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Restaurants

The Clubhouse Sandwich Shop

Posted by Joshua Chong / Reviewed on July 16, 2013 / review policy

Clubhouse Sandwich Shop TorontoThe Clubhouse Sandwich Shop at Spadina and College won't fool you for a second into thinking it's members only. With a cutesy bright and communal aesthetic, this clubhouse is stacked with sandwich options, though curiously the three-tiered standard is missing from its set list.

Clubhouse Sandwich Shop TorontoOn the outskirts of both Kensington and Chinatown, Clubhouse has the unenviable task of standing out amongst a bevy of other inexpensive destinations that are popular in the area: Fancy Franks, Caplansky's, Romeo's Juice Bar, The Grilled Cheese, to name but a a few. Luckily, its immediate neighbours are of the franchise fast-food variety where attention to ingredients is all but absent. Smart then that Clubhouse found just the right niche to hem in any gourmet gaps outstanding at this intersection.

Clubhouse Sandwich Shop TorontoAt the owner's behest, I ordered their pork chop sandwich ($7), a go-to now for many return customers. Cooked fresh to order, a marinated slab of pork is grilled, diced into cubes, and then served on a lovely bun that kept the mound of caramelized onions and herb aioli spread where it belonged.

Toppings-wise, the sugary notes of the onions muted any herb lustre that might've been there. I will say I thought the inclusion of pork skin cracklin was a nice touch, a crispy complement instead of centrepiece as is the case at the somewhat overrated Porchetta & Co. What's more, the near boulder-sized slabs of hand-cut Yukon Gold fries ($4) alone may be enough to encourage repeat visits.

I'm hoping it's a one-time occurrence, but for the pork sandwich as well as the smoked chicken offering ($7) I tried, I felt that the meat should've been hotter. If they want to compete with the diehard fan base of the relatively close Come and Get It and Banh Mi Boys, they'll have to remedy this crucial shortcoming.

Clubhouse Sandwich Shop TorontoCompared to the pork, their smoked chicken product was less satisfying on all counts. For one thing, the name's misleading: I didn't taste any distinct smoke tones, so I think the pickled chilli mop sauce makes it more properly a barbecued chicken sandwich. Also, while fried battered avocado bits are a neat idea, they work better for me as a side than topping. On sandwiches, I want my avocado to melt to a buttery slick, fusing where it may with the cuts of meat.

I also found that the chimichurri lacked punch and the chicken itself was rather dry and not even the chicken and pork cracklin could really save it from being simply flat. I wanted this number to be much tastier and more tender than it was, but given that the pork sandwich was both of these things, I'd definitely give it a second chance. Moreover, given the strong start to the meal and the excellent fries, I'll be back to try their beer battered fried fish sandwich ($11) which seems more straightforward with its lettuce, tomatoes, and tartar sauce, though I worry the smoked mayo might make it a bit too saucy.

Clubhouse Sandwich Shop Toronto

Discussion

30 Comments

Everyman / July 16, 2013 at 03:06 pm
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Fancy Franks is not inexpensive.
AD replying to a comment from Everyman / July 16, 2013 at 03:22 pm
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In that case, I feel bad for you.
Glass / July 16, 2013 at 03:26 pm
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I wouldn't call Caplansky's inexpensive either. Odd list of "inexpensive" places, considering there are a bajillion cheap places immediately south of there in Chinatown. (Unless the intent was to make a list of white-person-food restaurants? Not that there's anything wrong with white-person food. And maybe Jewish deli doesn't count as white-person food.)
loper / July 16, 2013 at 04:20 pm
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Who decided that Porchetta & Co is over-rated? I don't call delicious over-rated.
Hipsteroooooooo / July 16, 2013 at 07:05 pm
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Fancy Frank's and The Grilled Cheese are inexpensive??? Get some perspective. The Clubhouse is in Chinatown, where you can get a lunch combo for $6 or a couple of beef-and-onion-filled buns from a Chinese bakery for $2. What about the Mr. Sub 75 feet away from The Clubhouse, where you can get a 6-inch sandwich stuffed with whatever you want for $5?

