The above sandwich is the Poblano Fresco from The Corner Bakery. Chicken, roasted red peppers, avocado, white cheddar and a jicama slaw, with chipotle lime mayo on a Poblano Cheese Bread. The below is the Chicken Torta from Fundamental LA. Chicken, tomatillo salsa, guacamole, cotija cheese, crema, jalapeño peppers and iceberg on a bolillo roll. Neither of these sandwiches are particularly great, but only one is forgivable.
Regular readers will know that I’ve made this point before, but not so explicitly and in a single post. Put simply, it is perfectly acceptable to aim high and fail, but it is far from OK to aim for the middle. The top sandwich isn’t bad, exactly, it’s just boring. The chicken is bland, the bread more cheese than chili, and really the whole thing stinks of resting solely on the slaw. “Jimicia!” goes the thought process. “That’ll impress the rubes.” The slaw itself is also bland, and while chipotles and limes are both fine ingredients, it surely says something about vision if the only way someone thought they could be brought to a sandwich was to ensconce them in mayonnaise.
The bottom sandwich has shredded chicken that was re-grilled to give it a bit of a crust, but it didn’t hold together tremendously well and when combined with a slightly-too-soft roll the whole thing fell apart in the eating. The flavors were good but not quite up to what I’ve come to expect from Fundamental LA. Further, when you’re putting forth something like tomatillo salsa, the competition in Los Angeles is so strong that it’s tough to get away with anything less than great.
One thing this is not about is that one of these sandwiches is from a hip restaurant and the other is from a 150-location strong chain. The processed food industry is as advanced as any other these days, and any manner of product can be distributed in a stable form, at scale. Slow cooked chicken, for example, cojita cheese or crema, none of this is out of The Counter’s reach. They simply don’t think it’s worth the effort, or they honestly think that the top sandwich is a better concept than the bottom. That’s why it’s unforgivable. Because it’s lazy, because it presents nothing you have not seen before and it expects you to be grateful for that. There are a lot of ways to make a good sandwich, but there isn’t a single one that ends up insulting the person eating it.