Parish Cafe: A Review of all 19 Sandwiches
Meant for a Yelp Review…Expanded here
In December 2018, two friends embarked on a daunting journey…a journey to try every sandwich on the Parish Café Menu. Though many called them crazy for going to a single restaurant so many times, they didn’t let the haters distract them from persevering and finally achieving their goal, 3 months later. I am now here today to tell our story and share our ultimate, undisputed rankings of all 19 Parish Café sandwiches (though really this is up to personal preference so feel free to dispute it).
Okay folks so I wrote my first review about Parish Cafe and gave it a 5, which I don’t give that often. This place is unassuming, has a cafe feel, and serves the humble sandwich, but it earns its 5 stars. The service is great, the prices are reasonable given the portion size, and I have never left her feeling unhappy. I said it in my first review and I’ll say it again. I love how this place elevates the sandwich and has 19 different ones created by different chefs around the city. I know I joked about going to the same restaurant so many times above but in going to this restaurant, you are almost getting a taste of Boston by trying the different sandwiches created by the different chefs of Boston.
With that said, I would like to share my ranking of all 19 sandwiches based on my personal preference (plus pictures of every single one). I also had the bread pudding which is PHENOMENAL. A few caveats:
I should first say that what I like is not necessarily going to be what everyone else likes so please know that. Two sandwiches below have horseradish cream and bleu cheese which set them way back for me because I don’t like either of those things.
I am also a big meat eater so I am inherently biased against the meatless sandwiches (and you will find most of those at the bottom of the ranking).
I will also not judge sandwiches based on their sides...the sandwiches either come with potato chips, potato salad, cole slaw, or mixed greens and to be (somewhat) healthy, my friend often just went with the mixed greens. We did try all the sides and enjoyed them all but mixed greens were our go-to.
I love onions, especially grilled, caramelized, or pickled so if a sandwich had one of this, it had an unfair advantage
In general, I will also try and tell you if each sandwich is for when you’re in the mood for something heavy or something light. You’ll also find that I leaned more heavily (pun intended) towards the heavier sandwiches and that’s also based on personal preference.
Would love to hear your thoughts!
The Bravas (tried 1/15, heaviness level: Medium) - Undeniably, my friend and I both agreed that our favorite sandwich was the Bravas, courtesy of Chef Cassie Piuma of Sarma. Both Sarma and Parish are in my top 5-10 restaurants in the city of Boston so this is a beautiful fusion of two of my favorite places. The prosciutto and sweet onion butter is rich but then it’s balanced out by the spiciness of the chorizo and the hot sauce which gets on your hands a little bit but it’s so good that you want to lick it off. And then you go and add perfectly crispy brussels sprouts to it, the kind that your mom brags to her friends about because “she knows just the right amount of oil to add” and “just the right amount of time to cook them for.” I could go on and on about this one but the last thing I will say is that most of these sandwiches come with their own unique delivery vehicles (tortillas, buns, ciabattas, baguettes) and the sesame torta bun on this might also be my favorite.
The Fully Committed (tried 3/26, heaviness level: Medium) - I am now fully committed to trying Chef William Kovel’s restaurant called Catalyst in Kendall Square. My friend actually tried this one before we started our journey of trying all 19 together so we ended up saving this one to the last day. He swore by it and I now see why. The roasted porchetta falls apart in your mouth and then the herb aioli and the broccoli rabe pesto add a creamy/fresh balance as far as sauces go. Add grilled onions to anything and I’m a happy boy. The toasted ciabatta was also great because it easily came apart when you bit into it...I had some issues with the baguettes on other sandwiches.
The Mistral (tried 12/4, heaviness level: Heavy) - while I was unimpressed by my experience at Mistral itself (I found it to be stuffy and overly fancy without backing it up with execution on the quality of the food), I loved their Parish sandwich. The creator of this sandwich is actually the head chef of Ostra which is in the same restaurant group as Mistral. This sandwich is the heaviest of heavy so bear that in mind. It’s also one of the 3 sandwiches on the menu over $20 but it’s well worth it. The tenderloin beef is cooked to a perfect medium rare and then it has garlic and rosemary, truffle aioli, caramelized onions, crispy onions, and chive mashed potatoes. Add all that together and you better hope you’re not kissing anyone after this with what your breath probably smells like but dang it’s good. Did I mentioned that the mashed potatoes were on the sandwich...ON THE SANDWICH! They took a page out of my Thanksgiving leftovers playbook. Bravo!
