All Star Sandwich Bar
1245 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, Mass. 02139
Inman Square is about a mile from MIT and home to an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants, including the appropriately named All Star Sandwich Bar. This small restaurant on the corner or Cambridge St. and Prospect St. is crammed with tables, and when I went on a Saturday at noon, those tables were filled with a variety of people. From pajama-clad college students to a distinguished older man, everyone loves sandwiches.
The All Star Sandwich Bar is just that, a sandwich bar. While the eatery has side dishes, salads, and soups, it has very strict sandwich rules. Do not expect any wraps (they are not sandwiches), though you can get a hot dog (they are sandwiches, or at least first cousins).
To start with, our group shared a bowl of the Texas state pen chili ($5) topped with sour cream, jack cheese, lime, and cilantro, with a side of cornbread. With pulled beef and a thin broth, the large bowl of chili was more of a soup or stew than a traditional chili. While the beef was tender, the soup was incredibly spicy. Although flavorful, I had difficulty eating the chili without some sour cream or cheese in every bite, and the three people in our group could not finish the entire bowl — the dish could easily be a meal. Furthermore, the mild cornbread, which is normally a nice balance to spicy chili, was mealy and dry, falling apart at any touch. Other than dipping it in the chili on a spoon, it was not effective as either a side or a “de-spicing” agent.
Luckily, the sandwiches were a little easier on the stomach (and the heartburn) than the chili. One of the great things about All Star is their rotating sandwich schedule. Though many sandwiches are on the regular menu, there are a few special sandwiches every day to keep things interesting. The North Carolina Pulled Pork ($6.50) is one such sandwich. The tender meat is smothered in a North Carolina barbecue sauce, which has more vinegar and is less viscous than more traditional barbecue sauces. This tangy meat is then pleasantly juxtaposed by a pile of coleslaw on a warm role.
The “Beef on Weck” from Buffalo, N.Y. ($8.95) is All Star’s version of a roast beef sandwich with au jus and extra hot horseradish on a Kimmelweck bun. The piled-high beef is thin and tender with an added kick from the horseradish.
Even if you’re a vegetarian, All Star has options. The veggie Cuban ($7) consists of grilled eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, peppers, mushrooms, and red onions with mango mojo mayo dressing, dill pickle, mustard, and Swiss cheese pressed on French bread. All of the grilled veggies are fresh and flavorful, and they are complemented, though not overwhelmed, by the mustard, Swiss cheese, and pickles.
All of the sandwiches come with a small side of coleslaw and a pickle, but if you want fries or another side, you’ll have to order it separately. Our table ordered a pile of fries ($3.75) to share. While you can order fries with one of many toppings, including cheese and gravy, we opted for the traditional plain. The fries are thinly cut, crunchy, and surprisingly flavorful given their size. The only downside is the size of the order; when they say pile, they mean pile. The heaping plate is the only option for these little potato sticks, so unless you really like fries, or you’re have at least three people in your group, I’d stick with the accompanying coleslaw.
The All Star Sandwich Bar really is the place to go for a great sandwich. These large, freshly prepared sandwiches resemble nothing available on campus. So make the trek over to Inman Square for something a little different. And best of all, All Star has a jar of free Oreo cookies to finish off your delicious meal. As the restaurant says, “A good sandwich is like an old friend!”