It’s rare to find sandwich combinations that really seem new or unexpected, not just an ever-more-outrageous pileup of various meats. Then again, it’s also rare to find a hole in the wall sandwich counter serving natural wines on tap.
Meet Mean Sandwich, which opens Wednesday, December 7 at 1510 NW Leary Way in Ballard. It’s right next to Peddler Brewing and it isn’t fancy—just a few booths, a big walkup counter, and seating that wraps around the ample front windows. But…those sandwiches.
The signature Mean Sandwich starts with fat hunks of corned beef, mustard, pickled red cabbage—familiar territory until you get to the unexpected gust of mint. Then there’s the steak tartare club sandwich, the mayo revved up with some yuzu kosho, and the Mean Sandwich version of a side dish. In lieu of fries on the side, owners Alex and Kevin Pemoulie devised something called “Skins and ins.” That would be a baked potato, both skin and chunks of fluffy white interior, which is then seasoned and fried. Hold me.
Kevin’s the chef around these parts; he was a longtime chef de cuisine at Momofuku Noodle Bar; Alex was also part of the David Chang universe, working as Momofuku’s director of finance. Later the couple opened their own restaurant, Thirty Acres. The signature Mean sandwich is a direct descendent of a non-sandwich dish on the menu there.
Other creations are inspired by favorite sandwiches from back east, including a fish sandwich with celery root slaw and fried lemons or the JCVH, a take on New Jersey’s style of sloppy joe. But Alex Pemoulie tries to make it clear that Mean Sandwich isn’t an East Coast type joint, doling out chicken parm or meatball subs, the kind where you can only eat half before the food coma sets in.
After having a daughter, having family nearby was part of the draw for relocation to Seattle, says Alex. And she means really nearby; Alex grew up barely 25 blocks to the north of the sandwich shop where she and her husband managed to wring a lot of charm from a very assuming space, with its neon . Mean Sandwich has a few great local beers on tap, three natural wines picked with some assistance from the wonderful Vif in Fremont to pair well with spicy, big-flavored sandwiches, and a cooler full of old-school sodas and some LaCroix, naturally.
Oh, and if the rest of the menu wasn't sufficiently enticing, Kevin Pemoulie takes day-old sandwich buns and turns them into bread pudding. Keep track of the menu and other updates on the Mean Sandwich Facebook page.