Earl’s Sandwiches didn’t go far for its second location. It is right across from the Ballston Metro station in the spot that once housed brgr:shack, only a mile from Earl’s first site near Clarendon.The sandwiches at the Clarendon restaurant are the stuff of much praise from both gourmets and bargain-seekers, and diners at the new place will be treated to a menu not unlike the original.
Most of the restaurant’s raved-about sandwiches are divided on the menu by meat topping, and it’s here that Earl’s Sandwiches stands out. Processed cold cuts have been kicked to the curb. The brown-bag classics are treated with care. The turkey is roasted in-house and carved into tender, meaty hunks instead of the sliced deli counter standard. Roast beef and chicken get the same treatment. Garden variety ham is swapped out for quality prosciutto, and roasted pork loin is a far cry from the everyday cold cut.
With Thanksgiving now a distant memory, diners hoping to recreate that leftover turkey dinner magic can look to The Pearl ($7.29). In this sesame-seed roll sandwich, turkey is topped with a not-too-sweet cranberry relish, made all the more tangy when coated in savory homemade gravy.
Sandwiches here are served solo; fries and the like can be added, but with the right selection the line between side dish and sandwich becomes blissfully blurred. The Pork and Fries ($8.99) slaps a few crispy hand-cut French fries right onto the complex pork loin creation. Roasted red peppers, sweet pickles, and chopped onions are distinct and varied. With the backdrop heat of chipotle mayonnaise, each component pulls in different directions, but all seem to be the right direction. The sandwich is made on ciabatta bread, which is pleasantly thin and crispy.
While the meats in Earl’s Sandwiches are top-notch, the menu ensures vegetarians won’t miss out thanks to a few meat-free sandwiches. The Mona Lisa ($7.99) puts enough flavorful grilled eggplant, roasted red pepper, mushroom, and mixed greens onto its ciabatta base to satisfy; melted provolone cheese and the diner’s choice of sauce are nice bonuses.
Soups (made from fresh stock in such varieties as New Orleans-style gumbo), salad, and coleslaw are some of the sides that share billing with the house’s hand-cut fries. Pleasant on their own, both the potato ($2.69) and sweet potato ($3.99) fries can be dressed up to gourmet effect. The former, for a small additional cost, can be served with a bit of chipotle mayo, pesto mayo, chili, or cheese; the latter, dusted in cracked black pepper or made even sweeter with cinnamon and sugar.
Breakfast all day – served as egg-centered sandwiches and as omelets, French toast, and eggs-any-way platters with home fries – is yet another mouth-watering perk.
Sandwiches are a go-to pick for quick and cheap eats; Earl’s Sandwiches are that, indeed. But it’s the way that this restaurant takes the age-old concept of a sandwich and treats it right by using quality ingredients (in sometimes unexpected ways) that makes the growing Northern Virginia chain worth visiting.
Earl’s Sandwiches is located at 4215 N. Fairfax Drive, Arlington. For more information, call 703-647-9191 or visit earlsinarlington.com. Restaurant hours are Monday – Saturday: 10:30 a.m. – 8 p.m. and Sunday: 10:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.