A jerk chicken sandwich was one of the first sandwiches featured here at On Sandwiches, and in that post I stressed authenticity. This sandwich was good but clearly inauthentic, and what I mean by that is that the chicken wasn’t rubbed and smoked. It was spiced and grilled, and served with a smoky “jerk sauce” that attempted to bridge the resulting gap in flavor. It was a good sandwich, and the jerk sauce was really good (for jerk sauce.) But it left me with some larger questions.
How big is the world of sandwiches? Is there room enough for a sandwich that could be better and a sandwich that is better, both of them aiming for the same thing? Is it possible for one person, your humble enthusiast for example, to genuinely appreciate both sandwiches without being at least a little disingenuous on either end? Is there any value in “good, not great”? There is an argument for judging each sandwich on its own merits, but that has always seemed to me to be impossible. Where does a sandwich stand except among its contemporaries? How can I rank it but among what I have already known?
Here is my dilemma: I want to tell you this was a good sandwich. But in the past I have railed against those sandwich makers that I perceive as lacking in effort, and it seems inconsistent (to say the least) to say, of this particular sandwich but not of several others, “could have been better, but pretty good.” The challenge left to me is to carve out some ground to stand on, and I think I’m up for it. It comes down to reasonable expectations and degree of difficulty. Four Cafe is located along a major throughway, in a string of connected buildings, and they serve a variety of food. It isn’t reasonable to expect them to have a smoker for a single sandwich. It wouldn’t be impossible, and it would be spectacular if they did, but it’s hard to get too worked up when they don’t. Contrast something like that with an establishment using a processed avocado paste. Using fresh avocados is no Hurculean task, and so forgiveness for not doing so should be hard to come by.
I can’t help but feel as if I am not approaching a particularly satisfying conclusion. I’ve avoided this topic for a while now, preferring just not to write about some sandwiches, rather than clog things up with endless “good, but not great.” But this was a good sandwich, and in the end, maybe good is good enough. I suppose I just have to ask you to trust me. Should you be in the neighborhood, Four Cafe is worth your time. The food is fresh, and it really is a good jerk sauce. There’s room in the world of sandwiches for the three-stars-out-of-five review. When unspectacular is still satisfactory, I’ll let you know. And when a middling effort produces damnable results, you’ll hear about that too.