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When CUTTING BOARD CAFE AND CATERING opened last September, sales for the month were $7,500. As of March, weekly sales were double that. It’s not uncommon to find a line snaking out the front door of the 12-table strip-center eaterie (2905 Goose Creek Road, 423-9950, www. cuttingboardcafe.com), but regulars tolerate the wait because the “casual cafe,” located just off Westport Road, is a dining oasis in a scrubland of fast-foot outlets.

The lunch and dinner menu features several fresh pastas and salads, but the show-stealers are the sandwiches and wraps cooked on the kitchen’s panini grill. Technically, this grill is a two-sided hot press, much like a George Foreman Grill, but hotter and heavier. Sandwiches emerge from the press bearing distinctive black stripes; they are not browned as if cooked on a griddle. The effect is visually and texturally striking.

Two elements set these Cutting Board sandwiches apart. One is the excellent ciabatta bread used on several selections. It’s sturdy, flavorful and perfectly suited for the panini grill. Second, they’re served hot through and through. Most of the ingredients are cooked to order on a conventional grill or in a saute pan and then placed inside the bread before it is moved to the panini grill. This helps the sandwich maintain its heat well into the meal.

Picking a favorite here is tough, but were Dr. Atkins monitoring my diet, he might dub at least two of them “repeat offenders.” Tops on my list are the mango salmon wrap — grilled salmon, provolone, mango-pineapple salsa, red onions, tomatoes and romaine lettuce served inside a tomato-basil wrap with roasted red pepper aioli ($6.95); and the Florentine chicken — grilled chicken, provolone, spinach, red onions and tomato served on ciabatta with roasted garlic aioli and oregano vinaigrette ($5.75).

Chef Guntar Rusmanis describes the food’s appeal this way: “If you want bland food, go someplace else. To think you get this for about a dollar more than a Value Meal at McDonald’s, the choice isn’t too hard.”

That’s an understatement as big as his sandwiches.   


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