The Taco Stand: Where mac and cheese and sandwiches meet, with meat
It was a date which will live in infamy in the News Tribune sports department, the day local scribe Louie St. George III and I met at Erbert and Gerbert's Sandwich Shop in downtown Duluth.
I was standing behind him in line, and we were both on our lunch breaks, so nothing unusual there, until Louie ordered the "Erupter" Buffalo chicken and bleu cheese sandwich.
Good choice, I thought, until Louie interrupted the sandwich artist in the middle of his masterpiece, the Mozart of Mayo being called out.
"Hey," Louie said. "Can you go easy on the meat?"
I was aghast. Appalled. Flabbergasted. Completely besides myself, my face contorted like a corkscrew. Back where I'm from, those are fighting words.
"I thought he was going to strangle me," Louie later recalled.
Fast forward to last week, and Rick Weegman and I went to the same Erbs and Gerbs looking to try their new, limited-time-only Mac & Cheese BBQ Brisket.
If that combination gives you pause, you're not alone.
I was hesitant to try it at first, too, until I was told work would pay for it. I'll try anything this side of bugs in Bangkok if it's free (yes, I've been to Bangkok, and no, I didn't try the bugs. Even I can't drink that much).
I had hoped to take my 9-year-old daughter on this assignment, knowing if I didn't like the mac and cheese on my sub, she'd gobble it up, for sure.
Instead, Weegman, jealous for years I get these cush assignments, invited himself along, and I acted like I was cool with it. He's not the type to share, if you know what I mean.
"Yeah, that'd be great," I said. Whatever.
Weegman had actually tried to order the sandwich the night before but was told they were out, not just of the brisket, but of the mac and cheese as well, so clearly, this has been a sandwich star.
This time, they were out of white bread, so we just went with the honey wheat, which was fine.
It was a no-frills sandwich, which I like. No lettuce, no pickles, nothing green or fruity. Just meat and cheese, with the mac being the only thing you could consider filler.
I've tried unusual combinations before. I thought I'd like the smoked salmon omelette at Duluth Grill. I like smoked salmon. I like omelettes. I should really like them combined, right? It didn't work that way. Perhaps I was just so trained as to how my breakfast should taste, and how my salmon should be. It didn't work for me. This did.
Personally, I would have preferred just straight cheese instead of mac and cheese, but the mac didn't throw me off like I feared it might. Actually, it blended right in, to the point where it wasn't even noticeable, and the brisket was juicy and tender.
I belong to the Erbs and Gerbs Sandwich Society, so I had the jump on this sandwich. Of course, it didn't look anything like the ads and emails, but we all know that's a bunch of baloney.
I thought my sandwich was good and meaty. In fact, cheese was oozing out the sides. Weegman didn't fare as well. The far ends of his sub were completely devoid of meat, cheese, even mac. They couldn't even throw him a noodle.
"They must have thought I was Louie," Weegman lamented, looking like a kid who wanted a bike for Christmas, only to get a plastic sled.
All subs are not created equal. For $6.99, the price I paid was fair. Weegman's, not so much. I think he was still hungry. I offered him some of mine. He didn't take it.
My only beef with Louie the time he told them to go easy on the meat was he could have offered it to somebody needy instead, like myself. So while I salivated watching his sub being made, Louie, a bit of a health freak, told them to scale back.
It's hard enough to get a sandwich with enough meat these days — I always order extra meat at Subway, for example — so you sure as heck don't turn it down when you get it.
Weegman and I got back to the office and relayed what had happened.
"I found the perfect sub for you, Louie," Weegman said as he walked by his cubicle.
Louie, who has heard this story too many times, said, "Let me guess, the Erupter with no meat?"
That confirms it. My story is 100 percent true. No fake news here.
Easy on the meat — said (almost) nobody ever.
“Taco” Jon Nowacki eats meat for the News Tribune. He also covers sports, where he can be found at halftime of area games standing in line at the concession stand. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (218) 723-5305.