The great UCI sandwich wars of 2004 — well, said wars aren’t going to erupt fully for another month or so, probably more. But they are incipient, as there are now three different places within walking distance from my office space that will provide at the least good if not always truly spectacular sandwiches. But in the kingdom of the tastebudless the slightly functioning tongue is king (or somesuch), and so I must consider my options.

On campus itself is a small franchise for Einstein Bros, part of the vague bagelwich bubble of the nineties that somehow has entrenched itself reasonably enough here. Not perfect, no, but it’s a good basic option that beats the usual generoburger fare, and at the least you can get a perfectly filling hummus and bagel combo, combine that with an apple and some unsweetened ice tea = a fine little lunch.

Off campus, though, is the grand survivor of a few restaurant wars, Le Diplomate. Small, often impossibly cramped during peak hours such as lunch — I’ve had to wait almost up to twenty minutes at a time at its worst, though thankfully that’s not a common situation — it’s still a good cheap way to get a mighty fine range of baguette-based sandwiches. As much of the staff are Vietnamese in background, the results are a good range of not only French-based combinations, but a few Vietnamese ones as well, plus a slew of other styles. Just had a small Brie melt today and remembered that the bread they bake on site is most tasty, a good base for what’s inside.

However, their particular approach is in for a tough challenge — taking over an old Denny’s (yes, somehow a *Denny’s* failed, located next to a college campus — I can’t believe it myself, I refuse to believe that somehow there weren’t enough haggard students at 2 am needing coffee) is Lee’s Sandwiches. An up-and-coming California chain with increasing aspirations, its site in Garden Grove is already a local legend — with a take-away window open 24 hours and spectacularly cheap but ridiculously good Vietnamese sandwiches, it was no surprise to me that fellow food freaks had already discovered it, and that the line the one time I went late on a Saturday evening was pretty reasonably long. I admit I’m already drooling at the prospect of their sandwiches here — they’ll have to be a touch more expensive to meet Irvine rent rates for the place as a whole, I’m sure, but it’ll be worth it.

I sorta hope none of them emerge the victor in that I like the idea of variety. I must practice a considered rotation over the weeks to come when lunch comes around.