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.
Underground Butcher is exactly my kind of sandwich shop. As the name implies, it is a butcher shop that also happens to make sandwiches. I was feeling the vibe as I opened the double wood doors of its red brick building with masonry interior walls. It was fresh off Thanksgiving week, and I was down to stay in the holiday spirit. I ordered up a special called Better Than Family with turkey, cranberry relish, fromage blanc, whole grain mustard, red onion and greens on focaccia bread. I waited for it as The Fugees bumped in the background.
The focaccia bread wasn’t terribly fresh, but it wasn’t stale or crumbly either. It was a little chewy, given focaccia’s similarity to pizza dough, but it held up well and the herbs and spices baked into the top were a nice touch. All in all, a solid foundation upon which to build a sandwich.
Sometimes one ingredient, if it’s the right ingredient, can flip a sandwich. Well, the fromage blanc cheese did just that. The creaminess of the fresh, white cheese played off the tartness of the cranberry relish and melded with the pungent whole grain mustard. It also helped bring out the earthiness of the greens and red onion. The only criticisms were slightly dry turkey and the combo of cheese, relish and mustard made for a very heavy sandwich. Overall, they were minor deficiencies.
From top to bottom, the sandwich was stacked: relish, turkey, greens, onion, mustard, cheese. It all provided good central sandwich stability. I had some slippage out the backside of the focaccia that required a slight mid-bite rotation, but no serious structural breakdowns.
Coming in at $9, it was not a super cheap lunch option and it wasn’t gigantic either. But it was filling enough that I wasn’t hungry an hour later, probably due to the richness of the ingredients and the focaccia bread. But it was made fresh and to order and the quality of all the ingredients make it a great, unique lunch option.
The flavor balance in the Better Than Family sandwich vaulted it among the top sandwiches so far in my quest. When I called Underground and asked about the special, they said it was related to the Thanksgiving holiday (and leftovers) and they expected it to run through the end of the week. All I know is I would order this sandwich, and any other sandwich from Underground Butcher, any day of the year.