A new casual eatery called Earl of Sandwich opens up at Showboat.
The culinary origin of many dishes remains in great dispute, with one notable exception.
That would be the sandwich, famously slapped together by servants for an English Earl who enjoyed gambling so fervently he didn’t want to leave the tables to eat.
That royal personage, John Montagu, fourth Earl of Sandwich — deriving from his southeastern England hometown, in county Kent — was a prominent mid-18th century statesman. He served various military and political offices including Postmaster General, First Lord of the Admiralty and Secretary of State for the Northern Department. But his lasting legacy is the humble — or these days, not so — pairing of bread and meat, dating to 1762.
So it seems entirely appropriate that, 250 years later, his direct descendent, the 11th Earl of Sandwich, has taken that concept to its logical extension and delivered it to our own local gambling mecca, in Atlantic City’s Showboat Hotel Casino.
With approximately 20 franchised locations, ours is one of two in New Jersey. Opened only a few days prior, we visited for a noontime repast recently.
The first thing that caught our eye, as is often the case, was the kitchen activity. Open to the public, this made-to-order environment hummed along nicely, accommodating a steady stream of curious customers and onlookers.
Employees appeared happy, well organized and devoid of stress, which speaks volumes about the job that management has done via staffing and training. Despite that, we expected that as lunchtime volume built, they would crumble a bit and slow to a glacial pace.
This is an ailment common to nascent food providers that we refer to as “New Restaurantitis.” Guess what? It never happened, much to our surprise.
The next impression, an even more positive one, came in the form of food. Sandwich making, my friends, is a delicate, underappreciated art. Think about it, what’s worse than biting into a big old fistful of bread, meat, cheese and toppings and ending up wearing them on your shirt or lap? Structural integrity, as much as quality ingredients, largely determines the overall success of any sandwich business.
This is nowhere more noticeable than any of our Big Three sub shops locally — A.C.’s White House, their cousins the ubiquitous Sacko’s and Margate/Northfield peers Dino’s — where the proper stacking order and organization of Italian subs has been elevated to a realm of sublime perfection. At The Earl, all elements in the quartet of sandwiches we sampled remained firmly intact within their baked-in-house bread casings.
The first, a summer special particularly touted by chief operating officer Marisa Sandlin, onsite for the opening, was chipotle chicken avocado. Grilled chicken combined with cheddar cheese, bacon, leaf lettuce and firm avocado to create a stirring contrast of flavor and texture. While we’ve bemoaned the overuse of that smoked jalapeno of late, this mildly hot sauce proved just the right finishing touch.
At the recommendation of A.C. General Manager Terry Moed, we next tried the Hawaiian BBQ, grilled chicken plus a sweet chili BBQ layered with roasted ham, aged Swiss cheese and pineapple. That tangy sauce also worked wonders with the smoky ham, fragrant cheese and sweet tropical fruit. No visit here should be without ordering their Original 1762 — fresh roasted Angus beef, sharp cheddar cheese and creamy horseradish dressing — Montagu’s favorite tableside treat. Or you may up that ante a bit with the Full Montagu; beef, turkey, Swiss, sharp cheddar, lettuce, tomatoes and Earl’s mustard sauce.
There are a total of 13 hot sandwiches, including house versions of classics like Italian, meatball parm, BLT and tuna melt. Five others are available in either salad or wrap versions, including a sexy looking Cobb. We also engaged a superb bowl of tomato soup, thickened without cream, which did justice to southern New Jersey’s unofficial state fruit, gloriously in full season at the present.
Which brings us to our final, definitive opinion about this place. Virtually everything — breads, soups, desserts, even sides slaw and potato chips — is proprietary in formula, made on-premise and of the highest quality. Affordable at between six and seven bucks a sandwich, The Earl offers healthier, upscale alternatives at fast-food price points. Planned to operate 24/7, it will provide late night revelers — like concertgoers at the attached House of Blues — an early morning nosh worthy of royalty. Literally.
Earl of Sandwich
Where: Showboat Hotel Casino, 801 Boardwalk, A.C.
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