Meaball sub with both arrabiata sauce and salsa verde
I never seem to wind up where I mean to at Liberty Public Market. Once I get caught up in the crowd, I just roll whichever way it carries me, hoping there will be something good to eat at the end of the line.
2820 Historic Decatur Road, San Diego
This time the crowd spit me out at Roast Meat & Sandwich Shop. With a self-contained stall on the outer edge of the market, it's easy to miss if you don't exit the building on the north side. Unlike most market vendors, it's got its own outside door, and almost feels like a distinct restaurant — albeit a tiny one.
Accessible from both inside and outside Liberty Public Market
Whether you take your food to one of the Market's dining patios, or take it home, Roast is definitely more a take-out spot. As its name spells out, it specializes in house roasted meats, most "naturally raised," and made into sandwiches. As far as this carnivore's concerned, any sandwich shop that asks me to choose between porchetta, roast beef, and prime rib is off to a good start. Each sandwich runs about $10, so a friend and I agreed to split a couple.
Most of the meats sit atop a large cutting board behind a glassed-in counter, so you can get a good look at them before you order. Based on this, my friend opted for the roast beef, which exhibited a lovely, pink bit of rareness towards the center. My choice to go with the porchetta —topped with broccolini and salsa verde — was derailed at the last second when I noticed something intriguing about the meatball sub: it's topped with salsa verde.
I haven't seen that before. Most meatball subs are topped with tomato-rich marinara, and in this case Roast goes for arrabiata sauce — basically marinara with red chili peppers, so therefore better. In that context, the green chili and tomatillo of the salsa verde mingling with the Italian red sauce starts to make a lot of sense, at least on paper.
In practice as well, I thought. The tanginess of the salsa brightened the roasty arrabiata, and any dish predicated on meat, cheese, and bread can use all the brightness it can get. The cheese featured here was grana padano, the three meatballs a beef and pork blend, well seasoned with Italian herbs, and so finely minced is almost resembled processed meat. The locally baked French roll looked bit small to me — by meatball sub standards — and had a relatively funky shape too. But that didn't stop me from demolishing my sandwich.
That is, my half sandwich. I dutifully shared my meatball sub in return for half a roast beef with onion jam and chimichurri. Following the meatball, I'd half-expected the roast beef to be a hot sandwich, but it was not. The beef was cool like deli meat, and while more tender than anything you'll find out of a package, flavor-wise it was a letdown after the meatballs, and the chimichurri lacked vibrancy. A tomato might have helped. Better yet, some of that green salsa.