Sandwiches by any means necessary
Ernest and Jo Ann Roybal are serious sandwich people. They've gotten kicked out of a shopping mall, driven insane distances and even tagged their own wall—all in the name of bringing homemade sandwiches and salads to hungry Albuquerqueans. And they've done it all with a smile and a side of potato salad.
The Roybals' sandwich, salad and ice cream shop, Munchies, is yet another example of a well-kept local secret. Semi-hidden in a small strip mall at 9901 Lomas NE, this delicioso delicatessen specializes in thick, filling-heavy sandwiches, mile-high salads and the best darned egg salad in the city.
I snuck in right at closing time on a Thursday night, and instead of the "we're closed, buzz off" attitude that you might expect, I was welcomed with two kind faces, and tons of tasty samples to make my dinner selection easier.
The interior is a small but lovingly decorated space with handpainted walls, chairs and handmade tile tables. The indoor space may be a bit diminutive, but the back patio seats 50, and comes complete with a concrete wall that owner Ernest will actually paint, upon request, for special events.
"We can do it in your favorite colors—with a “happy birthday” and your name," he said proudly. "We are taggers, but we do clean up after ourselves."
In addition to the shop, they also cater and deliver, and have a surprisingly large radius that they will travel. Ernest has driven to Rio Rancho and even Corrales to deliver large orders.
The sandwich portion of the menu is standard deli fare, but it's made fresh every day, and their signature marbled wheat-and-white bread is hand-sliced to order. Customers can choose thick or thin bread slices, toasted or soft; and every sandwich comes with mustard, mayo, sprouts, tomatoes, onions, lettuce and a pickle. All of their sandwiches are priced around $5 for a whole, or $2.50 to $3 for a half. Hungrier munchers can choose from two combos with a whole sandwich, chips and a drink for $6.05, or a half sandwich, small salad and a drink for $5.45.
Munchies offers classic fillings such as pastrami, roast beef, turkey, ham and avocado, but there's also a long list of hand-prepared salads like tuna salad, ham salad, turkey or chicken, and even a cheese salad. I ordered the egg salad, and it was absolutely perfect—spreadable and thick, with tiny, almost crushed egg pieces, and just enough salt and black pepper to season without overwhelming it.
The chicken salad was much the same—savory and almost smooth. To me, a great salad filling should be much like the mortar in between bricks. If it's not blended right, you'll get drippies on your shirt, and chunks that escape from the sides.
I was pleasantly surprised to see the amount of deli meat on their sandwiches.
"Most places like Subway only use two ounces of meat," said Ernest. "We use four—it's a good value."
The salad section of the menu is nothing to sneeze at either. It includes a huge chef or vegetarian chef salad for $5.25, and an assortment of sweet or savory side salads like pasta salad, cole slaw and fresh fruit, plus nostalgic dishes like ambrosia, pistachio dream and cherry delight—all $2.45 for a small side, or $3.95 for a large one.
Munchies also has an ice cream bar featuring hand-scooped Dreyer's in all of the usual flavors, and a few interesting ones like banana split, pumpkin and maple walnut.
So what's the deal with getting kicked out of the mall? Ernest said that he knows how competitive the food service business is, and so he practices self-promotion.
"You have to be aggressive; I passed out 150 menus in one day," he said. Apparently he took a stack of them to Coronado mall to distribute among the shops, and was booted out.
"But now three or four of those shops order from us every week," said a grinning Ernest.
I was glad to have found a great new sandwich shop, and the Roybals' tough-
"We can all help each other," said Ernest. "We know how hard it is out there."