Hot and Heavy: The Inferno Sandwich at Shorty’s Pizza and Smoked Meat

Wall decorations at a bar and restaurant in Superior, Wisconsin

You never had a hard time getting a good cheeseburger in Superior. The two best burgers on Earth hail from there, after all. Whether Number One in that struggle is Gronk’s or the Anchor Bar will always depend on who you ask (Me? Gronk’s); but what if I told you Superior is also home to a smoked beef sandwich that can an eater for years? What if I said you could have it with a 92-ounce serving of Spotted Cow?

Well, if you know Superior, that part won’t likely surprise you.

Anyhow: I wouldn’t exactly call Shorty’s Pizza and Smoked Meat a hidden gem. Guy Fieri’s been there, and there’s a big ol’ banner on the side of the building with his big ol’ face on it. It’s no less a gem, though. As it approaches four years on Tower Avenue, Shorty’s offers an experience you can’t otherwise have on either side of the Blatnik Bridge. If you enjoy an edible thrill ride, you’ll want the dangerlicious Inferno sandwich. If you just want a magnificent pile of meat, they’ve got ’em all over the menu. Pick one.

If you get it like I’ve gotten it, that meal will stay in your head and make your mouth water until you come back for another, even if it takes months.

The Basics: If everything the Internet says is true (and who’d ever doubt that), Shorty’s Pizza and Smoked Meat is a Packers bar with Montreal-inspired food that was opened by a Canadian Duluthian man. There may or may not have been Canadian Lottery winnings involved. What we do know is owner Brian Noel has found success in a building once perceived as a revolving door of bar failures. We might be safe saying the ghost of Carignan’s has finally been exorcised (and, for that matter, the ghosts of Odyssey’s, Hall of Fame, O2, Lord Stanley’s, etc. etc.).

Shorty’s website features a quick Montreal 101 to get you good and primed up.

On a bright day, stepping into the bar side of Shorty’s may look like walking into a closet at first. It’s dark, so much that your eyes may need time to adjust. Once they do, they’re treated to a “who’s who” of “WTF” on the walls. You’d think Noel had bought every light-up beer advertisement, and every Packers tin sign, from every garage sale in Douglas County. After those were all posted, the rest of the wall space was filled with a clown head, a shark head, disembodied buttocks, a barber’s pole, and a few Elvis things … to name a few. Have your phone camera ready, and good luck with your flash settings.

How thirsty are you? Draft beer is available in 16-and 20-ounce servings if you’re not really thirsty. If you’re really thirsty, the 50-ounce or the 92-ounce has you covered. Shorty’s also sells pitchers, for some reason. If you’re like me, you get a 50-ounce Spotted Cow and consider that “Peak Wisconsinite.” Then, you go play the arcade games built into the urinals. I’m not kidding. You direct your pee stream at certain spots and you play a game that way. I’m serious. Quit laughing. It’s fun.

The ordering process, for me, is simple. I make sure the Inferno is on the menu, and I order a jumbo. It’s a toasted hoagie, with a pinup-quality stack of food inside that the buns cannot properly close over: an embarrassment of smoked beef, littered with bacon, covered in pepperjack cheese and buffalo barbecue sauce. Did I mention the sliced jalapenos? They cover the bottom bun with sliced jalapenos. No, they don’t hold back – not on the meat, not on the heat, nothing. With this sandwich, safety is nobody’s job.

Yet, the fundamentals aren’t lost in the heat. It’s a robust sauce, and they lay it on thick. The meat is tender and spiced nicely. Anything you think they’re promising on the website, they deliver onto your plate. There could be more cheese, but I say that about everything.

My friend asked for a bite. When he tried it, let out an emphatic “Whoo!” and said, “You’ve gotta be ON to eat that thing.”

I’m always on. It’s a gift and a curse. I know I need to have the pizza sometime. I’d love to see what they can do with a simple pepperoni and sausage. I also know I should one day have the Shorty’s Special made with mustard, coleslaw, Swiss, and a fried egg. Guy Fieri knows to order “The Hunter’s Chicken.” I do, too, but I still get the Inferno.

It stays with me long after I leave Superior, every time. It’s wormed Shorty’s into the “Gronk’s or Thirsty Pagan” debate, which doesn’t really exist because I almost always hit both of those places every time I come to Superior. Stopping for an Inferno, too, is a non-debate now. You’re cheating yourself if you don’t do the same.

I’m not saying knock something off your list of to-dos in Superior. I’m just saying your list needs to be a little bit longer.

RELATED: Read about the Galley Buster, which you can get down the street at the Anchor Bar; and the edible blunt object you can enjoy from Motherf*cking Hugo’s Pizza II in Gary New Duluth.



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