Picnic Spot: On the steps at the end of Evanston Ave N., FREMONT.
Picnic Supplies: Royal Grinders, 3526 Fremont Place N., 545-7560, www.royalgrinders.com
Picnic for Two: Two sandwiches, each with a free drink, plus two bags of chips and a tip came to $20.
The gigantic sign outside of Royal Grinders reads “GELATO,” and it wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that I even realized they sold sandwiches. Now I’m kicking myself for not discovering them sooner.
The friendly guys who work there were happy to explain that the "marinara sweet chile sauce" was basically a tangy marinara sauce and then assured us that everyone likes it. They also took their time making the sandwiches, which was encouraging. I can’t tell you how many sandwiches I’ve seen haphazardly slapped together before my very eyes while I’m standing there wondering, “You know I can see you, right?”
After getting the subs and picking out our chips and free drinks, it was only a couple of blocks to the Fremont steps, located along the Burke Gilman at the end of Evanston Ave N. It’s the perfect spot for watching passing bikers and joggers, plus it’s nice to see the boats drift by on their way to or from the Fremont Bridge. We got a couple of friendly on-board waves and even a horn blast.
We ordered one Royal Grinder, which comes with roast beef, ham, provolone, swiss, tomato, red onions, black olives, peperoncini, and homemade zesty grinder sauce, and a Lenin’s Club, a grilled panini that has turkey, bacon, provolone, tomato, red onion, lettuce, mayo, and that marinara sweet chili sauce.
The Royal Grinder sandwich was flawless. I firmly believe that it is the bread that makes a good sandwich great. Most places nowadays have decent meats and cheeses, but when you put them on a bread that’s too hard or soft, it doesn’t matter how high-quality the ingredients are -- the sandwich is ruined. The Royal Grinder's excellent bread is thick enough to hold everything together, but not so much that it overpowers the filling; plus, it isn’t so crusty that it rips up the roof of your mouth. Everything inside was toasted to melty, gooey perfection. While a bit messy, the grinder was so good neither of us minded licking the dribbles of our fingers and arms.
On its own, the Lenin's Club probably would have been decent, but next to the other sandwich, it had no luster. Both of us left our halves of the panini half-finished, lamenting that we should have gotten another grinder.
We didn’t order any gelato this time, but I have been in since my picnic, and it’s not bad. They have a gimmick that will probably keep me coming back, since I'm a sucker for cute ideas: a free “Lenny Scoop” with every gelato purchase, which is a cherry-size scoop of any flavor you want to try.
Walk it Off: I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that the Burke Gilman is a wonderful trail for walking off your meal. I prefer heading west toward Golden Gardens because there’s a nice bit of grass that runs along your left if you decide to lie down and digest horizontally.