Sushi donuts and sushi tacos on the menu at fast casual Oakland spot.
Munch is a simple sort, floating through life like a bubble on a breeze, taking long lunches at every opportunity. As the Dalai Lama once said to Munch over a BLT, Take a long lunch whenever possible. It is always possible. It's a life philosophy that isn't embraced by everybody, especially punctilious editors:
Editor of Munch: "You've been gone for three hours!"
Munch: "Blame the Dalai Lama! That reminds me, I have to skip out early today."
Anyhow. Organized religion isn't Munch's cup of tea (or Munch's BLT for that matter), but Munch certainly appreciates that level of determined simplicity from a restaurant. Why bother offering a pizza if your pizza is just going to taste like tomato paste on cardboard? The common advice for writers is: Write what you know. Restaurants: Serve what you know.
Fadz Sandwich Shop on Smithfield Street purports to know sandwiches. It is not a six-pack shop; it does not serve chicken wings; it does not have a daily pasta special; there are no cheese plates, no tapas, no peripheral frills of any kind. No, it serves sandwiches -- 26 of them at last count, all served on a flat 8-inch bun, the perfect width and height for shoving into your pie hole.
No, it doesn't have pie, either.
OK, muncha cupla, there are salads here, too, and basically they have the same ingredients as the sandwiches, except lettuce substitutes for bread and then banana peppers are added. Voila! Salad. And there are french fries and onion rings, possibly because the deep fryer was sitting in the corner when Fadz moved into the place.
Before it was Fadz, 633 Smithfield St. was El Azteca Mexican restaurant, and before that The Noodle Nook, both of which have passed on to that Big Dive Restaurant in the Sky (and the same thing happened to Dumplinz Cafe across the street, which Munch had hoped to visit on the day of the Fadz luncheon). Can a restaurant survive in this hole-in-the-wall venue, so cramped and narrow and devoid of personality?
The size of the lunch crowd was promising. (Then again, there are big crowds at monster truck rallies. No accounting for taste, I guess). When Munch, Colleague of Munch (COM) and Wannabe Munch (WM) stopped in, just before noon, we found the place mostly empty, so we strolled up to the counter and placed our orders. Minutes later, the line was 20 deep, twisting toward the door, a riot of hungry Downtown workers.
The masses had spoken.
All of the sandwiches have names at Fadz. It's one of the sandwich shop commandments: Thou Shalt Give Goofy Names to Your Sandwiches. A steak and cheese is no longer a steak and cheese; it is now The Old Geezer. A hot sausage sandwich becomes The Nolan. Fried fish and cheese becomes The Pirate. All of the sandwiches are between $5.49 and $6.49.
Munch scanned the menu on the wall and was drawn The Zach Attack, roast beef and Swiss dressed in lettuce, tomato and mayo ($6.49). COM settled on The Park ($6.49) -- steak, mushrooms, green peppers and provolone. WM, feeling adventurous, ordered The Greek ($6.49) -- gyro meat, cucumber sauce and banana peppers.
Gyro meat? Not lamb? This didn't portend good things. I have my own set of commandments, one of which is, Never order a sandwich if they don't identify the meat. Sure enough, WM was unimpressed with the sandwich. She picked at it for a few minutes, then inevitably steered the conversation toward Munch's retirement plans.
"Hey, I heard the PG is offering buyouts," Wannabe piped. "Are you taking one, Munch?"
"Nice try, sister. They'll have to pry this paper bag off of my cold, dead melon."
Munch and COM got better results. Munch's sandwich was simple (there's that theme again!) but well-executed -- toasty, hefty, beefy, warm. COM's cheesesteak compared favorably with others she has eaten -- not a trace of grease, no goopy mess of cheese and meat spilling over the bun. "I'd feel safe wearing khakis while eating this meal." Safety first, kids.
The service was brusque, satisfying the Gloomy Gourmand side of Munch, as it gives me something to complain about. The restrooms were up a flight of stairs. The ADA folks surely wouldn't swoon over this place, but the Dalai Lama just might.