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The things I cannot change

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It’s been a rough couple of food years for me. If you haven’t heard, in November 2012, Hostess decided that the Twinkie was no longer the invaluable, preservative-laden sugar log America had come to love and depend on. They stopped making them here in the states (but thank God our knit cap, Canada, still produces the goods in their factories), which sent people like my folks into post-apocalypse-induced Twinkie hoarding mode.

Unfortunately, I inherited this incessant need to keep my food routines the same.

Food is comfort (here is where you need to stop the urge to play armchair psychologist and delve into my unhealthy relationship with food—I know what kind of abusive relationship I’m in here), and comfort is a necessary part of sanity.

So imagine my surprise when I recently set foot into Sal’s Sandwiches in downtown San Luis Obispo after a few-month hiatus, to find it an entirely different enterprise than when it began.

As the fledgling third business in the Kreuzberg Empire, Sal’s Sandwiches gained its footing by catering to a broad and hungry lunch crowd.

There were dozens of unique, small-batch sodas; sandwiches with names my grandmother would blush at; and a young, friendly, hip staff. Things certainly weren’t perfect, but you felt a progressive, dare I say … intrepid air about Sal’s that made you think they knew their clientele and were trying (but in that cool, not trying kind of way) to keep them coming back.

In other words: Sal’s was a hipster oasis in a desert of predictable chain restaurants.

It was love at first bite for me once I tried “The Ugly Sweater,” a sandwich comprised of turkey and cranberry sauce (Thanksgiving day in your mouth, people!), wrapped in a fresh, slightly crunchy bread roll. I was hooked.

But my recent visit to Sal’s left me … underwhelmed. First, the once-vast variety of bottled sodas is no more. They also changed some of the names on the menu (the Ugly Sweater is now the Fugly Sweater, which makes me think the cast of Mean Girls is now working at Sal’s as prep chefs), as well as the look of the joint (there’s now a quaint repurposed wheel barrel out front, and the whole thing looks like a display room for Pottery Barn).

That’s all fine and dandy if you like that sort of thing, and God knows people in this town lap up the Pottery Barn thing like it’s going out of style (spoiler alert: it’s not), but if you’re like me, it’s a bit disappointing to see such a unique business turn to such lunch-place standards.

Hopefully this is just one of Sal’s many forms, and the next time I go in there it will have that joyful, unique air about it. The sandwiches are still pretty killer, and the staff is always friendly, so I have a lot of hipster hope for the place. ∆

Calendar Editor Maeva Considine wants your food-related news! Send it to her at bites@newtimesslo.com

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