Last spring, for the Creative Loafing food issue, I went in search of Tampa Bay's best sandwiches. Now it seems like a somewhat more notable name in food circles — Adam Richman of Man v. Food fame — has been making his own forays into local lunchland. The TV personality (not to be confused with the GQ restaurant critic
of the same name Alan Richman) has chosen two Tampa sandwiches — the Grouper Reuben at Skipper's Smokehouse and the Media Noche at Aguila Sandwich Shop — to compete with 28 others for the title of America's Best Sandwich on a Travel Channel series premiering June 6.
Richman featured Skipper's last year on his Man v. Food Nation series, and was so impressed he asked the restaurant to participate in the sandwich competition. Here's the Travel Channel video of Richman chowing down on a Blackened Grouper Reuben prepared by Skipper's kitchen manager Victoria Dodds. There's no video yet (I don't think) about Aguila's Media Noche, but it's a variation on the Cuban — "similar to the Cubano," says the press release, "but with a sweeter variety of bread, and stacked with cooked ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, mayo, mustard and pickles."
I am sorry to say that neither of these sandwiches was named to CL's sandwich list by the many foodies who helped with the search (my own top slots went to Pane Rustica's Scallop Po' Boy and the Banh Mih at Saigon Deli — though this was before I tried the one at Alesia). But you can bet I'm going to test out both of Richman's choices.
I'm already a bit biased, though.
One of the other contenders on his list is the Roast Pork Sandwich from Tommy DiNic's at Philadelphia's food valhalla, the Reading Terminal Market. Juicy roast pork, sharp provolone, roasted peppers, bitter greens on crusty bread — it is, I promise you, the Sandwich from God. (And yes, it's even better than a Philly cheesesteak.)
Watch for both the Philly and the Tampa selections to get their 15 minutes or so of fame on June 6. The premiere episode, at 9 p.m., covers the Northeast, including Philly, NYC and Pittsburgh. The second episode, airing the same night at 9:30 p.m., hits the Gulf Coast, showcasing a shrimp po' boy from New Orleans and the two sandwiches from Tampa. Richman, in "his nationwide quest to find the best thing since sliced bread ON sliced bread," will employ what he calls "the BITE SCALE (B=Bread, I=Interior, T=Taste, E=Eating Experience)" and name a regional favorite in 10 geographical locales. The winners move to the finals to fight for the national title.
May the best sandwich win (though we gotta root for the home team).