“You can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish” – REO Speedwagon
I’m extremely picky about my tuna fish salad, and can credit Pampa, my beloved grandfather, for that. He used to make the best tuna salad and only used Bumblebee brand white albacore. Pampa added diced celery and onion, white pepper, fresh lemon juice and homemade (yes, homemade) mayonnaise. I’ve tried my best to replicate his recipe but use low-fat, store-bought mayo (usually Duke’s Light) instead of his homemade version. Click here for his recipe.
Most restaurants that are open for lunch offer some sort of tuna fish salad, whether it is served as a sandwich, a tuna melt or just plain on a bed of lettuce. I’m normally not a big fan of relish or boiled eggs in tuna salad, probably as a result of being spoiled by my grandfather’s wonderful concoction. However, even though I am picky, luckily I have found 10 tuna salad sandwiches/melts that I will gladly order because they are so tasty – some actually have eggs and/or relish in the mix.
I’m splitting this post into two parts: Part 1 is about some tasty cool classics – tuna salad served cold on some sort of tasty bread. Part 2 reviews tuna melts – warm tuna salad with some sort of melted cheese on top.
Here is where I get some of my favorite cool classics:
Panera Bread – Various locations nationwide, check its website for one close to you.
This is one tuna salad sandwich that I keep coming back for, and luckily there are enough Panera Bread locations around that I don’t have to go far. This tuna salad has reduced fat mayo, sweet relish and seasonings. It comes on a wide choice of homemade breads (I love the asiago cheese focaccia) with leaf lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, salt and pepper. Nicely priced at $5.19, which includes a side item (choice of chips or fruit) and a pickle.
Café Carolina and Bakery (various locations in North Carolina)
I usually visit Café Carolina’s location in Raleigh’s Cameron Village shopping center, and have tried numerous items on the menu, all of which are good. This tuna salad has celery, onion, mayo, bits of red pepper and seasonings. It has a good consistency, and tastes good. It comes on nine grain bread with lettuce and tomato, but they will gladly let you choose a different bread (I love their buttery croissant – flaky and soft!) It comes with a choice of Lays potato chips or pretzels. Come early or late or be prepared to wait – there is always a line at lunch!
Poppyseed Market – 8801 Leadmine Rd., Raleigh, N.C. 27615
The tuna salad sandwich at Poppyseed comes on white toasted bread and is huge! The tuna is mixed with celery, onions and mayo and comes with lettuce and a slice of tomato. Lots of tuna, and very tasty. It is served with homemade potato chips which are yummy and a pickle, for $7.99. The Poppyseed Market is located in the Harvest Plaza shopping center, in the same strip as Nina’s, one of my favorite Italian restaurants. In addition to serving food, Poppyseed sells deli items as well as wine, assorted cheeses and gifts. It also caters special events.
Over the Falls Deli – 238 South White St., Wake Forest, N.C. 27587
I ordered the Horseshoe sandwich ($7.49), which was on a flaky croissant and came with lettuce and tomato. The tuna salad was very good and creamy – it had bits of celery, red onion and black olives in it. The sandwich was served with homemade potato chips that are quite addictive and a dill pickle slice. The service was attentive and friendly, and it has outside seating. I love this little place, and if I go there when I’m a carnivore I like to get a sandwich called the Brink, which is a Reuben that rocks! If you’re familiar with Wake Forest, this place is right next to the Cotton Company, a unique assortment of vendors and shops.
Village Deli and Grill (500 Daniels Street Raleigh, NC 27605)
I ordered the homemade tuna salad sandwich ($5.50), which is fairly basic and appears just to contain mayo and pepper. It is more like a spread in its consistency, and needed salt and more pepper. It comes with lettuce, tomato and mayo on a choice of white, wheat, rye, Kaiser roll or wrap. For .25 cents more you can have it on a croissant or ciabatta. I ordered the ciabatta and it was good. Sides are extra. The Village Deli has locations in Raleigh, Morrisville and Wake Forest. I go to the one in Raleigh’s Cameron Village shopping center, which is usually packed at lunchtime.
This ends Part 1 of “Ten Tasty Tuna Salad Sandwiches.” Be on the lookout for Part 2, Marvelous Melts, which will be posted in the next few days. And if you have a favorite that I haven’t mentioned here, please leave a comment – I’m always on the lookout for great tuna salad!
Tuna salad is very close to my heart as it reminds me of my mother, who is now in a nursing home. She made tuna salad every weekend of my life when I was growing up and then continued the tradition for her grandsons. They are now completely addicted to “grandma’s” tuna salad. My mother also used nothing but Bumble Bee White Albacore and never anything but Hellmann’s. She broke up the tuna without making it into mush and used only enough Hellman’s to wet the tuna. A little white vinegar, diced celery, and some grated carrot. And just to top off the story…when my parents first moved to NC you could not find Bumble Bee Tuna so each time my father made a trip to NYC he would bring back a case. Delicious on warm Pillsbury biscuits!
Wow, Lisa, how coincidental is that? By the time we moved to Raleigh in 1970, I’m fairly certain that Bumble Bee was available in the grocery stores. I am going to try your Mom’s recipe – I like the addition of carrots, and love the idea of the warm Pillsbury biscuits. Thanks for the suggestion!
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