Cold Turkey is a new downtown restaurant banking on the success of its 11 signature sandwiches. It's located on 6th St., a few doors down from Benihana, at what can only be described as a cursed location that had housed such defunct restaurants as Rise and Shine Cafe and Frisch's.
The restaurant's fliers and website implore patrons to "break the boring lunch habit," emphasizing freshness and a general disdain for fryers, microwaves and freezers. The seven-dollar sandwiches can be prepared either with Texas toast or as a wrap.
The place itself seemed cavernous, a very open space with a long row of bar stools and tables leading to a rear room of even more tables. Paintings from local artists hung from the walls, ready for purchase.
Many of the sandwich concoctions are compelling on paper: there's "The Death of Elvis," slathered with peanut butter, banana slices, honey and cocoa on cinnamon-swirl bread; the "Maui Waui," with ham, bacon, fruit relish and swiss cheese; and the "Vegetarian Philly," made with marinated portabella mushrooms, banana peppers, onions, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.
I was feeling the need for a spicy lunch, so I choose the "Buffalo Turkey Salad" sandwich, roasted, buffalo-style turkey with onion, mayonnaise, celery, lettuce, tomato and blue cheese. The Cajun Pretzels seemed like an appropriate way to round out the meal, so I ordered a side.
The chicken salad itself was pleasingly lacking a lot of mayonnaise. I like the kinds of tuna and chicken salads that make you feel like you're not eating something quite so calorific, even if you actually are. Alas, I was disappointed in the Buffalo Turkey Salad sandwich's lack of flavor. Where was the spice? And how is it possible that I couldn't discern even the most minute hint of blue cheese? The hearty Texas Toast helped maintain the structural integrity of the sandwich, but I couldn't help but wonder if the owners had chosen that type of bread only to make it seem larger than it was.
The pretzels, on the other hand, were bursting with flavor. The Cajun style coating was heavy on the spice, not the heat, and were difficult to set down. They easily stole the show, leaving my tongue tingling several minutes after having finished them.
By far the biggest detractor of Cold Turkey is the price. Even for downtown, a $7 sandwich and a $2 side seem outrageous, especially given that Pot Belly serves hearty sandwiches for just $4.50 and Chipotle can overload you with burrito goodness for less than $6. If you're going to promote seven-dollar sandwiches, they better taste like they're worth seven dollars. They don't.
I haven't given up on Cold Turkey; the Elvis sandwich sounds too good to pass up and they offer a few interesting soups, including a refreshing gazpacho. It brings me no pleasure to knock an independent restaurant, especially one that has just opened and is trying to survive in these tough economic times. But the restaurant owners need to quickly re-evaluate their food prices if they hope to survive amid more reasonably-priced, flavorful competitors.