Budget Beat: The Hero Factory

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"Life is like a sandwich. The more you add to it, the better it becomes."

I have no idea what genius offered that pearl -- Shakespeare? Thoreau? Charles Schulz? -- and, frankly, I don't care to take the time to look it up, because I'm too busy planning my next trip to The Hero Factory, a breakfast 'n' lunch spot in downtown Phoenix's Orpheum Lofts building.
Nobody doesn't like a sandwich, the most American food I can think of. Just look at the cross-section of working stiffs noshing at this bustling joint: cops, dudes in O.R. scrubs, hardhats, business-suited guys and gals, students, and, now, ink-stained wretches like my co-workers and me. 

There are a couple of self-proclaimed "New York-style" delis in downtown Phoenix that left me less than impressed. However, the Hero Factory seems more authentic that those pretenders. One of my co-workers, a fella who lived in Brooklyn and worked in Manhattan for 11 years before coming back to roost in AZ, declared the Hero Factory to be the real deal. Of course, the brusque, fast-talking, heavily New Yawk-accented guy taking my order tipped me off right away that I'd walked into the right place.

The sandwiches (most around $7.95) are simply enormous. No one would fault you if you ate half of one for lunch and saved the other half for a midnight snack. So, really, if you don't feel like pigging out, you're getting two meals for $8. Where I come from, that's a good deal.

Enormity is a virtue, but The Hero Factory serves up quality as well: Boar's Head meats and cheeses (all sliced to order), fresh and doughy buns, and homemade dressings.

I opted for one of the THF's "signature heroes," the Ms. Rachel (a twist on the Reuben) with hot pastrami, melted swiss, Russian dressing, and homemade cole slaw. The thing was, indeed, piled high with pastrami. Seriously, there was A LOT of meat on this monster. It was quite a mouthful. The secret weapon, of course, on this sandwich is the cole slaw, which was slightly peppery and fresh-tasting and not too creamy. The combination of the warm meat, melted cheese, and cool cole slaw was heavenly. Throw in the fact that the bun was not toasted made it all the better. In fact, the sesame-seed bun was downright perfect: chewy yet light. It had the right amount of "give." By that, I mean it was easy to bite into and still maintain its ability to contain all the sandwich's fixings. The bun worked with me, not against me.

The Ms. Rachel was one of 16 signature sandwiches, all of which looked de-lish. Also available were standard build-your-own hot and cold heroes, salads, and wraps. One of my co-workers ordered the buffalo ranch wrap, which contained big pieces of buffalo chicken breast and melted Muenster, as well as lettuce, tomato, ranch dressing, and "a little hot sauce." She declared it one of the best she's ever had and was sniffling a little because of the spiciness.

My ex-NY co-worker went to town on the chicken cutlet Parmigiana, which featured large chunks of breaded chicken, tons of melted cheese, and some most-excellent tangy marinara. That was a tasty concoction and, again, it was huge. I'm not sure he actually finished the thing.

There are plenty more items on the menu I'm dying to try, including a handful of breakfast items such as the "Hungryman Hero" (three eggs, bacon, ham, sausage, cheese, and home fries). I know  . . . sounds amazing, right? 

If you've been to The Hero Factory and you want to suggest an idea for my next sandwichian conquest, hit me up at jay.bennett@newtimes.com. Also, I'm always looking for great, budget-y places around the Valley. Would love to hear from you.

The Hero Factory
114 West Adams Street (northwest corner of Adams and First Avenue)
Open until 3 p.m. on weekdays

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