tl;dr: I love the Italian grinder (pictured below), but you really can’t go wrong here. There are two things you can do for free that will make your experience even better: adding whole basil leaves to your sandwich and getting a cup of yin sauce on the side.
A good sandwich is greater than the sum of its parts. A structural marvel, capable of stunning any who are fortunate enough to cross its path. Good sandwiches come from good people who understand that each ingredient is an integral part of the sandwich experience: the bread, the construction, each individual part of the filling.
When thinking about the good sandwiches around our fair city, people expect Paseo (and now, Un Bien) to be the one we talk about. Phenomenal sandwich experiences to be sure, but they have been written about quite enough. With 6,035 Yelp reviews between them at the time of this writing, they don’t need any more accolades thrown their way. Here at Calling All Fats, we’re about the underdogs. The little guys quietly making some of the best food you’ll find. The unsung heroes making our heroes.
Royal Grinders, situated right behind the giant Lenin statue right in the heart of Fremont, is the home of very well thought out sandwiches. From top to bottom, the care that goes into each one is evident. First, the bread. The amateur move is to either forget about the bread completely by using a soft, industrial bakery bun, or to focus on the bread too much, using a chewy structure killer like ciabatta. At Royal Grinders, we find neither. The top of the bread, crispy and crackly, still has enough give that the roof of your mouth isn’t ripped apart. But it’s texture isn’t it’s most defining characteristic. That honor belongs to the garlic bread-esque seasoning Royal Grinders puts on the outside. Herby and buttery without being greasy, they’ve turned the bread into a flavor component rather than just a structural necessity. They’ve found the bread sweet spot, easy to eat while still being flavorful.
The rest of the sandwich is, of course, incredible. As a whole, the amount of toppings is generous, yet each is applied with restraint. Royal Grinders knows their sandwich math. If you felt like leaving your sandwich fate completely in their hands, no one would blame you. Each one is crafted with the perfect amount of each topping, and in yet another sly addition of flavor, each includes a sort of pepperoncini and herb tapenade as an extra cherry on top. If you wanted to add ingredients to the already stellar options, the list of free extras is long and somehow includes whole basil leaves. I was, and still am, astounded that basil is a free addition to any sandwich, and will continue to add it until Royal Grinders comes to their senses and charges me for it.
If all of that weren’t enough, Royal Grinders somehow knows the quickest way to my heart: a housemade dipping sauce. I’ve explained in previous reviews that unique housemade sauces speak to the quality and effort of an establishment. It’s too easy to just buy a pretty good ranch and a pretty good marinara and call it a day. Royal Grinders goes a step further and mixes them together, in an invention they call yin sauce. Free on the side with any sandwich, forgetting to grab a cup of this won’t ruin your meal, but you’d miss out on switching back and forth between bites with yin sauce and bites without. I’m not sure which is my favorite.
One of my favorite ways to spend my money is to give it to good people who are good at feeding me. Even though I’d buy these sandwiches from grumps who don’t care if I’m there or not, walking into Royal Grinders means walking into a place where the guys behind the counter actually care about you and the meal you’re about to have. They’ll take their time, walking you through the menu, sharing their favorites, helping you build the creation you’ve always dreamed of. We’re lucky they take sandwiches seriously here.