Halves of two turkey paninis from The Local Press: Orchard Turkey, with apples and chipotle mayo, and Beacon Street, with avocado and hot pepper relish. Photo by Leslie Bridgers

Over my lifetime, sandwiches have morphed from obvious meal option into an indulgence.

As a kid, I thought nothing of having bacon, egg and cheese on a buttery grilled hard roll (a Connecticut thing) for breakfast, followed by a Fluffernutter for lunch. Later, turkey sandwiches became my midday meal of choice, with the cheese dropping out sometime in my 20s and white bread getting swapped for whole grain.

Now, the decision to eat a sandwich at all is fraught: Is it really worth it? At Portland panini shop The Local Press, it always is.

In normal times, the Woodford Street spot is a two-part business: half take-out sandwich shop (with a few seats at a counter looking out onto the sidewalk) and half cozy neighborhood bar, featuring the same sandwich-centric menu, along with a nice selection of local drafts, wine and sangria.

As much as I love the vibe of this little bar, which hosted a convivial trivia night on Wednesdays and acoustic music on Fridays before the coronavirus hit, my strict sandwich quota kept me from going more often. I always thought it would be a good place to meet someone for happy hour, with hummus and charcuterie boards on the menu, but that now feels like an otherworldly fantasy.

The table outside of The Local Press on Woodford Street in Portland, set up for curbside pickup. Photo courtesy of The Local Press

The Local Press, however, has very much embraced the reality of our current situation, and as carb-cutting has dropped a few rungs among my concerns, I have embraced The Local Press. Curbside pickup is available by calling ahead, paying over the phone and retrieving your order, usually in about 20 minutes, from a small table through an opened set of doors outside the shop. There, you’ll find a bag with your name and stapled receipt on it, a jar of pens (with instructions to take the one you use with you) and another jar for the signed receipt.

The shop is serving its full menu of 10 paninis and six cold sandwiches, plus options for kids, along with two soups (its signature Rundown Caribbean-style chowder and a daily special), two salads, the aforementioned appetizers and a couple desserts.

Most sandwiches, served on bread from Botto’s Bakery in Portland (or a gluten-free option), feature a Boar’s Head meat – roast beef, ham, prosciutto or turkey – and provolone, cheddar or Swiss, with a creative combination of additional toppings that include fig jam, chipotle mayo, horseradish sauce, red grapes and Gala apples. There’s also a Reuben ($10.50), and vegetarian options, like the Islander (a panini with portobello mushroom, goat cheese, red onion, baby spinach and provolone, $8.50) and Endless Summer (a cold sandwich with pesto, goat cheese, roasted red pepper, spinach and provolone, $8.50).

Turkey is still my go-to deli meat, and if I’m taking the sandwich plunge, lettuce, tomato and mayo aren’t going to do. That’s led me, most often, to the Beacon Street, a turkey panini with avocado, tomato, red onion, hot pepper relish, provolone and mayonnaise for $9.50. At first, the hot pepper relish almost kept me from ordering it, but it ending up being the element that brings it to another level – or, in other words, makes it totally worth it.

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