Boycott the Potbelly sandwich shop

Potbelly customers can select their “personal pig” from a closed-circuit monitor, then watch and smell the fun.

John Hoff

What used to be a funky and genuine Dinkytown coffee shop called Purple Onion Café is now yet another Potbelly Sandwich Works. Despite the touching mom and pop story on Potbelly’s corporate Web site about a little antique store turned restaurant, this place is nothing but a soulless corporate clone trying to pretend it’s something funky, genuine and homegrown.

The Purple Onion, which used to display student art and had really affordable pastries, is gone. I’ve heard it will reopen, but until I see it and eat a sweet, gooey bear claw there, I refuse to have hope.

The new Purple Onion location has yet to open. All we are left with, for now, is this Potbelly purgatory displaying excessive likenesses of a young Bob Dylan, including a poster with the words “The times, they are a-changing.”

The poster seems to be a direct taunt about the fate of the Purple Onion Café, which many in the neighborhood wanted to save. Is Bob Dylan getting money for this blatant sandwich shop rip-off of his likeness?

Somebody new to the campus easily could enter Potbelly and swear the place has been around since the 1970s. There is an ornamental metal ceiling over the food prep area, like one finds in old-time dry goods stores. Some of the furniture has obviously been reclaimed and reused, perhaps from some recent victims of ruthless Potbelly expansionism. All that money spent on renovation and yet the tables don’t match, a deliberate and calculated attempt to replicate the feeling of a true neighborhood sandwich shop.

You might clone Woody Harrelson, but you can’t mass manufacture the bar from “Cheers.” This Potbelly even has a bookshelf in the back of old, random books, including “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo, a selection which required true nerve and complete corporate shamelessness.

As for the food, I can’t complain about it. Succulent, sizzling yellow slabs of pork fat as lovely as Spanish amber are carved directly from the trembling bellies of massive, force-fed swine while the animals are still alive to assure optimum freshness. Potbelly customers can select their “personal pig” from a closed-circuit monitor, then watch and smell the fun as a mysterious man in a black mask chases the animal with a rusty machete.

As a bonus, servers tell customers, “Squeal like a pig, boy!” If you do, they’ll spoon a hole in your mashed potatoes and give you a free heaping helping of delicious hog-grease gravy. That’s good eating. A trained doggy brings you a doggie box for the inevitable yummy leftovers.

OK, obviously everything I just said about the food is fictional satire, but I won’t be involved in marketing the place, only in raising the cry to boycott this unwelcome change to the neighborhood. If you want to find out about the food, you’ll just have to get by the big shirtless hillbilly running the strip search at the door.

John Hoff welcomes comments at [email protected].