So I’m talking to a guy in a bar (as one often does) and he tells me he makes the finest sandwich in town. I assume (a) he’s drunk (b) he’s looking for a fight (c) he works at Bunk or Lardo (d) all of the above. It turned out I was wrong on all counts: The guy, Berkeley Braden, who was actually softly spoken and unassuming, is a chef who caters events and parties, as well as providing personal chef services to some of the Blazers’ players. “In the 12 years of doing what I do,” he said, “it’s been the most requested thing.” Naturally I accepted his challenge/invitation to try the sandwich.

More after the jump...

Chef Berkeley’s kitchen is in the southeast industrial district nestled under the Hawthorne Bridge. He was slow boiling ox tails when I arrived, but had the sandwich ingredients prepped. The first surprise was how few of them there were—serious sandwiches tend to come piled high with dozens of elements (such as this endeavor, which isn’t so much a sandwich as an event). The second surprise was that he was using thin yam breads, and was going to fry them. “I like texture, I always want it crunchy,” he explained. The other main ingredient was pancetta, in particular, flat, Florentine-style pancetta that he had cured for a week and dried for a couple more. The only other additions were diced raw onion and cilantro, with Sambal-like hot sauce for dressing (he likes to make his own hot sauce, but only when the peppers are in season).

And that was it—after frying the bread for a few minutes all the ingredients are loaded on top. Fold over to form a sandwich, and taste. The result was pretty spectacular—there was the crispiness of the bread, the full flavor and saltiness of the pancetta, which was balanced against the freshness of the herbs, while the hot sauce tied the whole thing together. It was delightful, and not quite like any other sandwich I’d ever had.

Berkeley said he had been testing and honing the sandwich for years until he thought he had perfected it by paring it down to its essence. It’s certainly a contender for the finest sandwich in town— though as it’s rather rich and filling, you better hope he’s not feeding them to the Blazers before games.

Keeping it simple... the chef Berkeley sandwich
  • Keeping it simple... the chef Berkeley sandwich