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Food For Cause 

After getting yourself a sandwich, Even Stevens gives back to the community

click to enlarge Even Stevens: Known for sammies.

Mark Whittaker

Even Stevens: Known for sammies.

Barely open a month AND so far they have donated close to 2,000 sandwiches.

When Even Stevens moved into the large space on Broadway between South Arizona Avenue and South Fifth Avenue, right next door to Charro Steak, a lot of locals were kind of worried. It's a small-ish franchise that originated out of Salt Lake City and when they decided to call that prime location home, downtown diners thought that a chain restaurant would sully the current prestige of our culinary renaissance. But as word got out as to what Even Stevens is and what they are all about, instead of crossing their arms and resisting, the good people of Tucson opened up and said "Come on in."

Here's why: Outside of serving tasty sandwiches and salads, the restaurant also donates food through local non-profits. At the end of every month, the staff at Even Stevens tally all sales and the budget for their ingredients, then channels that cash into an account through Sysco, which the non-profits can access, and within a few days the supplies they need to feed the hungry are delivered free of charge. Right now they are partnered with The Community Food Bank, Tucson Neighborhood Food Pantry, Interfaith Community Services and St. Vincent de Paul and through them have fed a lot of down-on-their-luck Tucsonans. So, yeah ...we good Even Stevens.

And, no, they are not corporate. Rather it is the brainchild of a man named Steve Down who is a well-intended entrepreneur who just wants to make a difference.

First of all, Even Stevens is fun. The restaurant is wide and colorful with big open windows and adorned with red plush couches that look as if they came from a turn-of-the-century brothel. As you snack on gooey baked mac-n-cheese or tater tots dusted in paprika from the $5 appetizer selection, you can play various board games, including an old-school Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots, on a round gambling table which could be a set piece from Old Tucson Studios. The confident hipness matches the kitsch; that alone makes it a perfect fit for the downtown scene.

Second, the menu is thankfully tight so customers don't have to stand there gawking at the list of options as a line forms behind them, bug eyed and going "Uhh?" trying to make a decision. Right now, the menu has 12 sandwiches, four salads and six breakfast items to choose from. They also have a few craft beers on hand and serve Peixoto coffee, which is based out of Chandler.

Outside of being a "sandwich shop with a cause," the food is really good. Even Stevens opens at 7 a.m., smart for being in a busy spot travelled by downtown business folk, and because of this they have handy and generous breakfast burritos. My suggestion is the Graduate Burrito, which is stuffed with two eggs, your choice of bacon or sausage (the sausage is quite tangy and not too greasy), tater tots, white cheddar cheese, onions, tomatoes, spinach and a Sriracha sauce. They do offer a vegan burrito called the New Morrissey, which has soyrizo, marinated tofu and a house-made garlic Brava sauce, which is tomato-based and lightly seasoned. Both breakfast items are hearty and appetizing.

As far as salads are concerned, I really liked the Pork Belly Wedge. The belly wasn't overbearing and went nicely with the crisp quarter head of lettuce, tart gorgonzola cheese, a subtle-yet-inspired avocado salsa and modest drizzle of blue cheese dressing. The Goat Hugger salad—beets, arugula, candied pecans and a goat cheese vinaigrette—was lovely, too.

But Even Stevens is known for the sandwiches. It'll take a while to get all of them down and accounted for but so far I have a big respect for the Jackfruit Torta. It's big, messy and spicy and for $8.45, you totally get your money's worth. The advent of toothsome pepitas, crunchy radishes and creamy guacamole made this sandwich really work. The Mihami Vice, basically an Even Stevens take on a Cubano, was a pleasure to get acquainted with as well. The pork isn't too fatty, which is always nice, but what kind of stood out was their house pickles; a good snap, excellent brine and a nice fit atop the ham and Swiss cheese.

Even Stevens also has a Banh Mi that features a garlic aioli and pickled slaw and something called the Hummazing Vegan, complete with a roasted red pepper hummus and a slow roasted tomato spread on wheat. Those two sound tempting and will definitely be taking them for a ride around the block on a future visit.

Tucson is the sixth location for Even Stevens here in Arizona and we are lucky to have the company. The food is affordable and has yet to disappoint, but the fact that they set up shop here and started feeding those that is reason enough to walk in and say "Welcome to the neighborhood!" ■

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