Serious Eats: Chicago
Standing Room Only: Snarf's Succeeds, If You Choose Wisely
Oh, Snarf's. What a silly name you have. Usually I never let such a trivial thing get in my way, but for some reason I find it hard to get past. Just say it—Snarf's. Of course, it doesn't help that the New Oxford American Dictionary includes a sample sentence with the definition (to eat or drink greedily) which makes it sound even dirtier: "They snarfed up the frozen yogurt." See what I mean? Moving on.
Snarf's is a Colorado-based sandwich shop with two Chicago locations, including the one in the Prudential Plaza that I visited for this review. As I found out a few weeks ago, this outlet is also in the path of the Pedway (Chicago's mostly underground pedestrian walkway in the Loop), making it a convenient place to swing by for a quick lunch.
But what makes Snarf's, uhm, Snarf's? As is the standard these days, the sandwiches are toasted. But, wait! Hasn't a massive local chain already cornered the toasted sandwich scene in the Loop? You are correct. While not my favorite sandwich shop in Chicago, I've already admitted to a pretty serious weakness for Potbelly. Before my visit, I was unsure if there was any room left in the admittedly small part of my toasted-sandwich-loving heart.
Based solely on the Italian Sandwich ($7.25 for 7"), I'll need to find some space. While no revelation, nor even in the same league as J.P. Graziano's, the mix of salami, pepperoni, capicola, and mortadella packs the requisite meaty wallop, while the very crisp hot peppers help cut through the fat. It easily bests Potbelly's own version.
But as Huge already covered, what really sets Snarf's apart from its fellow lunchtime staples in the Loop is the bread, which is both crusty and light. Again, it's nothing compared to the flawless rolls from D'Amato's Bakery, but it is a step up from the immediate competition.
Located under the "Speciality Snarf's Sandwiches," I figured the Prime Rib and Provolone ($8.40 for 7") would be a totally composed option, but like the Italian sandwich, I was asked to pick out the toppings. Perhaps I chose poorly, but this creation came off as oddly bland and one note. Sure, I could have included hot peppers in the mix, but when you get a prime rib sandwich, you want to taste the beef.
I fell into the same trap with the Snarf's Salad ($8.25). Thinking it would be the restaurant's spin on the lunch staple, I was saddened to see it was basically just a bunch of cold cuts and sliced cheese on lettuce, with a few hard boiled eggs and bacon bits thrown in. While a little let down, it strangely started to grow on me, probably thanks to the creamy Parmesan dressing. Not tremendously well, mind you, but if you have a soft spot for this kind of salad (and some people definitely do) this gets the job done.
I think it's best to appreciate Snarf's for what it is, and not what it could be. It'll never be your favorite sandwich shop, but it does manage to hold its own in the crowded lunchtime Loop crowd.