Another Mick's Picks story from contributing author Mick Marlier
When I heard the news about Laurel Market in Myers Park featuring a trio of sandwiches created by The Avett Brothers cellist and foodie-in-residence, Joe Kwon, I called up Adam Williams and told him we needed to run a review for our beloved Restaurant Traffic faithful. In addition to a shared passion for good eats and brown liquor, Adam and I love all types of aural pleasures from Nick Cave to Buju Banton with a particular sweet spot for The Avett Brothers (Home Page & Tour Schedule HERE) that keeps their rip-snorting, back porch mayhem in heavy rotation on our iPods. If you're unfamiliar with the Avett Brothers and live in Charlotte, you need to remedy that problem.
A band that makes it seem easy to meld a thrashing banjo with a thumping bass line, pounding piano and sweeping cello is a thing of beauty much like the artistry required to craft a sandwich that balances the taste of jalapeno with sweet pickles and fresh cilantro. But the Restaurant Traffic faithful don't come here to read my opinions on music. They want the dish on food in the Queen City.
The press release about the Avett Sandwiches only mentioned two varieties, drably-titled Avett Sandwich 1 and Avett Sandwich 2, being offered in honor of the band's homecoming show on April 9th. So it was a nice surprise to walk into the Laurel Market and see not two but three sandwiches influenced by the culinary experiences of Mr. Kwon and named after different songs such as Kick Drum, Gimmeakiss, and Pretty Girl.
I commented on the late addition of a third sandwich to the gals firing away in the Laurel Kitchen and one quipped, "Who wouldn't want to be in the middle of an Avett sandwich". You can't beat delicious sandwiches served with wit and charm. By the time I arrived, Adam had already ordered the Pretty Girl so I set aside my sense of portion control and requested a Kick Drum and Gimmeakiss. By the time we'd gotten our drinks from the soda fountain, three sandwiches were waiting for us swaddled like babes in white butcher paper with one being about the size of a football.
There isn't any place to sit inside the Laurel Market and only a few chairs and benches out front. Aside from a kitchen that cranks out simple but quality sandwiches, the aisles are packed with convenience store munchies, magazines and trade rags, an extensive selection of wine, and coolers full of familiar and unfamiliar domestic and craft beers. In fact, there is so much stuff in Laurel Market you can hardly walk around without bumping into someone or something. Which is a good thing because it's like the cool older brother of the Circle K. You know- the one with the jacked-up CJ-7 and sweet collection of Grateful Dead shows.
Lucky for us it was 75 degrees outside with a cloudless, Carolina blue sky overhead and there were empty patio tables at the Starbucks around the corner where we could spread out our lunch. Without ceremony, we ripped the paper off the sandwiches and divided them between the two of us.
I started with the Kick Drum which was labeled a breakfast sandwich, probably because it included eggs, but in the land of biscuits and Bojangles we don't discriminate when eggs and breakfast sandwiches must be eaten. Two eggs fried up over medium under a dog-pile of ripe tomatoes, wedges of avocado, a crispy sheet of bib lettuce all served on sourdough toast smeared with spicy stone-ground mustard.
"This is freaking awesome," I said to Adam with egg yolk dripping onto my lips like the remnants of a sloppy wet kiss. Packed with protein and fresh veggies, this sandwich was fantastic. My personal favorite of the three, and I'll mourn its passing once The Avett Brothers have come and gone.
Adam was too busy stuffing the Pretty Girl into his face to pay me and my contented mumbles any attention.
Lucky for us, we got the last of Laurel Market's cranberry-walnut bread and were able to enjoy Joe Kwon's next creation as intended. The aforementioned bread on the Pretty Girl was not just a platform to keep the sandwich ingredients together but a tart and nutty surprise that dropped my guard before hitting me with a sinus-cleansing smack of horseradish dressing. The slices of fresh, wet mozzarella were thick as hockey pucks but tender and delicate. There was layer upon layer upon layer of thin-sliced prosciutto packed beneath an equally thick layer of sweet, fresh basil. I had to catch myself and remember to chew, to savor the taste, who am I kidding. I inhaled that sandwich and thought about ordering another one for the road.
Last up was the Gimmeakiss. Certainly the heftiest of the bunch, it was thick as a mortar shell. Thin strips of sweet red onion curled over the edges of a gigantic baguette brick. A heaping helping of pastrami and salami were sure to have me stinking like an Italian deli for the next two days. Cold slices of cucumber and sweet pickles helped temper the bite of the spicy jalapeno rings. I enjoyed the large leafs of fresh cilantro atop the ingredients and appreciated the reserve demonstrated when it came to the mayo spread. Less is more when it comes to mayo delivery. This sandwich required respect and was worth the experience of nearly cramping my jaw to consume it.
It is evident from the delicious diversity of ingredients in his sandwiches that Joe Kwon not only pays careful attention to his meals out on tour but seeks out new and exciting tastes as The Avett Brothers travel the world and spread their gospel of love and music. At TasteonTour.com you can find Joe Kwon???s straightforward musings about "food on the road" with geographic tags and photographs detailing the dining experiences of the music scene's most badass cellist. After trying his sandwiches, I can only imagine what gastro-wonders he creates at home in Durham.
At last count, there were only about 37 tickets remaining for the April 9th show at Bojangles Coliseum which doesn't bode well for you procrastinators. By the time we post this review, I bet it will be sold out. I missed the last homecoming show at Bojangles- that one where The Avett Brothers recorded the album and DVD for Live, Volume 3, because I was forced against my will to visit the Redneck Riviera of Myrtle Beach. But not this time. Thanks to the Avetts, who probably love their hometown fans as much as we love them, I got my pre-presale floor seats the minute they were available. With only about a month to go, I'm anxiously awaiting that concert so I can dance the night away with my wife. And I can't think of a better way to tailgate before The Avett Brothers take the stage than with a couple pints from Olde Mecklenburg and another round of Joe Kwon's sandwiches from Laurel Market. I suggest all you hometown fans do the same while they last.
Also noted on the Avett Brothers blog