While sandwiches may seem like a customary lunch option, the grinder has had a drawn-out and impressive history with its unnatural ability to please both royalty and peasantry. The modern sandwich gets its name from John Montagu, England’s fourth Earl of Sandwich. Legend has it that the Earl, miffed that eating meat with his bare hands got his playing cards greasy, slammed some in a couple slices of bread. History was made, and everybody from picnickers to college students on a budget would be forever in his debt.

This week, On the Menu explores Goleta’s wealth of unique sandwich shops. Incorporating flavors ranging from subtle sundried tomato to bold grilled meats, these local establishments are worth a lunchtime escape from Isla Vista.

Home on the Range

Country Catering Company
5925 Calle Real #E
(805) 964-3811
Mon-Sat 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
$7 to $12

Strolling into the Country Catering Company, it’s immediately evident that there’s camaraderie between the employees.

“We get along great together, we mess around, get on each others’ nerves, and even do stuff outside work,” says employee and UCSB Zoology alum Keith Newby, who has worked at the Country Catering Company on-and-off since the ’90s.

Hidden inconspicuously in the same shopping center as Zodo’s Bowling and Beyond!, the company gets most of its business by catering events and office luncheons. The atmosphere is clean and casual, and diners can elect to eat inside and watch sports on the big screen plasma or relax outside with a view of the Santa Ynez mountains.

Due to its fast, reliable service and delicious made-to-order sandwiches, the Country Catering Company gets plenty of regulars dropping in for a sandwich on their lunch hour. True to its accommodating nature, the well-stocked deli’s sandwiches are highly customizable – the “build your own” menu starts at $7.95 and includes a side of potato, pasta or macaroni salad, Cole slaw, fresh fruit, chili beans or a cookie.

However, the true beauty of the shop, which has been in operation since 1967, is its tender meats.

“Pastrami, tri-tip, meatball – we have everything here,” said Newby, “It’s a really great deli to come get a killer sandwich.”

An astounding 19 meats, including barbecue chicken, homemade meatloaf and Philly steak are always on hand, ready to be incorporated into a personalized sub. Ask for grilled chicken, and you have the option of including the skin for a mouthwatering boost of flavor. According to Newby, the shop’s most popular sandwich is the tri-tip steak. For those who may choose to forgo meat altogether, vegetarian sandwiches are available upon request. All of these options can be had on a selection of breads, including sourdough, wheat or rye bread. French or wheat rolls also provide a perfect foundation for the sandwich meats and toppings. Try ordering the French roll toasted. Its chewy inside and crisp, hot exterior set off the flavors of the heavy, American-style sandwich perfectly.

On the go? Try calling or even faxing your order to the deli. It’ll be ready when you are. If not, drop into the Country Catering Company for a truly exquisite dining experience Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

California Dreamin’

South Coast Deli
185 S. Patterson Ave.
(805) 967-8226
Mon-Fri 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sat 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
$7 to $12

South Coast Deli is a veritable haven for anyone with a busy schedule on lunch hour. Regulars in business apparel show up daily with BlackBerrys in tow for a quick and satisfying sandwich. The establishment, concealed in a shopping center across from Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital, bills itself as “upscale casual.” Indeed, the walls and décor are artfully contrasting pastel shades, and one is a huge chalkboard on which patrons are invited to draw or write messages.

In spite of its harried workday clientele, SCD’s atmosphere invites diners to take a load off in black metal chairs, which will bring to mind the European style of dining in which eating is not just another chore in a day filled with them, but rather a time to be savored. Hands down the best touch is the wall unit stocked with a generous selection of the day’s newspapers and weekly magazines.

Sandwiches – known as Sammies in traditional SCD lingo – are offered both hot and cold. More exotic sandwiches, such as the Cajun turkey, which includes a garlic-tabasco mayo are an option for the brave patron, while conventional strictly meat-and-bread hoagies are also available.

Order the popular South Coast Turkey – the hot sandwich is $6.95 and is garnished with red onions and bell peppers, basil mayonnaise and smoked turkey.

“The whole thing is toasted, and it tastes great,” employee and UCSB alumnus Kathryn Weis said. “It’s still my favorite after working here for three years. The restaurant also offers a broad array of paninis.”

Feeling frisky? Get an Italian Ham Job – with cappicola, provolone and basil mayo for $6.95. This grill-pressed panini is sure to leave you feeling stuffed full of hot, meaty goodness.

Breakfast items, freshly tossed salads, coffee beverages and smoothies are also available at the restaurant, providing a refreshing stray from traditional deli offerings.

Once you order, kick back with a crisp New York Times and wait for your freshly-made meal. Even during the lunch rush, it’s ready fast and the friendly employees will bring it right out to you. South Coast Deli is open bright and early Mondays to Fridays from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and rightfully sleeps in Saturday, opening slightly later at 11 a.m. and closing the shop at the standard 4 p.m.

Bread Head

5666 Calle Real
(805) 683-3670
Mon-Sat 10 a.m. to 4p.m., Sun 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Panino Restaurant, located in Goleta, is all about choice. Don’t get ahead of yourself though: Despite everything you might have reasonably assumed from the name alone, Panino ironically does not offer a single panini on its menu.

Instead, diners can choose from a staggering array of 30 sandwiches, including eight vegetarian selections. Vegetarians used to regular sandwiches, sans meat, can find more creative and fulfilling options specifically catered to their tastes, including the $8.50 Panino Caprese. This light selection includes layers of mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, basil and olive oil, set off with balsamic vinegar and organic greens. Try ordering it on the soft, chewy focaccia bread for extra flavor.

Panino is also broad in its cheese selection, as patrons can ask for such rare treats as goat, feta and English Cotswold Cheddar cheeses on their sandwiches.

“We use a lot of really fresh ingredients,” said employee Niki Foley. “The brie and Cotswold Cheddar are especially popular choices.”

Looking for a more traditional sandwich? Order the roasted turkey. While the sandwich might taste pedestrian initially, the hidden subtleties of a honey mustard sauce soon make themselves apparent.

This is a strength of many of Panino’s sandwiches. The artfully constructed eats often will feature a showcase flavor accompanied by several less adventuresome components. This is certainly the case with the $8.50 Roast Chicken Sun-dried Tomato Fresh Basil & Provolone Sandwich, which includes organic greens, red onion and roasted red peppers.

Panino boasts an assortment of accolades as a testament to its impressive food and service, including three years as the SB Independent Reader’s Poll Best Sandwiches winner, two years as the Santa Ynez Valley News Best Sandwiches winner and two years as the SantaBarbara.com Reader’s Choice Best Sandwiches winner.

For a meal that is truly merit-worthy, visit Panino Monday through Saturday, open 10 a.m. to 4.pm. The establishment also serves tasty items from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays. Enjoy your meal amid the restaurant’s Tuscan-style tiled floors, chic silver ceiling fans and checkered wooden tables!

From the Earl of Sandwich to the commoner Gaucho student, sandwiches have traditionally inflamed passion around the world. With an infinite possibility of options catered to just about any taste, a good sandwich can prove to be a meal fit for a king. So head out to Goleta on your lunch hour and sink your teeth into a submarine sandwich. You won’t regret it.