Photo by Jeanne RiceA quick look around Super Hero's reveals it's a very new restaurant: the paint's still shiny, the counters are absolutely spotless, and the gargantuan fish tank is curiously empty because they haven't gotten around to buying the fish yet. But try a sandwich, and you'd think they've been in business for years. Maybe it's because co-owners/co-chefs Dan Gauna and Jeff Johnson have honed their hero-making skills behind the cutting boards of such venerable HB gustatorial institutions as (but by no means only) Munchies, Captain Jack's and Duke's. Or maybe it's because they're a couple of crazy kids taking a stab at making their longtime restaurateuring dreams come true: every sandwich is an adventure—and tastes like it.
"Two years ago, it was just drunken bar talk," says Johnson. "Then we decided it could be something a little more serious." So a month or so ago, they moved in—between a boxing gym and a comic-book store—and opened their appropriately named Super Hero's. It's a sandwich shop run by the young, hip and hungry for the young, hip and hungry: they keep hours friendly to HB's de rigueur rock & roll lifestyle—till 12:30 a.m. during the week and 3 a.m. on weekends. They stock a wide variety of energy-replenishing, up-all-night beverages such as Sobe and rocket-fuel derivative Red Bull. Show up at the right time, and The Simpsons will be on TV. Show up any time, and the same Blink-182 song will be bouncing out of the radio. And somebody will probably be singing along while they sidle up to the register to take your order.
You could order a smoothie (like the George of the Jungle, a blend of papaya and guava nectar, or the PB&J With the Crusts Cut Off, a concoction of peanut butter, berry preserves and yogurt, both $3.95), or a salad (such as the Surf and Turf with tuna, chicken and avocado for $5.25). But what you really came for—for breakfast, for lunch, or just to satisfy that 2:45 a.m. post-party craving—are the sandwiches. And they're damn impressive, as any good superhero should be: the just-about-to-burst foot-longs dwarf my admittedly puny mortal thigh and shoot out condiments and cold cuts in all directions if not handled gingerly—they should issue tight spandex sandwich suits to keep these monsters together.
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The Godfather, a classic and classically proportioned Italian sub, comes sopping wet with vinaigrette and packed to bursting with capicola, mortadella, lush roma tomatoes and zesty pepperoni—all but the most Brando-esque bellies will be pleading for mercy. The B.L.A-Team attaches avocado to the veteran bacon, lettuce and tomato combo with action-packed results (but make sure they pile on the avocado). And the vegetarian Green Machine is a jungle of springy sprouts and lettuce that's best on lightly toasted bread and a fast favorite among my more herbivorous roommates (a Portabella mushroom sandwich is also occasionally available—check for specials).
The piping-hot sandwiches are even better: the Super Ball meatball sub buries feisty, spicy meatballs in thick and tangy marinara sauce under a hefty layer of gooey mozzarella, and the special Chicken Parmigiana sandwich catches just the right balance between crisp and chewy, with tender chicken and marinara sauce almost melting under a crunchy, mozzarellaed roll. Some of the specialties are a little out there—like the Nana Butter, a sandwich only Elvis could love, with bananas and hot peanut butter slathered over a toasted hamburger bun —but maybe I'm just not young, hip and hungry enough yet.
But others are, judging from the comfortably full tip jar. And so the dream marches on. "Theoretically," says Johnson, glancing at his empty aquarium, "we could have fish in as little as two weeks."
SUPER HERO'S, LOCATED AT 714 ADAMS AVE., HUNTINGTON BEACH, IS OPEN SUN.-THURS., 11 A.M.-12:30 A.M.; FRI.-SAT., 11 A.M.-3 A.M. (714) 536-1188. LUNCH FOR TWO, $10-$15, FOOD ONLY. NO ALCOHOL. cash only.