Restaurant: Erbert & Gerbert’s Sandwich Shop, Apple Valley, Minnesota
It has been ages since I have set foot into a sandwich shop. Ages. No Subway. No Quiznos. I used to frequent them all the time. ALL. THE. TIME. Then, the news came that I had to go gluten-free…and these favorite places to grab a quick sandwich fell to the wayside. No gluten-free options available. At least not here. I have heard the rumblings that Subway has tested a gluten-free market in some locations…but nothing further has come of that. Which is too bad. I really loved my lunches from Subway.
My sandwich shop hiatus, however, came to an end while I was visiting Minnesota this past week. I came to see my family, spend time with my grandpa, aunt, cousins…old friends…and run. Run a freakin’ half marathon while there. Because…that’s what I do. Every trip I take these days has to be centered around what I eat and where. It’s imperative, when you have food allergies and intolerance that you have an idea of where you can safely eat while on the go. I am on the go a lot on my trips, even ones to see my 91-year-old grandpa and company.
On my last day in Minneapolis, I was tooling about the Twin Cities, hitting up some bookstores, running stores, indulging in a massive banana split (which I split with my roomie) to celebrate a good race on Sunday…and as 3:00 p.m. neared, and the imminant time to head back to grandpa’s house to pack up and head to the airport for our 7:00 p.m. flight back to Louisville, Cathy and I knew we needed to get some actual food into our system. And it was best done outside of the rather exorbitant airport choices, not that there is ever much that I can eat at an airport.
Before leaving Louisville, we were scouting out some restaurant options and Cathy spotted this small, regional chain called Erbert & Gerbert’s Sandwich Shop. Why did it catch her eye? Gluten-free options…and not limited to a salad bar. In fact…salad isn’t even an option (like at other sandwich shops like Subway and Quiznos) on their menu. This place is all about the sandwiches, and they proudly serve up a gluten-free option on Udi’s bread. Not just any Udi’s bread though. Erbert & Gerbert’s serves up their gluten-free sandwiches on a specially designed 6-inch Udi’s sub rolls. So, you get to actually eat like everyone else in your party. How amazing is that?
Never heard of Erbert & Gerbert’s Sandwich Shop before? You are not alone. The small, very regional chain got it’s start more than 20 years ago in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and have since grown to include 50 sandwich shops within the United States. Their sandwiches are given fun names and prepared with flavor as the main focus. If flavor doesn’t shine in a sandwich, why bother eating it, right? So, at Erbert & Gerbert’s…it’s more about finding ingredients that work together, flavors that really inspire and astound the taste buds, and it’s not just an assembly line of various fillings and toppings. Sandwich making is an art. And it’s one that they do very well.
Cathy and I came into the Erbert & Gerbert’s Sandwich Shop in Apple Valley, Minnesota with an early dinner on the mind. I ordered first, as I was the problem child between the two of us. A gluten-free vegetarian, however, is no challenge here.
My choice of sandwich was a Gluten-Free Jacob Bluefinger ($6.44 – regular price is $4.49, but there is an additional charge of $1.99 for the gluten-free bread). No problem at all. They rang it up. Cathy chose the Giza ($5.49), which is, basically, Erbert & Gerbert’s BLT Sandwich. It has cherry wood smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato and Hellmann’s mayo. She got her sandwich on the honey wheat bread.
So…how does a sandwich shop handle gluten-free without the fear of cross contamination? For Erbert & Gerbert’s Sandwich Shop, it’s as simple as having a separate prep station for the gluten-free options. Psst…Subway…Quiznos…you might want to start taking notes! The chain actually certified three of their subs, the Boney Bill (classic turkey breast sandwich), the Comet Morehouse (ham & provolone), and the Jacob Bluefinger (vegetarian) as gluten-free as they are prepared separately from the rest. You can get any of the chain’s 21 sandwich’s done gluten-free for an additional charge…but those sandwiches will not be certified gluten-free as the ingredients will be taken from the other sandwich prep area. Erbert & Gerbert’s also reworked two existing soup recipes, the Cheddar Cheese & Broccoli as well as the Cheesy Asparagus soups to be gluten-free without changing the flavor of the soup. Gotta love that.
I took a seat at the table and watched as Cathy’s sandwich was prepared on one station by one of the workers behind the counter. Mine was prepared on a separate station by the one who took our order in the first place. Both sandwiches came up to the counter at the same time and she and I tucked back into our booth to enjoy.
Aside from being a certified gluten-free sandwich as well as a great vegetarian option, I bet you are wondering what the hell the Jacob Bluefinger sandwich might be. Let me enlighten you…
Jacob Bluefinger is one of Erbert & Gerbert’s Classic Flavors. For me, it’s a gutted gluten-free sub roll from Udi’s that is packed full of double provolone cheese, tomato, lettuce, Hellmann’s mayo and avocado. Sound delicious? Believe me…it is. In order to pack as much flavor into their sandwiches, Erbert & Gerbert’s removes the soft inner layer of bread and really layers in the toppings. When the sandwich is complete, they place the “guts” of the bread on top of the sandwich and serve it up.
I took one bite of my sandwich…and knew…right then…that I needed to make this at home. Because there are no Erbert & Gerbert’s locations anywhere near where I live. Nope. None. Zero. This sandwich was phenomenal. The provolone cheese really paired well with the sweetness of the avocado. The tomatoes added another nice taste, as they were ripe and just mingled well with the other ingredients. The lettuce was crisp and fresh, bringing some texture to the sandwich. Oh…this was heaven. Here I was…finally eating a sub sandwich. It had been over two years since I had been able to do that. And I did so without any worries or fears that I could get sick from cross contamination. And, the sandwich itself contained all of my favorite things…especially avocado, which I am obsessed with. This cold sandwich was amazing. Packed with creamy flavors that all worked together. I savored every bite I could. This might be the only time this year I got to actually enjoy a gluten-free sub sandwich. And yes…I really enjoyed it. Flavor definitely is key at Erbert & Gerbert’s…and this combination is a stellar winner in my book.
Here in the Louisville, Kentucky area, there are certainly a plethora of sandwich shops. However, these have no options for me nor any way of preparing something safely without fear of cross contamination. In my world, Subway and Quiznos are no-go’s. To have a place like Erbert & Gerbert’s Sandwich Shop would be amazing. For now, though, it looks like I must leave it as something to look forward to on my annual trek up to Minnesota. I was blown away by the standards and the food here. Now I know why this is my cousin Natalie’s favorite place to grab a sandwich. Delicious. And certified gluten-free! This…is my happy face.