Parking at the Fairmont Chateau is a pain.
The underground parking is closed. And if you can’t find parking on the road, then you need to park in the day lot and hoof it to the Upper Village. Now I realize this isn’t a hike or even a long stroll, but if you’ve only got a few minutes to grab a to-go lunch, walking for 10 minutes to get to the Fairmont isn’t ideal.
Despite my parking gripes, the prospect of fresh sandwiches from the Portobello Restaurant makes the parking janga all worth while, parking tickets and all.
I never bring a sandwich to work. The idea of mayonnaise and vegetables getting soggy between two pieces of bread turns my stomach. Even pre-made sandwiches at a café (although I make an exception for the egg salad at Cracked Pepper), no matter whether they were made fresh that morning or not, they always have this bleak amalgamating mess look that does nothing to entice.
The Portobello Restaurant champions those of us struggling with the soggy-sand syndrome by offering a sandwich bar that allows you to choose all the fixings.
Servers are free from the “I’d like this, but I don’t want that, but can you replace it with this” charade that I swear can turn the loveliest of people into mass murderers. The Portobello got smart and lets diners be at the helm of their lunch — as well as breakfast.
They ditched the sandwich checklist of yesteryears and instead you speak directly with your sandwich maker. Cranberry bread, turkey, sprouts, mixed greens, Dijon, cranberry sauce, onions, pickles, Swiss cheese and tomatoes are my usual conversation at the counter. But there are all sorts of things to choose from: hummus, assorted meats, olives and other quality ingredients.
I went out on a limb one day and opted for the Italian-panini-style grilled sandwich with thick slices of tomato, bocconcini and fresh basil. It’s like a classic grilled cheese fix only for grown ups, and the bread is brushed with a yummy Italian-herb, olive-oil mix that toasts golden brown.
This letting-the-diner-choose smarts also translates to their salad bar. Customers pick and point while an employee stacks the salad request behind a glass cover protecting your lunch from sneezes and sniffles. An assortment of greens and veggies is dressed up with nuts, olives and dried cranberry options.
Picky eaters unite. This place was made just for you — and me. Parents can start their day peacefully with kids being able to pick and point at the breakfast bar from 7 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Eggs, waffles, fruit; it’s all there.
There are no trans fats to worry about whether in the a.m. or p.m. service, and to-go containers and utensils are biodegradable.
Healthy homemade soups and chili are other lunch alternatives, as are items such as pizza, and mac and cheese for kids and kids at heart.
The Portobello may be situated in a top notch hotel, but the self-serve restaurant, renovated this winter, offers casual seating on a glass-enclosed patio (opened in summer), and living room nook with couches, fireplace and flat screen. Prices are also laidback, ranging from a me-size sandwich for $4 to a mountain-man hoagie for $7.
One of the benefits of being situated in the Fairmont is that the restaurant attracts five-star-hotel kitchen talent. The bakery section of the restaurant touts a French pastry chef who tantalizes with everything from homemade donuts and raspberry white chocolate scones (yes they taste as good as they sound) to buttery croissants and artisan breads you can bring home for $6 a loaf.
So if being with the Fairmont means a quality lunch (and an amazing three-chocolate layered cake), the parking becomes that much more palatable.