The Sammich, Rio Mar and Waffles on Maple

Rio Mar

Sara Essex Bradley Photography

Another May and already it seems like the relatively cool weather we had to begin the year is a distant memory. In more northerly latitudes there’s a thing called Seasonal Affective Disorder; sufferers feel lethargic and moody as the temperature drops and the nights grow longer. I am self-diagnosing myself with an analogue to Seasonal Affective Disorder. Mine is Moist-heat Affective Disorder, because while we’re not there yet, in a month or two I’m going to be lethargic and moody about my energy bill, having to wear a suit and sweating while motionless.

The Sammich started as a pop-up in Chickie Wah Wah, the bar and music venue at 2828 Canal St. Early this year Michael Brewer opened a more permanent operation at 7708 Maple St., which was most recently a location of Singha Thai restaurant.

The sandwiches here aren’t what you’d get if you visit a typical poor boy restaurant, though there are some common touches. There is a braised rabbit sandwich that reminded me in texture of a sloppy roast beef poor boy but with a much lighter flavor from green tomatoes, remoulade and a grapefruit-horseradish gastrique. Even a standard, like fried shrimp, are done a little differently here; the shrimp are coated in a Crystal hot sauce beurre blanc with tasso, pickled okra and pepper jelly. The tempura lobster sandwich comes with a spicy mango cream, and can be ordered as a half-sized portion from the small plates half of the menu. Those small plates are what set The Sammich apart from other “upscale” sandwich joints.

French fries are cooked in duck fat and served with grated parmesan and aioli. Duck fat comes in again as the cooking medium for quartered red beets that come with a similar aioli spiked with jalapeño. Deviled eggs are stuffed with crab, capers and cornichons for a very local take on a very French dish.

The Sammich has a casual vibe, with a full bar dominating one-half of the dining room and seating options comprised partly of large wooden picnic-style tables. You place your order at the bar, and it’s then attached to a zip line that carries it directly (and ostentatiously) into the open kitchen at the rear. The Sammich has a tongue-in-cheek name, but the cooking here is very serious.

The Sammich is located at 7708 Maple St., is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and you can find out what’s on the menu by visiting TheSammich.com or by calling (844) 726-6424.

I heard Miles Prescott’s name when he took over the kitchen at the Country Club in the Bywater. It was his first executive chef job and he was only there a year, but his cooking impressed a lot of people. These days he’s the executive chef at Rio Mar as well as a co-owner with local restaurateur Nick Bazan. If you haven’t been to Rio Mar in a while, you owe it to yourself to pay a visit, because Prescott and his team are doing some outstanding things.

Much of what made Rio Mar distinctive under local legend Adolfo Garcia is still on the menu. The grilled octopus, the Manchego with eggplant, the Serrano ham and the ceviches are all still available. But Prescott is moving things more towards nuevo latino cuisine.

A recent scallop tiradito featured a sauce made with the Peruvian chiles, aji panca and aji amarillo, for example. A piquillo pepper stuffed with mushrooms is topped by a béchamel sauce with ancho chiles and tarragon, is another. His signature dish is a fillet of fish (black drum when I was there) over roasted plantains (maduros) stuffed with Gulf shrimp and topped with a chayote (mirliton) and coconut slaw and a sauce made with soy, Dijon mustard and lime.

This isn’t “fusion” food in the bad old sense of that term; this is a chef with a deep grounding and respect for tradition doing innovative things.

Rio Mar is located at 800 S. Peters St., and is open for lunch Mondays through Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and for dinner 5:30 to 10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. There is a happy hour featuring small plates (the restaurant is still the standout for tapas) from 5 to 7 p.m., Mondays through Fridays. Call 525-3474 to make a reservation or find out more.

When I went to check out The Sammich, I happened on a place right next door that I’d never heard of. It is called Waffles on Maple, and in addition to the fact that it has a menu focused almost exclusively on Belgian waffles, it’s also notable for being kosher.

Chef Zev Attias is a graduate of the culinary program at Delgado, and has worked in restaurants both here and in New York. The menu features sweet offerings such as The Allman Brothers, which is topped with hot peach cobbler and whipped cream, and the Monkey Madness, which comes with bananas, chocolate sauce, whipped cream and sliced almonds. There are also savory waffles, with toppings like cheddar, jalapeño and sour cream and caramelized onions, mushrooms, Muenster cheese and black pepper.
You can also build your own waffle.

Waffles on Maple is a small place, with maybe 10 to 12 spots to eat inside. The restaurant is located at 7712 Maple St. and it’s open Mondays through Thursdays from 6 to 8 p.m., on Fridays from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. and on Sunday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.

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