Hello, my name is Dan Foley and this is my New York Blog.
Before you say it, don’t worry—I know. Yes, every “writer” in New York City has a blog and, yes, most of them suck. The reason is that it’s next to impossible to write about New York and make it interesting. Korea was easy. Plastic surgery cheerleaders and live octopus dinners? That’s a typical Monday in Seoul. But New York? Come on. Everybody knows everything about the Big Apple and it’s hard to say anything new about it.
With that in mind, I decided I needed a project. Something so very universal but so very New York. Something niche and identifiable. Something that I’m passionate about. Then, one day, while walking by a deli, the clouds opened and I was hit with a revelation and at once everything was made lucid and beautiful.
And that’s how The New York Sandwich Project was born.
You see, New York has a lot of issues: high rates of crime, vast disparities of wealth, Santas beating the crap out of each other, but if there’s one thing that NYC always does right, it’s sandwiches. This bustling metropolis is the Sandwich Capital of the world, with its rich tradition of honest-to-God deli’s, ethnic fusion food, and plethora of questionably sanitary but always delectable street vendors. I am making it my mission in 2014 to explore this land of sandwich plenty. And to do so, I have implemented the The New York Sandwich Project.
Here’s how it works: every single Monday morning of every week for the next year, I will feature a new, unique, taste-bud-exploding New York Sandwich. That’s fifty-two weeks, or one hundred and four slices of bread, depending on how you count. And, of course, I’ll preface every entry with a little Dan Foley narcissism about my own experiences and insights into the city, because as an only child, I truly believe the world revolves around me.
But I know what you’re thinking. Get to the damn sandwiches, already.
SANDWICH 1: THE MEATBALL SHOP
Manhattan’s Lower East Side is, in short, an epicenter of sandwiches. With an especially strong Jewish population, the LES deli scene is among of the best in the city, and its influx of immigrants over the years has produced a diverse ethnic fare. In more recent years, it has undergone the dreaded “gentrification,” where hipsters have come in and infused their own pretentious elements of culture into this nook of Manhattan. But with that, the Lower East Side, like many places in New York, is a hodgepodge of the traditional and the trendy, and the first eatery featured in the Sandwich Project is a little bit of both. May I present: The Meatball Shop.
Started in 2010 by Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow, The Meatball Shop has quickly boomed into a phenomenon: five shops and an estimated worth of twenty million. What’s the secret? They keep it simple. Essentially, there are only three things on the menu. Meatballs, ice cream, and wine, and the first two are usually in sandwich form. And they do all of them exceedingly well.
You mark off your order using dry erase markers on laminated menus. Then you pick your type of sandwich: sliders, smash, or heroes (featuring one, two, or three balls, respectively), then you pick your type of ball (ranging from spicy pork to vegetable), you pick your sauce (mushroom gravy anyone?), and your cheese (fresh provolone or mozzarella). Sided with a simple salad, I went for the hero special of the day, a whole wheat roll featuring venison balls. And because I had attained new levels of hangover after New Years, I opted for a cream soda float over the wine.
People who think just anyone can make a quality meatball have never actually had a quality meatball. The venison balls were fantastic: savory and tender and just a little bit gamey like all good venison is. The holistic experience of the freshness of the whole wheat, the bitterness of the salad, and the sweet of that homemade ice cream cream soda float obliterated that hangover and brought happiness to my body and mind.
Extra points for adorning the walls with meat grinders and having the only bathroom I’ve ever wanted to throw a party in. Also, their sense of humor: to order meatballs sans bread, you can ask for “naked balls.” Awesome.
People, The Meatball Shop is good for the soul. And for those interested, the ice cream sandwiches are out of this world. Featuring home-baked cookies and homemade ice cream and giving you the option to use two different cookies to form this king of desserts, you really can’t go wrong. Snickerdoodle top, oatmeal raison bottom, brown sugar ice cream center. Just sayin’.