But I guess if a restaurant is not hipstery enough, then blogTO doesn't even recognize it as a viable place to eat.
E / July 16, 2013 at 07:50 pm
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Though they are all I have tried, the fish sandwich is the best I have ever had, and there is also an oyster po'boy which is extremely good - for $12 or $14. A great deal. The oysters are frozen ahead of time unfortunately, but they are hand shucked when they come in - not bucket oysters.
lol! / July 16, 2013 at 08:00 pm
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"But I guess if a restaurant is not hipstery enough, then blogTO doesn't even recognize it as a viable place to eat." Best Quote ever, and perfectly valid given that they ignore the real cheap food in the area.
Shawn / July 16, 2013 at 09:14 pm
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I really, really like their fries; the best I've had in ages.
The chicken sandwich was pretty good; not a fan of the avocado, though.
PPL / July 16, 2013 at 11:15 pm
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Their basil marinated fried tomato sandwich is a great vegetarian option! And the fries are one of the best in the city.
AllOverThePlace / July 17, 2013 at 09:12 am
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The fries are excellent. Hands down some of the best I've had.

The sandwiches are very good. I've tried the smoked chicken, fish, oyster, tomato, and the not yet on menu beef sandwich. They are all good. Some better than others but all of us have our preferences.

I don't know where the writer is coming from. It's a $7 sandwich. He's reviewing it like it's a $15 sandwich from a "gourmet" resto. I don't know about you but a $7 smoked chicken sandwich with nuances like chimichurri and fried avocados is hard to find, let alone be of this quality. Frig, a pulled pork sandwich from Big Smoke is $10 and it's not nearly as interesting.

"the sugary notes of the onions muted any herb lustre that might've been there". Get over yourself. You're at a sandwich shop eating a $7 sandwich.

Clubhouse is at least as good as the other places the writer has named, cheaper for most part, and has an unpretentious owner turning out good food.

I'm just calling it like I see it.

Ken / July 17, 2013 at 11:43 am
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Thanks for the honest review Joshua. Great attention to detail in describing the food. I think it's fair to compare this place with similar competitors in the same price point -- Dr.Augusta's, Black Camel, Leslieville Pumps, Porchetta & Co, all around the $7~8 range. Wouldn't call it inexpensive for a lunch, mind you, but that seems to be the going rate for "artisanal" sandwiches around town (barring Chinatown & other bargain neighbourhoods).
TL / July 17, 2013 at 01:57 pm
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Having read this review (and working nearby at U of T) I tried the pork sandwich and potatoes today. It was okay, but you can get better in the neighbourhood. Sanagan's Meat Locker, for one, offers similar -- but tastier -- fare. Plus Sanagan's doesn't have as many hipsters lounging about. Clubhouse is closer to U of T, but that's about the only thing it has going for it.
JC / July 17, 2013 at 02:52 pm
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Usually I don't weigh in after weighing in but...

1. It's an opinion after one visit. The owner is super nice and, I would think, open to constructive criticism. As I said, there was enough pros for me to go back.
2. I review all sorts of places, not just the Scarlet H variety.
3. I didn't specify Chinatown b/c I wanted to keep to sandwich comparisons.
4. Porchetta: again, an opinion. Many other BlogToers love it. Me, I'd rather go to chinatown for bbq pork on rice where you get the cracklin and the meat for cheaper and bigger quantity.
5. I stick by inexpensive. Not cheap cheap but not over $10. Let's face it, food costs are skyrocketing. I paid $5-6 at a "cheap" sandwich shop in parkdale recently; same goes for one I had in Scarborough.

