Sandwiches/Subs in East

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    When looking for more than "a good loaf," you'll definitely find it at Au Bon Pain (pronounced ah-bahn-pahn). The high-end bakery-cafe chain with an outpost on every other corner in Manhattan has established its first local site in tourist territory in the Club Hotel at DoubleTree.

    The polished, Art Deco-styled bakery is stocked with its fresh-baked loaves including the famous tomato-basil variety, as well as consistently delicious roast-beef and brie sandwiches, soups in bread bowls, croissants stuffed with chocolate and raspberries, and a killer Boston clam chowder. Vegetarian, low-fat and low-sodium versions are available, too.

    The polished, Art Deco-styled bakery is stocked with its fresh-baked loaves including the famous tomato-basil variety, as well as consistently delicious roast-beef and brie sandwiches, soups in bread bowls, croissants stuffed with chocolate and raspberries, and a killer Boston clam chowder. Vegetarian, low-fat and low-sodium versions are available, too.

    Prices are high – 99 cents for a focaccia bagel, for instance. But there are plush sofas, laptop ports, televisions and plenty of reading material. Other sites in central locations are a strong possibility.

    Upon gazing at Brianto's stark white walls, ornamented with memorabilia and photographs of every Philadelphia Phillies baseball player that ever donned a red-pinstriped uniform, I asked the good-natured lad behind the counter a question that no patron had ever dared to ask, let alone in deadpan fashion: 'Why no photos of Joe Carter?â?�

    Record screech.

    In the moments that ensued, his bulging gaze met my squinting glare for what seemed like minutes, but when the hoagie virtuoso's eyes eventually regained focus, we were all able to (thankfully) laugh the moment off. 'You should've said that after you got your food,â?� he joked ' at least I think he was joking. Carter's home run off Phillies closer Mitch Williams to win the '93 World Series for the Blue Jays isn't exactly a high point in the city's sports history. So in a place where even the logo is a facsimile of their beloved Phillies', I was happy to have all my teeth after uttering the cheeky quip: teeth I needed in order to chomp down on their huge hoagies and cheesesteaks.

    They take their cheesesteaks seriously here ' I'm talking Amoroso's hearth-baked rolls and sliced rib-eye steak, flown straight in from the City of Brotherly Love. And they don't skimp on the chopped meat in the cheesesteak supreme ($5.99 for 6-inch; $8.99 for 12-inch; $12.99 for 18-inch), a beefy sub with the requisite onions, green peppers and mushrooms oozing with sharp provolone and Cheez Whiz. Be sure to Whiz it up, as the cheesesteak borders on bland without it, likely due to the meat not being seasoned ' or not strongly enough.

    For the same price, you can opt to make the very same cheesesteak a 'cheesesteak hoagie,â?� which means adding lettuce, tomato, raw onions and a splash of oil, vinegar and mayo. The hoagie comes without green peppers or mushrooms, but I was surprised at how much better it was than the cheesesteak supreme. Everyone at the table agreed that this was the best sandwich of the lot, and we picked the 18-inch behemoth clean. Also good was the Liberty Bell ($5.99, 6-inch; $8.99, 12-inch; $12.99, 18-inch), a cold hoagie stuffed to the hilt with ham, turkey and roast beef, and plenty of sweet and hot peppers to pack a punch. The hot meatball hoagie ($4.49, 6-inch; $7.49, 12-inch; $11.49, 18-inch) was endorsed by one of my Italian dining companions ' not so much for the sub itself, but for the well-seasoned meatballs. You'll also find other Keystone State faves such as crackling Herr's potato chips (59 cents, small; 99 cents, medium; $1.59, large), refreshingly crisp Hank's birch beer ($1.99) and sugary Tastykakes ($1.29). Junk food connoisseurs may disagree, but to me, the Tastykakes tasted just like Hostess cupcakes/Ding Dongs/Ho Hos.

    Brianto's may not satisfy pangs for the legendary cheesesteaks and hoagies cooked up at Pat's or Geno's in Philadelphia, but the guys here make every effort to bring a little Philly flavor to Central Florida. If they focused a bit of that effort in seasoning the beef, transplanted Philadelphians might flock to Avalon Park for some of their griddled gourmandizing.

    Then, like Joe Carter off a Mitch Williams fastball, they'll be sure to hit it out the park.

    Drive by Hot Dog Heaven at high noon, and the scene is eternally the same: Hordes of "red hot" lovers are hunched over baskets of dogs and fries on the patio tables, chowing down, generally oblivious to the noise and traffic fumes of Colonial Drive.

    Pull over by the landmark neon hot-dog sign to climb in line with the rest of the seekers, but be prepared to choose from among the three dozen variations – that's right, three dozen. There are Southern dogs heaped with slaw, Chicago dogs smothered with peppers, pickles, relish and tomatoes, and New York dogs topped with mustard and onions. And every variety is available in regular and jumbo size.

