What’s the difference between an East Coast sandwich and a Portland sandwich? One has a set of rules, a constitution of ingredients; the other is the wild frontier. Where East Coasters bite your head off over authenticity, Portlanders—short in the culinary heritage department—happily bite into sandwiches that barely have names, much less definitions. To gain a cult following in Portland requires craft, crave-worthy combos, and a big slathering of with imagination. Meat Cheese Bread (1406 SE Stark St) spins out a whole blackboard menu of such creations, blending fun-house ideas with the fundamentals of good cooking in a collection of originals that are boosting the city’s growing reputation as a sandwich frontier.
Premier among MCB’s sandwich-scarfing opportunities: a power-punch of chlorophyll-bright green beans, butter-grilled and still full of good crunch, dressed with a homemade bacon relish polished with fresh aioli, shaved parmesan, and a soft-boiled egg. It’s everything you love about a bistro salad but stacked on a great toasted swatch of ciabatta hoagie—just one of the handful of great breads made in the back. But owner (and Park Kitchen alum) John Stewart also spins out an irresistible flank steak and blue cheese sandwich—an homage to the signature salad at his former digs—and a trashy delight simply called “The Maple”: a rehabbed egg-and-sausage sandwich bound with the kitchen’s maple-currant bread pudding, like French toast from an alternative universe. It’s a classic in the making. Even the ever-changing cookies at the counter of this funky-sweet Eastside shop demand attention, especially pistachio-loaded chocolate-chippers dusted with big crystals of Maldon salt. Let others fight over “the real” Philly cheese steaks. Fresh imagination tastes pretty good indeed.