Restaurant review: Icarus Sandwich Shop soars high on list of Short North hot spots
Naming a restaurant after the mythological guy whose overconfidence and demise gave rise to the phrase “don’t fly too close to the sun” might seem like tempting fate. Also potentially tempting fate: Rather than coasting on the still-growing success of a great little bakery-cafe chain, you open an entirely different kind of eatery with built-in sky-high expectations.
In the face of all this, I can report that Icarus Sandwich Shop — a Short North hot spot launched in the former Laughlin's Bakery space by the impressive Fox in the Snow team — is a friendly, trendy and strong-performing operation that deserves its popularity.
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Would I have written that had I visited months ago? I’ll never know, but according to friends — and Icarus’ own Instagram feed — the eatery experienced learning-curve wobbles after the little shop opened to stunning lines around the block in late October.
Since I‘m not keen on being among the first to taste a slammed new place’s sandwiches or to post a photo of such an achievement, I waited for the teeming, next-new-thing crowds to lessen. Apparently my timing was great; several recent experiences yielded quick and delicious results.
Among the hippest restaurants to open lately, Icarus occupies a small but stylish space with counter-style perches, about 10 tiny tables, abundant natural light, exposed brick and plaster, a tasteful indie-rock soundtrack, handsomely branded merchandise plus affable counter service from a somehow efficient, black-clad staff constantly filling to-go orders.
Other than soft drinks like the far-better-than-par Arnold Palmer (a refreshing iced-tea-and-lemonade blend, $3) plus thick, crunchy, garlic-scented and altogether terrific house-made potato chips partnered with a creamy, tangy and addictive onion dip ($4), the one-page menu is essentially just eight sandwiches.
“Just” doesn’t imply skimpy or dainty — the sandwiches are often huge and lavishly packed with high-quality components, such as roasted meats and garnishes that, like many of the breads, Icarus prepares from scratch.
The big, bestselling, gloriously messy turkey club ($14) on good house ciabatta had heaving slabs of house-roasted breast, sweet-tart house pickles (most sandwiches have sweet notes), avocado, mayo, shredded lettuce and an appealingly crisp minced bacon constituent that visually resembled a sausage patty.
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Is it a true club sandwich? Not really. Is it good? Yes, really.
The served-warm, weekends-only Reuben was even better ($15). Generously stacked, “7-day-brined,” righteous house corned beef — juicy and not too salty — was allowed to shine amid the unobtrusively applied usual but above average accompaniments.
With layers of rich house pesto, tangy sun-dried tomatoes and milky mozzarella evoking the tri-colored Italian flag, plus spicy soppressata salami and hefty and flavorful house focaccia, the enormous, served-cold Italian-Ish ($13) is a keeper that could lose the “ish.”
Something without meat? Icarus offers a vegetarian Italian-ish (untried) and a roasted mushroom sandwich ($11) that starred warm fungus with a great cooked-down flavor. Arugula, whipped goat cheese, herbs such as rosemary, and a pretty good house baguette I wanted to be crisper completed the satisfying package.
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The outstanding roast pork with crusted and luscious “Cuban-inspired” meat delivered the best value ($11). The plentiful pork was joined by sweet-and-zippy accents from pickles and horseradish-spiked “spicy maple mustard” plus so much delectable pork juice that the ciabatta softened.
Therein lies a slight chink in the couture armor: The house breads don’t always hold up well. When I bit into the otherwise wonderful meatball sandwich ($14), Icarus’ attractive seeded Italian roll — which was invitingly stuffed with excellent meatballs, rich-yet-kicky tomato sauce plus Parmesan and melted mozzarella — fell apart. I wanted every saucy, cheesy, basil-accented and chile-kissed morsel inside that whopping sandwich, but I wanted the roll to be sturdier or better-toasted.
This place soars above much of the competition, so maybe my expectations are exaggerated. But I think Icarus can still fly a little higher and not risk crashing down in flames.
Icarus Sandwich Shop
Where: 15 E. 2nd Ave., Italian Village
Contact: 614-745-2053, www.icarussandwichshop.com
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily
Price range: $11 to $15
Ambience: stylish, hip and often bustling little sandwich shop with limited seating overseen by personable and somehow efficient counter servers frequently filling to-go orders
Children's menu: no
Liquor license: no
Quick click: Often large and always flavorful sandwiches are scratch-made with great ingredients at this generally strong-performing Fox in the Snow spinoff.