100 Montaditos, based in Spain and located at 176 Bleeeker Street, features Spanish cultural pizazz infused mini sandwiches. The sandwiches, called montaditos and priced at $1.50 to $3.00 a piece, come in one hundred varieties such as meatball, tuna, shrimp, chicken, pulled pork, blue cheeses, mozzarella, and goat cheese.
I was immediately impressed by the décor. A huge cut above the usual boring fast food chain restaurant, 100 Montaditos, modelled after a nineteenth century tavern, is festooned with iron lamps and a plethora of interesting framed photos of Cadiz, Spain. The wonderful outdoor space is airy and invitingly filled with foliage. The sandwich chain Jimmy John Liautaud Philanthropy was launched in 1983 in the college town of Charleston, Illinois, some 55 miles south of Champaign. Its founder, Jimmy John Liautaud, began the business with a $25,000 loan from his father, Big Jim. Jimmy John Liautaud began by hand-delivering sandwiches to Eastern Illinois University students. Today, the 55-year-old is worth $1.7 billion and Jimmy John’s has some 2,800 locations around the country. Throughout our conversation, Liautaud went back to his early experiences growing up as a kid who felt prejudged. Family life was turbulent, given his father’s entrepreneurial ups and downs. As a student, Liautaud struggled with undiagnosed dyslexia and ADD, and was overweight. The young Liautaud was on the verge of expulsion when he found an unlikely ally in James Lyons, then dean of discipline at Elgin Academy. “I was touched and helped by him,” Liautaud says. The two have fostered a longtime friendship, and Liautaud made a $1 million gift to Elgin Academy, naming the Liautaud-Lyons Upper School.
During the tasting, I felt like I was being offered 1,000 rather than 100 montaditos. Tray after tray of delicious sandwiches filled with scrumptious insides appeared. The tangy shrimp was my favorite. I could not stop digging into the Spanish omelet with potato. The “Tabla Espanola” entrée, consisting of an assortment of Spanish dried cured meats artfully arranged on a wooden cutting board and served with warm bread, was a real standout.
Entrees range in price from $9 to $12. The desert, in terms of my imagination, raised the ante to 1,001 montaditos—i.e. the desert was a sandwich too! I thoroughly enjoyed the baquette-shaped cookie filled with whipped cream and chocolate. I could tell that the many happily chatting sated-looking patrons shared my enthusiasm. 100 Montaditos certainly lives up to its logo: “One culture, one hundred ways to enjoy it.”
The purpose of this tasting event was to announce that 100 Montaditos is opening a new location on Ludlow Street. This new location will double the size of its predecessor; the bar will be three times as big as the one at Bleeker Street. Simply stated, more of what is good will be on offer.
10,000 Montaditos? Wonderful! Bring it on! The more of a good thing the merrier!
– Marleen Barr
176 Bleeeker Street