Here’s a fun historical fact that I’ll bet a lot of “foodies” aren’t aware of: The “sandwich” gets its name from John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, an 18th century English lord who ordered his servants to serve his guests their meals by placing meat between two slices of bread.
This was done, of course, so the remote control wouldn’t get greasy during football games. This is a lesson not lost on Macado’s, which has taken the good earl’s invention as its own. The menu boasts some 70 items involving some kind of food inside of some kind of bread. You’ll find other things like lasagna, burgers, and stuffed potatoes, but it’s sandwiches that have made Macado’s a name in the Roanoke Valley for more than 30 years.
My wife and I decided to visit the Salem location, choosing from well over a dozen stores in Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina. Walking into a Macado’s is an experience all its own. Many restaurants decorate by finding random tchotchkes, trinkets, and useless archaic objects to spike to the wall. And one could argue that Macado’s is one of the most guilty of this practice.
But somehow, Macado’s is able to transcend the kitsch and really take ownership of this medium. Their wood-paneled canvas is slathered with vintage ad art, memorabilia from the entire spectrum of the history of rock music, and obscure Americana. Maybe best of all, though, are the local touches. The history of nearby Roanoke College is prominently displayed, along with other reminders of Salem’s past. There is even a poster with 1976 concert dates at the late Lakeside Amusement Park. (I have a vague and horrifying memory of being at the Conway Twitty show that year…).
We started with the Diablo quesadilla, a folded tortilla stuffed with three cheeses, grilled chicken, spicy pico de gallo and grilled on the flat-top. It was crispy and flavorful, served with sour cream and salsa. Best of all, it gave us something tasty to nosh on while we took in the sandwiches. Did I mention that there are, like, 70 of them?
After about a half hour trying to digest the sandwich list (the whimsical names – a veritable “We Didn’t Start the Fire” of American history – add to the information overload), I finally settled on the Jackie Gleason, rare roast beef with bacon and provolone served on toasted bagel with a creamy horseradish sauce. True to their advertising, it was “overstuffed,” with over two inches of roast beef. This was truly a sandwich. I kept looking over my shoulder to see if Dagwood Bumstead was getting ready to bludgeon me with something and steal it.
My wife ordered a Stallone – an Italian battalion of salami, ham, pepperoni and provolone cheese, served on ciabatta bread with spicy banana peppers and a tangy parmesan dressing. The bread was a hearty, chewy loaf of goodness, though the ham was a bit salty for her taste.
Dessert was hilarious. We ordered the Captain Jack Meets Blondie, which was touted as a blonde brownie topped with ice cream and caramel corn, because I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen such a confection on another menu. In my kitchen after a night of drinking, perhaps, but not on a menu. To put it mildly, we were not prepared for the scope and magnitude of the thing. It came served in a 32oz goblet, and was piled high with a Kilimanjaro of whipped cream and caramel. So good to eat, so embarrassing to be seen with…
We picked up a catering menu on the way out. A couple we know has been inviting us to come to a Tech football game with them for years, and I’m not sure I can imagine a better tailgating food than a five-foot sandwich like Macado’s Boo Boo’s bomber. They’ve also got a good variety of meat, cheese and veggie platters. I figure if I bring one of those, I can get them to spring for the beer. Not sure if we’ll actually make it into the stadium, but I’m also not sure we’ll care.