TLO Restaurant Review: Robertson’s Ham Sandwiches
9:04 AM EDT on May 9, 2017
Growing up, whenever my family took the traditional car-piled road trips, we very rarely, if ever, stopped. My father was absolutely determined to get wherever we were going within a recklessly short timeframe, stopping only for gas and only then not until every last fume had been exhausted. There were no drinks, no snacks, and no bathroom breaks.
But, worst of all, there was definitely no roadside attractions. No giant gophers, no fruit stands, no greasy spoon diners. I still remember, standing over his grave, fist balled, vowing that when I grew up, whenever I would take a road trip, I would always take my time and dutifully stop at whatever attraction even vaguely piqued my interest, starting with that six-legged cow in Kansas a few weeks later.
Yes, it was disappointing, but goshdarnit, it was worth it.
Twenty years later, I’m still an absolute sucker for hand-painted billboards that tease everything from abortion stopping beating hearts to discount western wear outlets, vague historical points of interest and, most of all, off-the-exit-ramp eateries that make outrageous claims as to how whatever dish they serve, no matter how mundane, it will conclusively be the greatest one you’ll ever stuff in your face-hole.
Traveling south on I-35 towards Texas, you’ve probably seen the constant blood-red signage for Robertson’s Ham Sandwiches, located at 110 Wanda St. in Marietta. Smokin’ dem hams since 1946, what started out as just a 15 ham-a-day habit has become an entire cottage industry, with their sugar-cured and green hickory smoked hams more coveted in this part of the country than those overrated and overpriced Honeybaked Hams.
That freshly-lit burning wood smell of early morning meats getting their smoke on gets ya in the parking lot, covering your hair and clothes in the most masculine eau de toilette ever conceived. Even though I immediately fell in like with Robertson’s faux-rustic sensibilities from the outside, I will admit I was a little apprehensive about what was going on inside as a reading of Yelp and Zomato reviews the night before left me wondering if this joint was simply coasting on their name, maliciously offering “bland” and “stingy” sandwiches on “store-bought” white bread to dumb tourists looking for a roadside story of their own to tell.
Some people will just bitch about anything, I was about to learn most judiciously.
With a small but durable menu offering smoked ham, roast beef, smoked turkey and summer sausage sandwiches, I pre-meditatively went for the classic large ham on white ($4.99) while my travelin’ partner decided on the large roast beef on wheat ($4.99), and, you know, seeing as how it was breakfast and we were in Marietta and all, metoprolol be damned, we added a pair of those provocative sausage biscuits ($1.79 each) to the order. I’m sure God will understand.
While the crew behind the counter carefully prepped our eats, I became quite enamored of the selection of meats and cheeses that were featured in the deli cases, as well as the little curing room next door. A whole smoked ham, one around 15 pounds, would only run me $72.50; I’d be happy to provide the ham if you, dear readers, provide the sides and companionship this holiday season, I thought wistfully into the ether.
Also on display were a vast variety of beef jerky snack treats and, my own personal albatross, otherworldly condiments featuring everything from brown deli mustard and various fair-ready salsas to harder-to-find compliments like chow-chow and corn relish. What really made me salivate, however, were the green tomato pickles, something I’ve never had before, but the very idea made my mouth pucker in anticipated masochism. Thankfully, they were included over in the sandwich fixins bar, allowing me to sample this heretofore mysterious yet utterly complacent accoutrement.
Now, in regards to those negative online reviews, to be fair, yes, our sandwiches did come encased in name-brand store-bought bread and yes, they were delivered to us in those old-school Ziploc sandwich bags mom used to buy, but let it be said that any honest and valid criticism should have easily ended right then and there as these meat-infused monoliths were truly anything but “bland” or “stingy.” Anything. But.
Starting off small-ish, the breakfast sausage biscuit was a real palate pleaser, the sweetness of the King’s Hawaiian roll perfectly enveloping that thick cut of savory summer sausage, each carefully measured spice unexpectedly breaking the surface and adding to the experience, but wonderfully not gelatinously greasy like that Hickory Farms stuff most of us are used to. In retrospect, I probably should’ve asked for a slice of their smoked cheddar to top it off, but live and learn, I guess. Next time, right ese?
Both of our sandwiches were total towering infernos, absolutely loaded with their respective meats, verging on becoming embarrassments of carnivorous riches, giving me, you and everyone we know their five bucks worth and then some in change.
My usual problem with most run-of-the-mill hams is I have a prickly aversion to the over-brined techniques many brands seem to run to, so I really gotta hand it to Robertson’s, replacing the uber-salty with the delicately sweet, maintaining a welcomed outdoor juiciness that I complimented with some homemade barbecue sauce and a liberal helping of the aforementioned green tomato pickles which, I might add, were a total revelation of down-home flavorings that I didn’t masticate as much as I did inhale, like a lifesaving drug that I was desperate to overdose on.
My dining companion’s rambunctiously ripe and red-cheeked roast beef was more of the beloved same, sliced beyond generously, with pepperjack cheese, jalapenos and spicy mustard added to the proceedings, crafting a down and dirty work of sandwich art that was impossible to digest with any semblance of table manners. Thankfully there were no ladies present to see this pair of hungry beasts devour these edible tomes without remorse or regret.
As we cleaned ourselves up, satisfyingly slinking towards the door, biblically satiated and ready for the rubber to meet the road once again, I realized that I possibly couldn’t live without those table of the Lord-worthy green tomato pickles—at least for the time being—so I splurged and purchased myself a 16 oz. jar ($5.99), as well as a pepperoni beef stick ($1.99), just to temp culinary fate until my next side-of-the-road seduction. ¡Cómpralo ya!
Me and you and a dog named Hoogs, just a-travelin’ and livin’ off the land. Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler.