Once I got some choice advice about hotel room service from a well-known chef. “I always order a club sandwich,” he said, “because nobody can screw that up.” To this day, when I find myself in unpromising or ugly restaurant and menu situations, I always order the club and the club always bails me out. The club sandwich is an iconic piece of Americana: Food historians say the first recipe for one was published in 1894, and that it was popularized simultaneously in train cars, in the dining room of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, at the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904, and in the casino restaurant at the Saratoga Club House in New York State. A club sandwich can be composed of anything the sandwich maker likes, of course (I’ve seen softshell crab clubs, egg salad clubs, and, once, a chopped liver club). But I think that to earn the moniker, a club must be a double-decker and must contain slices of very ripe tomato and very crispy bacon. Frilly toothpicks, optional. Napkins and good pickles, mandatory.
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