Monday, September 20, 2010

An Impromptu Stop At Dagwood's Sandwich Shop

As I was meandering my way around northern Medina, Ohio on a lazy Saturday afternoon, I happened to pass by a small, blink-and-you'll-miss-it restaurant located in one of the many strip malls that dot the landscape of this part of town. I actually remember seeing it briefly before, but because I was in Medina to try out a different restaurant (Bullies Real BBQ), I didn't stop or backtrack to give it more attention. This time, however, I had no such agenda and seeing as I was a tiny bit hungry and it was the middle of the afternoon (read: fewer customers), I began to think this would be the perfect time to stop in to Dagwood's Sandwich Shop.

From a bit of research, I've deduced that Dagwood's is a national chain based out of Clearwater, Florida and that the Medina store was just one of those locations. From the information I found on the web, the original store only opened and began franchising in 2006 and the website for the Medina store states that Debra Gabel purchased the location in 2008 and has been running it ever since. To make matters even more confusing there apparently was also a Dagwood's Sandwich Shoppe, which may or may not have anything to do with Dagwood's Sandwich Shop.

Regardless, this Dagwood's was located at 965C North Court, Medina, OH 44256 and can be reached at 330-721-1575 (phone) or 330-721-1576 (fax). You can also go to this location's website by clicking here. Parking was a bit strange as the small drive in front of the restaurant only allowed unidirectional traffic. However, at the rear of the building was a second road that allowed me to circle around and pull into a parking slot with relative ease.

Here was a shot of the exterior of the store:

Storefront of Dagwood's Sandwich Shop
Once inside, I was greeted by a lone worker and no patrons. Above her head was the menu posted on the wall in two different sections:

Dagwood's Wall Menu 1
Dagwood's Wall Menu 2
By the ordering area, there was a similar paper menu fixed to the surface of the counter:

Paper Menu Affixed To Counter
It is interesting to note that there are some discrepancies between items and prices between the two in-store menus and the on-line version. While I normally might have entertained the thought of trying the signature sandwich at Dagwood's (appropriately enough called the "Dagwood"), it looked huge and I wasn't that particularly hungry. I asked the worker if Dagwood's had any signature sandwiches other than the Dagwood and she pointed to the front of the counter where an arrangement of food pictures taunted hungry customers:

Dagwood's Signature Sandwiches
This led me to contemplate having a gyro and I gazed at the slowly spinning machine at the left end of the grilltop area:

Gyro Slicing Station
I finally settled on a sandwich that was listed on the wall menu, but none of the other menus, a Turkey Reuben for $5.99. Seeing as the entire soda fountain was out of order, I just asked for a glass of water. Expecting the same small "courtesy cup" of water I get whenever I request something free, the worker surprised me by telling me to just take one of the bottled waters from the cooler behind me.

She surprised me even more when she informed me that all the sandwiches come with complimentary fries if I wanted them. While I certainly didn't really have room for a sandwich and fries, I figured, hey, why not? The menu indicated that they were fresh cut and while I have found very few fresh cut fries to my liking, given that they were essentially free, I wouldn't necessarily be any worse for the wear. I asked her if that was a Saturday special and she replied that the free fries were an every day thing.

I watched (and covertly snapped the photos in this post) as she dropped the fresh cut fries into the fryer and then began assembling my sandwich. As she got close, she asked me if I wanted 1000 Island dressing on my sandwich. I asked her if she could simply serve it on the side and she nodded. I took my tray of food and retired to a table by the window.

Here was a shot of my Turkey Reuben, cup of 1000 Island dressing, and a pickle spear:

Turkey Reuben Sandwich
Here was a side shot of the sandwich:

Side Shot of Turkey Reuben Sandwich
First, the positives. None of the items on this sandwich were too salty. Sometimes sauerkraut can be kind of a wildcard when it comes to salt, but everything was nicely controlled. Everything also tasted fresh and the turkey was a nice quality, avoiding that slimy texture that cheap cuts sometimes possess. The application of the 1000 Island dressing added a nice balance of sweetness and creaminess to the sandwich.

Second, the negatives. While the rye bread had been put onto the flattop (I watched), neither of the slices had been buttered and the bread was on the heat only long enough to warm up and slightly stale the outer crust of the bread slices. This led to the sandwich missing the wonderful crunchy texture that a properly griddled sandwich should have. The Swiss cheese, although warmed by the heated turkey slices and sauerkraut, was only warm enough to start sweating some of its internal oils and not actually melt.

Finally, my complimentary order of fresh cut fries:

Complimentary Plate of Fresh-cut Fries
I couldn't believe the enormity of the portion size, especially for something that was free. While there weren't any grease puddles on the bottom on the plate, the fries were sort of all over the place in terms of greasiness and texture. Fortunately, some of the fries were wonderfully crispy and had a nice potato flavors. Others, a bit more greasy and sad, typical for this style of fry. There was easily enough fries for at least two servings and in the end, I took home my other half of my sandwich and half of the fries on this plate.

In an interesting twist of fate, the owner happened to arrive as I was about halfway through my meal. For whatever reason, after unloading the items she had purchased at Gordon Food Service from her car, she proceeded to have a company meeting right in the front of the restaurant with the newly arrived staff members. Here was what I easily overheard:

1) Staff members are to keep the doors open until the close time stated on the front door. No exceptions.

2) Apparently the menu is still in flux and she needed to sit down and write up a SOP (standard operating procedure) manual so that every employee knew exactly how to construct each and every sandwich.

3) Not only was she thinking about putting in a milkshake machine, she had already purchased one and was just waiting for the right time to install it in the store. Much discussion was had about the optimal location and no one seemed to be able to come to a consensus.

4) Not only had the cash register run out of $5's and $10's, but since it was late afternoon on a Saturday, no banks were open and no gas stations would give out change. Someone had already attempted and failed at this.

5) It was reiterated that all sandwiches, not just the subs, come with complimentary fries. The customer can refuse them, but they must be offered. No substitutions. Except for good customers. And then maybe not a full order of onion rings, but maybe, like six or so.

Honestly, the entire conversation left me just a little bit unsure of Ms. Gabel's business acumen. She purchased this location more than eighteen months ago and she is still having these kinds of operational issues? Based on the sandwich and fresh cut fries I ate today, the Medina Dagwood's gets a marginal pass in my book; based on the impromptu corporate meeting held in the front of the restaurant and the items discussed? I'd be surprised if this location lasted another eighteen months from now.

Dagwoods Sandwich Shops on Urbanspoon

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