Earl of Sandwich

by Sue Holland, contributing writer

Photo by Sue Holland.

For years, the Marketplace at Downtown Disney was home to the Gourmet Pantry, which specialized in food-related merchandise as well as delicious candy, bakery goods and ready-made sandwiches. When it closed its doors many people were surprised, as the Pantry always appeared to be busy. After a partial renovation, a section of the building reopened as a candy store with a limited bakery counter. Following a much longer renovation, the rest of the building recently reopened as the Earl of Sandwich.

Like many other stores and restaurants at Downtown Disney, Earl of Sandwich is neither owned nor managed by Disney. It's a private company renting space from Disney and doing business on Disney property—similar to Rainforest Café, Cirque du Soleil and several others. I was told company plans call for several Earl of Sandwich locations, with the one at Walt Disney World being the first. Their Web site was not completed as this article was being written, but will eventually be found at EarlofSandwichUSA.com (link).

It's customary for Disney to have a story behind its attractions, resorts and eateries, and Earl of Sandwich has one also (with the advantage of being pretty much true). The following can be found on signs as well as the menu:

The Legacy of the Sandwich

In 1762, John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich, had his hands full, literally. He was First Sea Lord of the mighty British Navy, a noted explorer, a patron of the arts and also a dedicated gambler with a love of daylong card games.

This led to little time for food, so he came up with the ingenious idea of putting meat between two slices of bread. From then on it did not matter if you were inspecting the Fleet or laying down a Royal Flush—you could eat great food without too much fuss.

Thus the sandwich was named after its inventor the 4th Earl of Sandwich in 1762. Now over 240 years on, the family now headed by John Mantagu, the 11th Earl of Sandwich, has reclaimed and reinvented the greatest of all quick foods.

The Earl of Sandwich is dedicated to bringing the sandwich we've all been waiting for. Our signature hot roast beef sandwich, served on hearth baked bread will amaze you. We also serve classic cold sandwiches and wraps, unique salads, fresh fruit smoothies and our very own ice cream sandwiches.

We feel honored that so many have copied our lead but we are here to reclaim the sandwich!

Earl of Sandwich is a counter-service restaurant, with both indoor and outdoor seating. Upon entering, the large menu is easily visible before queuing up to place an order. Customers order at one end of the line, then move toward the other end to pay for and later pick up their food.

The eatery has been become very popular, and with good reason—prices are low and the food is great! Because it is so popular though, showing up at mealtime means you may have a long wait—as much as an hour!

Customers order at the first station. Photo by Sue Holland.

During a recent visit, I found the queue completely filled in with enough additional people outside the rope to fill the queue halfway again. It had been less than half as busy the night before, and at that time it took more than 30 minutes to get my sandwich, so I'm confident the line on the second night was at least an hour long (I did not wait). Your best bet right now is to try eating between the traditional meal times if possible.

Customers pay for their order and return here to pick it up when their number is called. Photo by Sue Holland.

Earl of Sandwich makes its own hearth bread, which is used for all sandwiches. All of the hot sandwiches are run through a toasting/grilling machine, which leaves the bread crusty on the outside but warm and soft on the inside. Each sandwich is wrapped in foil and held closed with a gold logo seal, which helps preserve the warmth as well as giving a nice presentation.

All sandwiches are served “to go,” whether you are eating there or not. Each is made fresh after you place your order, for maximum flavor. The one that caught my eye was the caprese, which is sliced mozzarella, roma tomatoes, fresh basil and drizzled virgin olive oil. I've eaten this as a salad many times and it is one of my favorite food items. I had trouble imagining it warm, and as a sandwich, but it turned out to be delicious! The hot sandwiches (called Hotties) are all $4.95 plus tax, which is a very good value considering this is on Disney property. The other selections:

  • The Original – fresh roasted beef, cheddar and creamy horseradish sauce
  • Beef n' Bleu – roast beef, bleu cheese, lettuce and tomato
  • The Earl's Club – turkey, apple smoked bacon, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato and sandwich sauce
  • The All American – turkey, buttermilk ranch, cranberries, cheddar cheese, lettuce and tomato.
  • The Frenchy – country ham, creamy brie, with a dijonaise sauce
  • Hawaiian BBQ – barbeque pork with fresh pineapple and Swiss cheese
  • Cannonballs – meatballs in a rich tomato sauce with provolone and mozzarella cheese
  • The Full Montagu – roast beef and turkey with cheddar and Swiss cheese, romaine lettuce, tomato and English mustard sauce
  • The Florentine – grilled chicken breast with creamy spinach, sauteed mushrooms and parmesan cheese
  • Caribbean Jerk Chicken – grilled chicken with a spicy jerk sauce and roasted red peppers
  • Tuna Melt – albacore tuna and Swiss cheese

Indoor seating area at Earl of Sandwich (additional seating located outside on two sides of the building). Photo by Sue Holland.

