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Downtown Disney's Earl of Sandwich offers a great array of eats

Angela Ragno

Angela is the Walt Disney World shopping queen.

Downtown Disney's Earl of Sandwich offers a great array of eats

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As the story goes: Back in 1762, Lord John Montagu -- the 4th Earl of Sandwich -- was a very busy man. As the First Sea Lord of the British Navy, John loved exploring. And -- because he was always on the run -- the guy never really had time for a sit-down meal. So -- one day -- Montagu cut a couple of slices of bread, put meat between the slices and -- Presto! -- the "sandwich" was born.

Fast forward to 2004. When the current Earl of Sandwich (also named John) decided to go into business with another Earl. Robert Earl, to be specific. The Orlando area restauranteur best known for his work with the "Planet Hollywood" chain.

The end result is the "Earl of Sandwich," a brand new eatery which opened up at Downtown Disney back in March. This 10,000 square foot facility (which replaced WDW's "Gourmet Pantry") is supposed to be the test site for a brand new chain of restaurants. Given that I always like to get in on things on the ground floor, I recently invited three of my friends to join me for lunch at "Earl of Sandwich." To see if Robert Earl's newest restaurant concept really had any legs.

As we entered the "Earl of Sandwich," there was a greeter there who welcomed us. There is an organized queue line which looked pretty long (To be fair, we chose to visit this new Downtown Disney restaurant over the Easter weekend. When the whole WDW resort was dealing with record crowds). But -- that said -- we were able to place our orders within 4 minutes of arriving at this eatery.

How were we able to place our lunch orders so quickly? Well, there was a staff member working the line who was asking if anyone had any questions. The problem was with the choices. The "Earl of Sandwich" has 12 different hot sandwiches ("The Hotties." I love that name). And all of the hot sandwiches are fresh made to order on hearth baked loaf.

Once you place your order, you can continue down the line where there are self service tossed bowl salads as well as grab n' go cold sandwiches and wraps. For those of you with sweet tooths, the "Earl of Sandwich" offers fresh baked cookies, brownies, scones and turnovers as well as the famous Earl's Ice Cream Sandwich. This concoction -- made with thin biscuits filled with vanilla ice cream, also available edged in coconut flakes or chocolate chips -- was very tempting. But -- in the end -- I passed. Maybe next time.

As we made our way to the cashier (The restaurant had three registers open on the day we visited. Which was plenty to deal with the huge crowds that were visiting Downtown Disney the afternoon we dined with the Earls), we selected the Earl's Grey Lemonade to drink. This new WDW eatery also offers beer, fountain soft drinks, milk and fresh fruit yoghurt smoothies.

After paying, we were able to watch the "Earl of Sandwich" staff as they made our sandwiches and then placed them in the toaster ovens (just like at Quiznos!). Our total wait time -- from placing our order to pick up -- was less than 5 minutes.

So what did we think of WDW's "Earl of Sandwich"? To be honest, the food was great. And -- being Orlando area locals -- we can't wait to go back and try something else on the menu.

During our first visit, two of us ordered "The Original" -- a fresh roast beef sandwich, smothered in cheddar and creamy horseradish sauce. Well, I opted not to have the horseradish sauce (I am infamous for being a picky eater). But that didn't deter me from really loving the sandwich.

The third member of our party decided to try "The All American" -- a fresh turkey sandwich loaded with cranberries, cheddar cheese, lettuce and tomato and smothered with buttermilk ranch sauce. She also thought her sandwich was mmm-mmm-good.

"How was the bread that our sandwiches were served on?" Well, the hearth baked loaf was hard to describe but very good. I would call it a biscuitbread.

In short, we all thought that the sandwiches that we purchased at WDW's "Earl of Sandwich" were delicious and quite filling. And the price we paid ($4.95 per hottie) were very reasonable. As for our beverage, the Earl's Grey Lemonade was different. It was a lemonade mixed fresh brewed Earl Grey Tea. I don't know if I would call it a lemonade. It is really an Iced Tea (which is kind of odd ... particularly when you realize that the Brits don't use ice in their drinks). But I would still order it again.

You know what I also liked about this new restaurant? Its ambiance. The "Earl of Sandwich" has a British pub look. Inside, there is a fireplace with bookcases on either side which is loaded with merchandise: British books, teacups, teas and teapots. On the other side of the restaurant, there is "Earl of Sandwich" related merchandise: cups, tee-shirts, magnets, ornaments and PINS (of course). There are booths and tables inside and additional seating outside.

So will "Earl of Sandwich" succeed? I'd have to say yes. The food that they serve there is reasonably priced and delicious. And the place is sure to have great word of mouth. Given that -- after our meal -- we went shopping at Pleasure Island and told all the cast members there what a great meal we had at Earl's.

So when might you see an "Earl of Sandwich" open in your neck of the woods? I've heard that John Montagu and Robert Earl reportedly have plans to open five to 10 restaurants per year. With the next outlet in the chain supposed to bow on Broadway (in NYC's Times Square, to be exact) in late 2004 / early 2005.

So -- if you're looking for tasty and affordable eats the next time you're down at Walt Disney World -- be sure to head over to "Earl of Sandwich." Where you're really in royal treat.

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