You may have already read a review of Southie, the new Oakland sandwich shop by the folks at Wood Tavern. Perhaps in East Bay Express, Tasting Table, or in one of our great local food blogs. So I don't plan on writing a formal review here on Bay Area Bites about the specifics of the restaurant--others have done it well. Instead, I'm going to tell you about how I brought my mom out to lunch and she fell in love. With a sandwich. And this is a woman who is a bit of a sandwich skeptic, sticking to the tuna salad she makes at home or a simple turkey and jack cheese creation. Sometimes, if she's feeling crazy, the jar of sweet pickles will make its way onto the counter.
I decided to take her to Southie to see if I could get her excited about a whole new kind of sandwich. From what I'd heard, these were no run-of-the mill deli sandwiches; they were creative and thoughtfully executed meals. We walked in around 1 p.m. in the middle of the week and nabbed a seat right away. The small restaurant is light and airy with a semi-open kitchen (you can watch them make the sandwiches but there's a large prep kitchen in the back where much of the actual cooking occurs), shiny red espresso machine, pretty flowers, and gracious service. It just feels good in there. So when the menus came, I watched my mom study it. Charming in its simplicity, there are 5 or 6 daily sandwiches, a few salads, a soup and a couple of dessert options. It's the kind of menu you can scan quickly, get a gut feeling on, and order right away. No hemming and hawing here. Knowing that my mom loves crab, I had a good guess about what she'd choose. She ordered the Dungeness Crab Roll, I chose the "Pulled Piggy," and we decided on the Truffled Bacon and Poached Egg Salad to share.
Preparing Sandwiches Behind the Counter at Southie
After the sandwiches arrived (and they arrived quickly!) we opted to split both so we could try a little of everything. The Pulled Piggy was my favorite, with Niman Ranch pork and very little else to get in the way of the uber-juicy meat and buttery roll with the exception of a few jalapenos and a lightly dressed slaw. After one bite, I was already sold. I waited to hear from the other side of the table.
Pulled Piggy Sandwich at Southie
My mom fell hard for the Dungeness Crab Roll as I anticipated she might. It's not the mayonnaise-laden crab roll you may be familiar with. Instead, it's a light, literal celebration of sweet crab prepared with a little citrus oil, celery, and just a smidge of aioli. Let's just say there wasn't a whole lot of conversation during lunch. I tried talking about living in Oakland, how things were going at work -- you know, that kind of stuff. But once the crab sandwich was done, she'd moved onto the pork. And even more silence. She was a happy camper. See:
Mom enjoying Southie
And while I really loved each of the sandwiches, I fell hard for that Truffled Bacon and Poached Egg Salad. It's, I kid you not, one of the best salads I've ever had in my young (ish) adult life and I can't wait to try and emulate it at home. The salad is prepared with frisee, couscous, radishes, and a truffle vinaigrette with a perfectly poached egg on top. You've got your little bit salty, little bit crunchy yet amazingly light thing going on here and it works really beautifully.
Truffled Bacon and Poached Egg Salad
After lunch, we were both too full for dessert but I was dying to try one of Sarah Ballard's creations, particularly that whoopie pie I'd heard so much about. So we took one home and it proved to be the perfect late night snack. This whoopie pie is nothing like the traditional ones you may be used to. It consists of two extremely soft little rounds of carrot cake sandwiching a light, tart cream cheese ice cream. It's surprising, fresh, and special.
Sarah Ballard's whoopie pie
So two things have come out of this experience: my mom's a converted sandwich believer and I've discovered some very unexpected favorite dishes that have nothing to do with the celebrated sandwich at Southie. I will be back for the Truffled Bacon and Poached Egg Salad. And if I lived in that neighborhood, I'd have my way with Sarah's whoopie pies far more frequently than would be good. Or healthy. For anyone.
It should be noted that, at the time of printing, the Dungeness Crab Sandwich is no longer available as crab season is coming to a close. I spoke with head chef Maximilian DiMare about what would replace it and he enthusiastically detailed a seared ahi tuna sandwich on foccaccia with anchovy aioli, sliced eggs, and a shredded green bean salad tossed with Calabrian chili vinaigrette. We'll be back.