Icarus Sandwich Shop takes flight in the Short North

Flavorful sandwiches are scratch-made with great ingredients at this generally strong-performing Fox in the Snow spinoff

G.A. Benton
Turkey Club sandwich from Icarus Sandwich Shop

Naming a restaurant after the mythological guy whose overconfidence and demise gave rise to the phrase “don’t fly too close to the sun” might seem like tempting fate. Also potentially tempting fate: Rather than coasting on the still-growing success of a great little bakery/cafe chain, you open an entirely different kind of eatery with built-in, sky-high expectations.

In the face of all this, I can report that Icarus Sandwich Shop — a Short North hot spot launched in the former Laughlin's Bakery space by the impressive Fox in the Snow team — is a friendly, trendy and strong-performing operation that deserves its popularity.  

Would I have written that had I visited months ago? I’ll never know, but according to friends — and Icarus’ own Instagram feed — the eatery experienced learning-curve wobbles after the little shop opened to stunning lines around the block in late October. 

Since I'm not keen on being among the first to taste a slammed new place’s sandwiches (or to post a photo of such an achievement), I waited for the teeming, next-new-thing crowds to lessen. Apparently, my timing was great — several recent experiences yielded quick and delicious results.     

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Among the hippest restaurants to open lately, Icarus occupies a small but stylish space with counter-style perches, about 10 tiny tables, abundant natural light, exposed brick and plaster, a tasteful indie-rock soundtrack, handsomely branded merchandise, plus affable counter service from a somehow efficient, black-clad staff constantly filling to-go orders. 

Other than soft drinks like the far-better-than-par Arnold Palmer (a refreshing iced-tea-and-lemonade blend, $3), plus thick, crunchy, garlic-scented and altogether terrific house-made potato chips partnered with a creamy, tangy and addictive onion dip ($4), the one-page menu is essentially just eight sandwiches.   

Italian-ish sandwich from Icarus Sandwich Shop

“Just” doesn’t imply skimpy or dainty — the sandwiches are often huge and lavishly packed with high-quality components, such as roasted meats and garnishes that, like many of the breads, Icarus prepares from scratch.

The big, best-selling, gloriously messy turkey club ($14) on good house ciabatta had heaving slabs of house-roasted breast, sweet-tart house pickles (most sandwiches have sweet notes), avocado, mayo, shredded lettuce and an appealingly crisp minced bacon constituent that visually resembled a sausage patty. 

Is it a true club sandwich? Not really. Is it good? Yes, really. 

The served-warm, weekends-only reuben was even better ($15). Righteous, generously stacked “7-day-brined" house corned beef — juicy and not-too-salty — was allowed to shine amid the unobtrusively applied usual, but above-average, accompaniments.

With layers of rich house pesto, tangy sun-dried tomatoes and milky mozzarella evoking the tri-colored Italian flag, plus spicy sopressata salami and hefty and flavorful house focaccia, the enormous, served-cold Italian-Ish ($13) is a keeper that could lose the “ish.”

Roasted Mushroom sandwich with housemade chips and sauce from Icarus Sandwich Shop

Something without meat? Icarus offers a vegetarian Italian-ish (untried) and a roasted mushroom sandwich ($11) that starred warm fungus with a great cooked-down flavor. Arugula, whipped goat cheese, herbs like rosemary and a pretty good house baguette I wanted to be crisper completed the satisfying package.       

The outstanding roast pork with crusted and luscious “Cuban-inspired” meat delivered the best value ($11). The plentiful pig meat was joined by sweet-and-zippy accents from pickles and horseradish-spiked “spicy maple mustard,” plus so much delectable pork juice that the ciabatta softened.         

Therein lies a slight chink in the couture armor: The house breads don’t always hold up well.  When I bit into the otherwise wonderful meatball sandwich ($14), Icarus’ attractive seeded Italian roll — which was invitingly stuffed with excellent meatballs, rich-yet-kicky tomato sauce, plus Parmesan and melted mozzarella — fell apart. I wanted every saucy, cheesy, basil-accented and chile-kissed morsel inside that whopping sandwich, but I wanted the roll to be sturdier or better toasted.

This place soars above much of the competition, so maybe my expectations are exaggerated. But I think Icarus can still fly a little higher and not risk crashing down in flames.    

Roast Pork sandwich along from Icarus Sandwich Shop

Icarus Sandwich Shop

15 E. Second Ave., Short North