The Cavalier Daily
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Before packing for home, pack a sandwich-inspired picnic

The spring in Charlottesville is hard to beat - warm weather, blue skies, chirping birds, frisbees and Foxfield. Some University students study in the gardens, some sunbathe in their front yard, some drive to Beaver Creek Park to get a little further away from the University. There's never a better time of the year than now to grab a sandwich, plan a picnic and retreat to the outdoors. Luckily, Charlottesville is the home to quite a number of specialty sandwich shops. What follows are five of Charlottesville's favorites.

Baggby's Gourmet Sandwiches

Baggby's is a small shop on the Downtown Mall nestled in between an assortment of unique gift shops. Known for putting its sandwiches and a free cookie in a brown bag to go, this eatery offers specialty sandwiches, grilled sandwiches and make-it-your-own deli options.

The most popular item at Baggby's is the Navajo chicken sandwich, which combines avocado, bacon, tarragon mayonnaise and grilled chicken on sourdough bread.

Under the specialty listing, the Santa Cruz's ham, turkey, cheese, lettuce and olives mingle between two sides of a warm sub roll. The strong tasting olives are the most exciting ingredients, adding a little kick to the sandwich.

As for the deli side, the turkey breast starts around $4 with additional charges to add cheese, bacon, sprouts, avocado and cucumbers. A sandwich rendered from your own imagination can easily cost more than $6.

Out of the different sides you can order, Mary's potato salad is a good choice. It lightly balances the creamy mayonnaise component with tender and hearty chunks of flavorful potatoes. If you prefer a not-so-mild potato salad, the southwestern potato salad is a bit spicier.

The baked goods are worthwhile. Baggby's unforgettable bars ($1.09), which combine sugary foods such as graham crackers, coconut, caramel and chocolate, are absolutely delicious. The giant chocolate chip cookies, soft and full of gooey chocolate, make the more diminutive free cookies appear dime-size.

Unfortunately, the hours are limited at the downtown location. Baggby's is only open until 4 p.m. during the week and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, so it is somewhat difficult for University students to frequent often. But perhaps the baked goods and ready-to-go brown paper bag will make this shop an enticing stop on the Downtown Mall.

Take It Away

There are a lot of wonderful palate pleasers at Take It Away. A large wine selection, gourmet chocolates, potato chips that will elicit every facial expression imaginable and homemade lemon bars are just a few of the many treats found here. But the real treat is how good the sandwiches taste.

Lunch hour spans the afternoon on Elliewood Avenue as people constantly flow through Take It Away from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The base price for sandwiches hovers under $4. For instance, the rare roast beef costs $3.75 and comes on either French, onion rye, whole wheat or pumpernickel bread accompanied by the specialty dressing. People rave about this "secret" house dressing, which in its tangy creaminess can be likened to a zingy combination of Thousand Island and ranch dressings.

Also excellent are the home-baked breads upon which the sandwiches are made. Particularly tasty is the French bread, which possesses a delicately flaky crust with a wonderfully soft and flavorful inside. Chunks of the breads, "bread ends," can be purchased by the bagful for a very reasonable 50 cents and make great snacks and sandwich parts.

Cheese adds 40 cents to any sandwich price and cucumbers or sprouts are 30 cents each. For under $5, you get a really tasty sandwich at Take It Away. And be sure to wash your sandwich down with one of the gooey, coconut-rich fudge-a-roons and a gourmet juice or soda.

Such details are really what make this shop stand out. Its sandwiches are not overwhelmed with toppings; they rely on the quality of the meat and the fresh-baked bread. But as you look around the small shop, there are so many other wonderful things to try.

The cookies are soft and homemade and laden with chips and chunks of all kinds. The lemon bars are rich in flavor, which can make finishing one a difficult ordeal. The display case is filled with a variety of pastas and vegetable salads. Ghirardelli chocolate squares, Lindt balls and tins of Altoids sit by the register teasing you. Service is quick and friendly.

The hardest thing about planning a picnic at Take It Away is deciding what not to take.

