“The Cube”—a hollowed-out block of brioche stuffed with French fries or mac ‘n cheese—started off as an inside joke, a riff off the mystery boxes in Super Mario Bros. that reward players with medals or mushrooms, super leaves or fire flowers.
“We were, like, let’s just have fun with this—let’s stuff it with fries,” says Vanessa Pang, one of four owners of south San Jose’s newest sandwich spot, Off the Street. “Then we started getting crazy. We stuffed it with pastrami, pulled pork, whatever we had in the kitchen.”
The result is a starch bomb that’s generated something of a cult following and is probably best served to competitive eaters or gluttonous groups of three or more. The poutine version comes filled with fries and drenched with gravy. The macaroni-stuffed cube comes topped with either pulled pork or bacon, smothered in melted cheese and sprinkled with croutons. Meat and cheese on bread and more bread for $15 a pop. There’s a reason it’s reserved for the late-night menu, along with chicken and waffles, chili fries and other dishes one craves after a bout of heavy drinking.
Off the Street’s strength is its simpler fare: sandwiches packed with smoked meats and bread baked with a wild starter. Co-owner Aric Dang made the starter in his home kitchen, adding persimmons from a backyard tree to give it a subtle tang. Pang, inspired by a Russian deli where she used to work, smokes all the meats herself.
“We want to make sure all the ingredients are really, really good,” says Pang, who runs the place with Dang and partners Ton Luong and Vinh Quoch.
The pork belly sandwich ($9)—slow-baked pork on a sourdough roll with a crunch from cucumber and a kick from hot Korean barbeque sauce—is one of the more popular items. Also a favorite: the house-smoked pastrami ($10.50) with sauerkraut, creamy Russian dressing and Swiss cheese melted on a rye roll.
Pang’s pulled pork ($9) appears not just on “The Cube” but the lunch menu, too, served atop a Dutch crunch roll packed with coleslaw and house-made barbeque sauce. There’s cold smoked salmon with caramelized onions ($10.50), chipotle chicken with melted brie ($9) and, the lone veggie option, a grilled squash sandwich ($7). Soup depends on the day and salads include Caesar ($6.50) and a “Stuff Salad” with mandarin oranges, olives, feta and balsamic ($6.50).
Both Pang and Dang defected from fine dining—the uber-luxe and Michelin Star’d Plumed Horse in Saratoga—to run their own lunch spot. Tucked away in a Blossom Hill strip mall populated by chain restaurants and grocery stores, Off the Street invites like a dorm common room, stocked with board games, a wide-screen TV playing Nickelodeon, an antique radio and a well-worn leather couch.
A quirky assortment of prints decorate the walls—a black cat strapped with missiles (drawn by Pang), an abstract rendering of a red fox, comic book covers and a painted-on chalkboard where patrons have scrawled a turkey (last week it was an elephant).
The deli owners favor the off-the-wall and experimental. “This is all us,” Pang says, pointing to hand-drawn art on the tabletops. “We want this to be fun and a little weird.”
Find more dining options with the SanJose.com Sandwich Shops Directory.