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Sandwiched by Handy Market

You look familiar.

LA is a huge place and just when I think I know all I need to, it hits me with a surprise. Sometimes that surprise is unwanted, like closing a lane on the highway that I take to work every day. But more often, it is a pleasant surprise like Handy Market. This local market in Burbank has all the looks of any regular, old-fashioned grocer, but if you head to the back, that all changes. Back there is one of LA’s best-kept secrets, a meaty sandwich lover’s dream.

But first, I want to say that this place reminded me on many levels of another meat paradise called Superior Meats in Wisconsin. Whether it was the grill out front that supposedly is used in full force over the weekends, the friendliness of the staff, the selection of meats or the prices, I kept seeing signs of Wisconsin and the simpler life everywhere I turned.

It’s kind of hard to tell, but that is meatload of meat.

As for the sandwiches, I decided to get some cotto salami, mortadella and cheddar in a roll with just oil and vinegar. I watched as the woman behind the counter sliced off half a pig’s worth of cured meat and stuffed it into the roll. Then she went to work on the cheese and made me salivate heavily. Then, I decided to match that with half a pint of mac and cheese for good measure.

By the time I got back to work and took out my sandwich, I couldn’t wait to devour my meal. I quickly learned I wouldn’t be devouring this too easily. The meat was sliced so thin and filled so much of the sandwich that they kept squeezing out. If this was the price I had to pay for so much meat, I was happy to pay it.

The meats themselves were crazy-delicious and went really well with each other. Cheddar turned out to be a good choice of cheese, as it added a degree of extra flavor to an otherwise meat-dominated feast. Really, the only thing that stood between this and my favorite sandwiches in LA from Bay Cities was the roll it was on. While worthy, it just couldn’t compare to those crunchy, yet soft fresh-baked rolls from Bay Cities. Yet, the amount of meat, the hidden gem feeling I had from eating it and Wisconsin nostalgia I felt nearly made up for it.

Stop looking at me, look at that sandwich.

The mac and cheese, on the other hand, was pretty much “whatever.” I didn’t dislike it, but it didn’t leave me wanting more like the sandwich had. Fortunately, the mac and cheese wasn’t exactly the pride of Handy Market like the sandwiches were. To that end, it didn’t disappoint me because I really didn’t have any expectations for it.

Now that I’ve tackled Handy Market, I’m pretty sure all the other valley sandwich shops have been rendered worthless to me. Some are pretty good, but Handy Market reigns supreme.