1212 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar
Another rainy day: Del Mar is not its usual sunny self. I’ve been sheltering in their grand old library. Big ol’ house. What a gem. Now waiting just across Highway 101 — they call this stretch Camino Del Mar — to catch the 101 bus south. Except, stomach’s groaning. I happen to look south and spot a salmon-colored signpost. “Board & Brew” is written across it in yellow letters, and below that, “Specialty Sandwiches.”
Hmm…very tempting. Check watch. Probably 20 minutes till the next bus. I could slam down one sammy in that time. I hurry along toward the sign. Now I see the place has a sunken brick patio with green umbrellas peeking over, almost at sidewalk level. I pass raised brick planters that are mostly dirt, a couple of little sago palms, and the rain-soaked courtyard. Green plastic chairs are piled up under the eaves, tables parked out of the way. I start to wonder if the weather has closed up the whole place. But when I open up the door — bam! Amazing. Just like last week at Amarin, this place is rockin’ inside, with lots of people standing in line and lots more crammed around the five tables and at the window counter. Students, mostly, I’m guessing, ’cause we’re just up the road from UCSD. Awful lot of talk going on.
“One seventy-seven, chicken club, no tomatoes!” calls this tall guy coming out from behind the counter with a sandwich. Another’s right behind him with a to-go sandwich wrapped up in paper. “One eighty-two?” Now the first guy’s bringing out another order. “One seventy-nine, Baja chicken! Baja, anybody?” A guy at the table closest to me puts his hand up.
It’s like a cozy timber cottage in here, maybe 15 by 25 feet. Two walls are all windows. The end wall has a “Board & Brew” longboard and a couple of for-sale T-shirts as decoration. The wall behind the counter is spangled with decals, such as “Resin Craft” — a board-maker, for sure — “Body Temple Tattoo,” and “No Sniveling.”
They also have a “Specials” chalkboard. “Half turkey sandwich,” cheddar cheese on sourdough plus “today’s soup,” $5.95, tomato bisque; it’s $3.75 if you have it on its own.
I ask a couple of guys in line ahead of me what the best sandwich is here. “Turkado,” they both say. “Just turkey, cheese, and avo,” says one guy, “but it’s huge, and it comes on awesome sourdough bread.”
The main menu boards hang from a wooden rafter. Here’s another sign: “All our prices include sales tax.” That’s cool. I usually have to mentally add an extra buckaroo to listed prices. I see they have ten “specialties,” six with turkey, including the Turkado ($6.75); Turkey Club, with bacon and Swiss ($5.95); a California Delight, with turkey, cream cheese, and sunflower seeds ($5.50); and the Board Master (“aka Tom’s Choice”), a beef-turkey combo with cheddar and a sweet-sour dressing ($6.75). They do a Tub O’ Tuna with avo and jack cheese for $6.95 (about the most expensive item here) and a beef dip with melted Swiss and au jus on the side ($6.75). You can also get straight beef, turkey, or tuna sandwiches with mayo, tomato, and lettuce for $4.95. And, oh yeah. “From the Grill” includes three hot chicken sandwiches and one beef. All $6.95, except for the chicken wrap ($6.25).
Table where the Baja Chicken landed is full of kids from San Francisco. I do a quick survey. The two ladies, Valerie and Ashley, have the Vegi Supreme sandwich ($5.50), Jason has the Turkey Club, and Jeremy is the guy with that order number 179, Baja Chicken. “Excellent marination,” he says. “These sandwiches are as good as what you get in San Francisco.”
It’s my turn now, and the order guy, Ryan, needs an answer. “Turkado,” I say. Safe, I know, so I add the tomato bisque, seeing as it’s chilly outside. When the food comes, the sandwich is big and the sourdough bread is tender, but the taste is, well, nothing unusual. Basically, it’s an honest turkey sandwich with lots of avocado and a heap of shredded lettuce. Glad I ordered the tomato bisque. It provides a strong contrast — herby, tomato-y, piping hot.
There are two kickers to this saga. One, I kick myself as soon as I’m aboard the 101 bus. This place was Board & Brew, right? And I forgot to try one of their brewskis. Mind you, there wasn’t much that sounded interesting. Here we are, in the heart of craft-brewing country, and they only had a few choices, like, Coronas, Pacificos, all bottles — plus one lonely IPA, and that’s from a Sierra Nevada brewery, up in Chico. But, I guess, like the decal says: “No Sniveling.”
The second kicker comes around 8:00, when the beautiful Carla and I finally meet up and I take out this sandwich I brought back to share. It’s the Baja Chicken. Jeremy from Frisco seemed genuinely enthusiastic, so I ordered one to go. “Want our secret sauce with that?” Ryan asked. “Sure,” I said.
So we open it up. Carla’s starving. Me too, by now. We chomp into our Baja halves.
“Wow. Jalapeño. It’s hot,” Carla says. “Maybe too hot.”
I take a bite of the chicken. “Wow,” I say. “Good marinade.”
“What about that pot of red sauce?” Carla asks.
Oh, yeah, the secret sauce. Hmm…not a salsa. It’s more orange than red. I open up our sandwich halves, pour the sauce in. We open our jaws and…contact! Oh, man. Transformation. Transmogrification. The sauce’s sweet-sour thing electrifies the sandwich, tasting of vinegar, lemon, and kinda maple-y. Completely addictive. Carla and I dive in like hyenas at a carcass, snarling, eating almost nose-to-nose. “Bedford,” Carla growls, “What’s in this sauce? It’s out of this world.”
“It’s a secret from Del Mar. And you know those Del Martians. They’ll never give it up.” ■
The Place: Board & Brew, 1212 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar, 858-481-1021
Type of Food: Deli sandwich
Prices: California Delight turkey sandwich, with cream cheese, sunflower seeds, $5.50; Board Master sandwich (turkey-beef combo), $6.75; spicy beef dip, with au jus, $6.95; regular roast beef sandwich, $4.95; Baja chicken wrap, $6.25; half turkey sandwich with tomato bisque, $5.95
Hours: 10:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m., daily
Nearest Bus Stop: Camino Del Mar, at 13th Street