Secret sauce: Take It Away sticks with its bread and butter—and the house dressing

Tom Bowe, owner of Take It Away, says the beloved sandwich shop “always focused on the house dressing from day one.” (Photo: Amy and Jackson Smith) Tom Bowe, owner of Take It Away, says the beloved sandwich shop “always focused on the house dressing from day one.” (Photo: Amy and Jackson Smith)

Take It Away will open a new location in the Dairy Market food hall this summer, but the beloved sandwich shop won’t break with tradition, according to founder and owner Tom Bowe. Bowe says he and his team will roll out the recipe that’s made his restaurant a Corner institution for more than 27 years.

But what, exactly, is that recipe? One condiment, says Bowe. We “always focused on the house dressing from day one.”

Take It Away’s dressing is a simple combination of mayonnaise, whole grain mustard, herbs, and spices. But the sauce’s uncanny ability to liven up sandwiches has anchored a menu that’s changed little over the years. From traditional turkey and ham to signature sandwiches like the Wertland Italian—genoa salami, swiss cheese, banana peppers, roasted tomatoes, and red onion—Take It Away’s handhelds are made with all-natural meats and cheeses, served on fresh bread and garnished with veggies like sprouts, cucumbers, arugula, and romaine lettuce.

In addition to excellent eats, Bowe says he’d also like folks to take a feeling away from his deli, the feeling that they’re part of a community.

“We don’t make people stand in line and treat our customers like livestock,” Bowe says. “We like to provide a party atmosphere, let people mill about the store, and hang out till their name is called.”

Bowe believes his signature sauce and Take It Away’s atmosphere set the place apart from other Corner sandwich shops and “gourmet” sub slingers. But of course not everyone agrees. The shop’s small interior can fill up quickly, and the party atmosphere can verge on chaotic. Plus, can you really keep crafting sandwiches for nearly 30 years without making a few changes?

Years ago, Bowe considered tinkering with his house dressing. Could he make his mayonnaise in-house? Maybe a different store-bought mayo could save him a few bucks and still cut the mustard?

The answer was “no” on both counts. The sauce’s cream base, which Bowe won’t name, had to stay the same. “We use a different blend than you find in supermarkets, with higher egg content that holds together better,” Bowe says. “I’ve never been able to find another one that’s good.”

Bowe says his new location will feature minor tweaks. He’ll update his color scheme to be more contemporary, and expand his hot sandwich offerings. Think pastrami reubens with Take It Away’s signature dressing and a “good Cuban.”

Bowe hopes the outpost will attract clientele who shy away from the student-heavy Corner location. Still, he isn’t trying to forget on which side his bread is buttered.

“Students are a huge part of our identity,” Bowe says. “I’m wired differently. I like the crowded streets when the students are here. It adds a certain excitement and vibe, and it’s kept me in business.”

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