I have fond memories, though my cholesterol level does not, of eating at D’Best Sandwich Shop in Boca Raton. It’s been a few years, but as I recently munched on a Miami Cuban-style cheesesteak1 my mind started wandering and I got to wondering if D’Best still existed. As I went looking for their website, I recalled a few of their regional twists on the cheesesteak, like the New York style, a New Jersey style… not to mention their incredible non-steak explosion of an entire Thanksgiving meal directly onto a bun (D’Pilgrim).
D’Best still exists, alright… but I was truly unprepared for what I found.
You see, back when I’d visit, D’Best-the-subshop was a place you’d leave coated with a thin layer of grill grease. Had to wait in line? You’re washing your hair tonight. The place was by no means messy, but it had a certain unfinished quality to it… definitely the kind of place where the food matters more than the branding. I’d describe it as feeling somehow honest… completely lacking in pretense. Kind of blue collar? Yeah, I guess.
I’m clearly no stranger to marketing, but my career hasn’t yet brought me in touch with product packaging. I like packaging, and I’ve actually bought things over the years because they were nicely packaged — stuff like candy,1 Altoids Sours, some random bike part… and yes, I’ve even bought myself a few low-balance gift cards2 to keep in my this is so awesome file.
I recently found myself impressed with the cardboard packaging around the McDonald’s Premium McWrap — I should probably go ask for a clean one while they’re still available. I guess I didn’t notice when they added this item to the menu, because I ordered my first one by mistake. My annoyance at paying about double what I expected turned to intrigue about as soon as I peeked into my drive-through bag.
But from the company’s marketing alone, I could tell that rich chocolate Ovaltine was uncool. I had never drunk any — and decades later, I still haven’t — but if I ever had, I certainly wouldn’t have told anyone about it.
I’m not exactly sure why the stuff made my lame-sense tingle as a kid. Maybe because Ovaltine was named after a shape (and shapes are for little kids), or that its marketing proudly proclaimed that it was full of vitamins (like everything parents love, and kids don’t), but what I suspect it was… was a little more basic than that.
It was dark and the car was pointed east — some expressway was behind it and some more was ahead, with the exact proportions rapidly changing. Its windows were down and its sunroof was too. Around here, la madre naturaleza usually cradles us close to her sticky and often gross bosom, but she had taken the night off.
In Miami, mid-60s is fairly cool for any time of year. I take what I can get.
I couldn’t hear what was playing because the engine and the wind were too loud, and I was determined not to be that guy. I probably had something on my mind too, but who can remember? For a stretch of road perhaps a half-mile long, however, the air and my thoughts were suddenly full of the unmistakable scent of freshly-baked… sourdough. I think it was sourdough.
This was pleasing to me. Then it went away. I kept driving.
I went to a restaurant recently, one that could be placed comfortably in the same genre as Cheesecake Factory. Nice atmosphere, food’s great. But what stood out most to me was the way they marketed desserts.
What would you think the top reason is that people don’t order dessert? I’d guess that the first or second (the other being health/weight concerns) is that their entrée leaves them too full to eat more. How do you sell a dessert to someone who’s too stuffed to eat one? Get them to order it before they’re stuffed.
Our server initially mentioned, then reminded us on almost every appearance she made at our table, that all of their desserts are delicious, made-to-order and take up to 30 minutes to prepare, so my dining companion and I should get our dessert order in early if we don’t want to wait.
This might not give a non-critical thinker pause, but — you know — I tend to notice when someone’s reaching for my wallet. I also understand that restaurants tend to run at pretty slim profit margins, and how important attach rates of desserts, drinks and appetizers are to their business.
They really want you to have that slice of cheesecake, even if they’re probably going to be boxing it up to-go. Clever, huh?
To say that my sister and I enjoyed the food during our trip to New Orleans would be an understatement. Anticipating a blog post like this (and for posterity), I took photos of nearly everything we ate, and checked in at each restaurant using Foursquare.
Foursquare normally annoys me, but in this case, was very helpful in logging all the places we went, on which days we went, and so on.
(Unless otherwise noted, my meal is in the foreground.)
Me: Hot Sausage Po Boy. Despite being a lifelong disliker of pickles, I decided to try my sandwich with them anyway, having ordering it “dressed.” While I’m not sure they added much, it was not bad with pickles. Mine was also a little light on meat, at least compared to Allison’s.
Both: Burgers (mine with cheese, hers with mushrooms) with baked potato. While I was a little surprised at the lack of fries as an option, I didn’t mind at all. The baked potato was amazing. Also, I wasn’t going to break out the flash, but yeah, the lighting was a little on the low side.
Verti Marte, a convenience store with sandwich counter in the back, had no seating, so we ate this meal in the car. Sorry, no photo; we were hungry.
Me: Muffaletta, something I had never tried. My reaction was along the lines of: “I’m pretty sure I’d list half of the ingredients on my do-not-like list, but boy are they good together!” Quite possibly my food highlight of the trip.
I did not expect a week in New Orleans to be this anti-conducive to writing.
But, golly is this place pretty and the food so wonderful. If I don’t return with any sort of special insight into anything in particular, at least expect a quick restaurant rundown. I haven’t had a bad meal since arriving.