Young and Hungry

Comments Come True: The Mona Lisa at Earl’s Sandwiches

Eating my way through your advice, an ambitious list of vegetarian sandwiches from 24 different restaurants.  More Comments Come True.

A streak of customers curved around the perimeter of this tiny sandwich spot on Wilson Boulevard during the lunch hour one Thursday a few weeks ago. The last in line butted up against the door. A good sign.

Sure enough, the Mona Lisa vegetarian sandwich at Earl's Sandwiches would live up to the level of anticipation embodied in that considerable queue.

The ciabatta takes on a hoagie-like quality, but remains lovely in its cushy tenderness. The sandwich layers a grilled-to-silky soft eggplant, with just enough mushrooms (but not too many) and thick strips of roasted red pepper. In a bold mood, Earl's piled lettuce in the sandwich. Not greens that naturally wilt into something appetizing, such as spinach or kale, but ordinary mesclun. Somehow, the purplish greens stood up to the heat, only slightly wilting but not turning soggy.

In a most heretical statement, I find that this sandwich didn't even need the melted layer of provolone. The soft eggplant lent enough creaminess to be left alone on that front. Earl's offers a choice of balsamic vinegar and olive oil or pesto mayonnaise. Go with the pesto for an added snare of garlic.

One last tip: pickles come for free, when you ask for them. My advice: Ask.

In order of appearance in the comments:

  1. Cork Market
  2. Cowgirl Creamery
  3. Busboys and Poets (sandwich 1) (sandwich 2)
  4. Taylor Gourmet (sandwich 1) (sandwich 2)
  5. Booeymonger
  6. Pret a Manger
  7. California Tortilla
  8. Jaleo (sandwich 1) (sandwich 2)
  9. Highland Cafe
  10. Jimmy John's
  11. Greek Spot
  12. Sticky Fingers
  13. Earl's
  14. Yum's
  15. Super Taco
  16. Luna Grill
  17. Five Guys
  18. Sidamo
  19. Everlasting Life
  20. Au Bon Pain
  21. Devon & Blakely
  22. Corner Bakery
  23. Potbelly
  24. Black Squirrel

Photo by Stefanie Gans

  • Erin

    I'm trying to decide how I feel about pesto mayonnaise. Pesto? Yes. Mayo? Meh, not so much.

  • Stefanie Gans

    hey erin. i'm not a fan of mayo either. think of this more as an aioli. and then say yes.

  • sarah

    I know it's not on the list, but I tried a veggie sandwich that I need to recommend. There's a little market on East Capitol St. off Lincoln Park in Capitol Hill called P&C Market. These guys are serving up some outstanding and really interesting sandwiches. I've been visiting them for months and previously they only had delicious sandwiches with meat. But! I went about 2 weeks ago and discovered they'd added a veggie sandwich. Of course I forget most of the ingredients, but the standout was pickled blueberries. It was a fantastic veggie sandwich. I urge you to check it out!

  • Stefanie Gans

    hi sarah. thanks for the recommendation. i'm still hunting down the area's best veg sandwiches, so please keep the suggestions coming!

  • Marrowbones

    Try the Xalapa sandwich at Tortuga Food Truck that parks in Tysons. Grilled zucchini and yellow squash, goat cheese spread, avocado, and a salsa made from tomatoes, olives and capers.