For those who pine for an East Coast-style sub sandwich fix, complete with the chunky pickled pepper spread known as "hots," the opening of Merigan Sub Shop from Chef Liza Shaw should be on your culinary radar. Shaw's SoMa project is opening next month on the same street as Chronicle Books and 7x7 Magazine's headquarters -- which happens to be around the corner from the Giants home stadium. Highlights aside from the menu of meaty and veg-tastic sandwiches include: meatballs (enough said!), red wine on tap from Unti Vineyards, daily whole animal butchery, and turkey and roast beef made in house.
Shaw lives in San Francisco and hails from Baltimore. She talked with Bay Area Bites recently about her plans and confirmed that East Coast hoagie shops were the inspiration for her shop—and yes, there are plans for more shops if all goes well. Recently, Tablehopper reported on Shaw's menu highlights including: “a porchetta sandwich, a terrina with coppa di testa and pork liver terrina, housemade meatballs, spicy Italian sausage, and of course a killer Italian combo” and Shaw told BAB about her plans to include sides of ceci bean fritters and Italian shaved ice and zeppole pastries for dessert.
The chef was on the opening team for A16, and is considered something of a pizza and pasta badass. While she waited and negotiated the perfect space for her sub shop to come about—the current location of Hard Water was almost a go for a bit—she worked as consulting chef up north on the pizza programs for Pizzando and Redd Wood restaurants, respectively. Shaw has also had stints at Acquerello and is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy. Her comments have been edited for clarity.
Bay Area Bites: What does Merigan mean?
Shaw: Merigano is a phrase that was used by Italians for people who aren’t Italian. I’m not Italian.
Bay Area Bites: Do you see the shop as high end?
Shaw: I don’t know. I wouldn’t say upscale for this shop. I think I want it to be sandwiches that are done restaurant style. We are going to be cooking everything here: grinding the meat, making the sausage, butchering the pigs. The same values I have at home or in a restaurant will be there, but put into a sandwich. So you’ll see upscale preparation, and my techniques and ethics. But still, it’s just a sandwich when you get it but you know some thought, care and love has gone into it. I’m still going to be going to farmers’ markets and sourcing locally from Llano Seco, a place that has great pigs and is getting a beef program going.
Bay Area Bites: You are doing things by hand here, and sourcing bread that will be a seeded roll or unseeded roll. Another touch is your pickling program and use of “hots” for the sandwiches.
Shaw: Back East, you get a pickled pepper chunky spread called hots with your sandwiches. No one really does that out here and so two years ago I was looking at spaces and thought everything would open a lot faster. I got a million tomatoes and peppers and started making a tomato conserva to put on the sandwiches. That was two years ago. For a long time, my bottom shelf on my fridge was pickled stuff.
Bay Area Bites: The spot is set up for to-go orders and you have wisely decided to include soup, which is great for our chilly Indian summers.
Shaw: You kind of have to do a soup and my fail safe soup is called “beans, greens and protein” a great use for turkey or meat. I can do a vegetarian one as well, and probably will.
Bay Area Bites: Whole animal butchery is a skill you definitely have. Can guests expect to see you doing butchery here, behind the counter?
Shaw: If the space allows. I imagine prep for butchery and grinding could happen early morning or before service. We’ll probably go through a pig and a half every week--it could be more, we’ll see.
Bay Area Bites: Do you have partners for this business?
Shaw: No, it’s just me. It’s crazy.
Bay Area Bites: Has anyone been walking you through the process?
Shaw: For sure. Laurie Aaronson. She’s very involved. Between Frances and State Bird here we have six or seven of the same investors, the same lawyer, the same consultant. It’s funny, because I better do well, since these other two restaurants are doing well. The investors think it’s so fun to invest in restaurants.
Seeking investors was fairly painless. Laurie had a friend in business school. Then he invited his friend. Then a friend of Melissa Perello’s came on. All of the sudden I have this great community. My friend Andy from college invested. The investors have been equal parts A16 regulars, family, friends and people who are three degrees of separation.
Bay Area Bites: A lot of your friends and friends of friends are helping make this a reality.
Shaw: My graphic designer is Robert Van Horne, and he also did Frances and Bel Campo. He does a lot of wine labels and did my logo and signage, website, and menus. Robert is a friend from Middlebury College and a former A16 food runner. Jen Corteville of Yellow House Design did the design work and is one of my best friends. Iain Rizzo of Healdsburg is making my tables and he also made tables at Campo Fina and Scopa in Healdsburg. The table at the bar will be made out of wood from a sycamore tree. That same tree was used for the communal table at Spinster Sisters in Santa Rosa. Liza Hinman is the chef there. We're both chefs, and both named Liza, and have been best friends since college.
I want to look out every day and say to myself here, someone I’m friends with helped me.
I have a group of people that I do info sourcing: call Thomas Mcnaughton from Central Kitchen or Melissa Perello from Frances, Stuart Brioza from State Bird or the guys from Namu, “OK is $104 a month a good price for a dishwasher?” They’ll tell me, “Yeah, go for it.”