Chicago, in the year 1971, a small shop called Hindsight, which featured a variety of antiques, including an old cast iron potbelly stove, was opened by Peter Hastings.
The young entrepreneur augmented his antiques livelihood by selling submarine sandwiches that were toasted on the aforementioned potbelly stove.
News spread and the quirky little outlet slowly turned into a lunchtime hotspot, with local musicians providing background music.
The success of the sandwiches soon began to overshadow the antiques, which prompted Peter Hastings, in 1977 to rebrand as a “sandwich shop” and rename the store to “Potbelly”.
Potbelly has subsequently transcended to become a legend in Chicago, with over 400 restaurants worldwide and growing every day, with the venue at Westfield Stratford being the first in Europe and the first full Halal Potbelly outside of the Middle East.
The store is grandiose, with its high ceiling, retro design, old antique ornaments playing homage to the store’s roots, and a definitive U.S. feel and atmosphere. Its evident that intricate care and thought has gone into the layout and design of the venue, as many of the furnishings have been imported from the U.S. so to offer the diners an authentic Chicago style Potbelly experience.
Our invitation to Potbelly started with a varied selection of sandwiches. First we sampled the “Roast Beef”, which was thinly sliced Black Angus Beef; the same Angus beef that is supplied to China Tang at The Dorchester, but at Potbelly, you are paying a fraction of the price that you would at China Tang. The umami meaty taste that you expect from a high quality product such as Angus beef effortlessly emanated from the sandwich and the addition of the peppery seasoning transformed the humble sandwich into a gourmet gastronomical experience.
One of the most popular sandwiches at Potbelly is the “Wreck” and quite rightly so. The fluffy loaf, which is exclusively made for just Potbelly, is over flowing with spicy beef salami, turkey breast, black Angus beef, turkey ham and Swiss cheese. The sub is packed full of big, bold flavours, all marrying up together to provide the ultimate carnivore’s delight.
The “Buffalo Chicken” was up next to be devoured. This may not be a sandwich that appeals to everyone. Sliced chicken breast, with Frank’s red hot sauce, butter milk ranch dressing and blue cheese. The combination of flavours is an assault on the tastebuds, which was exquisitely addictive. Not everyone will like the blue cheese, which can taste slightly over powering, however, as a cheese fan, I found it enjoyable nonetheless.
Finally, a true American favourite, Skippy “Peanut butter” and Welche’s grape “Jelly”. There’s a reason why the Americans love this combination, and the reason is because its simply amazing. As a preference, I would have liked a copious amount more of the peanut butter and jelly in my sandwich, so to get the flavours emanating through stronger.
If all of these delectable sandwiches were not enough, we had to try their “Beef Chilli Soup”. The soup was hearty and flavoursome. Please note that this is a traditional American chilli soup, so there is no chilli heat, as we would expect from an Asian dish. So if you want to try a “Beef” soup, without worrying about burning your palate, then this is definitely worth ordering. Personally, I found the soup even more enjoyable when I took it home and re-heated it the next day. The flavours had marinated more, giving a greater depth of flavour.
Potbelly are not just renowned for sandwiches, they are also acclaimed for their cookies and shakes. The Mixed Berry shake was bursting with fresh fruit, both sharp and sweet in flavour, the Peanut Butter and Chocolate shake was simply outstanding (our favourite), and the Peanut Butter shake is a winner with anyone who adores peanut butter.
A meal is never complete without a dessert. The “Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie” and “Vanilla Ice Cream” sandwich was a taste sensation. The cookie was soft, gooey and luxuriously moist, with the sweet confection from the chocolate chip seducing the palate into submission. But the addition of the vanilla ice cream truly turned this into an epicurean experience.
There are undoubtedly a number of establishments that offer sandwiches and the fact that the cuisine on offer is a sandwich must sound unexciting and prosaic, but what makes Potbelly unique and a leader in its field is the high quality ingredients that go into making the humble sandwich into a gourmet dining experience. Where else can you get Angus Beef in a sandwich that is halal and of such a high standard? The owners/management are extremely passionate about their vision of offering a full halal menu to its patrons and providing a great customer service which America is reputed for.
Good food comes in all shapes and guises, so do not be discouraged by the thought that its only a sandwich. Follow Potbelly’s Halal Food Journey to discover the fine art of gourmet sandwiches and the reason for their growing success.
Disclaimer: We were invited to review.