The last time Portland made a giant leap for sandwich-kind, it was 2010: Lardo was trotting its way onto the scene on the heels of revolutionaries Bunk Sandwiches and Meat Cheese Bread. Fast-forward seven years: it’s a brave new fast-casual-eatery world, with a high-end sandwich shop on every corner. But even in this crowded field, the Central Eastside Industrial District’s Stacked Sandwiches stands out: nailing the basics, upping the ante, and venturing, successfully, into the tricky world of salads and vegetarian sandwiches.
Like the chefs of those crucial sandwich shops, Stacked owner Gabriel Pascuzzi comes from the world of fine dining. He worked his way up at New York’s Colicchio & Sons, staged at Copenhagen’s famed Noma, and marked time running the kitchen at Multnomah Whiskey Library before leaving the white tablecloth circuit. (Sort of—he still runs an upscale, seven-course pop-up, PN26, once a month.) Now he puts his pedigree into a dozen or so sandwiches and toasts, substantial salads, and pastries, all made from scratch with the good stuff. We’re talking truffled mac and cheese, crab cakes, and pesto- and chèvre-rubbed leg of lamb, sliced thin on house-baked focaccia with Calabrian chile aioli.
Pascuzzi’s headliner is a reimagined French dip (pictured above), that swaps out roast beef for heaps of pulled oxtail and uses the rich, rosemary-steeped braising liquid for dipping the crusty Pearl Bakery hoagie. Topped with havarti, onions, and cremini mushrooms, it tastes like a two-handed French onion soup of the gods. It goes well with the “Don’t be a Prick” radler cocktail, mixed by another Multnomah Whiskey alum, Jeanette Conner, with pFriem pilsner, prickly pear juice, and China-China liqueur. It’s one of 11 clever, quaffable cocktails you’d never expect to find at a sandwich shop.
Salads are famously neglected at temples of bread worship—either omitted entirely, or simply deconstructed sandwiches sans gluten. But Pascuzzi makes what might be the best wedge in the city: bits of crispy fried shiitake, oil-cured tomatoes, and garlicky croutons fill every crisp fold of lettuce, generously coated in a creamy, smoky blue cheese dressing. An arugula Caesar, meanwhile, is slicked with potent, boquerónes-forward dressing and showered in parmesan. Vegetarians score big on sandwiches, too, with Korean-fried tofu and kimchi slaw on brioche and a zucchini torta number slathered in salsa verde and topped with house-smoked mozzarella.
Before you drop your Bunk pork belly Cubano for this place, you should know that not everything is perfect. Salt levels can be off the charts, as with the otherwise stupendous pork and bison meatball sub, melted through with truffled pecorino. Meanwhile, the sprawling, light-filled space falls victim to the stereotypical sandwich shop pitfalls: it’s bare, utilitarian, and loud. Ultimately, though, these things don’t count for much; we’d voluntarily eat sandwiches this good at the DMV.