The Prose and Condiments of the American Sandwich
There a few ways of knowing that you’re in Boston’s financial district. It might be the austere office buildings or the Banks of America at every turn. Men and women with briefcases are good giveaways, too. Still, perhaps the greatest identifying factor of the Financial District/Downtown Crossing area is the sheer number of sandwiches per city block.
In order to support a sprawling population of hungry professionals and power lunchers, the Financial District has become a city of sandwiches in itself, with deli-type storefronts seemingly every few feet. While the traditional lunchtime offerings certainly have their loyal customers (and with such fine ingredients as Boar’s Head cold cuts, why shouldn’t they?) the bustling lunch break culture of Boston’s professional district seems rather taken with boldness of the flavorful Chilean import, the chacarero.
Named for the circular sandwich which has brought it fame, Chacarero is a Downtown Crossing storefront open Monday through Friday to serve up a variety of chacareros made to customer specifications. The traditional chacarero is made with either grilled chicken or grilled steak, each available in a barbecue flavor as well. Additionally, each sandwich, which is served on a round, soft bread baked daily, is stacked with Muenster cheese and fresh tomato slices. The fresh bread is adorned with avocado spread and a secret hot sauce, which can be applied to various effects. The key characteristic of a chacarero is the addition of steamed green beans. Yes, that classic vegetable side, on a sandwich.
While the green beans add a unique textural dimension, the highlight of the sandwich is the bread, which is soft, light, and yet a reliable vessel for the volume and consistency of the sandwich’s fillings. Despite the slippery green beans, the sandwich stays together to the last bite, and the bread, rather than acting solely as a means to keep some fillings together, contributes its own rich flavor to the sandwich as a whole.
Sandwiches at Chacarero are available in two sizes, small and large. I ordered a large vegetarian sandwich, which substituted roasted red peppers for chicken or steak. The sandwich, light yet satisfying, with a pleasant lingering aftertaste, is the perfect prelude for, quite simply, another chacarero. They’re that good.
Lunchtime sandwiches did not always enjoy the popularity they do today. In fact, the sandwich as a lunchtime staple did not emerge until the 19th century, when people began moving into cities in large numbers to find work. Working men began bringing hearty, portable sandwiches to work to sustain them throughout the working day. Women, looking for alternatives to men’s saloons as gathering places, began convening in tea shops to snack on dainty canapes.
Check out Chacarero here
and stay tuned for more installments in sandwich history. And a lot more sandwich eating.