Before I became a vegetarian, I had a favorite sandwich shop – Antonelli’s in El Cajon. Seriously, I used to be able to live entirely off turkey sandwiches, and Antonelli’s has the best, but alas, this chick’s not eating anymore turkey, and Antonelli’s has one vegetarian sub, which I have not even tried, as subs are not my preference. Saddened, I tried to make due with other lunchtime options, like vegetarian wraps and burritos, veggie paninis, noodles, salads, and the like, but for a sandwich girl, this is no ordinary loss. I love fresh and soft bread with cold ingredients inside, and if there was anything I missed when I made the switch, it was turkey sandwiches. Enter: Hillcrest Sandwich Company, the only place I’ve been able to find that makes sandwiches exactly how I like them. I brought my mom, who got the turkey sandwich. Love you Mom!
There is no one great thing about the Hillcrest Sandwich Company. I have never had anything less that a superb experience there. To get there you have a couple of options. It is difficult to park in Hillcrest, and HSC is right there on busy 5th Avenue, next to Babycakes and across from the Right Aid. If you are lucky, and often you will be, there are a few parking spaces right in front of the shop, which offer twenty minute parking, and one might be open. Always check there first. I’ve parked there for longer if I am eating, and it has never been an issue; although, I am sure they prefer you do not. You could, alternatively, pay for parking, but while not a cheap girl, I refuse to pay for parking when there is absolutely any other option, so if you do not mind a little walk, I recommend you go down to 3rd Avenue. I am almost always able to find a place to park somewhere between Pennsylvania and Robinson. On rare occasions I have to go down to 1st.
Once you arrive at the location, you are sure to be charmed by its quant ambiance. The shop itself is in the back corner of what looks like a house, but there is a darling patio area, shaded and with lots of plants, so you almost forget you are on this busy street. When you enter the shop, you will be greeted
by one of the regular workers, who also own the place. A sucker for familiarity, I love the family-owned-business-and-you-can-be-part-of-our-family-at-least-for-the-next-few-minutes vibe you get when the gentleman behind the counter addresses you with a pet name and the woman flashes you a bright smile, like she’s genuinely happy to see you. The paper menus sit on the counter, and you are given time to review. If you need a recommendation, anyone there is pleased to give you one, and vegetarians get a full range of options for real sandwiches, including the Avonut, a typical veggie sandwich, but there are walnuts in it(!), a three cheese sandwich, a pita, egg salad, and more. Sandwich Girl wants to hug everyone there.
Today I went for my old reliable, #41, the Alpine Garden. My mom got the same, but with turkey (Turkey in the Garden), and we also grabbed a bag of Miss Dirty japapeno chips, and two Diet Cokes. I offered to pay. After all, the grand total of all that was under $15. HSC always has a deal. It used to be buy one, get one half off, but now it’s buy two sandwiches, get chips and a drink for free. Can I say it enough? I love you HSC.
My mom and I decided to sit on patio, but what I do more often is grab my food and go to the park just a few blocks away with a blanket and a book. A sandwich in one hand and a book in the other, enjoying our fabulous San Diego weather, and watching the huge variety of people who come through the park is what my perfect world is made of.
This was my mom’s first time here, so I was anxious to get her opinion, as I already knew what mine was. A HSC sandwich is not just any flimsy sandwich. It is packed, and it is made to order. In fact, you can watch it be made as you wait. The Alpine Garden is composed of ripe avocados (real ones, nothing from a tube. Subway, I’m looking at you), jack cheese, alfalfa sprouts, spinach leaves, cucumber, red onion (which I tend to leave out), lettuce, mayonnaise, and tomatoes, all on two slices of airy stoneground wheat bread. If I had one complaint, it would be that occasionally, there is too much spinach, in which case, I just take some out, but generally, it’s fine. Not everyone likes mayo, and if you do not want it, they will not put it on there, but I love it, and HSC is not afraid to slap it on that bread! There’s not so much that it’s all you taste, but there is enough to well complement the other flavors and to make sure the sandwich never feels dry. It’s the perfect amount.
I know hers was not vegetarian, but you know that feeling when you play somewhere up, and then the person you take there isn’t feeling it, so you have to tell them, “Oh, I don’t know what happened today. Usually it’s so great,” even though it’s the same as it always is, and that person just didn’t like it? I hate that feeling. It’s like when you think someone is super hot, and you tell your girlfriends, and they want to see a picture, so you find one on Facebook and send it, suddenly realizing maybe he’s not as hot as you thought, so you add in a note attached, saying, “Oh, he looks much better in person. He doesn’t really look like that.” My fingers crossed, my mom announced that she loved her HSC sandwich just as much as me. Mission accomplished!
Hillcrest Sandwich Company is located at 3780 Fifth Ave., and it is open Monday – Friday from 9:30 am to 4 pm and on Saturdays from 10:30 am to 3:30 pm. Live or work in the area? They’ll deliver to you. Go ahead…high five yourself on that one.