Imagine my luck. I went to Jake's Sandwich Board in Philadelphia to try their Thanksgiving-lovers delight, the Turbacon, and there on the specials board was an even more Thanksgivingy sandwich, the Turducken.
What's a Thanksgiving sandwich enthusiast to do? Pit them against each other and pick a winner, of course!
The Turbacon ($8.50) is a regular menu item at Jake's that lets you savor a little bit of Thanksgiving flavor year-round, all on a seeded roll from South Philadelphia's own Carangi Bakery. First up on the roll is cranberry-apple spread, followed by smoked bacon and, of course, a healthy serving of roast turkey. The whole sandwich is smothered in brown gravy and topped with three miniature potato pancakes. Excepting the rolls, everything at Jake's is made in-house. The turkey is succulent and moist, even without the gravy, thanks to a low 'n' slow thirteen-hour stint in the oven. The bacon is thick and meaty, adding some necessary salt and fat to the sandwich, along with its smooth, smoky flavor; and the potato pancakes have wonderful crunch along and that necessary dose of carb overload. Luckily, the Carangi roll manages to stand up to the stack of fillings, with a nice chewy exterior and a fairly dense crumb that absorbs the liquids and holds everything together.
The Turducken ($10) is largely the same sandwich, with a few key changes. Instead of bacon, we get duck and chicken which, along with the turkey, have been slow-roasted with a punchy Creole seasoning blend. The duck adds—and this fact cannot be understated—a vast amount of fat to the sandwich. Drippy, oozy, greasy, delicious fat that spills out into the basket for mopping up later. But it's really the spice blend, which adds burst of non-traditional Thanksgiving flavor, that sets the Turducken apart from its Turbacon cousin. Well, that and the addition of an apple-sausage stuffing. It's definitely on the subtle side, but if you pay attention you may be able to detect it swimming around in there with the cranberry, Creole, and duck flavors.
Which one is better? I'll be grading each one on my expertly constructed, highly-scientific grading scale of 1 to 10 and, well, numbers don't lie...right?
Given their numerous similarities, I'll focus on the sandwiches' points of divergence, their "Thanksgivingness" factor, and, ultimately, on how well each sandwich functions as a whole.
Both sandwiches benefit from the same wonderful slow-roasting process, but unless you are a strict Thanksgiving traditionalist or—ahem—have something against duck, the Turducken takes the win. I'll take that creole seasoning and the extra flavor from the chicken and the duck (and their respective fats) over bacon any day.
Since both sandwiches sport the same cranberry spread, gravy, and potato pancakes, the edge here has to go to the Turducken with its apple-sausage stuffing, right? Wrong. Sometimes less is more. The apple-sausage stuffing gets lost in the mix and confuses the issue. I say, use either the cranberry spread or the apple-sausage stuffing, but not both. Turbacon takes this one for simplicity.
I'm not the king of Thanksgiving, but I imagine some people fancy themselves just that. I've had deep-fried, Creole-seasoned turkey for Thanksgiving and loved it, but there's a also a place in my heart for the ultra-traditional, (sorta boring) turkey mom used to make. Thanksgiving snobs can battle it out in the comments. This one's a tie.
As a whole, both sandwiches work well. The Turbacon is obviously popular enough to hold its own on Jake's regular menu. And it works well precisely because it hits that sweet spot of Thanksgiving-on-a-roll, without overreaching. But the Turducken reaches in a particular direction that I love so well. Any sandwich that drips duck fat will always have a place in my heart and cholesterol count.
So there you have it: The Turducken wins the sandwich showdown! At least until the end of November...
About the author: Charlie Taylor enjoys any combination of eating and writing and Philadelphia.