I have been called a sandwich snob. That accusation is false. However, I do believe in something called sandwich theory. This is my quest to find the greatest sandwiches in Madison. Send me your sandwich recommendations by email or on Twitter or Instagram.
I decided to stretch the legs a bit and venture south to the McFarland House Cafe. It’s a family-run joint in an old farm house that feels really quaint, like being in grandma’s house waiting for her to whip up something in the kitchen. Tom Petty’s greatest hits were crooning over the speakers, and I was in the mood for some comfort food. I ordered the meatloaf sandwich, called the E.D. Locke’s Loafer, which had a chipotle mango barbecue-glazed meatloaf slice grilled with aged cheddar and served on a bun with “secret slather sauce.”
The bun — from Batch Bakehouse on Willy Street — was a standard white hamburger bun, but it was decidedly fresh and toasted to a brilliant brown. Most importantly, the bun was the perfect size to house the large slice of meatloaf and the rest of the makings.
This was tough, because some elements were delicious, but overall the sandwich was a little bland. The slather sauce on the bottom of the stack was great, with a tangy sweetness that played off the cheese and meatloaf. There wasn’t much of the chipotle mango barbecue glaze on the beef which would have given it a flavor punch, but the meatloaf avoided the usual traps of being greasy or mushy. Red onion, a slice of tomato, greens and cheese were also present but not memorable.
I decided to eschew the silverware and attack the sandwich without cutting it in half. It’s a tall sandwich, so the first bite was a messy. But from there, it held up beautifully. The integrity of the meatloaf (and makings) stayed intact through the last bite, without any slippage off the bun.
At $9, it’s a good sized sandwich with a generous slab of meatloaf, and you get a side of chips, fruit, or broccoli slaw. McFarland House Cafe has other signature sandwiches in the price range of $7-10, which is similar to other cafes around.
Comfort food like a meatloaf sandwich can run the risk making you feel like you ate too much, but the Loafer hit a good sweet spot of filling you up without weighing you down. It was a good sandwich, but it was just a little bland, outside of the slather sauce.