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Cabela’s sandwiches wild, but not exactly wonderful

A hunter, I'm not.

Fishing? Once was enough.

I have bagged a few mice in my time, if setting traps counts.

So the new Cabela's superstore at Southridge is not a place you'll find me shopping very often. But I did have to make a trip out when I heard the store's Sugar Maple Cafe was serving up a few items on the wilder side.

And I do mean wild, as in smoked bison, boar and elk.

With visions of towering Grizzly Adams-worthy creations dancing in my head, I walked up, scanned the menu and placed my order.

"I'd like to try the bison and boar sandwiches, please."

Just pick out what you want, the attendant said, pointing to a cooler stocked with pretty dainty-looking pre-made cold deli sandwiches, sliced diagonally, with bright lettuce and sliced tomatoes perched on the side.

Turns out the Charleston store offers a "quick cafe." The "in-store restaurants" at other locations - including the Cabela's in Wheeling - offers an expanded menu that includes buffalo and elk burgers, buffalo chili and other fare.

My manly-man lunch would have to wait another day.

So I picked up a deli-sliced bison on white, a boar on wheat, and then slinked out to my car past burly men shopping for guns. Perhaps to catch their own lunch of bigger bison and boar.

I got home, slathered on packets of mustard and mayo and dug in.

The sliced boar was very similar to smoked ham, quite nice actually. The sliced bison looked and tasted a lot like roast beef, but with a slightly deeper, richer flavor. It wasn't bad either, although I couldn't stop thinking, "I'm eating a buffalo."

That nagging feeling got the best of me, and I stopped eating midway through. (Note, however, I had no such guilt with the pig.)

Both sandwiches tasted fine, they were just a little naked. I couldn't help but think how much nicer they would be dressed up with some caramelized onions, roasted red pepper, pesto mayo. Or maybe toasted up with a slab of gooey cheese.

The Southridge cafe does sell prepackaged buffalo chili to go, so I grabbed some to try a few days later. After 90 seconds in the microwave, I had a decent bowl of hearty chili - but a trophy catch this was not. The meat was fine (and I liked the chunks of carrots added) but it was too high on heat and too low on flavor for my taste.

There is a happy ending to this culinary adventure.

The Sugar Maple Cafe also boasts an impressive fudge shop featuring a nice collection of confections.

Amaretto chocolate swirl fudge. Cappuccino fudge. Red velvet fudge. Butterfinger fudge. Coconut cream fudge. Salted nut roll fudge. Cookies 'n' cream fudge. Mint chocolate fudge. Raspberry cheesecake fudge. Maple walnut fudge . . .

There are more than 30 decadent flavors offered - all made fresh daily with real butter and cream - and I fully intend to try them all. In the meantime, I highly recommend the dark chocolate sea salt caramel.

Besides the items mentioned above, the cafe also offers a pretty big selection of sandwiches, burgers, dogs, brats, chilis, soups, salads and sides. There's even a "Li'l Outfitters" menu for the kids.

Cabela's is open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.



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