Review: Even Stevens Sandwiches makes altruism delicious
Who among us doesn't enjoy the warm glow of turning a good deed for another? I know I do. I mean, is there a job more vital to humanity than the restaurant critic? Note: That was rhetorical. I like to imagine that the wasted calories, time and money I've saved countless diners have, at least in some small part, made our world a better place. I tell myself every overcooked egg I self-importantly shovel down is valuable work I'm giving back to the local community, on matters of obviously grave importance.
Balderdash. If you want to see real dining altruism in action, take a trip to Even Stevens Sandwiches. Sure, sitting down and eating a sandwich might not seem the pinnacle of philanthropy, but every sandwich purchased at Even Stevens promises another donated to a local nonprofit; at the time of writing, that includes YWCA, Rescue Mission Of Salt Lake, The Good Samaritan Program and VOA Homeless Youth Outreach.
The genesis behind the concept emerged over lunch, a sandwich from a popular franchise as it happens. Founder and serial entrepreneur Steve Down was challenged to improve the concept by a friend. Before the meal was up, Down hit upon the community-minded model and Even Stevens Sandwiches was born.
The business in downtown Salt Lake City is the first in a potential grander build-out, stretching across Utah and maybe nationwide. This keen eye on the larger picture is recognizable immediately; the restaurant sports that savvy polish you'd expect from a much larger venture.
Any remnants of the former occupant, an auto-parts store, have long been stripped away. It's Millennial-gen cool by way of exposed brick and reclaimed wood from old barns and fencing found around the valley. As you're tapping your foot to the background soundtrack, you might glance up and notice the reclaimed wood barrel ceiling. It's trendy without giddily overreaching to faddy.
For all the serious intentions underpinning the restaurant, Even Stevens manages to make proceedings fun via lashings of quirky touches from menu items like the Do Gouda ($8.95, roast beef, smoked Gouda, sweet onion marmalade, red onion, greens, sourdough) to the up-tempo service team through to the suggested craft beer pairings for each sandwich. Yup, craft beer sandwich pairings.
The restaurant wisely taps plenty of local experts: Those beer pairings include selections from Uinta, Squatters and Epic. The French bread makes it way from nearby Stoneground. There's Beehive Cheese on the menu and wait, are those macarons from Fillings And Emulsions at the check-out counter? Why yes, yes they are.
The literal bread and butter of the menu are the gourmet sandwich creations. These aren't your stuffed, 4-pound deli meat sandwiches you'll brag of eating for lunch and dinner for the following three weeks, but nor are they loaded with processed slices of industrial-grade plastic. A meal will leave you sated, not groggy, not to mention patting yourself on the back for helping out a stranger in need, too.
There's the Turkey Day ($8.95, sliced fried turkey, Havarti, cran-peÃ±o jelly, roasted tomatoes, cucumbers and greens on French bread), an homage to everything that's great about Thanksgiving without Aunt Edna seated by your side insisting you update her on what you've been doing with your life this past year. A Reuben ($8.45, corned beef brisket, Swiss Russian dressing, sauerkraut, rye bread) was also splendid down to the last bite. Particularly pleasing: the fact the sandwich wasn't an overly messy affair. You'll get back to the office without worrying about giving the big client a greasy handshake. Wait, that's probably just me.
A Pot Roast Dip ($8.85, turkey pot roast, Swiss, red onion, jalapeÃ±o jelly, sourdough, jus) was meaty and more-ish and a perfect example of my lack of shame where great flavor is involved. With the sandwich dispatched, I quite literally drank the rest of the jus in front of my unfazed wife who, I should add, is resigned to this type of behavior by now.
Unlike the cleaner Reuben, The Sloppy Joe ($6.95, beef and chorizo, slopp sauce, pickled red onion, kaiser roll) is unabashedly, well, sloppy. Spicy chorizo adds a sizzling bite to the rich beef simmered in "slopp sauce." Pickled red onions add brightness and zip, and the accompanying potato chips (standard side on all sandwiches) make perfect scoops for errant drippings.
The Sprang Chicken ($8.75, chicken, smoked provolone, bacon, avocado, tomatoes, greens, multigrain bread) is more manageable in comparison, albeit a tad sedate. Still, the "clean label" deli meat shines.
Nine sandwiches in total are complemented by a range of fresh salads with in-house dressings ($6.95-$7.95), plus soup and a not-too-shabby, dark-amber-hued hummus ($4.45). It's worth noting the restaurant opens for breakfast and lunch plus dinner, too something of an anomaly in the sandwich-slinging world.
Stop by until 3 p.m. on Sundays and chow down on unlimited French toast for a paltry $4. If you do stop by for brunch, you can also enjoy one of the restaurant's "beer cocktails," such as the Baba Buzzed ($6) a shot of espresso amping up the already chocolatey-caramel nuanced Uinta brew. I told you these guys were quirky.
It's hard to not embrace a business that couples such lofty ideals with solid execution. In July, the business donated more than 4,000 sandwiches, aiming to top 50,000 in year one alone. The donations not only help to feed those in need, but also allow the supported organizations to stretch their resources further making a genuine difference in the community.
It's laudable stuff, and I guarantee you won't find a more enjoyable, more delicious way to support those in need for less than $10. Go buy a sandwich.
Stuart Melling also writes at http://www.theutahreview.com and can be found on Twitter @gastronomicslc
Even Stevens Sandwiches
Food • HHhj
Mood • HHH
Service • HHH
Noise • bb
Ethical eating might sound dull it's not. Even Stevens makes altruism fun and delicious. Every sandwich purchased here results in another donated to a local nonprofit. Why not buy two? Best bets include the Turkey Day, Reuben and Pot Roast Dip.
Location • 200 S. 414 East, Salt Lake City; 801-727-7234
Online • evenstevens.com
Hours • Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Children's menu • No
Prices • $
Liquor • Beer
Corkage • No
Reservations • No
Takeout • Yes
Wheelchair access • Yes
Outdoor dining • No
On-site parking • Yes
Credit cards • Yes
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