All in all, I try and consider past feedback when I take on future reviews...so thanks!
Thanks replying to a comment from JC / July 17, 2013 at 04:52 pm
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Hey Joshua,

I just want to say it is very nice of you to reply to the commenters and explain your reasoning on a few of the points in the article. I wish more blogTO authors would leave a comment responding to queries or acknowledging points raised by readers.

Cheers.
Ms. Brightside replying to a comment from JC / July 17, 2013 at 08:07 pm
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Ditto! Joshua, you and Chris Bateman are by far the best blogTO journalists! Keep up the good work!! I'm sure I speak for many when I say I look forward to reading more of your reviews and posts. :)
Letterman / July 17, 2013 at 08:45 pm
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I look forward to eating here. Sounds like a promising destination. My comment: your signage is not pretty. That weird American Graffiti typeface is a poo sandwich.
augusta_girl / July 17, 2013 at 09:08 pm
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Tried out The Clubhouse Sandwich Shop today. A few thoughts:

1. Unique flavour profile resulting from a thoughtful and interesting selection of choice ingredients. I am particularly speaking about the steak sandwich which incorporated a great pesto, slaw, and chopped cashew medley!

2. In my personal opinion, I feel The Clubhouse can be classified under the same canopy of restaurants such as Come and Get It and it better executes the sandwich when compared to Come and Get It

3. It is definitely a labour of love coming from the kitchen and you can taste that in each menu item.

4. The fries are indeed AWESOME!



Clo / July 17, 2013 at 11:49 pm
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I've been here several times now, and while the writer has a point, I feel it's an injustice that he wrote a review after trying just two of the sandwiches and photographing just a couple. Everything on the menu is strong. The sandwiches have a great mix of flavours and ingredients. I'm not vegetarian, but I still think about the fried tomato sandwich! The salads and soups are creative, not your typical spring mix or chicken noodle. The fries are seriously the best I've ever had - and if you ask the owner about them, he'll tell you it's a two-day multi-step process to get fries this good.

They also don't mention that the $7 sandwiches here are really large portions. It's not a teeny little fancy artisanal sandwich, so the Clubhouse doesn't bill itself as such. This is a place for sandwiches done with flair from a guy who just wants to serve really good food, and I think he's done a great job.
Downtown girl / July 18, 2013 at 11:24 am
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This place has way better sandwiches than Banh Mi Boys, who definitely are overrated with sandwiches that have a poor meat to bread ratio!
Clubhouse has only opened for a few weeks now and I've already become a regular. Best sandwiches for the price in the area for sure.
Lilou replying to a comment from Clo / July 18, 2013 at 01:01 pm
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I cannot agree with you more! It makes me wonder how someone can become a blogger to represent our whole TO when he only tried 2 out of the 5 sandwhiches...and came up with all this review (?!)

Anyhow, it's good to see something good, healthy, affordable, and actually tastes good happening around the area. Keep up the GREAT work Clubhouse!
K West / July 18, 2013 at 02:11 pm
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So much of the criticism in this review comes down to personal opinion. Where Joshua would prefer the meats to be hotter, I disagree and think the temperature of the sandwiches are perfect. Where he would like the avocado "to melt to a buttery slick, fusing where it may with the cuts of meat", I enjoy the that the smoked chicken sandwich offers a unique take on one of my favorite sandwich toppings... Something I've yet to see anyone offering avocado on a sandwich do anywhere else.

My biggest, and really only, contention with this review is the notion that the smoked chicken sandwich is somehow misleading in its name. I've yet to have one of these sandwiches and not be able to taste the smokey flavour in the meat. Calling it a barbecue chicken sandwich because it has pickled chilli mop sauce on it is like calling your restaurant a barbecue house because you put barbecue sauce on everything before tossing it in the deep fryer.
Reasoning / July 18, 2013 at 03:06 pm
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Wow...this onslaught of comments so passionately in support of this place, thwarting the reviewer's opinions at each turn. I can't for a moment believe, in the few weeks this place has been open, that there are already 7 or 8 people out there who meet all of the following critera:

(a) they have thought really hard about these sandwiches and their composition and their expectations of them;
(b) they all read blogTO and have taken a vested interest in this particular review;
(c) they are extremely passionate about this particular sandwich shop, which has only been around for a few weeks;
(d) beyond reading the review, they have all decided to express their passion by leaving actual comments, most of them taking two paragraphs to explain their opposition to the reviewer's findings.

