Shop of the Sub Genius
by D.J. Palladino
When it comes to sandwiches, Santa Barbara’s never been a bad place. The biggest problem has always been that the best are more money than you want to spend, and the affordable ones far less than remarkable. But now there is immediate relief for the cruel cost/taste dilemma. It’s called Three Pickles, which does not mean an automatic trio of cornichons will adorn your every purchase. The three guys who run the place call themselves such. “These are the pickles,” a friend said by way of introduction to Bob Lovejoy and his crew.
Situated near the Presidio Dining Corridor (inside the invisible footpad of the gone Spanish Fort Imperialismo), Three Pickles is sandwiched (sorry) between Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens — where the human pickles all hang out regularly — and the Sojourner. The sunshine-splashed walls boast reprints of Earl Warren psychedelic posters and newspapers pinned behind frames, so you can read them while sitting along the wall. The place, friendly and relaxed, reminds you of little pizza joints near Beacon Hill in Boston.
But the proof is in the meatball. This kind of sub has an embarrassing ubiquity. Everybody thinks they can make one, but it takes sheer talent to make a great sauce, both spicy and sweet; meatballs that don’t have as much bread as Ty Warner; nicely herbed with unguent cheese on Italian bread of strong crust and absorbent heart. Three Pickles pulled it off, and left me squealing with delight and wiping my smeared lips — just ask my pals. Likewise, the Italian sausage sub. The third member of our illustrious (and anonymous) exploratory party ordered the pastrami. I don’t know if you take this twice-refined piece of brisket as seriously as I do, but I now worship at the temple of Three Pickles. It’s an unorthodox, bacony thin-sliced presentation, but nicely moist and heaped high.
Every sandwich should nestle in the freshness and flavor of the bread they use, the pickle relish is excellent and, so I’ve heard, are the subs. It might be early to declare the death of a dilemma, but for the moment, the $5 pastrami makes Santa Barbara proud.
4·1·1 Three Pickles, 128 E. Canon Perdido #A, 965-1015.