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Classic sandwich shops get a gourmet update

Moroccan Chicken Grilled Cheese

In Canada, classic sandwich shops are entering the modern age. Cropping up across the country are restaurants focused entirely on providing premium sandwiches to a trendy clientele.


by Kristin Menas


At these eateries, menus are focused to guarantee sandwich quality; store footprints are small and adaptable to suit high-traffic areas; and units offer a contemporary look and feel. Here are a few:


Chachi’s (10 locations in Calgary, Edmonton):

This Calgary-based, fast-casual chain functions similarly to a classic sandwich-shop counter, offering guests a brief menu of made-to-order ciabatta sandwiches in varieties like Montreal smoked meat and spicy Italian. Unlike typical quick-service sandwich chains, most of Chachi’s ingredients are sourced locally or scratch-made. Sandwiches feature specialty meats from Canmore, Alberta-based Valbella Gourmet Foods, cheese from Alberta Cheese Company and bread delivered fresh daily from Calgary’s Benny’s Bakery. Chachi’s offers a vibe similar to that of a local butcher shop or deli: sandwiches are wrapped in butcher paper, employees don butcher’s aprons and bright display cases feature cuts of meat, jars of pickled toppings and varieties of jerky. This hot concept is located in nontraditional venues such as high-traffic shopping centres and travel hubs like airports.

Meat & Bread

Meat & Bread (5 locations in Vancouver, Victoria, Seattle):

Another trendy emerging chain, Meat & Bread is a modern twist on counter-service sandwich shops. It caters to a hip, urban crowd with approachable yet gourmet sandwiches. Similar to Chachi’s, Meat & Bread puts forth a butcher-shop-inspired mentality with made-to-order sandwiches served on paper-lined, wood cutting boards. The menu is brief to ensure high-quality and quick lunch service on every visit. Each unit serves three permanent sandwiches and one daily special made with seasonal ingredients. Sandwiches are prepared with custom-made ciabatta buns from Vancouver’s Swiss Bakery and every shop has a carving station with freshly roasted, locally sourced meats. Meat & Bread’s signature porcetta sandwich, for example, is made with free-range, grain-fed pork that is slow-roasted daily and hand-carved to order.


Hubbub (3 locations in Vancouver):

Hubbub is another emerging chain with its own hip take on the limited-service sandwich segment. With urban locations in trendy neighbourhoods, this concept offers a sandwich-focused menu served in an ultra-modern environment. Restaurants are clean and bright with a mix of unfinished woods and a largely white colour scheme. Each unit is slightly different in design, allowing the restaurants to specifically appeal to the patrons in each neighbourhood. Looking at the menu, Hubbub offers two options, sandwiches and salads, each with set toppings. Set sandwich toppings are the chain’s “secret” sauce, romaine lettuce, cilantro, pickled jalapeños and caramelized onions. Guests simply choose a protein, such as chicken, turkey sausage, pulled pork, veggies or prawns. All of the chain’s proteins are gluten-free; the bread is made fresh daily with no chemicals or preservatives; and dressings, sauces and marinades are housemade. Furthering its sense of community, Hubbub also partners with local suppliers, including meat vendors like Oyama Sausage Co. and breweries like Phillips Brewing Company.


Kristin Menas is an Associate Editor of Canada and Adult Beverage at Technomic Inc. in Chicago.