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Restaurant Review: Easy D's.
I’ve always wondered if anyone would try this playbook and Jane & Billy Stevensen are making a run of it. Jane and Billy’s shop is called “Easy D’s”.
The shop is neighbored by various sundry shops, nail salons, and a couple of pubs. There’s a Thai massage place that looks a little handjobby tucked around the corner. Easy D’s has your standard storefront plate glass window and a chalkboard popped open on the sidewalk. The chalkboard keeps score of how many sandwiches they have before they sell out for the day. They’ve selected simple signage (“Easy D’s” in a lovely font set against a black background).
On the sidewalk there are a few four-tops with umbrellas that are filled with construction workers, financial advisors, and a couple of older veterans in shiny jackets with hats that advertise the name of the ship they served on. They could never have enough tables to seat everyone so a few parties have resorted to using the hoods of their cars as makeshift high tops. Everywhere I look, someone is unhinging their jaw to take a bite of a submarine.
I was there during their second week in business. When I walked in, I asked the cashier if Jane was available and she appeared in a couple seconds upon hearing her name. She waved me back and invited me to hang out. I made sure to stay out of her way but stole a few glances and peppered in a couple questions for my article.
I watched Jane work with expert efficiency.
“So how did you come up with the name?” I ask.
“Our daughter actually came up with it after we told her the concept.”
“Yeah. Tell me about the idea.”
“Well, Billy always had this idea of offering one thing per week. A small lunch counter with takeaway service and a few seats. One item on the menu. No laboring over 40 different options. Easy Decision.”
What if people don’t want what you’re serving?”
“They can come back next week. Or not. We understand this will be a turn off for a big chunk of people who like to have things a certain way. Part of the experiment is trying to build a loyal group of people who come a couple of times per week.
I’m nodding along.
“You know when you first hear a new song that grabs you by the lapels? You play it on repeat until you know all the words. Once you start to get sick of it, another song comes along and you get to start all over again.”
This week, Easy D’s is serving meatball grinders. I watch her put together an order.
She starts with a backstory. “Do you know who Action Bronson is?”
“Of course. I’m a fan.”
“So you’ve seen F*ck thats Delicious, then. Anyway, there’s an episode where they go to Angelo’s in South Philly. Angelo makes a couple sandwiches that are not on the menu. Our meatball grinder is an ode to that episode.”
This sandwich starts with a fresh roll. Billy comes in every morning and bakes enough bread to do 100 sandwiches per day. The roll has a crusty outside but is soft and airy underneath. Jane opens it up and pull out some of the bread with her fingers to make room for the ingredients.
She grabs three fresh baked meatballs from a tray and drops them in hot frying oil for two minutes. While the balls are frying, she starts building the sandwich. The first layer is dark green brocolli rabe that’s been sauteed. This explains some of the back and forth I’ve heard between cashier and customer.
“Robbie or no robbie?”
Jane takes a giant cheese blade and hacks off a pile of provolone that look like thin shards of white glass. She arranges them carefully on top of the greens. The meatballs are next. She pulls them from the oil and they get a quick smoosh with the flat side of a cleaver. The result is a flattened ball that will not roll out of your sandwich. She balances the sandwich in one hand and ladles a light drizzle of red sauce. She makes a comment almost to herself about too much sauce turning the sandwich into soup. She hits it with salt and pepper and a dusting of parm reggie. It goes into a screaming hot oven for 3 minutes. She cuts it in half, wraps it in foil, then in white sandwich paper. She slides it onto the counter for pickup. The regulars know to grab an inch of napkins with their sandwich.
To go with your sandwich, you can have salted cape cod chips and a can of coke or diet coke. Those are the options. All for 15 bucks.
Jane goes through the motions again for my sandwich. I pay my fifteen and take my sandwich outside. I drop the tailgate on my truck and start unwrapping the grinder. The thing is perfect. The bread has a nice crisp to it from the oven and just the right amount of chew. I can taste the individual ingredients and the care that went in to making them. I can feel an 18 minute couch snore in the near future. I welcome it.
Jane whispered in my ear before that next week they’d be serving a Bacon, Egg, and Cheese sandwich that will blow my doors off. Easy D’s has sold out every day that they’ve been open so far.
Easy D’s is located at 178 High Street. They are open Monday - Friday from 11am - 1pm but often sell out in the first hour. Cash only.