After a brief summer hiatus away from Ann Arbor – and, more importantly, away from local restaurants – I was eager to return to my old haunts and taste some of my favorite dishes once I stepped back on campus. On Monday, I walked into Ashley’s for lunch, expecting the quality that had made it – up to this point – my favorite local bar. Nevermind the variety of beers on tap, the centerpiece of my Ashley’s diet begins and ends with the delicious Soul Sandwich.

Growing up in the south, the combination of pulled pork barbecue and coleslaw is a taste that reminds me of home. For me, this is no novelty meal, but rather a staple of cookouts and family dinners.

I enjoy it not because it is exotic, but because it is basic comfort food. The name, Soul Sandwich, implies the hearty goodness of the creation. Saying it soothes the psyche.

Imagine my dismay when after I ordered the sandwich my waitress turned to me with a I’m-now-going-to-crush-your-dreams smile and said that they no longer served the Soul Sandwich.

I was flustered.

Quickly, I scrambled to find a replacement. But it just wasn’t the same. You cannot replace a meal that you have anticipated for months, with a simple bit of Caribbean Jerk Chicken, no matter how good it is. You just can’t do it. It is like replacing the victor’s feast with cookies and graham crackers, no offense to the graham crackers, but it just cannot be done.

Equipped with the new knowledge that there would be no more Soul Sandwich, I left Ashley’s a little wiser, and a little sadder. My sense of disillusionment was magnified by the finality of the event. At least when I found out there was no Santa Claus my parents continued to give me presents. This disaster, on the other hand, offered no easy solution to preserve my happiness, while still being fully enlightened as to the truth of the situation.

Since that fateful day I have wondered if Ashley’s thinks it is too good for the Soul Sandwich. Has the once humble pub risen so high that it can now scoff at we mere bargoers in search of a small bit of sustenance?

I’ve tried to figure out what could have possessed them to cast off the Soul Sandwich, but in all honesty, I cannot think of a single good reason to remove it from the bill of fare.

What would inspire someone to take to destroy the happiness of so many fans of the sandwich? Are there sadists at work on South State Street? Or is it simply a matter of laziness?

If you go to Red Hot Lovers you can get them to put some cole slaw on a barbecue sandwich. I’ve done it and it is very good, but it isn’t the same. Nothing can replace the experience of those hardwood tables, a pint of cold beer and a steamy sandwich that could make a grown man cry.

For those who will never have the opportunity to experience the sandwich, I express my deepest condolences.

For those of us who have, the only solace we can seek is in our memories. The Soul Sandwich lives on in the hearts, if not the stomachs, of those who loved it. For this reason, I count myself fortunate to be one of the lucky few.

The Soul Sandwich is gone, do with it what you will.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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