Littlejohn's Deli

It seems implausible for someone to have never eaten at Littlejohn's New York Deli. Open 24 hours a day, it is as crowded at 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning as it is for lunch the day before. Most of its offerings fall under the sandwich category or the submarine category. No sandwich costs more than $5, and some are even under $4.

The pigskin sandwich comes with ham, melted cheddar, bacon, tomatoes and onions on pumpernickel dressed in Dijon mustard and Thousand Island sauce. Served warm, the pigskin is rather sweet thanks to the tastes of the ham, bacon, and tomatoes.

The Rueben is thickly stacked with corned beef, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese on rye bread and is appealing in its biting flavor.

Slightly more beefy, the submarines come in traditional creations and some wilder ones. The Italian is popular, combining ham, salami, pepperoni, and provolone supported by a chorus of toppings and a dripping of Italian dressing. The blue max submarine is not so traditional. It is made up of turkey, Muenster, sprouts, blue cheese and Italian dressing. Most of the sandwiches and submarines go through the conveyor belt oven that warms each creation.

Besides the sandwiches and subs, the baked goods at Littlejohn's deserve recognition. The chocolate chip and nut-filled blondies are excellent and are worth a trip in and of themselves. The large muffins make filling snacks.

Littlejohn's supplies all the late-night picnics on Grounds with its round-the-clock service. The Styrofoam containers are easily portable and the sandwiched space inside is the perfect accompaniment to a late night rendezvous across from the Rotunda steps.

Zazus

Zazus has a lot of faithful followers. And after tasting its wraps, you can see why it makes perfect sense. What else makes perfect sense is how easy it is to order ahead and then stop by the Ivy Road location before you continue toward Humpback Rock.

In a plain-view assembly line, the workers add rice, black beans, chicken, beef, feta cheese, olives, carrots or almost anything else, so that each wrap gets made the way you want.

The most popular item is the Santa Fe wrap, which combines marinated chicken or steak, rice, black beans, cheese or sour cream and salsa. Enclosed in a large, soft and flaky flour tortilla, the overstuffed ingredients meld together very well, oozing out of the wrap with every savory bite.

Other exciting wraps include the Mediterranean, which puts chicken, cucumber yogurt sauce, tomatoes, feta cheese, olives, spinach and rice together. The Thai mixes peanut sauce and carrots with the chicken and rice.

It's hard to go wrong here. Even the price is reasonable for the size of the wraps: $5.19.

Zazus also make several frozen-yogurt smoothies that are great compliments to the wraps and to outdoor dinning. The Berry Tasty includes strawberries, blueberries, peaches and orange juice. Although tasty, the smoothie was looser in consistency than others we've had.

The baked goods are easily overlooked. The chocolate chip cookies are hard, and we would not recommend them - especially considering that Arch's, the University frozen yogurt bastion, is located right next door.

Zazus is a great option for a picnic. Get two smoothies, two wraps, a Frisbee, borrow a dog and go play.

Bellair Market

Where Ivy Road meets Route 29 just west of the University and just down the street from Zazus, you'll find a little Exxon gas station. One thing that separates it from other gas stations in town is the size of the parking lot. Easily capable of handling 25 cars, the parking lot at Bellair Market is one indication of the great sandwiches that are made inside.

For the last six years, Bellair Market, located inside the Exxon shop, has been making high-quality sandwiches named after famous Charlottesville people and locations, including a Jefferson and a Monticello.

The Ednam is very popular and pairs smoked turkey with avocado and bacon. Surprisingly good together, the avocado and crisp bacon secures this sandwich the "neatest combination of ingredients" award. The smoked turkey is rich in taste and balances out the harsher avocado and bacon.

A display case is filled with different salads and sides. The potato salad is created traditionally by mixing pieces of eggs with the potatoes, Southern-style.

Although the cookies are not baked on the premises, they are still worth buying. Additionally, the cornbread is moist and delicious and adds to any picnic.

Large refrigerators line the back wall of Bellair Market containing all sorts of drinks. From obscure brands to name brands and milk to beer, anything you would like to drink can be found there. A limited wine selection is provided as well.

You visit Bellair Market because it is in a gas station, but you keep coming back because the sandwiches are so good.

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