When I was growing up the closest thing to an extreme sandwich was something called a Dagwood. It was septuple-decker and was only eaten in comic strips by an absurdly thin man. To be sure there were Philly cheesesteaks around, I just never ate one. Today there are all kinds of extreme sandwiches, including the Puma from Tortas Neza, which is bigger than your head and contains a chorizo omelet among other things. The Puma is the Dagwood of Mexican sandwiches. It’s a sandwich fueled by the twin engines of Mexican pride and team spirit for football club Los Pumas de la UNAM. It is also at its heart an American sandwich, embracing Mexican foodways and turning them up several dozen notches.
The Austin Ramen Cho ($13) is an extreme sandwich with a slightly different origin story. It’s a mashup of a mashup of a mashup. It marries the Ramen Burger, itself a Japanese-American amalgam, with the self-styled Southern Korean barbecue of Kimchi Smoke, which combines low and slow American cue to create a new form of barbecue that owes as much to Texas as it does to Seoul.
I witnessed the birth of the Austin Ramen Cho at Smorgasburg Queens a few weeks ago when Ramen Burger creator Keizo Shimamoto and Kimchi Smoke pitmaster Robert Austin Cho had the brilliant idea of combining their products. The result sandwiches smoky brisket, topped with kimchi, bacon, and cheese between two springy Ramen Burger buns. Over-the-top and delicious in a Man vs. Food kind of way, it is Korean army base stew reimagined as a delight for stoners and gluttons alike.
A week or so later after I had just about processed the Korean-Japanese-American-hipster burger I ventured to Burnside Biscuits, a restaurant so American that its menu art resembles nothing so much as a chicken farting out an American flag. I really wanted to try the fried chicken at this new Astoria spot from the creators of Bareburger, but glutton that I am I fell under the spell of a not-so-little sandwich called The Moose.
This $17 dreadnought combines country ham, sausage,bacon, and sharp cheddar, and is topped with a fried egg, and a veritable lake of sausage gravy. It’s served open face atop a biscuit. This presentation did not stop me from turning it into a sandwich. Thankfully I thought better than to pick it up; eating it in such a fashion would have required a drop cloth.
The Moose is an extreme—extremely messy, extremely American—sandwich. Like the Puma it is a delicious novelty best eaten on a dare or shared with friends. As I ate it I found myself coveting my dining companion’s fried chicken biscuit.
All of this musing on monstrous sandwiches has put me in the mood for a decidedly different extreme sandwich: a vegetarian take on the Phillly cheesesteak that subs in yuba and cashew cheese enriched with browned onions and green peppers. It’s served at vegetarian joint called Superiority Burger. Now if that’s not an American sandwich I don’t know what is.