The Sandwich: The Provençal
Where: Maison Kayser, 1345 F St. NW
Stuffings: Grilled chicken, artichoke tapenade, arugula, tomatoes, pecorino cheese, garlic aioli
Bread: Olive bread
Thickness: 2 inches
Pros: At first glance, this megachain of French boulangeries with more than 100 locations in 20 plus countries seems like many of the other grab-and-go lunch spots with a bit of Parisian flair where hurried downtown workers can pick up a sandwich or salad from a refrigerated case. But after one bite, you realize that the bread is the real deal. The crisp loaf is studded with briny green olives and holds up to the sauced vegetables without getting soggy. Despite sitting preassembled for hours, the tomatoes and arugula still taste fresh.
Cons: Artichoke tapenade is the second ingredient listed on the label, but you can hardly taste it. This is a shame because it would add a bit more funk to the plain combination of chicken, aioli, and cheese. For a prepackaged sandwich, the nearly $10 price tag is a bit steep, though it seems like a bargain when compared to the $16.50 Maison Kayser charges for its Frenchified take on a chicken club in its separate dining room.
Sloppiness level (1 to 5): 1. The olive loaf is thick enough and wide enough to hold all of the ingredients, so they stay where they should. Aioli, spread in a thin layer, stays on the bread and doesn’t ooze out from the sides.
Overall score (1 to 5): 3.5. It’s not the most exciting sandwich you’ll find in D.C., nor is it the most affordable, but if you’re a bread snob looking for something better than the mushy loaves found at other quick lunch spots, it’s worth spending an extra dollar or two at Maison Kayser.