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Friday, March 6, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 29.0° F  A Few Clouds
The Daily
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May Mildred's continue to live long in Madison
Don't overlook East Johnson's homegrown sandwich shop
This near east side institution has evolved well past the sub stage.
Credit:Linda Falkenstein

Mildred's Sandwich Shop has been concentrating on sandwiches for as long as anyone can remember -- and they have gotten it right. In the enclave of local retail on East Johnson Street that has recently seen a spate of store closings, Mildred's is an anchor. It's also a reminder that a sandwich shop doesn't have to be a sub shop. It also doesn't have to be boring.

Isthmus first reviewed the place in 1991, and it had already been in business for 15 years. Its roots are seemingly in the counterculture (there's a leftish-sounding Gramsci sandwich), and academia (the Cicero) but there are also undertones of '70s California health food (many sandwiches have a default bread setting of whole wheat pita, and sprouts dress up a few). But in execution, there's nothing gimmicky or dated about any of it. The sandwiches are fresh and very reasonably priced (from $1.85, for lettuce and tomato for a PB&J and topping out at $6.35 for a roast beef and turkey).

This is a very good place to find a satisfying vegetarian sandwich. The Leadbedder, a combo of mozzarella, brick, cukes, green pepper, sprouts, onions, lettuce and tomato with mayo and Mildred's dressing on whole wheat pita ($4.75), served warm, is simple and satisfying. Weaver's Fancy is a spicier variation on the same theme, with Swiss and cheddar, pickled red pepper, pepperoncini and Dijon mustard ($5).

Other veggie options are the Agurka ($3.37) -- cucumbers and dilled cream cheese on pumpernickel, which sounds almost too simple but is more than the sum of its parts w/r/t taste. There are three more veggie sandwiches on the menu, plus whatever you can dream up from the create-your-own selections.

The meat sandwiches are just as good, with the Blystone (turkey, provolone, Swiss, green pepper, lettuce and tomato with mayo and dressing on whole wheat pita; I order it without onions and with sprouts) being a favorite, but I go for anything that's served warm on the whole wheat pita with the special dressing. Normally I'm not big into whole wheat pita, since it can be dry, but not here.

Mildred's also serves a vegetarian soup of the day. A recent black bean had some spicy heat and paired nicely with the half a Leadbedder for the daily special. Wisconsin microbrewery beers are also available.

A small but pleasant outdoor patio in the back can take you far away from the roar of traffic on East Johnson Street during the summer months. Inside, Mildred's decor is bare-bones, but it's always interesting: the wall space is taken up with monthly shows from local artists.

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