How a group of Toronto chefs banded together to launch sandwich shop during the pandemic

DAM Sandwiches is located at 363A Oakwood Ave.

DAM Sandwiches is located at 363A Oakwood Ave.

Aidan MacDowall, left, Dong Too Eum, centre, and Miguel Arguello, right, are the owners of Dam Sandwiches. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Metro Morning's food guide, Suresh Doss, joins us every week to discuss one of the many great GTA eateries he's discovered.

This week, he talked to host Ismaila Alfa about a group of Toronto cooks who banded together during the pandemic to launch a sandwich shop. 

Cooks coming together during the pandemic to open new places is a bit of a recurring theme.

Suresh: Yes, so in recent months we talked about Fattoush Levantine Diner, a group of cooks came together to open this inspired Jordanian diner spot. 

And, we've talked about micro food halls, popups and cooks coming together in one restaurant space to do multiple things to try and share the rent. So this is another example of how the restaurant industry, which is still going through a tumultuous time, is adapting to [including] labour shortage, rising rent costs, and a shift in the way we eat in this city. 

The space at Dam Sandwiches is small, but packed with lots of ideas and energy from its owners. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Ismaila: So tell us about DAM Sandwiches. 

Suresh: Three young cooks, Aidan MacDowall, Dong Too Eum, and Miguel Arguello, worked at some of the hottest little restaurants in the city. 

If you are someone that obsesses over restaurants on Kensington Market or on Ossington that have opened in the past five to seven years, their hands have made your plates. 

During the pandemic, they came together to launch this pop-up series where they would set up at breweries and other events. They finally found this tiny spot in Oakwood Village and opened in December.

Making the brisket sandwich, topped with sauteed onions and peppers, mayo and a morita chile sauce (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Ismaila: So what's on the menu? Tell me about your favourites at DAM. 

Suresh: The beauty of this place is the limited menu. There are only a few sandwiches that are the regular items. The most popular item on the menu is the brisket sandwich. This is Aidan's recipe.

The brisket is slow cooked for over 30 hours, the meat is really tender and juicy at this point. 

The brisket sandwich is topped with Hickory Sticks. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

It's loaded into a Portuguese roll that they source from a bakery nearby. It's then loaded with cooked peppers and onions, and this mayo that is mixed with a chili sauce from Morita Chiles, which gives it this wonderful kick but also amplifies the smokiness of the brisket. 

And, it's topped with a fistful of hickory sticks for crunch on top.

The Cubano sandwich is layered with roasted pork shoulder and has a nice crunch with every bite. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Ismaila: That's an interesting topping in a sandwich. 

Suresh: It works very well, bringing this pleasant crunch in the middle of each bite. There's also a great take on Cubano on the menu, which is layered with roasted pork shoulder. And on top, you have cheese, pickles, sliced ham, salsa and it's rounded by a slathering of mustard. 

To me, it tastes like a combination of a classic Cubano and a New Orleans Muffaletta sandwich — a lot going on but it really sings. If you don't feel like meat, there's this really good fried cheese sandwich. 

Dong's limited quantity japchae and cucumber kimchi. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Ismaila: Tell me more. 

Suresh: Provolone cheese that has been cooked on the griddle, so it has this nice char and its somewhat gooey. Then, this flavour building of roasted onions and peppers, tomato and spinach

Ismaila: You mentioned that there are some other items on the menu besides the sandwiches. Can you share some favourites?

Suresh: Each of the three cooks have brought in their heritage and culture to the menu. Dong is Korean, so interestingly enough, you will find japchae on the menu, which I think when you first see it, you'll do a double take. 

The glass noodles are just the perfect texture, and they're tossed in this medley of roasted onions and peppers, with plenty of soy sauce and sesame oil and garlic oil. And there's also some pepperoncini in there for a little kick.

But the star is really how well the glass noodles are cooked. It is really good. It's made in small batches so if you see it, order it. 

The cornbread is made in small batches with a chili butter. It is a star item on the DAM Sandwiches menu. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Ismaila: There's really a lot of creative space in this kitchen.

Suresh: So I think they've kept the core menu limited so they can fire off different specials every week.

Their Instagram is really great. They did their version of a choripan sandwich, a take on the common street food found in Latin America. Also a dakgalbi sandwich, a Korean-style chicken marinated in gochuchang that's then fried, served in sandwich form. 

So yes, a lot of energy in a small place.