Our feelings about Zingerman’s have undergone several shifts since we made our first visit while apartment hunting in the summer of 2009.
At first, we were smitten. We had breakfast at the Deli two days in a row, and brought back Zing treats for our friends in DC. My coworkers at GW gave me a gift card for Zing as a going-away present. When Jenn and Bill came to visit, we did the whirlwind Tour de Food and got wildly oversized Zing shirts.
At some point, our opinions started to change. I mean, the sandwiches are great, but who really needs to spend $15 on a single sandwich? I worked at the mail order operation over the holidays and was astounded that people would pay $80-125 plus shipping to send a couple of reubens across the country. Even though I knew exactly how good the coffeecake was, I had a hard time justifying the $25-50 price tag. It’s a coffeecake, people. A really good coffeecake, but a coffeecake nonetheless. When people would ask us about Zingerman’s, we’d agree that yeah, it was great, but also pretty overrated.
On the other hand, there’s absolutely nothing overrated about their service. Everything sold by the mail order is guaranteed period – which I can vouch for first-hand, as when a birthday package of cheese and bread went astray en route to Brooklyn, it was replaced without question, even though the original (soggy) package turned up a few days later. At the Deli, they practically stumble over each other while trying to offer you samples of anything you’d like. Want to try $200 ham? Sure, here’s a slice. Do you like pistachio? Eat this. Now. You don’t like salmon? Try just a tiny bite of this and chase it with this cornichon if you really hate it. As far as I know, the only thing that is off limits for tasting is the $750 balsamic vinegar.
I mention this because tonight I didn’t feel like cooking, and instead suggested that we grab a sandwich at Zingerman’s. The “fish guy” – we don’t know his real name, so that’s what we call him – came over to say hi and gave us recommendations on his favorite sandwich – the Cuban Conundrum – which we ended up ordering. He also begged us to try a celery soda, which we split three ways and enjoyed a great deal more than expected.
I’ll be honest: I didn’t love the sandwich. It was a fine sandwich, accompanied by a pair of fine pickles – old and garlicky for me, new and cucumbery for Shane. When I pay top dollar for a sandwich, I expect a damned fine sandwich. But when you factor in the friendly greetings and conversation, the quality of ingredients, the generous samples, and the enthusiasm for sharing good things, I don’t feel like we spent too much at all.