    For more than 10 years, owner Mike Feld, a native Chicagoan, has served the same brand of hot dogs he lived on for years in the Windy City. The Vienna Beef brand is made with lean bull beef, all-natural casings and no artificial fillers. Feld steams each hot dog to assure the most thorough cooking.

    We placed our order and then claimed our red plastic baskets brimming with fries. We took a seat at the only indoor space available, a small nook with bar seating, surrounded by Chicago photography and autographed pictures of radio hosts and a former Miss Florida. It didn't take long to devour the jumbo Reuben basket ($5.09), with the hot dog topped with Thousand Island dressing, sauerkraut and melted Swiss cheese.

    We also liked the jumbo chili, cheese and slaw dog basket ($4.99), which comes with a choice of chili with or without beans. The beanless packed a punch, but wasn't too greasy or spicy. And the fries were the way fries should be: sizzling and crisp outside, steamy inside.

    With all the focus on hot dogs, it wasn't surprising to find that some of the side items we sampled were marginally acceptable. The potato salad and beans were completely forgettable, but the macaroni pasta salad was an improvement. The Chicago hot tamale (99 cents) was so overprocessed and spicy that we didn't dare take more than a bite.

    A much better go-with choice would be a root-beer float ($2.99). They also whip up some tall shakes ($2.99) with pumpkin and vanilla ice cream, or fudge swirl with cookies and cream.

    The aroma of dogs and fries hangs in the room, broken only by blasts of wind and traffic every time the door opens. While the setting may not be pretty, the Hot Dog Heaven is worthy of a visit the next time you need a frankfurter fix.

    The UCF area is a mecca of drive-through and 'fast casualâ?� restaurants that focus more on heft than health. Hummus House, the area's latest pita joint, is a welcome option for both omnivores looking for fresh, unprocessed food and vegetarians craving more than just tofu or lettuce.

    But Hummus House isn't all garbanzo beans and pocket breads ' they aim high. No styrofoam is allowed in the store, all bottles are recycled and they even convert their used vegetable oil into biodiesel. Their website urges, 'If you are going to take care of yourself, you should also take care of mother earth.â?�

    The six flavors of house-made hummus are fresh and authentic, but skip the 'hummus salsa,â?� a combination of traditional hummus and pico de gallo ' Mexican and Middle Eastern don't mix. (Who knew?) Although the chicken, marinated overnight in a Mediterranean spice blend, is quite delicious, go for something that you couldn't get elsewhere, like a tasty gyro ($5.95) or falafel ($5.90). Hummus House's take on the gyro is a succulent combination of beef and lamb, and spicy chickpea cakes are fried to order for protein-heavy vegetarian falafels. Top off your pita with tzatziki, tahini, tabouleh or some of the other dozen or so toppings. If you're not feeling creative, opt for one of their signature pitas or salads ($5.90-$6.35).

    The bottom line: Compared to Hummus House, the pitas at that other place might seem like the pits.

    The bottom line: Compared to Hummus House, the pitas at that other place might seem like the pits.

    Forget “Macho Man” Randy Savage. The real Slim Jim is a kabanos, a cured and smoked pork sausage from Poland, and the best place in Orlando to get them is Stanpol Polish Deli in East Orlando. Lying in a deli case next to dozens of other encased meats (polish sausages, kielbasa and thick-sliced Danish bacon, just to name a few), the kabanos ($3.99 per pound) are a perfect afternoon snack when accompanied by one of Stanpol’s 14 imported Polish beers ($2.49 for
    most bottles).

    The little storefront deli, owned by a diminutive but gregarious Pole with a wisp of white hair, is also a café serving every permutation of boiled meat and cabbage imaginable. The braised pork short ribs ($6.99) are meltingly tender; when accompanied by the milder Polish version of sauerkraut, they are true comfort food. The kielbasa and cabbage ($6.99) is a combination of briny and smoky flavor sure to please any fan of stick-to-your-bones goodness. Finish off the Eastern European feast with a doughy paczki ($1.50), the traditional Polish pastry iced with sugar and perfect for
    coffee-dipping.

    Stanpol is also a well-stocked Polish grocery store, filled with delicacies from sheeps-milk farmer’s cheese to smoked whitefish ($8.99 per pound) to an impressive spread of Polish and other European varieties of cookies and candies.

    And now we’re officially in sweltering summer, Polish meats are classic grill fodder. The snap of a kielbasa and the soft meat of a butterflied Polish sausage are indulgent and elegant choices for the carnophile. Stanpol’s reasonable prices and abundant variety will keep your grill pit, and your stomach, full indefinitely.

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