Sandwiches are a science. An equation is behind each bite, and it’s painfully obvious when elements don’t add up. We’ve all encountered a sandwich catastrophe. Too dry or too much bread, your jaw working overtime to unglue your mouth. The “Subway” phenomenon, a heavy-handed chef drowning a sandwich with condiments. No barrier between sauce and bread, and you’re left with a partially dissolved, soggy excuse of a sandwich.
We power through these edible disasters in search of one thing: the perfect sandwich. A blend of flavors and textures, so seamless and simple that you can only think of one thing: the next bite.
Pittsburgh, it’s time to end this sandwich search.
Duncan St. Sandwich Shop opened doors on September 4. Before the shop, chefs/owners Kendyl Ryan and Dan Rodriguez welcomed Pittsburghers into their home monthly for five-course dinners.
Located in Millvale, the shop focuses on casual food: sandwiches, soups, and salads, house made sodas, and a few sweet treats. The kitchen is open. In fact, the entire shop is the kitchen. I stood at the counter and watched my food being made, chatting with Ryan and Rodriguez about their business.
For my meal, I chose the “everything” pork sandwich, a strawberry citrus agua fresca, garlic and black pepper potato chips, and a chocolate lemon Rice Krispie treat.
Portion sizes are not an issue. Pork was falling from my sandwich. Rodriguez loaded it with a mountain of pork, cucumbers, and the crispiest of fried onions. I picked up a half and had to twist and turn it, figuring out how to attack. It was that full.
This sandwich blew my mind. Pork, everything-seasoning, pickled red onion jam, boursin, cucumber, and fried onions on house focaccia with a house pickle on the side. I could taste intentionality in all ingredients. The fried onions added a textural component and gave sharpness to the mild pork. The boursin was tangy, matching the brine from the jam.
The house focaccia was the sandwich star. This focaccia was spongy. It was filled with air bubbles, allowing jam and cheese to soak in while still holding structure.
Chips are a classic sandwich pairing and these did not disappoint. They were crunchy, not too heavy, and dusted in garlic and black pepper.
The agua fresca was so good I sucked it down almost immediately. It tasted (and was) homemade, the strawberry flavor pure and unprocessed. The drink let natural flavors shine.
I finished off my meal with the savory and sweet Rice Krispie treat. The chocolate didn’t overpower the lemon, but rather complemented it.
Duncan St. Sandwich Shop truly felt like a home. The owners welcome you into their kitchen with each bite. In addition to take out, the restaurant also offers a BYOB patio.
No. 1: Jelly Bean
Jelly Bean is the Duncan St. dog. She peered out from behind a baby gate and shot me the cutest look, eyes begging for food. I was warned not to be fooled, those puppy dog eyes are used on everyone. Anything for a treat!
No. 2: Taste first, order second
When we walked in, there was a tray of Rice Krispie rejects sitting on the counter. When I expressed interest in them, I was immediately offered a taste. It was like walking into my mom’s kitchen. There’s always food waiting for you.
No. 3: Owners
Kendyl Ryan and Dan Rodriguez were two of the most naturally welcoming people I’ve met. While we were chatting, I could see how much fun they have, cooking, creating, and being part of the community.
Follow staff writer Maggie Weaver on Twitter @magweav