While chef fanboys scour the ink. website at 4 a.m. for a coveted reservation at the ultra-hot restaurant, it's comforting to know that us plebes can walk into the sandwich shop next door and get a taste of Michael Voltaggio's cooking with no drama and at a comparatively affordable price point.
ink.sack is small with only a few tables meant for stand-up eating and a chalkboard covered in colorful graffiti. The menu is scrawled in chalk on another large board behind the counter. It consists of eight or nine sandwiches, all costing $4 to $6 and sized like midget hot dogs. For anyone who wants to squeeze into a size-0 Alexander McQueen or Marc Jacobs frock (both stores are within walking distance of ink.sack), a single sandwich will suffice. Everyone else will need two.
Since opening in August, ink.sack seems to have dialed in the specifics on their sandwiches. The bread is better, the ingredients are more precisely arranged, the service quick and friendly. Even the sandwiches themselves seem to have found their foothold in a crowded field: fancified, light but satisfying.
Some of the sandwiches are ordinary -- the maple pepper turkey, the cold fried chicken buried under a pile of shredded lettuce and the "reuben" (the restaurant's quotation marks; not ours) -- but a few are extraordinary. The layers of Serrano ham, crayon red chorizo and Manchego in the José Andres a.k.a. The Spanish Godfather references Bay Cities' iconic Godmother sub more than it does the Spanish chef. The ink.sack version, layered with spicy, vinegary chopped peppers would stand up to the Bay Cities version in flavor if not size.
The spicy tuna, with large chunks of albacore in a light coating of sriracha mayo and slivers of sweet pickles, hits just the right note of salty and savory, while the pork belly banh mi is livened up with crisp chicharrones. The CLT (the "C" is for fried chicken skin instead of bacon) comes alive thanks to a deeply funky chicken liver mousse spread generously on the petite French roll.
A concept like Voltaggio's ink.sack easily could have been a shrine to fussy, overpriced sandwiches for people who have too much money to spend. Instead, the sandwiches are fresh, original and worth a cross-city jaunt.
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- Day 3: Shaved Turkey Sandwich at True Food Kitchen
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Elina Shatkin is a staff writer at LA Weekly. Follow her at @elinashatkin or contact her at email@example.com.