the final round of competition. Collier…brought ingredients with him, including dough, which the trio proofed in a makeshift box and baked in a rudimentary oven set up early Saturday in front of Bally's casino on the Las Vegas strip” (

The competition was hosted by Adam Richman who stars in the Travel Channel’s Man v. Food series. “He's no stranger to food competitions. ‘There is—I kid you not—a petroleum and road kill festival and a moon pie festival,’ Richman said. ‘Then you start getting into the major leagues, where you have the real big barbecue competitions, the build-a-better burger competitions, the barbecue competitions, the recipe competitions. This is for people who take their craft seriously, but don't take themselves seriously.’ he added” (Ron Sylvester at

The Ernie’s Everything Reuben was one dynamite sandwich with warm thin sliced corned beef piled high on Beyond Bread’s Pretzel Everything roll with Swiss cheese, vinegar slaw, and Russian dressing.
Oh my, oh my. The best way to describe this delectable roll is to describe it as the marriage of an "everything" bagel and a soft pretzel—a union that begat the "pretzel everything" roll with a topping of salt, sesame seeds, caraway seeds, and garlic. And, being somewhat of a Reuben purist, I was dubious about the substitution of the slaw for sauerkraut, but the vinegar dressing on the slaw gave the sandwich that “sour” expected in a Reuben. If only they served this everyday. If only they sold the rolls in the bakery. (They don’t. They do have a pretzel bread but it lacks the “everything” seasonings.)

For my side, I ordered the pasta salad made with orrechiette pasta, “a distinctive Puglian type of pasta shaped roughly like small ears, hence the name (orecchio, “ear”; orecchiette, “little ears”). They're
about 3/4 of an inch across, slightly domed, and their centers are thinner than their rims, a characteristic that gives them an interestingly variable texture, soft in the middle and somewhat more chewy outside. In discussing them in La Cucina Pugliese, Luigi Sada says, ‘making them takes experience, ability and practice,’ an observation that leads to the conclusion that you may want to buy them ready made” ( In addition to pasta, the salad contained corn, peas, red onion, red bell pepper, and sun dried tomatoes in a light dressing.

While I was devouring half of my Reuben (again we both took half of our sandwiches home to finish that evening), Chuck was chomping on Max’s Muffalotta—Beyond Bread’s version of the famous New Orleans muffaletta.
This very thick sandwich contained capicola (“Capicola, or coppa, is a traditional Neapolitan Italian cold cut [salume] made from pork shoulder or neck and dry-cured whole. The name coppa is Italian for nape, while capicola comes from capo—head and collo—neck of a pig” []), ham, pepperoni, provolone, artichoke hearts (which he asked to be held), roasted red peppers, olive paste, tomato, red onion, and vinaigrette on ciabatta.
How good was this? Well, Chuck declared that he liked this better than the New Orleans original.

The sandwiches are great. The bread is great—especially the rye and the rustic. The pastries are great. But one more thing keeps us coming back again and again--even when we are not planning to have lunch. And that one thing is the soft pretzel.
Now New Yorkers—who usually think that they live in the center of the food universe—may want to claim the soft pretzel. But ask any Philadelphian, and you will be told that the City of Brotherly Love owns the soft pretzel.

“Just like other major cities and tourist hot spots, Philadelphia has its own unique set of delectable edibles. New York is known for bagels, Chicago for its buttery crusted deep dish pizza, and Savannah for its heavenly pralines. Philadelphia has made its way into similar culinary fame, not only for cheese steaks and water ice (characteristically known as ‘wudder ice’ by the locals), but also for the delicious, chewy, salty, ‘get-em just about everywhere in Philly,’ soft twisted pretzels.
Philly’s soft-pretzels are breakfast for many a commuter on the run, dependable snacks for the late-night munchy crowd, and at around fifty cents a pop if you buy them individually, the big salty twists topped with yellow mustard (or not) even stand in as ‘hearty’ lunch or dinner for the hungry college student strapped for cash. Soft pretzels are so desirable in this city that some report Philadelphia consumes up to twelve times the national average in pretzels each year” (Kim Burton –

I admit to not being a fan of the Philadelphia version of the soft pretzel. Way too doughy. Way too heavy. But these are neither of those. They have a semi-chewy quality and when heated at 350° for four minutes become both soft and crisp. As our time in Tucson comes to a close, I plan to eat out our freezer so we can take a half dozen or so “for the road.”

We really like this place. Really, really like this place. For the bread. For the sandwiches. For the pastries. For the pretzels. Is it a surprise that we give Beyond Bread 5.0 Addies?

To review the role of Adler and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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