In addition to hot sandwiches there are two tossed-bowl salads available, both priced at $5.95. The Earl's Cobb is made with roast turkey, bacon, Swiss cheese, cranberries, tomato and cucumbers in buttermilk ranch dressing. The Chinese Chicken has grilled chicken with Chinese leaves, tossed in ginger dressing and topped with crispy wontons.

Ready-made sandwiches, wraps and salads are available in two locations at Earl of Sandwich. There is a corner of the shop called Grab n' Go, where these items and bottled beverages can be obtained and then paid for without having to enter the regular queue. A selection of these items are also found in the area where customers pass from the order counter to the “pay & pick up” counter. These items are all cold, and stored in refrigerated cases. The Earl's Classics are sandwiches made on 10-grain hearth bread, and all sell for $3.95. There are six varieties—The Original (rare roasted beef with creamy horseradish, lettuce and tomato), Egg Salad, Chicken Salad, Tuna Salad, England's Favorite (sharp cheddar with tangy relish) and Turkey Swiss.

Three classic salads are available in this section as well—tuna, fruit salad and chicken salad—for $4.95 each. Wrap lovers have not been forgotten here, with six varieties sold for $4.45 each, including a few you don't find everywhere.

  • Beef n Bleu Cheese – rare roasted beef, Maytag blue cheese, red onion, romaine lettuce and tomato
  • The Hawaiian – grilled chicken, roast ham, fresh pineapple, romaine lettuce and Hawaiian BBQ dressing
  • The Earl's Club – roast turkey, applewood bacon, romaine lettuce, tomato and sandwich sauce
  • Chicken Caesar – grilled chicken, romaine lettuce, tomato, parmesan and Caesar dressing
  • Tuna Salad – our classic tuna salad with romaine lettuce and tomato
  • Veggie Wrap – a selection of seasonal veggies and raspberry dressing

In case anyone still has room after the delicious sandwiches, wraps and salads, Earl of Sandwich also features a selection of fresh-baked cookies, brownies, scones and turnovers ranging from $1.95 to $2.45. Besides the usual cookie varieties they also offer toffeescotch crunch and gingersnap sugar. Brownies include the usual chocolate, but also kona brownie, raspberry blondie and lemon crunch. It's nice to find items that cannot be found at every other food location on the property! Another unusual or unexpected item is the Earl's Ice Cream Sandwich, which is a pair of thin biscuits (cookies) filled with vanilla ice cream, also available edged in coconut flakes or chocolate chips for $2.45.

The usual assortment of beverages is available, with guests serving themselves at the soda fountain machines. A selection of beers and wines is also available, as well as four flavors of fresh fruit yogurt smoothies (Hawaiian, strawberry/banana, peachsicle and cappuccino). The signature beverage is The Earl's Grey Lemonade—fresh lemonade infused with freshly brewed Earl Grey tea ($1.75 for 22 ounces).

Earl of Sandwich opens at 9 a.m. each day, and features three breakfast sandwiches for $4.95 each (bacon & eggs, ham & cheese or bacon, tomato & cheddar). They also will serve anything on the menu at that hour as well, so if you're craving a roast beef sandwich for breakfast, this is the place to be! Generally it's not very busy in the mornings, which means a much shorter wait than there will be by dinner time.

Photo by Sue Holland.

Merchandise with a British theme is available. Photo by Sue Holland.

The Earl of Sandwich is decidedly British, and a selection of British-themed merchandise is available for sale. At first glance you might think you've wandered into a shop in the United Kingdom at Epcot, right down to the tins of tea.

Anyone who used to enjoy eating at Gourmet Pantry in the past will most likely also love the Earl of Sandwich. The price can't be beat, the food is very good and the only downside is the potential for long lines. With a little advance planning though, it is possible to enjoy a meal here without spending longer than you'd like.