Week 15: Gripes and Untamed Flavor

It is said that the role of the writer is to be an observer, to craft reality without judgment or supposition, to present that which exists in its more honest state. Generally, the Sandwich Project has a positive message, as its author tends to subscribe to glass-half-full view of this city, that the Big Apple is an outpost of hope, an epicenter of opportunity.

This will not be the case today.

While I make a point to seek out the good, sometimes, living in this cold, steel maze of skyscrapers, the bullshit rises to the top and you become overwhelmed in the bustling, beeping absurdity. So, for sanity’s sake, this week, I concocted a list of my top ten gripes, annoyances, and infuriations with the city of New York, in the hope that scribing such phenomenon would be cathartic to my soul.

1.       Deceptive puddles:  When torrential downpours inundate Manhattan, random splotches of rain puddles accumulate along the sides of the roads amidst the general chaos. Thanks to shoddy cement work, the size of said puddles is always a mystery. Sometimes, you’ll step in one and be met with a benign splash of fresh rain water. Other times, you’ll be shoved out of the way by a sloppy construction worker talking on a cell phone and wind up collapsing into a six inch deep well of sewage water with a three foot blast radius. The stench never truly leaves you.

2.       People who play cell phone games at full volume on the subway: This is rarely of children or adolescents. It’s always a full grown adult, huddled over their Galaxy S4, blasting out Candy Crush tunes like they’re John Cusack in Say Anything. Such things are endurable for a few stops on a bright spring afternoon. On an hour long commute home, after a ten hour work day that you started by falling into a crater of sewage water, it’s a taunting demon anthem. Really, you can afford an iPhone 5 and not headphones? Come on, unibrow guy. It’s been a long-ass day.


3.       New Yorkers who never leave their borough: This phenomenon is perhaps the most baffling of the lot. You live in the greatest city in the world and you’ve never even experienced it. Manhattanites who have never ventured to Jamaica Plains for some Mama’s Empanadas, Williamsburg Hipsters who have never been up close to the sparkling new World Trade Center. For shame, you lame-wads. For shame.

4.       Homeless dudes who ask for more money after you’ve already given them some: I have no problem throwing a homeless guy my change, even a dollar if I’m feeling generous or he looks like he might try to eat my face if I don’t. But when you hand a man a dollar for doing absolutely nothing and he responds: “hey man, any chance I could have another one?” you just feel like chucking your humanity into the East River.

5.       MTA Surprises: After living in Asia and experiencing the majesty of the Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Seoul subway systems, I had reasonable hopes for the New York City MTA. These were not illusions of grandeur, more like meager hopes that I wouldn’t get caught stuck in “subway traffic” with food poisoning for 45 minutes stretches on the train. But this is the reality. It seems, while the East Asian subway systems could be likened to my star daughter who always brings home A’s on her report card, the New York MTA is more like my alternative daughter who “professionally” plays the sitar and dates dudes with neck tattoos named Cypher.

6.       Tourists: I don’t know if six months living in New York qualifies me to trash on “outsiders,” but I’m about to all the same. Tourists are a plague on this fair city. I can tolerate the obnoxious tour buses, the skyscraper head-craning, even find peace with the fact that every crappy restaurant in Time Square is kept afloat by these ignorant, vacant visitors. What kills me is the slow-walking. I know you don’t know where the hell you’re going, but I just missed my train because your confused ass was spinning around in circles on the M line staircase. Which brings me to my next point:


7.       People asking directions in Manhattan: Where’s 47th and 2nd? Geez, I don’t know. Most likely somewhere between 46th and 48th. And 1st and 3rd. It’s a grid, you fools.

8.       Apartment Hunting: Perhaps the greatest challenge to living in New York is finding a place to rest your hat that doesn’t suck. By the nature of the beast, this is an impossible task. There’s always four factors considered when seeking an apartment: location, size, quality, and cost. You can find a big, cheap place infested with maggots an hour outside of the city, or a newly renovated shoebox whose monthly rent would sustain a village in the Congo with food for a month. The only guarantee is that you will never be happy with all four factors, so long as you live in the city.

9.       Lines: You will wait. If you want to get into that club, that subway car, that job fair, that deli, or that “legitimate” massage joint, be prepared to wait. Wait so long you forgot why you even came there in the first place.

