Sandwiches, sweets with a pirate theme

The baking is done on the premises in Hampden

Eats

Dining Reviews Hot Stuff

April 14, 2005|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Mick Kipp wanted to open a retail store where he could sell his brand of Whiskey Island sauces, spices and salsas. Rose Lansing was looking for a place to sell her cookies and other baked goods.

The two were introduced by Mary Pat Andrea, owner of the Hometown Girl gift shop, who thought they might be able to combine their business ventures. She was right, and in September, Kipp and Lansing opened the Whiskey Island Pirate Shop, a deli and bakery on the Avenue in Hampden.

The small space, which shares a door with the Oh! Said Rose clothing and gift shop, sells a changing roster of fresh sandwiches, soups, salads and baked goods, along with Kipp's Whiskey Island products and a few other locally made foods such as gourmet jams and barbecue sauces.

The inside is done up in a pirate theme, with a whimsical map of Pirate Island on one wall and wooden barrels arranged around the floor. Except for a single table on the front porch, Whiskey Island is strictly a take-out operation. Customers order at the counter and, while their sandwiches are being prepared and packaged, they can sit on a wooden bench or, better yet, browse the nearby stores.

On a typical day, a half-dozen sandwiches, a few sides, three salads and a soup might be offered, as well as cookies and a couple of other baked goods from Lansing. Kipp shops at the Waverly farmer's market and gets meats and breads from local vendors. Soups are made based on what's available, but they're not offered every day.

The sandwiches, of course, are made with Whiskey Island products and might include among them a "pirate Reuben" that's not a Reuben at all. Unlike a real Reuben, which has corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing, the Whiskey Island version is made with turkey, cheddar cheese, cole slaw spiced with Cuyahoga Fire hot sauce and Toto's barbecue sauce, all served on whole-wheat instead of the traditional rye. It bears no resemblance to a real Reuben, but it's a fine sandwich in its own right. One quibble, though: The spicy cole slaw and barbecue sauce overpower the other flavors.

Meats and cheeses are sliced thick for all the sandwiches, making some of the sandwiches so tall they're almost impossible to eat. Case in point is a muffaletta piled high with fat slabs of peppery salami, turkey, ham and sharp cheddar cheese, all topped with a salty olive spread and a few greens and served on a fat bulky roll. Good luck opening your mouth wide enough for this feast.

Yet, considering the heat that Whiskey Island condiments pack, some of the offerings are surprisingly subtle, even timid. A side dish of black beans and corn had plenty of cilantro but could have used a splash of vinegar to brighten the flavors.

And the "island sandwich," made with ham, sliced apples and pineapple salsa, was one of those concoctions that works better in theory than in reality. The competing flavors of the salty ham, tart apples and sweet salsa didn't work well together.

I also have to say I wasn't crazy about the bread - bland rolls or slices of whole-wheat that really weren't interesting or substantial enough for these sandwiches.

Lansing, who sells cakes and pies to the nearby Cafe Hon and Golden West restaurant, does her baking on the premises but doesn't make bread. She always has a half-dozen or more sweets on display at the deli counter, including pecan sandies, oatmeal-raisin cookies and her justifiably well-known ginger snaps, which are moist and chewy and carry a true gingery zing. Peanut butter and chocolate-chip cookies are drier, more crisp than chewy, but also good.

If her "polka dater" bars are available, grab them. These soft, cakey bars, loaded with dates, walnuts and miniature chocolate chips, have a homey, familiar taste, yet chances are they're not like anything you've had before.

So far, the shop is only open during the day, because Kipp and Lansing have other jobs in the evening. That may change as the business grows, said Lansing. Meanwhile, Whiskey Island is a fun and inexpensive lunch spot - a nice fit for Hampden.

The Whiskey Is land Pirate Shop

Where: 842 W. 36 St., Hampden

Call: 410-235-9501

Open: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday

Credit cards: MasterCard and Visa

Prices: Sandwiches and salads $4.95-$6.95

Food: *** (3 stars)

Service: ** (2 stars)

Atmosphere: ** 1/2 (2 1/2 stars)

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