French bread, roast beef, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, cheddar cheese, sprouts, granulated garlic, mayo, and spicy mustard. Schroeder’s Roast Beef Relief may not jump off a menu at you, but I found that it was the complexity that went into this simple sandwich that made it simply brilliant.
I can track my life history through Schroeder’s sandwiches. Growing up in Cedartown, my parents would convince me and my sisters to take the 35-minute drive north for dinner by telling us that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ate pizza at Schroeder’s New Deli. My first date with the young girl who would later become my wife was in the Schroeder’s Courtyard listening to the Glenn Phillips Band. Fast forward 8 years, we continue our tour of Georgia’s version of antiquity by making the move from Athens to Rome and my desk is perpendicular to a door shared with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ favorite restaurant. Every day at work I hear “Wagon Wheel”, “Pancho and Lefty”, and “I’ve Got a Tiger by the Tail” jumping out of the jukebox and crawling through the cracks of my door to fill my office. The past two years in Rome I have on multiple occasions taken my dog to lunch in Schroeder’s outdoor seating area and came back with my wife for supper.
With such a long relationship with this downtown establishment, I am shamed to say that only recently was my first true experience with the most Roman of all the Rome Sandwiches. The Roast Beef Relief is a cultural icon. Starting a meal with some potato skins and finishing it with a Roast Beef Relief is just as Roman as paddling down the Etowah River and then climbing the Clock Tower to watch the 4th of July fireworks. In the Roman citizen test, you have to list the ingredients of a Roast Beef Relief and then be able to pronounce Armuchee correctly.
Romans have been flocking to Schroeder’s Broad Street location to enjoy this sandwich for 33 years. The sandwich even predates the restaurant and can trace its origins to John Schroeder’s sandwich stand at Shannon’s on East 1st Street. Over the past 34 years, the Roast Beef Relief has watched Rome’s downtown area go through many changes, but the love for its ten ingredients never faltered. And now at time when John Schroeder says that downtown is the best it has ever been in the past 33 years, the sandwich still creates a buzz in the community. And after my first bite, I completely understood the craze for this cult classic.
The Roast Beef Relief is the brainchild of a Rome sandwich legend. John Schroeder is a guy you know, whether you know you know him or not. I had the privilege of sitting down with John before diving head first into his culinary creation. He reminisced about the long history of the Roast Beef Relief and Schroeder’s New Deli. I was even able to pick his brain a little about his use of sprouts (introduced to him by a meal he had while working at a summer camp), the origins of his signature sandwich’s name (suggested by his friend Mr. Shannon), and his personal take on creating a great sandwich. He even confirmed my parents’ suspicions, stating that turtles used to live in the courtyard and eat leftover pizza off of the ground. He did not speak on their ninja abilities, but I think we all know which kind of turtle’s primary diet consists of pepperoni pizza (no anchovies). John’s philosophy on sandwich making—each ingredient is just as important as the next. After chatting, John headed to the kitchen to whip me up a Roast Beef Relief himself.
The Roast Beef Relief looks and acts like a simple sandwich, but it tastes like a masterpiece. John’s every-ingredient-philosophy shines. At any other restaurant, you would expect the mushrooms, roast beef, and garlic to take center stage. But this isn’t any other restaurant—this is Schroeder’s. Every ingredient sings in perfect harmony with one another. The garlic, beef, and cheddar cheese provide savory sustenance. The tomatoes, onions, and mushrooms bring fresh and complex textures and flavors that take the sandwich to a new level. The only ingredient served cold, the sprouts are the life of the party with their airy crunch. The mayonnaise and Gulden’s Mustard meld all the other flavors together, and the perfectly toasted French bread is the ideal home for it all. This is the Citizen Kane of Rome sandwiches. You may not walk away thinking it was the best sandwich you ever had, but you will be blown away by the brilliance of every element. This sandwich is a true work of art rivaling the masterpieces of Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo. It was good.
The most surprising thing I learned from my experience came from John Schroeder himself. Mozart listened to “Eine kleine Nachtmusik” over and over to get each sound just right. Michelangelo looked over the ceiling at the Sistine Chapel to make sure his vision was perfect. John Schroeder does not eat beef and has never tasted his signature Roast Beef Relief.
I think the best part of the sandwich is the memories that it conjures up. You can taste the years of careful thought, planning, and execution. You can feel that vibe that this Broad Street staple has been putting out since 1981. One bite and I was right back in that courtyard listening to Glenn Phillips’ talking about the Roast Beef Relief through his guitar, sitting at a table with a beautiful girl…and four giant, shelled mutants adorned with various colored masks and weaponry, and pulsing with uncanny skills in the martial arts. Cowabunga!
Try one for yourself:
Schroeder’s New Deli
406 Broad St
Rome, Ga 30161