When I first saw that a new sandwich shop was opening on Pleasant Street in Northampton, I was about as excited as if I'd heard the town was getting a new sushi establishment. There is no shortage of either kind of eatery in the Paradise City; while many of them have creative names for their main offerings, it's sometimes difficult to discern any real difference.
Established by the folks who run Bistro Les Gras, a restaurant across town that offers fine French dining, Big's Grub Sandwich Shop defies expectations, serving up a selection of hot and cold sandwiches and salads that are both unusual and scrumptious.
Like the competition, Grub also has a menu full of wacky names (Frito Pie Dog, ZLT, Bronx-ini, Piggy-Que), but here the food lives up to the hype. Many of the ingredients are local and prepared in-house, including a range of pickles, the mayonnaise and aioli, and the delicious spicy coleslaw.
The real advantage of the sandwiches at Grub's, though, is their bread, which they also bake. Too often high-end sandwich shops seem to overcompensate with crust that's far too thick and bread that's too dense. The result is that the filling gets lost in a bite of abrasive, mouth-scraping bread that takes real work to chew.
Grub's has found a balance with a sandwich that is structurally sound, but also soft enough to absorb the many fine flavors and not be daunting to consume.
The menu is packed with a range of international flavors, with everything from a Vietnamese sandwich to the Tunisian, which contains the Grub version of the North African merguez sausage.
My family and friends dined there last week, and young and old were all delighted with the meals they chose. I was particularly enamored of the pickle platter, which contained not just pickled cucumbers but beets, carrots and beans. It was a perfect accompaniment to my spicy pulled-pork sandwich and Brooklyn-brewed beer. My wife had the Beans and Greens, a taco salad with mixed greens, chicken, and outstanding guacamole.
Prices average around $7.50; nothing's more than $9, and there are plenty of options around $5. While that's perhaps a little pricey for an ordinary sandwich, there's nothing run-of-the-mill about the grub served at Grub's.