The DBar (tried 1/25: heaviness level: Heavy) - the DBar (named after the chef of the restaurant of the same name, plus Boston Chops and Deuxave, both of which I want to try) is similar to the Mistral but also different. It has a thin slice of cooked meat (this time, pan-fried veal) as well as an aioli (this time tarragon and mustard) but then it has gruyere cheese, bacon, and tomato caper relish. The Mistral wins out because of the mashed potatoes and because the DBar comes on a baguette (which is candidly harder to bite into and keep everything together on) but this is great in its own right.
The Hot & Dirty Pig Burger (tried 3/26, heaviness level: Heavy) - as I write this, I have plans to go to Tiger Mama (of which the head chef is the creator of this sandwich) in a few weeks so the fact that I loved this sandwich so much got me so excited. I could argue that this would go even higher on the ranking but I love them all so much. This sandwich has two pork patties with bacon on top (hence the “pig burger” but then it has a white BBQ sauce, fresno chiles, and hot cherry peppers which blend together to create this orange mildly spicy and creamy sauce. The red onion and bibb lettuce add a crunch too. You WILL NOT be disappointed if you order this.
The Meatloaf Club (tried 1/9, heaviness level: Heavy) - this one is created by Chef Brian Poe of the Tip Tap Room, one of my favorite Brunch places in the city so I’m not surprised to have this one up here. This is just a down-home satisfying sandwich. Pretty simple with a delicious, thick slice of meatloaf with bacon lettuce and tomato and then some Mexican crema and chipotle aioli (for a little kick). The country white bread soaks up all the juices and allows the meatloaf to be the star and the side of mashed potatoes with the crispy onions was, of course, great to dip the sandwich in. I am starting to sense a trend here...most of these sandwiches have some sort of aioli, and can you blame them? When the two main ingredients are garlic and olive oil, you can’t go wrong. I ended up counting and 8 of the 19 sandwiches have aioli on them, many with the chipotle aioli.
The Mexican Meatball (tried 2/27, heaviness level: Medium) - Also created by Chef Brian Poe of the Tip Tap Room (a double feature), this is your typical meatloaf sandwich but with Mexican spices and a chipotle and jalapeno au jus to dip the sandwich in. All the other ingredients on the sandwich are fresh and add a cold contrast to the meatballs which is nice. Only complaint here is that I wish the meatballs were bigger or that there were more. I felt like there has been more meat on the sandwiches above this in the ranking, which is one of the reasons why this is #7 and not higher.
The Daily Grind (tried 1/15, heaviness level: Medium) - BIG pastrami lover over here. First time I went to NYC, I went to Katz’s deli for their famous pastrami sandwich. I grew up on corned beef and graduated to pastrami once I could handle the pepper. THat’s why I love the daily grind...it’s just a damn good pastrami sandwich and then you add pickled onions. The reason why this isn't higher is because it has horseradish cream. I feel like horseradish is a very polarizing flavor and for me, I hate it. So if you love horseradish, this one should jump up 2 more spots. Even with the horseradish, I still thought the sandwich was a good one but if I were to order it again, I would probably get it with the aioli from one of the other sandwiches.
The Spaceboy Shawarma (tried 1/29, heaviness level: Light) - middle eastern cuisine is one of my favorites (I mean, Sarma is one of my favorite restaurants like I mentioned) so I would traditionally put a Shawarma up higher but this just didn’t have the WOW factor compared to other, more authentic shawarmas I’ve had in the past. However, this one was still juicy with the chicken thighs and Lebanese garlic sauce, complimented by all the great fresh veggies and toppings (i.e. kimchi pickled cauliflower salad). Starting here, this would be one of the sandwiches I wouldn’t necessarily order again. The top 8 are what I would stick to.
The Zuni Roll (tried 1/9, heaviness level: Light) - This feels like an elevated version of a turkey wrap you would get at one of those airport to-go places, but obviously much higher quality. This one has dill-Havarti and a sweet and spicy cranberry chipotle dipping sauce. Overall this is a great wrap but just not unique enough or wow-worthy relative to some of the above sandwiches
The Eggplant Milanese (tried 1/29, heaviness level: Heavy) - the first vegetarian sandwich coming in at #11 (this is seriously an accomplishment given how much I consider a meal incomplete without meat). This one is courtesy of Chef Jamie Bissonnette of Coppa, Toro, and Little Donkey, the first being a place I want to try and the latter two both being in my top 5-10 favorite restaurants in the city. In other words, I had high expectations. The flavors overall were great: the avocado, the black bean spread, the chipotle aioli (there goes that aioli again), and the Oaxaca cheese bring Mexican flavors to this Italian preparation of the eggplant. However, the eggplant was somewhat difficult to bite through so the fried coating would sometimes slide off the eggplant, making it difficult to get everything in a single bite. The flavors were there but it was just a little difficult to eat. Like the Bravas, this came on a delicious sesame torta roll as well which helped.
