How have I gone this long without reviewing Darwin’s Ltd.? A true travesty, that.
I’ve been going to Darwin’s for six years now, which is a longer relationship than I have with some people. I first discovered the original (Mt. Auburn St.) location during a theater production, which was often the context in which I ate there during college. Since then I’ve had to find excuses, since it’s somewhat out of the way, but the detour is wholly, utterly worth it. I may have mentioned before that I’ve saved up to be able to buy a sandwich from Darwin’s—it’s just that good.
And, indeed, while you can buy all manner of things here—from pastries to cookies to fresh produce to wine to prepared dinners—the sandwiches are the main attraction. At both locations (the original and the newer Cambridge St. store, located just past Cambridge Rindge & Latin) sandwiches are named after the surrounding Cambridge streets. I’ve tried a good number of them, but not all, given my general dislike of roast beef sandwiches. I’m much more familiar with the original location, so you’d have to look up the names for the Cambridge St. store.
My favorite and fallback sandwich is the Mt. Auburn (Crawford for you Cambridge St. folk), which I generally get with light condiments and cheddar or havarti instead of the suggested swiss. It’s turkey, avocado, lettuce and tomato with mayo and vinegarette. There’s also the Fayerweather, with turkey and sundried tomato mayo. If I’m in a ham mood, nothing beats the Longfellow, with a good cheddar, slices of grannysmith, and a sharp dijon. (I generally ask for light mustard, as it’s pretty intense.) The Sig Fig is fond of the Hubbard Park (Magnolia), with hummus, avo, carrot slices, sprouts, lettuce and tomato with a honey mustard dressing.
Another huge attraction about these sandwiches is that they serve them on truly fantastic bread. Unless you’re arriving at the end of the day you should have somewhere around seven options, including rosemary garlic and olive on alternating days.
During the lunch hours (starting around 11:30 and going to about 1, depending) they also serve special sandwiches, at least one of which is always vegetarian. These often include more exotic ingredients, like bacon or asparagus, and they’re pretty divine. Special sandwiches come on a long focaccia roll and are sliced to your specifications, so they’re priced by weight.
And speaking of prices…
Darwin’s is not a cheap sandwich place. They’ve raised their prices over the years, particularly when certain ingredients get more expensive (it was tomato one season), but they’ve never been what you’d call cheap. Because you’re paying for quality, and quantity; all the meat sandwiches are totally stuffed with meat, and they’re generous with all the toppings in general. Also, they are DELICIOUS. Did I mention that?
A word of caution: like so many tasty places, Darwin’s is both staffed and frequented by a goodly number of hipsters. As such, you might run into a kind of rude hipster at some point, but try not to let it get you down. Many of the employees are totally fantastic, such as the one who laughed at my glee when I learned Saturday was an olive bread day. (Who wouldn’t be excited about that?)
And cut your sandwich maker some slack—they get extremely busy during lunch. As such, I wouldn’t really recommend you go there for the first time during peak lunch hours. During those times it’s absolutely imperative that you know exactly what you want and are prepared to yell it.
I rate Darwin’s “every time I have a was of cash to blow on lunch, and also probably more frequently if I lived in Cambridge.”