Knuckle Sandwiches in Mesa just opened in June 2019, but is already delivering a stunning blow to the competition.
“What makes us different is we roast all of our meats in house,” said owner Roscoe Smith, who runs the restaurant with his wife Ginette.
“We make our own corned beef; our own pastrami from top round, from brisket; we roast whole turkeys every day to make our turkey sandwiches; we make our own roast beef; we marinate our chicken breast,” he said.
“Plus, we make all of our deli salads as well as our cold salads like tuna salad and chicken salad. We make our meatballs in marinara. All of it made here.”
He said he was looking for a unique name for his eatery last year and was trying to think of a name as he was sitting in a sushi restaurant with a friend. Roscoe asked a couple of sushi chefs what they would name a sandwich shop.
One said it should have something to do with boxing. One thought lead to another and it led to Knuckle Sandwiches.
Located on the southwest corner of Brown and Higley roads, Knuckle Sandwiches opened in the old Schlotzsky’s site Smith and his wife owned and operated for five years.
They closed Schlotzsky’s June 1, and reopened as Knuckle Sandwiches two weeks later.
Smith said when it was time to renew the franchise agreement with Schlotzsky’s, he and his wife felt they could do better.
“People appreciate getting real meat, real food,” said Smith. “We went from making all of our bread and making deli meat to getting our bread brought in from a local bakery every day and making all of our meat. It’s absolutely worth it.”
All of the recipes are Smith’s but as he puts it, his staff has “embellished them.”
His prices, according to Smith, are right in line with what they were charging at Schlotzsky’s.
“But you’re getting a better product and some of our prices are even lower than what they were with Schlotzsky’s.”
As far as customer favorites, Smith said, “Ladies like the B.L.A.T.T. a lot — bacon, lettuce, avocado, tomato and turkey. With men, it’s a toss-up between the meatball, corned beef and pastrami.”
Smith has been in the restaurant business 25 years doing everything from full service to fast food to institutional. He’s worked for McDonald’s, Red Lobster, Fazoli’s, Burger King and a few independent steak houses.
He has a degree in hospitality and restaurant administration from Missouri State University.
He plans on opening up a couple more sandwich shops and eventually would like to create full-service concept down-the-road.
Since his mother was one of four siblings, Smith would like to open four restaurants, one named after each one of them with each having a different concept such as southern cooking, creole seafood.
Smith and his wife don’t have a lot of free time but consider themselves foodies. So, on their days off, “We try to go around and eat at different places and try different things. Outside of that, we like to travel a lot.”
With many winter visitors returning and learning about Schlotzsky’s being closed, Smith asks them and other people to give his sandwich shop a try.
“You’ll be surprised,” said Smith. “There haven’t been very many people who don’t like what we’re doing.”
Information: 480-630-4132, knucklesandwichesaz.com.