New York City is often hailed as the “Greatest City in the World.” Whether or not this superlative is true, I know not. What I do know is that, if you’ve ever endured the New York subway system, you could make a damn good argument against it. Typical descriptors, words like “grimy,” “rancid,” “rat-breedery,” really just don’t sum up the holistic majesty of riding this electric underground network.
But, I’m not here to hate. I spend two hours a day in transit along these subway rails, and basic math will tell you that means for every twelve days I spend in the Big Apple, one is spent completely aboard the New York MTA. Which means I have to be optimistic. Sure, it may not be fast and clean like Tokyo’s public transportation system, or inspiringly-beautiful like in Paris, or free like Hasselt, Germany, but it’s interesting, dammit, and it’s been around for over a hundred years, that has to count for something.
To further articulate my point, I’ll regale you with a classic NYC subway moment to demonstrate the magic of this transit line.
Getting anywhere fast in rush hour is an exercise in futility, with slow running trains that are so jam-packed with people that it’s strange if you don’t accidentally grope the dude next to you. So when you’re running late for a job interview and standing amidst a crowd of over a hundred trying to squeeze into already vacuum-sealed train cars, you might as well give up. I was in that very position, knowing I needed to board an E train across town immediately and realizing there was no hope. But I prayed all the same, asking God to please grant me room on the terrible subway car. My last chance, the final E train, arrived, and as the cars began to pass me, my heart sank. There was no hope, no way anyone was going to fit. But as the train came to a halt, by some divine intervention, the car that pulled up before me was completely empty. I made it to my meeting right on time and my faith in existence was restored. Granted, the reason it was empty was because of the homeless dude who crapped himself in the car two stops prior, but a miracle is a miracle, right?
Honestly, in some ways, the New York subway is even kind of uplifting. I had this revelation on December 31st. Riding the car on the way into work that New Year’s Eve morning, I saw the same site I always saw. But I saw it different. Instead of the normal collaboration of pushy, cold New Yorkers, I saw unity. There, aboard the train, were people of every race, religion, age, and walk of life, existing together on that subway cart. And despite all of our profound differences, we were unified by one absolute truth: we were all pissed we had work on New Year’s Eve. It kind of gives you hope, in a sick sort of way.
Sandwich 2: Joju
So, if you’re feeling inspired, hop aboard that subway car and head out to Queens to get a crack at week 2’s featured sandwich, a triumph from the good people at Joju. Hyperbole aside, this is perhaps the finest Báhn Mì I have ever sunk my teeth into.
For those of you not as familiar with the concept of Báhn Mì, this is how Vietnam tackles the sandwich. The bread is a French baguette, which should be no surprise; France had a significant influence on Vietnamese cuisine during their lovely stint in the nation. The interior is significantly more Viet, a mix of picked carrots and radish, fresh crisp vegetables, and cilantro. This seemingly odd combination serves to offer a balance between bitter and sweet. Spice is sourced from Vietnamese chilies and chill sauce, ranked among the hottest in the world. But where Joju mixes it up is with the meat, borrowing from other Asian nations with great success. Pork belly slow-cooked Japanese style, Korean marinated bulgogi, and lemon grass chicken are among the various and tender, melt-in-your-mouth Joju delights. Personally, I’m a fan of a fried egg on mine, served extra runny, just to add one more flavor into this already overwhelming hodgepodge of taste.
Alongside the sandwich, kimchi fries are a must. That’s French fries covered in Korean kimchi, scallions, jalapenos, and spicy mayo, and again, if you’re like me, throw a runny egg on it just for the hell of it.
Their drink menu is massive, serving a slew of Asian inspired dranks, including bubble teas, Joju chillers, milkshakes, and “slush,” which is exactly what you think it is. If you’re not afraid of flavor, venture to Joju, but be prepared. It will raise the bar, and your next sandwich might not measure up.