10.   Subpar Overpriced Cafeteria Food: One inalienable truth about New York: you will always pay more here than you will somewhere else. But this truth comes with an underlying assumption, that the competition and drive of the city will positively propagate the culinary talent surrounding you. As in, you pay more money, so you should get more delicious food. Then you eat a crap five dollar slice of pie or drop eleven bones on a soggy sandwich and you just want to curl up somewhere and cry.

What just transpired was my best attempt at pessimism and morbidity. But even typing those words felt somehow unnatural, as within me exists the knowledge that, despite how pull-your-arm-hair out frustrating this urban jungle can be, it’s always worth it. As my good buddy Dave so eloquently put it “Most of the things in this city that piss you off have flip sides which make the city great…just the sheer mass of people here cause lines, but it’s their want for good restaurants and bars that drives every venue to step their game up.” Well said, my man.

Tourists bring new blood into this city, the MTA runs all night long, so of course it’s going to break down constantly, and apartments are expensive because the opportunity is so ripe here. Hell, even New Yorkers who never leave their borough help give it consistency, flavor, and culture.

I tried. I can’t be pessimistic. Not in a city so electric, brimming with potential and beautiful woman, where there are adventures to be had and sandwiches to be eaten. Speaking of which…

Week 15: Untamed Sandwiches

I cannot overstate the mediocrity of flavor and innovation that exists in the Midtown food scene. This is not the first time I bring up the drudgery of middle Manhattan’s culinary fare, but working here five days a week and sifting through the crud to find those tasty gems is a tiresome and undelicious process. In recent days, however, I have uncovered a legitimate gem: the aptly named “Untamed Sandwiches.”

Born in 2014, this sandwich haven is the newest-restaurant to be featured on the Sandwich Project. Located just a block from Bryant Park, this venue is the love child of Andy Jacobi, business-minded grass-fed meat expert, and Ricky King, renowned creative and chef of dining destinations Five Points and Hundred Acres. Together, they created Untamed Sandwiches, a hero depot with a simple goal in mind: producing ethical, bomb-diggity sandwiches for the good denizens of New York.

Sustainability is the name of the game here, if you check their website, you’ll see that they know the farm from which every ingredient that goes into their sandwiches comes from: dairy products from Swede Farms, meats from Debragga, they’re making sure that these creatures get to groove and roam and live. And there is no denying that happy animals simply taste better.

The restaurant is comprised mostly of wood, with whisk-encased light bulbs and a giant menu scrawled in chalk against the wall, besides photos of contented goats strutting through verdant pastures.

The fusion of Jacobi’s sustainable meats with King’s culinary out-of-the-box concepts has produced an array of unique sandwiches. I’ve been back twice in a week out of general curiosity, with each of the ‘wiches bringing a plethora of powerful (and sometimes bizarre) taste combinations together.

Case in point, the Choctaw Trinity, which is without question the greatest name ever given to a sandwich. This bad boy is a heaping portion of turkey and sausage gumbo with rice, smeared between two fat pieces of ciabatta bread for what Jacobi acknowledges is a blast of “starch-on-starch.” Despite this cardinal sin of sandwich construction, it works. To help bring balance to the starchy force, a mix of orca and green beans is added (known as “a dilly bean slaw”) and the buns are lightly grazed with a powerful sassafras honey mustard sauce, infusing in the sweet, the sour, and the spicy.

Others might seek out The Butt, a “cider braised pork butt” that undergoes a five-day preparation process of brining, searing, and baking, all to wind up stuffed between their flawless ciabatta bread. Intent on hitting taste receptors on all fronts, broccoli rabe and pepper jelly top it off, along with sharp cheddar, and Dijon mustard (this may be my favorite of the lot).

But the menu goes on. For the thick, thick, thickest of grass-fed brisket, complimented by black pepper aioli and sweet and sour cabbage, jump on the Hot Goldie. For a combo of braised goat meat with whipped goat cheese, the Chupacabra is for you. And if you want their Mexican answer to General Tso in a sandwich (which doesn’t totally make sense, but roll with it), try the Colonel Zapata, with chicken tinga, queso fresco, pickled jalapenos, and other surprises.

Gluten free? No extra cost for their (surprisingly) delicious gluten free bread. As for their sides, you can choose from a selection of homemade vegetable concoctions (many of which go on the sandwiches): charred broccoli in boiled cider, roasted carrots chermoula. Or beer. Beer is a side.

With an ethical attitude, one of the most eclectic sandwich menus I’ve seen, and their recipes painted on the bathroom walls for some reason, Untamed is worthy of a visit. Or if you’re like me, two in a week.