Castleberry's Gourmet Sammiches

Where the low-carb craze hasn't found its grasp

Castleberry's Gourmet Sammiches

1025 Barton Springs Rd., 472-6900; Monday-Saturday, 11am-7:30pm

www.castleberryscafe.com

Last week, while watching TV on a lazy afternoon, I caught a wonderful documentary on PBS about sandwiches. The filmmakers traveled across the United States looking for unusual, traditional, and region-specific sandwiches. From Vietnamese sandwiches in Northern California, to gigantic barbecue sandwiches near Houston's Third Ward, to luscious lobster rolls in Maine, this most American of foods unifies people from all ethnic, religious, and age groups.

This documentary, besides making me want to travel the country eating sandwiches, got me thinking about their recent fall from grace brought on by the low-carb craze. These days, sandwich shops are either seeing hard times or reduced to selling lettuce wraps in order to make it. It also got me thinking about the many unique and wonderful locally owned sandwich shops we are lucky to have in Austin, among them Castleberry's Gourmet Sammiches.

Open for less than a year, Castleberry's has a privileged location on Barton Springs Road, just down the street from Auditorium Shores and the Long Center, so it's a perfect place to grab a bite on the way to any event. It has a very nice Austin feel to it; it's laid-back yet hip, with paintings by local artists on the walls and the almost indispensable coffee house perk: wireless. The owners have designed a simple menu with a gourmet take on classic sandwiches. They are all carefully made to order, so it may take longer to get your meal than at the usual mass-production sandwich shops. But the wait is definitely worth it, and it may be avoided altogether by placing the order ahead by phone or even online.

The options include cold and hot sammiches, with soups, salads, and "Things and Stuff" like chips and queso and bags of Zapp's potato chips rounding off the menu. Among the cold sammiches, we sampled the Roast Beef on Croissant ($5.75), nicely filled with seasoned roast beef, provolone, tomato, romaine lettuce, and a "Castleberry's spread," a sour-cream-based spread flavored with horseradish and blue cheese. The Hoagie ($4.95) was also excellent: a French roll stuffed with Genoa salami, Black Forest ham, provolone, and Castleberry's relish, a zesty mixture of chopped green olives, pimiento, pepperoncini, olive oil, and spices.

From the hot selections, I really enjoyed the Pastrami Reuben ($6.65). Theirs is an excellent version of the classic deli sandwich. It is made with provolone instead of Swiss cheese, served on marbled rye bread, and dressed with Castleberry's homemade Russian spread. However, I was disappointed by the Hot Roast Beef ($6.25), which was recommended as the favorite. The seasoned roast beef and melted cheddar inside the warm French roll were wonderful, but the promised Castleberry's gravy and provolone were missing altogether, rendering the sandwich a bit dry.

Castleberry's also makes what they call the "nostalgic sammiches": Peanut Butter and Jelly ($3), Ham and Cheese ($3.25), and Grilled Cheese ($2.75), which should be perfect for the kiddos. Their homemade soups (cup $3.50, bowl $5.50) change every day. The day of my visit it was French onion, and I must say it was one of the best French onion soups I've ever had, flavorful and rich. Among the salads, we tried the Greek ($5), a large portion of crisp and fresh romaine lettuce, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, and tomato wedges, with a house-made Greek dressing loaded with fresh herbs.

I like Castleberry's for various reasons: excellent location, pleasant atmosphere, nice local owners. Most of all, because they have not caved in to the low-carb pressure and are still doing justice to one of America's favorite food staples: a well-made and tasty sammich.

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