The art of the sandwich
La Javanaise offers unique flavors between bread
By Linda A. Thompson-Odum firstname.lastname@example.org
Restaurant owner William Heng faced a dilemma. He wanted to change the menu at his Hot Rize Café in Merrimack to include some unique handcrafted sandwiches, but the restaurant’s menu does well with its established clientele. So instead he opened a second restaurant — La Javanaise in Nashua.
“When I bought Hot Rize, I had an existing business that was doing alright. I got to the point where I couldn’t change the menu anymore because of the customer base we had. I wanted to open a sandwich shop that served handcrafted sandwiches made with unique and high-quality ingredients,” Heng said.
The name La Javanaise comes from a French song that Heng heard in Paris cafés while he studied business management at La Sorbonne. (You can listen to the song on the café’s Web site.) “In my mind I always thought that someday I would use that name,” he said. Born in Cambodia, he grew up in France. He came to the U.S. “by accident. I was visiting family members that I originally didn’t know lived here. Then I met my wife and I stayed.”
Heng didn’t like the work he found in different companies. He wanted the freedom to follow his own choices. He first owned a liquor store in Massachusetts, but decided to find a business that would allow him time with his family, which includes three boys ages 5, 8 and 12. That was when he came to New Hampshire and bought the first café.
Because of his French and Asian background, Heng created a La Javanaise sandwich menu that features ingredients different from the typical sandwich shop.
“I use a lot of spinach instead of lettuce; cilantro, corn, sunflower seeds, roasted peppers, chipotle pesto. My sandwiches have a different taste not widespread in the mainstream,” Heng said.
The café serves paninis, grilled wraps, cold wraps, flatbread sandwiches and some classic sandwiches. A few of his best-sellers include the La Javanaise grilled wrap (roast beef, spinach, cilantro, aioli sauce and sweet corn), La Mexicaine grilled wrap (grilled chicken, pepper jack cheese, cilantro, spinach and chipotle sauce), Cubano panini (roast pork, jalapeno, pickles, mustard and Swiss cheese), and the Chicken Delicate panini (grilled chicken, roasted pepper, provolone cheese and tomato pesto.)
Besides Heng’s specialty sandwiches, the café also serves salads and bagels, including a Lox, with Nova lox and cream cheese. Breakfast sandwiches are served all day, which feature egg panini on grilled ciabatta bread and grilled egg wraps in unique combos such as Spicy Alamo (egg, red roasted pepper, dried red chili, chipotle sauce and cheddar cheese) and Santa Fe (egg, oven turkey, spinach, pepper jack cheese and tomato pesto.)
The coffee comes from Java Tree in Manchester, and Heng plans to partner with The Good Loaf Artisan Bakery in Milford for his bread needs. The café offers seating for about 24 people, and he hopes that customers see it as a pleasant space for friends and family to gather, and an alternative to fast food.
“A sandwich is two thirds to three quarters of what you eat in a year,” Heng said. “When you go to a nice restaurant and have a nice dish, I want you to have that nice dish in a sandwich.”