Ask any graduate of UVA and they’ll tell you that the best sandwich shop in town is Littlejohn’s New York Delicatessen. Some will tell you that you should only go late (i.e., after 1 a.m.), while others will tell you that anytime is the perfect time. Which assessment was correct? The opinion of the sober college student who, in all likelihood, has been eating only Subway his entire life and, when confronted with his first quality sandwich, immediately labels it “the best”? Or the opinion of a drunk, willing to shove whatever food he can find into his gullet after drinking for who knows how many hours?

Not being big on eating when drunk, I decided to test out the sober portion of this equation.

The menu is a sight to behold. There are 22 specialty sandwiches and subs to choose from as well as “make your own” deli style sandwiches. Since this was my one and only chance to get Littlejohn’s, I had to choose wisely. Although my chaperone recommended some sandwiches to me, I didn’t like the direction she was pointing me in (the Sampson, which features roast beef and turkey, mainly because I felt it was going to make a mess, or the Five Easy Pieces, which features ham and turkey, mainly because it was on pumpernickel and had 1,000 Island dressing).

After a few minutes perusing the menu, I chose the 21 Society, which features Virginia smoked ham, cheddar, yellow onion, blue cheese, lettuce, tomato, Virginia cured bacon, and honey mustard on an 8″ sub. I didn’t see what all the fuss was about. The sandwich was decent, but it wasn’t one of the best I’ve ever had. And I can see why it holds a place in the heart of UVA graduates but to me, it was just another sandwich shop.

I may not know how this sandwich got its name, but it was decent. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it had its moments. My favorite moment was the dressing. Having had mayo on most of my sandwiches for almost my entire life, it’s always a welcome change to have something different. The honey mustard used on the 21 Society doesn’t taste like store-bought honey mustard, it’s got that fresh, homemade taste as if it was just mixed together that morning. It was sweet and tangy, but mixed perfectly well with the turkey and the onions. Each time I took a bite that featured a nice heaping helping of honey mustard I was in heaven. Every time I took a bite that was mostly cheddar, I was not happy with my sandwich. And it’s the cheddar that is my biggest complaint. It overpowers the taste of every other ingredient. The melted cheddar on top was too much. It doesn’t look like much, but when it melts and gets in every nook and cranny of the sandwich, it’s not a pleasant taste.

As you can see from the photo, rather than be in the sandwich, the bacon was on top, almost as if it was asking for me to just pick it off and eat it, rather than have it as part of the sandwich. I took the bait and ate the bacon separately. With all that melted cheese blocking the way, that was no way to strategically add it to the sandwich anyway.

The sandwich comes with a handful of tortilla chips, which obviously come out of an industrial-sized bag. ‘Nuff said.

This is a college town, and college football is the biggest sport of them all. If you go on game day, make sure you get there bright and early, otherwise, expect a line that goes out the door and wraps around the corner. Otherwise, avoid Littlejohn’s for that 6-hour period and go at any other time during the week.

The sandwiches are very affordable, which makes them perfect for a student’s budget, but I couldn’t see myself going there too often. The counter staff gets a little confused, even when there’s no one there, so patience is a must.

I’d love to go back over and over and try other items on the menu, but it’s not a possibility (unless, of course, I open a franchise here in NYC). Maybe I chose poorly. Maybe I had a bad sub maker. But I know this, as long as there’s a college in that town, students, both drunk and sober, will flock to Littlejohn’s.

Littlejohn’s New York Delicatessen is located at 1427 University Ave, Charlottesville VA (http://www.littlejohnsdeli.com/) and can be found on Twitter @littlejohnsdeli.

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