Located on East Fort Lowell Road, this tiny eatery can easily be missed. There's a good-sized sign out front (although it also advertises a laundry, which is a bit confusing), but not much else distinguishes the place from the other nondescript buildings nearby. Yet, if my visits are any indication, the Daggwood Café has a loyal following.
On both visits, most, if not all, of the seats were filled. There was a steady "get and go" crowd. And on our second visit, the delivery guy stayed busy.
The menu has a dozen cold sandwiches (which for $1 more can be served as a salad), and there are another baker's dozen of hot sandwiches, several subs and a whole section devoted to "Daggwood's ABC's of Bacon." Add the "Daggwood Your Way," the "Daggwood Our Way," a burger, chicken tenders and a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, and you've got yourself a something-for-everybody kind of menu.
Regrettably, two of the items--a burger and a shake--we asked for on our Monday lunch visit were unavailable. So John ordered a half Daggwood club on marble rye that came with a side order (potato salad) and a 24-ounce fountain drink ($7.95). I ordered the caliente cock-a-doodle-do ($6.95), a chicken salad sandwich on sourdough. I opted out of the caliente part (a jalapeno pepper), but kept the peppered bacon, avocado, cheddar cheese, lettuce and tomato. My side was a cup of pasta salad ($1.75). In lieu of the shake, I had a bottled water ($1.25).
The atmosphere, as you might guess, is pretty casual, with friendly counter service, a few tables, a counter, a small patio and plain walls (save for two pictures of the namesake and his spouse). There's a revolving dessert display filled with monster-sized cakes, brownies and éclairs, which come from Nadine's Pastry Shoppe. A bread rack holds loaves of sourdough, white, wheat, dark and marble ryes. The breads used here all come from the Small Planet and La Baguette bakeries.
In spite of the crowd, our food was at the table quickly. John's club was made in the traditional style--three slices of bread layered with smoked turkey, honey ham, cheeses (provolone and cheddar), peppered bacon, tomato, lettuce and mayo. And because this is the Daggwood Café, the club was huge! The sandwich practically took up the whole basket (and this was the half sandwich). A whole one is almost unimaginable. Everything, from top to bottom, was fresh. The special flavors in the meats--smoke, sweetness and pepper--made the club all the more delicious.
My chicken salad was also gigantic and delicious. Bite-sized chunks of white meat were tossed with water chestnuts and celery in fluffy mayonnaise. This is what a chicken salad sandwich should be: tender meat with a crunch here and there, wrapped in a light, airy dressing. I could only eat half; the other half tasted great the next day.
Although sandwiches are the stars at Daggwood Café, the kitchen knows what it is doing with salads as well. For example, the above-mentioned mayo on my sandwich let the taste of the chicken in the chicken salad stand out--the amount and texture of the dressing didn't overwhelm the main ingredient. The same can be said for the side salads. The potato salad's front flavor was potato, and with my pasta salad, which had firm tri-color rotini, the dressing was mild yet still full of flavor.
For dessert, we took home a half-brownie ($1.75). It was rich and chewy, but nothing out of the ordinary.
We met with the same huge amounts of good food on our second visit. On my Papa Reuben ($6.95), the thousand island dressing and spicy mustard enhanced the tender, lean corned beef. This was a perfect balance of ingredients--and again, it was so big that I couldn't finish it all in one setting. One minus: The center of the sandwich was a little cold, which could've easily been fixed with another minute on the grill. By the way, there are two other Reubens on the menu: the Uncle Reuben, which features hot pastrami and havarti cheese, and the Auntie Reuben, with smoked turkey as the meat.
This time, the burger was available, so that was John's choice. The cheeseburger ($6.45) was served steaming hot with a slice of cheddar melting on top. It was served on a buttery bun. He also ordered fries ($1.50). The order at first seemed a bit small, but then again, you don't need a lot of fries with sandwiches this big.
Dessert was a sweet and creamy petite éclair. It was perhaps a bit rich for a lunchtime dessert, but it looked too good to pass up. Next time, though, I'll order it with my lunch, so the chill will be off of it. That way, I can taste all the wonderful flavors at their best.
The Daggwood Café is a sandwich palace extraordinaire. But there is also a catering side, and you can rent the place in the evening for private parties. Another plus is the delivery service. There is a five-mile radius, but you must order a minimum of three sandwiches, and they do not deliver on Sundays.
The only thing that bothers me about the Daggwood Café is the hours. Most days, they close at 4 p.m., and on Sundays, they close at 3 p.m. Friday is the only day that they stay open until 7 p.m. A sandwich from the Daggwood Café would be the ideal meal as I work on my deadline for this column.