Small Wonders: There can be only one winner

The election is over.

We the people had our say.

And Chuck Norris' prognosticated “1,000 Years of Darkness” has begun.

Or it's simply the end of daylight saving time.

So now that that's over with, let's get to a debate that truly matters, one I know you've been eagerly awaiting, a vote that will impact your life more than which president's picture you'll be throwing darts at for the next four years: Who makes a better sub sandwich? Mario's Deli in Glendale? Or the Handy Market in Burbank?

As a Glendale son and Burbank resident, my heart belongs to both cities. And this column appears in both newspapers.

In my efforts to rile up residents of both burgs into emailing me over something other than my political, religious and social views, I threw down that truly savory challenge to readers a few weeks ago.

It's not exactly Hatfields and McCoys, or even high school football. But no lives were lost.

The results are in. And the response was abundant, much like the contesting sandwiches. Overall, both earned rave reviews — each on their own was a favorite.

Aisle 3 at Handy Market is one of the few lines I don't mind standing in, given its view of the choice meats at the butcher counter and its friendly and courteous people. Their Italian sub is a meal in itself: a foot-long concoction thick as Peyton Manning's forearm; a masterful mélange of hand-sliced mortadella, hard salami, pastrami, mayo, mustard, red onion, pickle, shredded lettuce, tomato and Provolone.

At Mario's there is no line. You take a ticket and wait. Which is a glorious thing. Because if you didn't have to mill around waiting for your number to be called you'd miss seeing the selection of premium meats, cheese, wine and imported goods; the refrigerators and freezers filled with Italian delicacies, pastas and sauces.

Oh, the clam sauce! Heaven.

The Mario's house combo sub is a double-layered symphony of salami, mortadella, capicolo, ham and whatever other meats they have available that day, plus lettuce, onion, tomato and mozzarella cheese. Coating the bread is a sauce that combines mayo and mustard.

“Two votes for the Handy Market in Burbank,” Rachel emailed me. “Fresh and tasty. Not as expensive. While Mario's Deli had a great special sauce and delicious meat, we didn't like the three layers of bread.”

For others it was that special sauce that set Mario's apart.

Pat offered this assessment: “Meat: good quality. Dressing: delicious. Bread: not too dry or too mushy. Sandwich almost, but not quite, too messy.”

Jim felt that the Handy Market offering was a “Fairly straightforward sandwich. Good. But it doesn't stand out like the Mario's sandwich does.”

Jake disagreed.

“I liked the quantity of meat and pickles on the Handy Market sub,” he said. “Lots of flavors, and it was easier to handle than the Mario's one. Plus I don't like mustard, and with the Mario's sub it's in the sauce.”

Of the Mario's sub, Jason said, “A little too much bread. Otherwise a terrific sandwich. I really enjoyed it. I give it an 8/10.”

And James liked the Handy Market sandwich because he thought it had “fresh bread, meat, veggies and was nice and cool. I would put this sub in my good sub category, and at $5.99 it jumps into my very good sub category.”

But in a head-to-head competition, only one sub can reign supreme. And based upon the highly suspect swing-state polling methods used on my family, co-workers and readers, the winner is:

Mario's house combo sub.

Though most felt the triple layers of bread made the sandwich cumbersome, its balanced flavors, authentic deli meat quality and special sauce set it apart from the more traditionalist Handy Market sub. But that shouldn't take away from the value and overall great taste delivered by Handy Market.

If this were a barbecued tri-tip sandwich competition, there would be only one choice.

In our frenzied times, it can be all too easy to hit the fast-food drive-through or buy meals ready-to-eat from the supermarket. There are abundant choices for great, affordable food from independently owned shops in our communities. Do yourself and your neighbors a favor by visiting them a little more often.

Which leads me to my next challenge: Where is your favorite (non-chain) burger joint in Glendale and Burbank?

Drop me a line, let me know and look for another Food Fight in the coming weeks.

PATRICK CANEDAY likes to eat. Contact him at Friend him on Facebook. Read more at

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