“The bread makes the sandwich.”
My father taught me that maxim, and I’ve always found it to be true. But, especially when you’re working with lower-quality ingredients, a nice selection of sauces really does add to things. If you’ve got crunchy French bread, heirloom tomatoes, crisp lettuce, rare roast beef, and good, cold aged white cheddar cheese ((Sorry for the indulgence, that’s my favorite sandwich and I’m really hungry right now.)) then any sauce, besides maybe a little bit of mayo, is a travesty. But when the ingredients can’t speak for themselves, an interesting sauce can be a saving grace. Morfy’s, ((“Morfy’s”. Bad name for a restaurant. Someone told me the owner named it after his dog. Bad name for a dog too.)) a sandwich place near the water, relies on that concept – they encourage customers to slather things like “Mayo with Bacon” all over their chicken in an effort to distract them from how bad the chicken is. Unfortunately for Morfy’s, their sandwiches are too far-gone to be saved by any sauce. It doesn’t work at Morfy’s but I get the idea – make up for tasteless food with flavorful sauces.
As you can probably tell, I didn’t enjoy my meal at Morfy’s, sauce or no sauce. But it did inspire me to start changing the way I choose where to eat. I want to start adopting a system I see many of my fellow travelers use, which I’m calling “Go Big or Go Home”. Here’s the basic thinking within the context of the past few days:
Go Big or Go Home
Morfy’s, in all its flavorlessness, wasn’t expensive but it also wasn’t cheap. Big sandwich, high season, resort town, combo with fries and a coke – that adds up. 80 pesos.
El Boliche de Alberto, where I had the steak to end all steaks, was on the expensive side but it was both excellent and a proven commodity. Everyone knows about El Boliche de Alberto. It’s a proven commodity, a local treasure, the place to go. 160 pesos.
As the name implies, Go Big or Go Home means only going to the El Boliche de Albertos of the world, albeit less frequently, and never wasting money at a Morfy’s. You either eating at the most recommended restaurant you can find, regardless of cost, or you’re cooking something cheap in the hostel kitchen.
And El Boliche de Alberto was only twice as expensive! Though it should be noted that that ratio (2/1 , between a forgettable sandwich place and the best steakhouse in town) is skewed for a couple reasons: Morfy’s is a ripoff, I ordered a drink at Morfy’s and not at El Boliche de Alberto, El Boliche de Alberto is cheap for how great it is, etc. But still, a lot of backpackers adhere to this system at far higher ratios. They're cooking pasta-and-vegetables for every meal for days on end, and then having a well-deserved luxurious meal at the famous restaurant that's all on all the travel websites.
The system is flawed and hardly groundbreaking. There's something to be said for wandering into a completely unknown place and exploring a city's restaurants on your own terms, rather than being fully directed by the reviews of people who came before you. And cooking in the hostel can get old quickly. But, still, it's something I need to move towards. I've wasted far too much money at Morfy's.