Many years ago, when I used to work in Downtown Los Angeles, a new sandwich shop was opening in the neighborhood and everyone was so excited. I remember that for the first few weeks after the sandwich shop opened, the lines during lunch hour from all the workers in the high-rise buildings nearby was impossibly long. It’s just a sandwich shop after all, can it be that good? After the hype died down, I remember trying it for the first time and thinking, yeah, it is that good. Fast forward many years, and the fact that I’m no longer working in Downtown Los Angeles. However, this same sandwich shop now has a location in Santa Monica, and for work purposes, we’ve actually ordered from this Santa Monica shop a bunch of times and it’s always been a huge success. So, when I realized a brand new location was opening in Brea to coincide with the opening of a new shopping center, I told my husband that I wanted to take him there so that he could give it a try because I thought that a fancy sandwich shop might be his thing.
Mendocino Farms is a gourmet sandwich and salad shop that was created with the purposes of bringing together people within a neighborhood to a local joint to share good food and good times. Mendocino Farms is known for their creative and innovative culinary creations, all of which are made-to-order right in front of your eyes using only the best organic, vegan and vegetarian ingredients that are sourced from local partner farms. Started by a husband and wife duo as a concept 2003, Mendocino Farms is still a family-run operation today, and part of their goal is to treat everyone who walks through their doors as part of the family. They opened their doors in 2005 on Bunker Hill in Downtown Los Angeles ( the location I visited 11 years ago) and have grown since then to 10 locations in Los Angeles, 3 in Orange County with one more coming soon, and one location to open soon in San Diego County. As they say, Mendocino Farms is “more than just a sandwich.”
Part of Mendocino Farm’s core values are: Passion, People and Purpose. These values are reflected in their stores and in everything they do. Passion is “proactively thinking of new ways to better serve the interest…” of everyone involved from guests, to employees, to farming partners by performing “…even ordinary tasks at an extraordinary level…” because Mendocino Farms’ founders believe that they “…don’t just sell sandwiches, We Sell Happy!” Mendocino Farms believes in enriching the lives of everyone in touches from team members to farm partners to food artisans to the guests that walk in the door and always giving back to the people that make the restaurant successful. And finally, the purpose is to “…constantly stay on the culinary vanguard and push the limits…” of everything that they do in order to help create this idea of a community that comes into the restaurant to gather and fill their bellies as well as their souls.
My husband and I each got lemonade to drink. This homemade lemonade was cool and refreshing. At Mendocino, they don’t offer traditional soda drinks such as Coca Cola or Pepsi, but rather smaller batch pure cane sugar colas and sodas as well as iced teas and lemonade. The lemonade had a nice tangy flavor to it which was refreshing because they didn’t load their mix up with an overwhelming amount of sugar, but rather kept this to a more pure lemonade.
My husband decided to order the New School Grilled Ham & Cheese sandwich along with a side of potato salad. What I was surprised about was that my husband wasn’t all too thrilled about the large variety of sandwich options at Mendocino Farms. Apparently, he doesn’t want fancy ingredients and creative combinations, he just wants old-school simple, but delicious sandwiches and subs. So, for him, the most basic, simple sandwich he could find on the menu was the new school grilled ham & cheese, which actually wasn’t that simple at all, and definitely not old school. The New School Grilled Ham & Cheese was made with honey seared ham and Mountain Gruyere cheese along with Scarborough Farm’s baby spinach and Mendo’s secret mustard on a toasted pretzel roll. One bite into the first half of his sandwich, and my husband wasn’t so pleased. He said that the first bite was almost overwhelmingly mustard and the mustard was spicy, with a bite almost like horseradish. For him, this spicy mustard would have been great with beef, but not necessarily with ham. However, as he continued eating the sandwich, he said that the mustard evened out and was more evenly spread over the pretzel roll so it started to taste better. However, the combination of the cheese and the ham and the spinach and the mustard made for a moist and somewhat messy sandwich, with parts of the sandwich falling out the back end every time he took a bite. So that was a bit annoying for my husband as well. While he could have done without the spinach in the sandwich, it wasn’t terrible. Ultimately, the sandwich was just ok. Nothing unique or special about it for him, and he would have rather had a straight up ham and cheese sandwich rather than one with all these fancy ingredients he didn’t really want. The potato salad as a side was good and he enjoyed the flavor of it, but even a small salad was larger than he anticipated it to be and he had a hard time finishing the potato salad and the sandwich.
I decided to order the Steak BLT on a pretzel bun. This was an easy choice for me. Carved, balsamic-glazed steak with prime applewood bacon, romaine lettuce, roasted tomatoes with herb aioli and red win onions all on a toasted pretzel roll sounded amazing to me. For me, this sandwich was fantastic. First, I loved the pretzel roll. The thickness and density of the pretzel roll allowed the sandwich to stay together and not fall apart or get soggy from the herb aioli or the juices from the roasted tomatoes. The roasted tomatoes added a nice acidic tanginess to the sandwich, and the red wine onions also added much flavor to the sandwich and a slight sweetness. The prime applewood bacon added a hint of saltiness to the sandwich as well as a lot of body as this was thick cut bacon. But the star of the sandwich was definitely the balsamic-glazed steak. The steak was tender and delicious, and the sweetness of the balsamic glaze really put the steak over-the-top. This was a fantastic, and filling steak sandwich and it came exactly as advertised and much more delicious than expected.
While our lunch at Mendocino Farms was filling, I certainly enjoyed my lunch much more than my husband would. Then again, since I’ve had sandwiches and salads from Mendocino Farms previously, I knew I would enjoy my food. I was hoping that by taking my husband to dine at Mendocino Farms for the first time that he would enjoy it too. It’s not necessarily that he didn’t like his food, but it was more that he felt that this was just too “fancy” for him and he just wanted a simple sandwich. So, while he didn’t dislike Mendocino Farms, this was more than he expected and just not what he would prefer. I’d be surprised at this point if I’m able to convince him to dine at Mendocino Farms again. However, we still order lunch from Mendocino Farms at work quite often and I quite enjoy the various sandwiches and salads that I order, so at least I can still enjoy Mendocino Farms on my own without having to drag my husband along.