Sandwich City: Henri’s Cheese and Wine

 
 
Henri’s Cheese and Wine
2026 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-442-3373, www.henrischeese.com.
Hours: 11am-10pm Mon-Wed, 11am-11pm Thu-Sat, 1-8pm Sun. Lunch runs 11am-2pm, with cheese, charcuterie and wine from 5-10pm. Retail all day.
 
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 03.29.13
 
Not so long ago, this warren of shops on South Lamar housed a vintage clothier, a trampoline company, a neon sign-maker and a bike repairman. And the Horseshoe Lounge. The Horseshoe’s still there; the rest are gone, replaced by Barley Swine, El Mesón, Lick Ice Creams and the subject of today’s Sandwich City: Henri’s Cheese and Wine. Not just a sandwich shop, but also a wine-sipper's hangout and a max-price retail outlet for curated cheese, wine, beer, coffee and other essentials for the well-appointed snacker.
 
Cheese rules the sandwich board at Henri’s, where the cheeses go so far as to keep their dairy maiden names even after they marry with their proteins. The Beecher’s cheddar is the bride of turkey, Rogue River Smokey Blue pairs with roast beef and the Brie de Provence goes together with pork. We know who wears the pants on the last one — the rindy, tannic and creamy brie, that’s who. Because the house-smoked pork is so snowy white, so razor thin, so UN-porky that it takes a backseat even to its mild mate. Built on a thick, starchy onion roll, the sandwich feels half-finished, even with arugula, caramelized onions and tomato. We’re left wondering when the pork will get off the couch and get a job.
 
A small beet salad ($5) fits the smaller spaces that a larger cheese plate might fill by bringing the dry cream of Haystack Mountain goat cheese together with four wedges of firm, sweet pickled beet as deep arterial red as venison. A larger cheese plate with charcuterie is $10, a decent value from a shop that specializes in the stuff.
 
 
The natural sandwich choice for a dedicated cheese outlet is, well, grilled cheese. The Parrano version starts with sourdough bread cased like toasted eggshell protecting an interior as rich and fluid as a soft-boiled egg yolk, the beating heart of this sandwich, made with the Dutch cheese Parrano with a grain like salted white shale and a taste like nuts from a woodland dairy. The cheese by itself would be enough, but it’s finished with sweet caramelized onions, roasted tomato and a basil mayo whose big herbal sharpness backs off at just the right moment to leave a thoroughly modern impression of a grilled cheese sandwich. It was $9 for half with tomato bisque notable more for its spoon-floating body and its snowfall of white and yellow cheeses than for its taste, which veered toward marinara scoured of its signature spice. Full sandwiches run $6.50-$10 with thick potato chips or a toss of mixed greens with vinaigrette and slivered almonds, the better of the two choices.
 
The simple life suits the Steak Sando just fine. Marbled, razor-thin grilled beef and gouda share the load with fat-grained mustard on a chewy baguette with spinach and chimichurri that comes across as a shake of aromatic herbs rather than the fiery oil of its Argentine pedigree. A hardworking sandwich. Even so, if I’ll have to muster my powers to forgive any union of meat and bread that insists on being called “sando.” Sandwich, yes. Sando, sammich, sammie? No. “Samuel,” if you must.
 
(TOP: Brie de Provence sandwich with salad and a $15 wine-sized bottle of Jester King’s Le Petit Prince, a low-alcohol beer suitable for a working lunch. Henri’s is a blend of working cheese counter, bottle shop and casual bistro bar. INSET: Grilled Parrano cheese with tomato bisque; sliced beef sandwich with gouda; small beet salad with Haystack Mountain chevre. Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
 
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