You don’t go to Bon Air when you want a sandwich. You go to Bon Air when you want a Bon Air sandwich. There’s a difference. My normal taste in sandwich runs to the fancy-schmancy. I do not like mass-market bread injected with high-fructose corn syrup. I do not like pressed lunchmeat (how the hell do they make that and what is the “skin” on the outside?). I do not like orange tomatoes. Bon Air has all of these things.
This is what Bon Air also has: an intense pull on my nostalgia bone. Shredded iceberg lettuce. Consistency. I know what it will taste like: a day in my early-mid 20s (oh so long ago) when I had about 4 bucks and needed to eat something hearty. A similarly broke friend of mine used to take a sandwich from there, get two extra slices of bread that he had around the house, and make two sandwiches – one for later. Bon Air is the kind of place where I get the exact same thing every single time: turkey with cheddar, mustard and mayo, sprouts, pickles, and lettuce, all on marble rye. Sprouts are extra and now that I’m a high roller I can afford it. Pictured above is that sandwich on wheat. I don’t know what possessed me to stray. I also tip a dollar now because of my baller status.
At the time when I ate there frequently I had probably barely tasted any other kind of bread. I grew up on the cheap supermarket kind. In my family sandwiches were made with tubes of liverwurst, a fried egg and mayo, or the precious Louis Rich variety-pack lunchmeat. We would fight over the “best” kind (smoked turkey). We would peel off the skin and eat that first. I would sometimes sneak it straight and roll it up as a snack, maybe with some cream cheese in the middle.
Bon Air still has the cute pained menu. It still has a special of the week for 3.50. It still has the swirl marble rye (even though I swear all the varieties of bread taste exactly the same). It still smells like incense inside the market.
Plus, I live a few blocks away.
Bon Air Deli
2531 J st.