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The Case of the Club Sandwich

How a room service menu item wound up representing D.C. in 'Adam Richman's Best Sandwich in America.'

3:35 PM, May 23, 2012 • By VICTORINO MATUS
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On June 6 at 9 p.m. on the Travel Channel, Adam Richman's Best Sandwich in America will premier, with 30 sandwiches from around the country facing off March Madness-style, with a winner crowned by the host at season's end. The crab cake sandwich from Faidley Seafood is representing Baltimore while Texas is showing off the sliced beef brisket sandwich from the Salt Lick in Driftwood. Al's Italian Beef sandwich will speak for Chicago while the roast pork sandwich from DiNic's will make Philadelphia proud. And Washington, D.C., the nation's capital, will be repped by a chicken club sandwich from the W Hotel room service menu.

The Case of the Club Sandwich

In a conference call this afternoon, all three D.C. reporters (myself included) had the same question for Adam Richman: How on earth did that happen? Richman was quite frank, explaining that he didn't spend that much time in D.C. for this project—he happened to be in town for the Armed Services Foundation, on whose board he serves. He was staying at the W Hotel and admits, "I ordered [the club] every day," it was that good (it comes with avocado and a fried egg, something dear to his heart, so to speak—plus he's always had a soft spot for the club). When he later submitted suggestions for the competition, the producers kept the club—at which point he discovered it is only available to hotel guests. But Richman said this does add a "secret sandwich" aura to it.

This isn't to say that Richman doesn't know D.C. He used to live here (off Maine in S.W.) when he worked at Arena Stage. He regretted that you have to go outside D.C. for good Korean barbecue and mentioned Falls Church. In the city, he loves Ben's Chili Bowl, Ceiba, Ten Penh (now closed), and lamented the shuttering of Two Quail. He raved about the Mayflower Hotel brunch as well ("maybe the best brunch in the world") and talked about eating fresh oysters from the market near the viaduct.

Richman (an international studies major from Emory) acknowledges the show is "highly subjective" and viewers will have differing opinions. He also didn't come up with the list himself—others including Bobby Flay, Mario Batali, and actors like Jay Baruchel and Kevin Pollack helped assemble the entries (although the host will render the final verdict based on a set of criteria, which he calls the BITE scale: B for bread, I for interior, T for taste, and E for eating experience).

In part for economic reasons, Richman says he is aware the sandwich is probably a go-to meal for us now than ever. His aim is to provide "a fun, affordable destination to explore." As for the sandwich, he describes it as "imagination bounded by two pieces of bread."

And in case you're wondering, Richman did draw a line of sorts when it came to hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages, and buns—indeed, the search for the best hot dog would (we hope) have led to the half-smoke from Ben's Chili Bowl.

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