I began the New York Sandwich Project in the first week of January, 2014. Back then, I was lost, hungry, and not sure what the hell I was doing. It’s now officially a half-year later, and after all that time, I’m still lost, still hungry, and have even less of an idea what the hell I’m doing. The only difference between then and now is that, now, I know where to acquire some positively gnarly sandwiches.
It’s been a blessed six months; I’ve been featured on restaurant websites and Facebook pages, shaken hands with fascinating sandwich technicians, and scored a free meal or two along the way. The greatest part of all, though, has been the adventure. Every week, I get an excuse to explore the world’s most iconic city, accompanied by my amigos, with the singular goal of awing our taste buds and maybe getting a little drunk.
So, for the six-month anniversary of the New York Sandwich Project, I give you my six favorite sandwiches to date (in no particular order).
Saltie’s Spanish Armada: Saltie, you can do no wrong, thanks to your signature focaccia bread, clearly baked by a benevolent deity. This Williamsburg hole-in-the-wall shop features a star-studded lineup of heavy-hitting focaccia bombs, but this epicurean’s favorite is definitively the Spanish Armada. Boldly comprised of a lone interior ingredient, a flawless Spanish-style potato tortilla, Saltie proves that ambrosia comes not from complication, but from perfecting the basics.
Joju’s Beef Bulgogi: Queens is renowned in New York for their Asian cuisine, so it should come as no surprise that the bombest bánh mì is straight out of Elmurhust, at Joju. When you sample their marinated fusion of Korean bulgogi beef and Viet pickled veggies, paired with kimchi fries and, of course, a runny egg over both parties, you cross over into a radically new threshold of tantalization. Extra points for their page-long menu of non-alcoholic drinks.
Cinnamon Snail’s Thanksgiving Sandoo: Preparing delectable vegan cuisine can be seen as either limiting or challenging, and the good folks at the Cinnamon Snail food truck unapologetically choose the latter. Their Thanksgiving Sandoo is a testament to their commitment to flavor. What is it, you ask? Remember how, every Black Friday, you take all your leftover Thanksgiving Day remnants and stuff them between two pieces of bread and it’s the greatest thing ever? It’s basically the vegan, gourmet version of that, and it totally kills it. The secret is some of the most finely made seitan I’ve ever tasted.
Untamed’s The Butt: What would you say to a sustainably-raised hunk of cider-braised pork butt that takes five days to prepare? Then, what if you took that pig meat and threw it in with some broccoli rabe, pepper jelly, sharp cheddar, and stuck it all between two halves of the pinnacle of ciabatta bread? Then…what would you have? I defy you to say “no” to the hub of genre-bending sandwiches located by Bryant Park known as “Untamed.” I assure you, the name does not disappoint.
Patacon Pisao’s Patacon Pisao: Any place that uses fried plantains in lieu of bread is worthy of honorable mention, at the least, but Patacon Pisao is more than just innovation, it’s raw flavor. Their signature sandwich offers both carne asada and chorizo sausage (because just one wouldn’t have been nearly enough), along with a sunny side up egg and healthy amount of avocado. Did I mention it’s served on plantains? How are you not there right now?
Cheeky Sandwiches’ Chicken: The cheapest and most obscure entry on the list, the Southern-style Cheeky Sandwiches, located on the periphery of Chinatown, is a gem of the sandwich realm. Topped with purple slaw and smothered in gravy, their golden fried chicken cradled in a buttery, home-made biscuit is their claim-to-fame, but seeing as though their menu includes knockout bread pudding and premium draft beer, you don’t even need a sandwich to embrace this flavor haven.
That's my Top 6. And I've barely scratched the surface of this sprawling, sandwich-saturated city. I look forward to another six months - if you'll join me.
Week 26: Landhaus
Living near Smorgasburg, Williamsburg’s massively massive weekly food festival, I have been blessed to regularly cram my mouth full of some of the most tantalizing fare this city has to offer. Among all of the entries, the gargantuan cemitas, the jaw-dropping seafood platters, the meat-infused muffins, there was one trademark, one vintage Smorgasburg entry that brought me back time and time again.
Landhaus’ maple bacon on a stick. With its profound level of succulentness coupled with its mind-melting mapley-goodness and its undeniable fatness, it kept me running back for more, like a horny teenager answering a booty call.
Last week, I discovered they had built a restaurant. At that moment, I dropped everything I was doing and answered that dirty sandwich call.
Upon arrival, I thought I had come to the wrong venue. The Woods, a bar bathed in red light with Gothic stone statues and heavy metal echoing throughout, hardly seemed a house of bacon. Progressing to the back of the den of drinking, however, I discovered a sign for “Landhaus at the Woods.”
Behind the back door, an outdoor region existed, dotted with picnic tables, lit by hanging Christmas lights, blocked from the outside world by a fence, like some fantastic adult clubhouse.
Yes, it had the allure – but I was a man on a bacon-fueled mission. I had heard legends of their BLT and wanted little more in life than to consume one. One look at their menu, however, and I couldn’t find it. Why, I pressed, why have you no bacon sandwich on your menu after I have come so far?
Their reason: the culinary minds at Landhaus are so meticulous with their sandwiches – they only allow a certain tomato to comprise the “T” of their BLT, and, lacking the proper tomatoes for the job, the sandwich was put on hiatus until their next shipment.
As a peace offering, they were willing to load up a grilled cheese to the brim with their salt-cured pork for me. That, and I got two other sandwiches, because it’s a six-month celebration, my friends, and this sandwiches lover needed to eat his feelings.
Let’s begin with their Shrimp Boy. This fascinating beast of a burger is what’s called a “tiger shrimp fritter,” which is formed using a simple yet ingenious method. Take a pound of shrimp. Half of it, you throw in a blender set to puree with some herbs. Then you use that resulting herby shrimp goo to fuse together the remaining half-pound of shrimp into patties, and then coat them with breadcrumbs. No unnecessary creams or mayonnaises. Just shrimp on shrimp on shrimp.
Next, their lamb burger. The most summer-tasting of the three, this bad boy is based in a whipped feta, topped with charred onions, and smeared with a house harissa, a chili paste native to Morocco. It’s one of the rare kinds of grub that is hearty enough to be filling while light enough to keep you grooving.
And of course: their golden grilled cheese. A three-cheese blend of the Italian semi-hard fontina, an unnamed cheddar, and queso Americano (which simply means “American cheese”), all grilled between an herb infused-white bread. It would surely be a solid sandwich alone, but when you load it up with the goods (a surplus of their heavenly bacon), it just elevates it to a next level grilled cheese. It's all the kind of food you want to eat with eyes closed, because open, you risk a powerful sensory overload.
A valiant newcomer to the list – Landhaus features a unique atmosphere, six-dollar High Life-whiskey combos, and sandwiches very much worth your consumption.