Imagine a funny, raunchy sitcom about a blue-collar Chicago sandwich shop in hipster Portland. The owner is a gal who stocks her closet with Cubs fan gear, jaws like a trucker, and wields an ax, splitting logs out front to feed a smoker hiding some very juicy brisket. She spends her days building pastrami sandwiches good enough to haunt dreams—each a marvel of salt-smoke-dribble-tang calculus, layered with hand-sliced beef and stacked with gangly slaw and Russian dressing. The house mission (for them, and us) is framed on the counter: “Try Not to Suck.” That, in a nutshell, is Melissa McMillan’s Sammich, opened last winter on East Burnside.
Things that decidedly do not suck so far: a spot-on juicy burger (those who have accepted we’re already headed for mass extinction: add a slab of pastrami on top); a house-poached tuna sandwich big enough for a couple of outfielders; the secret daily menu (just ask); and Zombie Fries, heaving with frizzled pastrami ends, lime, and jalapeños, and named after her NoPo food cart Pastrami Zombie. Yes, we wish the bread were better, and the roast beef not so dry. But mostly, Sammich’s motto of “do simple better” is handily accomplished.
All grub aside, you’re also coming for charming, foul-mouthed McMillan herself, bragging on her food like someone prepping for a rap battle. Delivering summer’s best BLT, rippling with spicy giardiniera pickle mayo, she drops this on the table: “It takes the biggest balls on the planet to cut tomatoes this thick.” Even Kanye West is like, damn, girl.