In Good Taste
Consistency and familiarity in mid-Ventura
By JR Grant 12/22/2011
The Sandwich Factory
4531 Market St.
When the sports bar Cronie’s first opened in Ventura in 1990, it developed a very loyal clientele: people who watched sports and ate and drank together in the evening, and became friends with each other outside of the bar. Several years earlier, the Cronie’s folks had opened a breakfast and lunch restaurant called the Sandwich Factory in the (at that time) restaurant-barren industrial area on Market Street by the DMV. This type of neighborhood gathering place helped bring a better sense of community to a nonresidential part of Ventura. Three years ago, the original owners sold the restaurant, and the Sandwich Factory continues to be a popular breakfast and lunch quick gathering spot for local workers.
Much of the menu is the same as in its Cronie’s days; in fact, there is still a sandwich called the Thirsty Chicken (or turkey), which is grilled, sliced poultry swimming in the Cronie’s spicy chipotle aioli, with cheese, lettuce and tomato. While this combination is quite tasty, I think perhaps the spicy sauce is/was better served on Cronie’s hot wings. Still, the spicy sauce on a chewy French roll with the other ingredients makes for a most flavorful sandwich.
The current owners are trying a different sandwich special every day. Recently, I tried the breakfast sandwich special, which was corned beef hash, scrambled eggs, and Swiss cheese on sourdough. While this was an interesting idea, I was disappointed in the non-grilled aspect of the bread. I think it had been placed on the grill just long enough to partially melt the cheese, but it didn’t even brown either side of the bread, the result being a kind of buttery soggy mess on thin sourdough. I would have rather had just the corned beef hash with poached eggs as a standard breakfast.
On the other hand, another day I ordered turkey, bacon and avocado on a French roll with mayo and lettuce, and it was delicious, chewy and a very satisfying lunch option. I also ordered the curly fries to go with my selection; the ordinary fries are good, but not interesting, and the curly fries or onion rings seem a better accompaniment. With sandwich orders, there is also the option of macaroni salad, potato salad, cottage cheese or chips. To me, the best value is the half-sandwich and soup combo, as the soups change daily. The other day I sampled the minestrone, and it was fresh-tasting, brothy and filled with Italian green beans as well as the other usual ingredients.
Many workers in the area go to the Sandwich Factory for breakfast. A friend of mine loves the buckwheat pancakes, and the omelets are very large and filling. The food is not served with any great style or extra attention; this is a place to go for quick eating-in or takeaway back to your office. The breakfast burritos are very popular here, particularly “the original” with eggs, ham, turkey, cheese and potato, which is served with the aforementioned spicy “thirsty” sauce.
A lot of the regulars at the Sandwich Factory buy the delicious beef and turkey jerky, made for the Sandwich Factory by the Pacific Coast Jerky Factory, probably the top jerky manufacturer in Southern California. Always chewy and fresh-tasting, this jerky component to the Sandwich Factory is probably a holdover from its association with Cronie’s, but is still a big part of the Sandwich Factory’s takeaway appeal.
The desserts at the Sandwich Factory are from Desserts to Go (various cheesecakes and chocolate red velvet cakes with raspberry sauce) and are, of course, easily transportable for the take away meals. The Sandwich Factory is a good breakfast and lunch option for those workers in the nearby mid-city area, and for those who have a craving for that spicy “thirsty” sauce as it is a familiar and comforting flavor.
With the foodie revolution changing the nature of cuisine and dining opportunities nationwide and in Ventura County, it is getting harder and harder for traditional old-fashioned breakfast and sandwich shops to attract a steady clientele. Fortunately for the Sandwich Shop, a constant stream of local workers and traditional diners will keep returning for the familiar and time-tested offerings.