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HoneyBaked Ham Co. and Cafe

You don't have to wait until after the holidays to enjoy its leftovers.

HoneyBaked Ham Co. and Cafe offers its signature, spiral-sliced, glazed ham and smoked, roasted or Cajun-style turkey by the pound, as well as by the sandwich.

Until recently, I had mistaken the small cafe in the Medford Center as a catering-only service, but the company also showcases its product in nearly two dozen sandwiches, a handful of wraps and panini, soups and salads.

The cafe opened in 2006 and is owned by Philip Iantosca, who also owns the Eugene location.

Holiday ham and turkey orders generally begin in November and continue until a few days before Christmas. For every ham reserved, the company prepares two more for all the last-minute shoppers, says Amanda Croghan, sales and catering manager.

My mom and I were in for a sandwich, not a ham, when we patronized the restaurant last week. The restaurant was as bustling as any at the noon hour.

Inside, there were 10 vinyl-covered tables, a third of them full. The dining room was dressed for the season with lights, wreaths, poinsettias and a miniature Christmas tree.

Orders are placed at the counter, where a friendly gal waited patiently while my mom and I went back and forth between a large menu on the wall and a small-scale laminated version on the counter. I lingered over the ham and turkey Bella ($6.29) with Parmesan and provolone cheese, pepper rings and balsamic vinaigrette on a ciabatta roll; the Smoke Stacker ($6.29) with pineapple, Jamaican jerk seasoned-sauce, red onions, bacon and ham; the Tavern Club ($6.29) with ham, smoked turkey, bacon and condiments on honey-grain bread; and the Smothered Clucker, a chicken-salad melt on honey-grain bread.

My mom called dibs on the signature ham sandwich ($5.99). I also was in the market for "the world's best ham" and chose the special ($7.99), a provolone and ham sandwich served with a side dish and beverage. I chose macaroni salad, but there also is potato salad, pasta salad, fruit salad, broccoli salad, tomato-cucumber salad and three-bean-ham salad. You also can opt for half of a sandwich and cup of house-made soup (chicken noodle, split pea or bean with ham that day) for $5.49. A boxed lunch, which comes with a whole sandwich, deli salad, sliced fruit and fresh-baked cookie, costs about $8.99.

My mom and I took a seat by the window and nursed a cup of GoodBean coffee while we waited. Posters throughout the restaurant and our place mats displayed deliciously arranged Christmas spreads, featuring the hallmark turkey or ham alongside an array of tempting sides, including sweet-potato soufflé, orange-walnut cranberries and green-bean casserole. The company even sells desserts — red velvet cake, cheesecake, carrot cake, lemon-cream cake and Southern pecan pie — to round off a no-hassle Christmas meal or weekday lunch.

Our sandwiches arrived shortly in paper-lined baskets, garnished with a single orange wedge.

My mom's sandwich was served on a beautiful marbled rye, which she described as " more subtle" and "less heavy" than regular rye. Inside, there were slices of tomatoes and Swiss cheese, a few frills of lettuce and moderately thin slices of ham. The ham was the real deal, not the flimsy, slimy kind served at most delis, but moist, tender and sweet.

My sandwich touted similar condiments and the delicious honeyed ham, but inside a relatively tough, chewy multigrain flatbread. While the sandwich would have been better on an alternative bread, I approved of the house-made, creamy herb spread that distinguished the sandwich from a homemade one.

I took a square of carrot cake ($1.19) to go and enjoyed it back at the office. Apart from a few specks of grated carrot and a sprinkling of walnuts, the cake was akin to a spice cake, but any cake with a quarter-inch of cream-cheese frosting is gratifying.

While the sandwiches were average, the company's delectable ham, whether served on a festive platter or slices of bread, sets it apart.

— Teresa Thomas