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Mean's Corned Beef.

Image: Amber Fouts

Jimmy Carter’s eyes are weirdly piercing. He’s painted on an oversize piece of cardboard in the bathroom at Mean Sandwich, groovy tan suit a mere outline, hands and face rendered in extreme detail. Our peanut-farming president might startle you when nature calls, but his unexpected that’s bizarre, no wait that’s amazing presence is a perfect totem for this humbly appointed sandwich shop. (So’s Gerald Ford, who hangs in the other bathroom.)

Unconventional sandwiches are usually a matter of piling meat upon meat upon bacon upon two types of cheese, but each creation on Kevin Pemoulie’s tight six-sandwich lineup shifts the paradigm of one you probably already love. In lieu of a Reuben, the restaurant’s namesake (pictured above) presents corned beef as one fat slab, with pickled red cabbage instead of sauerkraut and a mint-mustard-maple plot twist. Really, the sardine sandwich is just tuna fish for adults. The club sandwich is archetypal—crunchy iceberg, substantial bacon, perfectly toasted Sea Wolf rye. Oh, except that it’s steak tartare, not chicken, lending a worldly edge beneath that yuzu kosho mayonnaise. Pemoulie creates these gems in a tiny space near the Ballard Bridge, where his wife, Alex, oversees the counter and it’s not uncommon to hear the crack of a Rainier can in the (limited) seating area at 4pm on a Tuesday.

The couple’s desire to serve something less obvious but just as good as fries yielded the skins and ins—skins and scooped-out chunks of baked tuber popped in a fryer. The result should inspire lovers of potato skins, french fries, and even breakfast potatoes to set aside their longstanding differences and come together to devour as one. Jimmy Carter would expect nothing less. 

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