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My kingdom for a sandwich!

Ive always savored a good sandwich with a side heaping of salty potato chips and a cold soda. But making a good sandwich is an art form that Ive never mastered. Thats why I like to lunch out in downtown Middlebury. Its a great sandwich town. Oh, Ive made some mouthwatering PB and Js on authentic made-in-Frisco Boudin-brand sourdough bread but constructing a towering reuben that tips the scales, or landscaping a deluxe club sandwich that is worthy of being served aboard a first-class Royal Canadian Pacific Railway dining car, has eluded me. Thus, I enjoy bouncing around local sandwich shops. While mine isnt a very long list, it represents my personal favorites. Personal tastes may vary. So do experiences. Sometimes I hear comments about downtown Middleburys provincial, even unfriendly airs maybe true, maybe not; still it never hurts a business when the hired help smiles and treats the customer or even a visiting newspaper salesperson the same way theyd like to be treated. Were all trying to eat and make a living. And in todays bountiful competitive world, we can all go elsewhere to eat or shop. Its coincidental that readers of the Addison Eagle have consistently voted yes for my personal best list. I guess great sandwich minds think (and eat) alike: The establishments reviewed here have performed at the top of their class in the Eagles annual 100 Best of Addison County Readers Choice Awards in recent years. Costellos, located on Maple Street in the Marbleworks, serves fabulous Italian-style sandwiches and more. My late grandfather, Nonno Anselmo, was born in the northern Italian alpine Province of Belluno where Italian, French and Austrian cultures converged; there he learned to handmake the family cold-cuts. He also made wine, grappa and sausage. While its true sausage making is not a pretty thing to behold, the results are usually worth it. Costellos brands of Italian cold-cuts are as good as any youll find north of Bostons North End (and south of Montreals Little Italy). The owners, Carolyn Costello and John Hamilton, are nice people and go out of their way to create a traditional Italian provision store featuring products with a Mediterranean touch. Costellos is a delightful deli with the spicey smells I recall from my own Italian-American childhood spent in the greater Philadelphia area. I love to see how much Italian culture and cuisine have been embraced by Vermonters (the state has a vibrant Italian heritage). My Nonno Anselmo would be proud. My favorite Costellos sandwich is a custom-made Genoa salami and provolone cheese wich on a Caesar roll (aka bulky or hard roll) or the De Pasquales Favorite made with prosciutto, provolone, tomato, lettuce and seasoned olive oil or the Eggplant Caponanta and fresh mozzarella sub orstop me, my mouth is watering. Bellissimo! Middlebury Bagel & Deli-Bakery Lane, located at 11 Washington, St., is where I had my first Vermont sandwich experience back in 1988. Everyone fondly remembers where they first fell in love with a sandwich. Middlebury Bagel has an excellent sandwich board with the best bagels and doughnuts in Vermont and maybe beyond. Really the scratch-made doughnuts made here are a rare thing. Only four other bakery shops in the nation still make scratch doughnuts the rest use mixes even the New York City ones. So be proud when you eat one of these wonderful local treats with a cup of freshly brewed cup of Speeder and Earls or Green Mountain Coffee. Jim and Cathy Rubright continue this old-time Vermont sandwich shop that used to be located on Bakery Lane and was started by Steven Baker in 1946. My favorite: The Vermont Cheddar Melt on Compagna bread. J.M. Noonie Deli, located in the Marbleworks around the corner from Costellos with a view of the falls, is a modern version of the classic Vermont sandwich shop. There used to be a Noonies in Burlington it started there but is long gone so were lucky the trusted old sandwich name hangs on here. Lunchtime is busy at Noonies. The mostly female staff work hard and they never scrimp on the contents. Good stuff. My guy server, Rob,was very welcoming. Noonies makes whats probably the biggest sandwich in Addison County (on homemade bread). The deli has delicious soups, salads, baked goodies, too. My favorite Noonies ziggurat: Egg salad piled high with lettuce and tomato on thick honey oat bread. If youre daring, try one of those funky, New Age sodas or ice teas although most are either too sugary or profound for my conservative tastes. Ill stick with traditional sodas. Samas Cafe and Middlebury Market, 54 College St., across from the Middlebury Municipal Building, is a wholesome ethnic-style eatery with a flare for the eastern Mediterranean. Usamah Hayyat is chef and owner and his delis motto, eat, drink and be merry, seem sincere. Youll find town bureaucrats and college students eating elbow-to-elbow along with tourists diverted from downtown boutiques. My Samas favorite: The chicken or lamb shawirma in a wrap with hummus, seasoned onions and taziki. Its superb and I guess its still a sandwich. Also, try Mr. Hayyats falafel its mamas recipe wrapped with hummus, lettuce, tomato, and tahini. The others: While I wont mention names, I am not fond of franchise sandwich shops that seem to popping up all over small town America. Good for free enterprise but bad for sandwich lovers. The bread in these places is limp and the miserly sandwich content makes you think that the nations deli-food supply is being rationed like it was the Great War. Also, the servers limited eye contact and even rarer smiles make you feel youre the dumb flatlander cousin of the Earl of Sandwich. This welcome to Vermont, now go home attitude might reinforce a visitors image that folks hereabouts really were weaned on pickles. Six inch or 12 inch? They ask. Neither, I say. Its the same old assembly line stuff to me; you can order this in 100 other food courts across America close your eyes and taste: its clone food. When eating in Middlebury, stick to the real deals.

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