As I have, for this year, devoted myself to sandwiches and nothing else, the number one question I get (besides “Why do you keep hitting on my girlfriend?”) is, “What is the best sandwich in New York City?”
Such a question makes bold assumptions, among them, that one sandwich can rule them all. I don’t believe this could possibly be the case. It’s completely relative, dependent on not only the consumer of the sandwich, but that consumer’s mod in a given day. It’s the same reason I have a gripe with electing an MVP in baseball each year, but love the Golden Glove; different sandwiches are different position players, each with their own fortes, their uses (or non-uses) of meat, their overall fatness, their aesthetic appeal, their balance of dirty ingredients, their price-to-awesomeness ratio, etc.
So, as such, I have imagined 7 categories, each stupider than the one preceding it, to rate the sandwiches I’ve consumed this year.
Category 1: Best Use of Pork
A Jew or a Muslim I could never be, for too much do I love the meat of a fine pig. There were contenders for this category, let me tell you, but in the end, the answer was clear. Fette Sau (German for “Fat Pig”) knows pork. Choose pork belly or choose pulled pork, either way, I guarantee this causes a paradigm shift in your brain as to what constitutes proper American BBQ. Located in Williamsburg, you order by the pound, and you put it within the tiny buns they provide to form your own mind-blowing sandwiches. Top it off with their in-house sauces and top-shelf whiskey selection.
Category 2: Most Unusual Ingredients
Boasting a dynamic seasonal sandwich menu, the LES’ Black Tree keeps its patrons guessing as it utilizes the freshest ingredients of fall, winter, spring, and summer. Having stopped by this den of sandwiches in October, I was given the opportunity to sample their pumpkin sandwich. You have to give some gnarly props to any place brave enough to fuse a sandwich using roasted pumpkin, mushroom chutney, ricotta, honey, and pickled pumpkin. Plus I threw on thick cut bacon because, again, pork. Black Tree wins. Bold move, delicious sandwich, Foley happy.
Category 3: Best Asian-Inspired Sammie
This category deserves a winner from Queens. It’s only fair; NYC’s gnarliest Asian cuisine always comes comes from Queens. Located in Elmhurst, a tiny, colorful joint known as Joju, stands humbly. This hidden gem is a bang mi haven, where pickled vegetables and runny eggs meet a spectrum of Asian meat and spicy mayo. Someting about their Korean pork belly ibetween their fresh French bread is triumphant, especially combined with runny egg topped spicy kimchi fries. Were it even a little closer to me, I would eat there five times a week.
Category 4: Fattest Sandwich
This one was a no-brainer. Astoria’s legendary Sal, Kris, & Charlie's Deli is everything you’re looking for in an Italian deli sandwich, fusing FIVE different meats with THREE different cheese, and a filthy combination of hot peppers, lettuce, tomato, and spreads. The beauty, however, of this hodgepodge of carnivorism, is its sheer fatness. When they handed it to me, I couldn’t tell if it was a sandwich wrapped in wax paper, or a baseball bat wrapped in wax paper they wanted me to use to teach Joey Stub-Fingers to keep his mouth shut around the 5-0. It was the former and, to this day, the only sandwich in the project I had trouble finishing, And only eight fifty? Getouttahere!
Category 5: Repeat Bang
Untamed Sandwiches. More than any on the list, I’ve gone back and back and back again, any time I ventured to the Bryant Park region. Their cleverly named sandwiches, like “The Butt” (featured a five-day pork butt preparation period) and “General Zapata” (the Mexican answer to General Tso, but in a sandwich), entice me like none other, appealing to the entire taste spectrum and sourced from only the freshest, friendliest places on earth. I try to get away, but she just keeps luring me back in, that coy, sandwich mistress.
Category 6: Most Pickles on a Single Sandwich
A newcomer to the list (just to keep things fresh), Jacob’s Pickles is an Upper West Side institution, known for their biscuit sandwiches and, obviously, pickles. Sitting outside with an old friend on a frigid day because we were too impatient to wait for a cozy indoor spot, we sipped their homemade hot cider and consumed massive fried chicken sandwiches stuffed between giant biscuits. Mine, glazed with fresh sweet honey and piled needlessly high with crispy sour pickles, was a delicious middle finger to that frigid day. Go, pickles, go!
Category 7: Flavor Dragon-Uppercut
Because it was as flavorful as it was, it warranted ia category with a name that displayed such devotion to the flavor gods. Minetta Tavern’s Black Label Burger (that I covered last week) Is truly a roller coaster of taste. Each bite, you sample a hint of that elite rib-eye, that tender brisket, and that succulent skirt state, perfectly ground and balanced and lined with flawless marbleization. Each bite is an experience in the truest sense of the word. While I hesitate to deem the “Best Sandwich” so far in the Project, this would have a viable shot at the crown, if I ever decided to construct such an imaginary golden hat.
And there you have it. The Seven Best, in their respective categories. Next week (and by that I mean in like three days), I will provide my final post, a reflection on this year of sandwiches and living in the City of New York.