Today’s Sandwich: Chicken Salad (Clayton’s Cafe)
Today’s sandwich is chicken salad, from Clayton’s Cafe in Yarmouth. It combines white chicken breast, tossed with Danish bleu cheese, mayonnaise, red grapes and lettuce, on sourdough bread.
Location: 447 Route One, Yarmouth
Notes: As does nearly any self-respecting white anglo-saxon protestant, I expect a certain amount of fruit in my mayonnaise-based salads. My mom’s coleslaw always had raisins in it, and often pineapple. I have eaten Ambrosia salad at a picnic. And yes, I have known the cooling touch of a Summer Waldorf salad. Under normal circumstances, I’ll have savory, stinky sandwiches, piled high with peppered salami and smeared with taleggio. But when my fancy turns to chicken salad, I want it to be jammed up with plenty of things other than chicken. I want candied pecans. I want curry and apples. And, as the chicken salad is served at Clayton’s cafe, I want halved red seedless grapes and chunks of bleu cheese.
Recommended by two readers on the From Away Facebook page, Clayton’s Cafe is exactly what a fine sandwich shop should be. A large space, with plenty of tables for dining in, alone with a newspaper, or with a group. A gorgeous case of bakery items, including homemade Pop Tarts, oversized cupcakes, giant chocolate-dipped macaroons, topped with bins full of old-timey penny candy. One whole wall is devoted to prepared salads, entrees, a daily selection of soups, and freshly-made sandwiches. Local art and photography lines the walls, and the staff is friendly, outgoing, and hospitable, without a trace of the smugness sometime found in places that know how special their beautiful, handcrafted food is.
When you unwrap a sandwich from Clayton’s, it’s hard to believe just how much lunch you’ve gotten for so little money. In Portland’s West End, this would be a $12 sandwich. Clayton’s seems to understand also, that an excellent sandwich is only partly about what’s inside it, starting with insanely thick-cut, pleasantly sharp sourdough bread. The chicken salad itself is made with 100% white meat chicken breasts, cut into 3/4 inch cubes, and tossed with just the right amount of mayonnaise. A few studs of earthy bleu cheese are a surprise in every other bite, but never manage to overpower the sandwich. The halved grapes burst and pop in your mouth, mellowing out the otherwise strong flavors of the sandwich, and changing the consistency of the sandwich filling as you eat it.
Can you base where you live on proximity to a sandwich you really love? If so, I expect Yarmouth’s population to swell, as Clayton’s becomes more popular. If I lived closer, I would be at Clayton’s Cafe every single day. This sandwich was perfect; quite simply, one of the best I have had since moving back to Maine.