What I conclude from this is that these comments probably don't represent distinct people (i.e. some of them are from the same person posting at different times), or they are from different people who know the owner and therefore have a vested interest in the shop, or a combination of both.

Just a bit of reasoning.
C'mon replying to a comment from Clo / July 19, 2013 at 10:41 am
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Injustice? Please. Have you ever even read a restaurant review before? You think it is an injustice that the reviewer tried "only" two sandwiches? That's like saying someone reviewing an Italian restaurant needs to try every single pasta dish on the menu before coming up with an opinion. What if there are 15 pastas on the menu? Like any other sensible reviewer, he chose a representative sample from the menu, according to his tastes.

I have to agree with the comment directly above -- most of these over-the-top uber-passionate responses sound made up.
Reasoning replying to a comment from augusta_girl / July 19, 2013 at 04:23 pm
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@augusta_girl (who is probably also "downtown girl")

You can say whatever you want about how great you think The Clubhouse's sandwiches are, but please don't do it by disparaging the offerings at Come and Get It! and Banh Mi Boys. It's great that we have the choice of so many different kinds of sandwich within a few blocks of each other, and there is room for everyone. I'm sure that the owners at those shops wish all the best for The Clubhouse.
Hazel / July 20, 2013 at 10:09 am
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Can't stop eating the fish n chips! Met a few other customers who have told me they were repeat customers as well. Totally addictive fish n fries!
Okay replying to a comment from Hazel / July 20, 2013 at 08:36 pm
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So...you're saying you polled the other customers present in the shop to see if they were repeat customers or not? This thread is getting better and better.
Hazel replying to a comment from Okay / July 21, 2013 at 12:04 am
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No, it's called having a conversation you ass. That's what people do sometimes in public. You must also love this sandwich shop if you keep tabs on this blog ;)

Who died and made you the blog police?

RobbieG / July 22, 2013 at 06:48 am
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Curious to try this place given the amount of conversation it's stirring. In fact I really wish I went there last night...
After barely eating anything all day I went to Caplanskis for a quick fix. Had a sub-par Beef Brisket sandwich with fries and flavourless "meat gravy". Total cost of my quick dinner? $21.45 and I drank water!
Wish I read this article before making that mistake.
pepijn / July 24, 2013 at 08:13 pm
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A friend of mine recommended this place to me and after trying it out it is one of my favorite places for lunch. From the ones I tried so far the pork sandwich is my least favorite for me. As noted by JC the onions mute any flavor and overall it tastes a bit bland. However I do love the chicken sandwich, for me it does have a clear smoky flavor and the texture of the sandwich with the pork crackling and fried avocado is really great, each bite is a little different. I also love the Flank Steak sandwich and the vegetarian fried tomato. I think each of the sandwiches are very unique and well thought out. In my opinion the fries are one of the best I had in Toronto so far. They tempt me each time over the more healthy salad or soup choice. Not that the these are bad on the contrary I have very much enjoyed the soups I had so far especially the pear soup which was excellent (I didnt even know you could make soup out of those). One other aspect of the sandwich clubhouse which keeps me coming back is that the owner is really nice and listens and adjusts his sandwiches to the wishes of his customers. Today he added slices of apple to my Flank Steak sandwich after I suggested previously that I would have liked that.
TobyD / August 14, 2013 at 10:05 am
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If I worked closer to this place, I'd get it for lunch every day! Unfortunately I was only able to stop by that one time during a business meeting. I'll be back again for sure.

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