Man Food: The Deathwich at Al's Deli/Wan Convenience Store
Welcome to Man Food, where burger pro Richard Chudy steps away from his usual beat to explore food challenges, street eats, and other gut-busting delights. Ladies are welcome, of course.
Mission Hill’s Wan Convenience store is an odd little creature; sure, you can pick up a selection of Goya products, potato chips and bottles of paprika that have probably sat on the dusty shelves for years, but you can also come in for a fine variety of sandwiches and subs, which come out of Al’s Deli, which is located inside. It’s a little chaotic as owner Al mans the griddle and chats up a diverse blend of regulars, students, and overwhelmed newbies who think they might be in the wrong place. But look beyond the graffiti walls and cigarette signs, and allow the aroma of crispy caramelized meats to distract you while you eagerly await the sandwich to come.
Be patient, though— there is no rhyme or reason with the ordering system; you just have to wait your turn until Al decides your sandwich is ready. Someone may come in after you but still receive their order long before you do, and there’s a chance your sandwich is missing an ingredient or has something randomly added instead. But it’s all good. Because when your sandwich does arrive, you’ll be eager to tear into the paper bag and unwrap a glorious, foot long-plus sub on crackly and chewy French bread.
I was immediately drawn to the “Deathwich,” because with a name like that you know it has to be good, even if it’s not exactly good for you. The Deathwich is a kitchen sink type of sandwich, not overly filled but properly stuffed with shaved steak, thinly sliced pork, diced bacon, American cheese and Al’s blend of spices and sauces. The spices and sauces are nothing exotic, as hints of black pepper and Italian dressing seem to sneak their way onto the plethora of meats, but it works.
Al cooks one sandwich at a time, his Caribbean accent peeking through at random intervals, and he is a one man griddling machine. Once a sandwich is completed, Al calls it “a beautiful thing” and then turns his attention to the next one. It’s hard to argue with him. The messy Deathwich is a fantastic blend of quality proteins, with each bite as flavorful as the next. It’s warm and soul-satisfying in a way most sandwiches can only dream about. In a half-kidding tone, Al graciously tells you to pay after you eat and that if you don’t like it, you don’t have to pay. I guarantee that not paying won’t be an option; the sandwiches are that good.
This certainly isn’t fast food, since Al definitely works at his own pace. But sandwiches are worth the wait, and you’d be hard pressed to find a more genuine and enjoyable sub shop in the city.
(WAN Conveneince Store, 1508 Tremont St., Boston 617-445-4268)