Pandemics bring changes, no question. We all know about the hard times that have beset America’s economy, and perhaps nowhere is the pain more evident than in the local restaurant biz. But there are some quirky upsides to report also. One of those is the Izzy’s chain of eateries, where sandwiches abound.
You may remember in your compendium of interesting historical facts the 4th Earl of Sandwich, that rake of English lore with a gambling problem. Not wanting to leave the gaming table to eat, he asked the cook to bring him something he could conveniently nosh where he sat. That day in 1762 is the birthdate of the sandwich. We may safely say the idea caught on, to the point where Americans alone consume three hundred million sandwiches a day!
Since the very essence of the sandwich is its portability, is it any wonder that now, in the throes of an eat-at-home pandemic, sandwiches at Izzy’s are flying out of each location at staggering rates? Here’s what owner John Geisen had to say: “Dining-in is fair, but carryout has jumped exponentially. What’s more, the size of the orders has become significantly larger—instead of one or two sandwiches, there are three-four-five sandwiches going out (per order).”
Geisen said that at some locations, carryout is eighty-five percent of the business now, and that is on a pre-pandemic base where perhaps sixty precent of trade was carryout. Why is that? “Well, delis are known for carryout. You know, our sandwiches, they travel well. The meats are juicy and moist, so the sandwiches don’t lose any of their quality when people take them home,” he said.
Carryout has been so robust that Geisen’s total business is up month-to-month over the previous year by a substantial seventeen percent. As he said to Dining Out several months ago, he believes his Izzy’s eateries are in a “sweet spot” within the total restaurant market in Greater Cincinnati. His sandwiches and other offerings are not fine-dine choices. But neither are they in the fast-food category of lesser quality eats. “And so, we are in between those two, in a sweet spot where quality matters to the customer, and fortunately it has worked out for us” in the form of increased sales of his array of sandwiches.
A for-instance in the quality department is the Codfather fish sandwich. “It’s North Atlantic cod. Most people (at other sandwich eateries) use Pacific cod, which is a lesser quality fish. North Atlantic cod tends to be sweeter meat (and it’s priced accordingly), so our fish is better to start with,” he stated.
He’s right, too. North Atlantic? Think coastal New England, Maine, and Nova Scotia. Cold waters! And cold ocean waters cause fish to produce more fat, which in turn means more flavor and firmer flesh—better taste and texture.
We carried out the Codfather sandwich recently, and the very first item of note is the size of the filet—enormous! “It’s over five ounces, so it is a generous piece of fish. It comes to us cut to size. In fact, our fish is processed on the boat; they catch it, filet it, and quick-freeze it right there on the boat in the North Atlantic. That maintains the chain of freshness. When we prepare it, we use a breading we do ourselves from a family recipe. Then we deep-fry it to a golden brown,” he said.
The sandwich is delicious, with a crunchy batter outside and white, flakey flesh inside. The cod sandwich is placed on a brioche bun and topped with shredded lettuce and a generous dollop of Frisch’s brand tartar sauce. And yes, it travels well, just as Geisen claimed his sandwiches do. If you enjoy a good fish sandwich, I’m betting Izzy’s version will be a real treat for you.
Boy, is it cold outside just now! So, how about a bowl of soup? “We are featuring our tomato basil soup for the (winter) season, and it is really a good, hearty soup. It’s a bisque-style soup, tangy and tasty and creamy. And we use sweet Italian basil in it, which is an ideal combination for this soup,” he said. The soup is homemade, as are all Izzy’s soups, and the recipe is an old family favorite. “Soup is really good this time of year, especially as cold and snowy as it’s been. What could be better than a nice bowl of hot tomato basil soup and a sandwich from Izzy’s?” Geisen asked.
See you at Izzy’s!
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