- Alex Springer
Holiday season 2020 is officially upon us, and I'm guessing the ol' pandemic has thrown a wrench in the gears of more than a few planned gatherings. It's difficult to muster up the motivation to cook up a big spread and entertain family members even as Utah isn't surging with COVID-19 cases, but this year such a thing is downright irresponsible.
If I may offer some advice, I'd tell you to give yourself a free pass this year. Throw all the prepping, dish washing and quality time that forces you to endure that uncle you hate and that cousin that's trying to steal your identity out the window this year while planting your feet firmly on the high ground.
"But what to eat?" I hear you say. You need something festive, but convenient. I get it. You also need something that perfectly embodies Thanksgiving in the year of our Lord two thousand and twenty. Ladies and gentlemen, I present for your consideration the humble turkey cranberry sandwich. It's the perfect fistful of low-maintenance holiday flavor, and I think that's what we all need right now. I scoured the Wasatch Front for the finest iteration, and here are the results.
Robin's Nest (311 S. Main Street, 801-466-6378, facebook.com/robinsnestslc): Any local sandwich quest is incomplete without a trip to this downtown favorite. Robin's Nest has variations on most of the American sandwich lexicon, and The Gobbler is their tribute to this Thanksgiving favorite. It's a sliced turkey number, piled high with melted provolone, avocado, lettuce, mayo and a homemade cranberry spread, all crammed between two slices of perfect ciabatta. Like most sandwiches at Robin's Nest, this one is a flavor knockout—each one of those elements shows up to tickle the tongue at precisely the right moment. This is the only one on the list to use avocado, which adds yet another layer of creaminess to the show. While I love the buttery consistency that The Gobbler has from crust to crust, I do like my turkey cranberry sandwich to have a bit more textural diversity—which is a great excuse to ask them to throw some bacon into the mix for you.
Kneaders (Multiple locations, kneaders.com): This one has long been my go-to turkey cranberry sandwich—mostly because there's a Kneaders really close to where I live, and I'm lazy. It still holds up when compared it to other contenders on this list, however. It's served on a croissant, which lets the principal flavors stand out since they're not squashed between two thick slices of bread. Kneaders also doesn't screw around with their turkey—this stuff is also hand-pulled and always tastes fresh. The turkey component is the foundation of this sandwich, and this is where Kneaders really shines. Their cranberry spread, on the other hand, becomes the weakest link. It's got a subtle sweetness, but it doesn't do a whole lot more to remind you that it's made from cranberries, since it lacks the tart teeth that best complements the turkey. I feel that if Kneaders upped their cranberry game, this sandwich could be the Frank Dux of this turkey cranberry Kumite.
Village Baker (Multiple locations, villagebakerfood.com): Village Baker has taken a risky bet with their turkey cranberry sandwich, and while I respect it, I don't know if it quite makes the grade. It's the kind of sandwich place where the bread, delicious as it is, comes in gigantic slabs, making the sandwich interior feel like it's playing a supporting role. Their version has sliced turkey, a generous heap of decent cranberry spread, mayo ... and that's it. I call this risky because, while it does taste good, it's playing to the hope that the diner will be transfixed by the soft white bread—luxurious as a Van der Hilst pillow—and pay little mind to the ingredients within. While I admit that there are times when I want the bread around the sandwich more than the sandwich as a whole, it doesn't feel quite right for the holidays. However, if your Thanksgiving journey requires something a bit more unorthodox, then it could be right up your alley.
Capriotti's Sandwich Shop (Multiple locations, capriottis.com): Capriotti's is a national chain of sub shops that made a name for itself with none other than a turkey cranberry sandwich known as The Bobbie. I had never been to Capriotti's before, but I had to check out a place that was so spiritually aligned with my holiday sandwich quest. After sampling The Bobbie—a sub with pulled turkey, cranberry spread, mayo and scoops of turkey stuffing—I must say this is a contender. Turkey and cranberry are tasty year-round, but if you're after a sandwich that smacks you in the face with Thanksgiving, this is your endgame for a few reasons. They have the pulled turkey, which always edges out sliced turkey in my book. Also, the stuffing—while not stellar—adds a crucial level of herbaceous flavor and extra starch one would expect from Thanksgiving leftovers. It may not be the best overall sandwich here, but it just might be the best Thanksgiving sandwich on this list.