The Parish Chicken (tried 3/11, heaviness level: Medium) - I feel a little self-conscious putting the Parish Chicken, created by Chef Sean Simmons, the co-founder of Parish Cafe, so low on this list but I have to speak my truth no matter the repercussions (don’t hurt me, Parish). This thing has the elements of a great sandwich and it was a tasty sandwich. It just wasn’t really that unique compared to any of the sandwiches above (you can find the chipotle aioli on this one again, though). That’s all.
The Spicy Tuna Burger (tried 2/27, heaviness level: Light) - Tim Cushamn is the Chef of O Ya (one of the highly-lauded sushi restaurants in the city) as well as Hojoko, a more casual Asian restaurant in Fenway which has great vibes. He’s the creator of this Spicy Tuna Burger, the most expensive sandwich on the menu (at $25). This is very close to a spicy tuna roll in the form of a burger with the spicy mayo and the pickled ginger. It’s good, not great. Unlike the other sandwiches, I feel like this burger doesn’t do its chef or its inspiration (sushi) justice.
The Flour BLT (tried 1/25, heaviness level: Medium) - It is so disheartening putting a Flour sandwich so low on this list because I LOVE Flour (as well as Joanne Chang’s other restaurant Myers + Chang). I have had several sandwiches at Flour itself that would go high on this list but sadly this one is here. And it’s not because it wasn’t a good execution of a BLT...because it might just be one of the best BLTs I’ve ever had (basil mayo, Texas toast). But candidly, BLTs are just not that great of sandwiches. I don’t think bacon is that great (hot take over here) and then it’s lettuce and tomato...nothing that special. If you like BLTs, then this is the sandwich for you but as far as the type of sandwich rankings go for me, BLT will always be near the bottom.
The Kenneth (tried 12/4, heaviness level: Medium/Heavy) - The Kenneth (also created by a chef at Parish Cafe) is very similar to the Parish Chicken (they must like their chicken here) in that it has chicken, bacon, lettuce, and tomato. But what sets this one back is the bleu cheese pesto mayo. Like horseradish, bleu cheese is very polarizing and for me it’s a no-no. I’ll take the pesto mayo, hold the bleu cheese. The sandwich was also quite messy and falling apart so difficult to eat
The Bondir Brisket (tried 12/11, heaviness level: Heavy) - Bondir is a $$$$ fancy restaurant in Cambridge and similar to some of the fancy restaurants above that had great sandwiches (see The Mistral), I had high expectations. However, I am surprised that this brisket sandwich is so low here as I love BBQ brisket but looking back on it, the dijon mustard just didn’t make sense on the sandwich and it just really wasn’t that memorable. Maybe I should give this one another try but I just remember not enjoying it that much.
Steak and Blue (tried 3/11, heaviness level: Heavy) - this reminded me of The Mistral (tenderloin) but just worse, largely because it has bleu cheese. This one could have been saved without the bleu cheese but sadly that flavor took over the entire sandwich. If you love (not just like, love) bleu cheese, however, this one could shoot up to the top.
The Smoke Shop Tofu (tried 3/11, heaviness level: Light) - As I mentioned at the beginning, I am inherently biased towards sandwiches with meat so this one is low here. I don’t mind tofu but it just felt like an odd texture between bread and there was just a huge amount of toppings on the sandwich that it just felt like a tofu salad between bread (see the picture). It was also falling apart. If I ever go to the Smoke Shop, I will be opting for smoked meat.
The Alden (12/11, heaviness level: Light) - And finally, 19/19 the Alden. I am particularly sad about this one because I love Waypoint and Alden and Harlow but I expected more. Simply put, this honestly felt like grilled vegetables on bread. The vegetables fell out when you bit into the sandwich because they were either too small or not tender enough to be bitten through easily. All the components sound great (charred broccoli, pecorino aioli, crispy chickpeas) but it just didn’t come together well on a sandwich.
I hope this comes in handy for some and I can’t wait to be back to Parish!