CHOMP VS. CHOMP: CLUBHOUSE SANDWICH BATTLE
The clubhouse sandwich: the original super sandwich. Since its creation in 1894, the club has gone from a simple but brilliant “whole meal” sandwich to the towering triple-decker stacks we commonly see today. The original recipe called for chicken or turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato and a generous amount of mayo. I mean, how could you go wrong with this setup? My love of the clubhouse began at the White Spot in Kerrisdale where I grew up. The turkey club has always been a prominent feature on the menu, but did you know that they also did a shrimp club back then? There was a solid few years where that was the only thing I would order at White Spot, until they took it off the menu and replaced it with the Toasted Shrimp Sandwich – one of the darkest days of my life. Bitterness aside, the point is that I grew up with a healthy appreciation for the traditional club but I was also open to other takes on the tried-and-true formula.
Later on in my university years, I spent a lot of my time (clearly not studying) at bubble tea shops and Hong Kong/Taiwanese-style cafes. A favourite spot for years was the old Totoro Cafe on Alexandra Road in Richmond, which is sadly closed and sporting a now-permanent 2.5 out of 5 stars on Yelp. For a place that only had a hot plate and a microwave to cook with, Totoro had an amazing clubhouse sandwich. It was served on soft, sweet milk bread with ham, fried egg, tomato, cucumber, processed cheddar, and some kind of wonder mayo. We’d frequently talk about how it was probably easy to make the same way at home, but none of us were ever able to replicate it.
I’ve definitely encountered many a-sandwich in the years since, but for some reason I never came across the clubhouse at Chinatown’s famed The Boss Bakery & Restaurant – much better known simply as “The Boss”. My wife was almost offended when she learned that I had never had The Boss’ clubhouse. “You know why it’s the best? Because it has THREE KINDS OF MEAT!” The Boss’ winning combination is white bread, minute (beef) steak, a chicken cutlet, ham, processed cheddar, lettuce, tomato and thousand island dressing. It ain’t pretty, but it indeed has THREE KINDS OF MEAT and it can certainly be considered as one of the tastiest Asian-style club sandwiches around.
Seeing as I have somewhat of an obsession with sandwiches that can only be held together with toothpicks, my curiosity led me to attempt a direct comparison between the best of both worlds. For this battle, we settled on Acme Cafe’s Chicken Club (chicken, bacon, aged cheddar, tomato, arugula, sun-dried tomato mayo and dijon mayo served on sourdough) as the best classic club versus The Boss’ three-peat clubhouse.
As one of Vancouver’s most celebrated comfort food eateries, Acme Cafe was an easy choice. (Sorry, White Spot. I haven’t forgiven you for taking the shrimp club off the menu.) Acme’s chicken club features house-roasted, locally-sourced chicken and the ingredients are always fresh. The dijon mayo really sticks out as a key component of the sandwich as well. I also appreciate that they put great care into the assembly of the sandwich. This might sound like a silly thing to point out, but you’ll know what I mean if you’ve ever opened up a Big Mac box and wondered if they played a game of soccer with it before putting it in your takeout bag. I’ve ordered the club twice now and both times I felt that the sandwich tasted great but the bread was a bit dry. Maybe trying it on multigrain bread would have been better but it was disappointing nonetheless having to sip water with nearly each bite. Personal preference on bread crustiness aside, I can see why many people regularly flock to Acme for this clubhouse. Considering the quality ingredients and general attention to detail, $13.75 including a side soup or slaw seems like a fair price.
The Boss’ club sandwich is, in many ways, unlike the one from Acme Cafe. I think they toast it, but it always seems to come out kind of soft and with the ingredients loosely spilling out. The shreds of green lettuce are limp and don’t really add the crispness that they were probably intended for. On the other hand…. HOW BOUT THAT MEAT THO! Okay, I don’t get excited about a piece of luncheon ham, but the combination of the minute steak, chicken AND ham is pretty powerful. Tie it all together with thousand island and you’ve got yourself a saucy little clubhouse! Even though it’s messy, this does appeal more to my old man preference of soft/mushy things over crusty things that cut the roof of my mouth. At $8.25, you sacrifice quality (dearly) but at least it’s easier on the wallet.
So here comes the part where I’m supposed to declare a winner. East vs. West, tradition vs. whatever minute steak is. Honestly though, I can only say that both styles of clubhouse have merits of their own. It’s like trying to compare Olive Garden with gnocci that your Italian friend’s Grandma made by hand. Purists will say Nonna’s is best, but sometimes you just want to shrug and get your unlimited soup, salad and breadsticks. If you’re more of a turkey club guy or gal, I encourage you to hit up The Boss or message us for recommendations on other HK/Asian-style places to try. Same goes for those of you who haven’t ventured past bubble tea shop food yet! Get out there, experience new things, try ordering the Shrimp Club at White Spot and let us know what their reaction is. Tell them you’re asking for a friend.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, from the TEAMCHOMP family. 🙂
The Boss Bakery & Restaurant
Chinatown and Metrotown locations
51 W Hastings St