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Togo’s, Saginaw’s to add nostalgia to Las Vegas restaurant scene

Updated September 4, 2020 - 10:24 am

Nostalgia has a way of influencing a city’s restaurant collection, and Las Vegas is soon to get a bit more of it — Togo’s, being brought to the valley by local businessman Wayne Bauer, and a taste of Ann Arbor, Michigan, courtesy of Circa developer Derek Stevens.

For Bauer, the link goes back to his youth in San Jose, California, where the company was founded in 1971.

“I ate them when we went off campus for lunch in high school in the late ’80s,” he said.

The attraction?

“It’s just a really good, consistent sandwich and a good product,” he said. “They’ve tasted the same forever. When I moved out to Vegas, I missed them. Every time I go back to California to visit family, I make sure that’s on my list of places to hit, to get my fix. They are the Chick-fil-A of submarine sandwiches. People will wait in long lines forever.”

Choice reinforced by COVID

Bauer said he’s a connoisseur of fast food, even more so since COVID-19 has made drive-thrus a preferred meal option. But while he frequents various chains, he said he’s never found one that measured up. He said he’d been planning to invest in Togo’s, but the decision was reinforced by the coronavirus pandemic, when he was laid off from his job as a sound engineer.

“COVID solidified that I was doing the right thing,” he said. “If I’m going to fail, it’s going to be because of my actions, not some actions made in a boardroom.”

Plus, he said he wants to make more of a difference than just making bands sound good. And he has some food-service experience, as the former franchisee of a Pizza Hut in the San Francisco area.

“I just want to love what I do again,” he said.

It appears there’s a lot to love about Togo’s. Praise for the company often mentions the generous ratio of meat in its sandwiches, such as the Brewpub Chicken, with melted cheddar, bacon, avocado and ranch, or the roast beef, with a quarter-pound of meat served hot or cold. The chain makes three sandwiches on hot pretzels, three pastrami sandwiches and pastrami on a hot pretzel.

There also are turkey sandwiches, classics such as a tuna melt and an Italian sub, wraps and some vegetarian choices, plus salads, soups and kids’ meals. Bauer said the company has over 200 locations, most of them clustered near the Bay Area. And he hopes the vast number of California expatriates living in Las Vegas will support his Togo’s.

Michigan connection

Stevens, owner of a number of downtown properties including the D Las Vegas, hopes the large number of former Michigan residents in Las Vegas will appreciate the Saginaw’s Delicatessen he plans to open with Circa late next month. Saginaw’s, for which a menu has not yet been released, is from Zingerman’s Deli co-founder Paul Saginaw. As it happens, Stevens has been quite familiar with Zingerman’s since his college days at the University of Michigan, when he reportedly would be sure to line up early at the Ann Arbor landmark.

“I think Zingerman’s, you could argue, is the country’s best deli,” Stevens said in a January interview. “It’s got the best corned beef sandwich in the country.” He said he expects Saginaw’s to become a destination spot.

Bauer said he plans his first shop near the 215 Beltway and Green Valley Parkway in Henderson. Because of pandemic-related delays, he thinks early next year is a realistic opening date. He’s contracted for two more and hopes to open four additional, spread geographically around the valley. (There was a short-lived Togo’s in Las Vegas in the late ’90s when it was owned by a different parent company.)

“I really hope to formulate a team that is so passionate about the product that people just fall in love with the brand like I have,” he said, “and will come to my place for it.

“There’s a lot of hamburger places and a lot of chicken places. I like to think Togo’s has been able to survive that many years because it’s a good product. I just want to provide people with the product that I grew up on. They’ll love it — and the service — as well.”

Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@reviewjournal.com. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.

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