Sometimes an average restaurant banh mi is just what you need.
“I really want to try the Vietnamese sandwich,” Chef Dave, said as we wheeled into the parking lot of Elmhurst’s Pho Bac. He was pretty excited because there were baguettes stacked in the window, an unusual sight for midevening. Not wanting to dampen his enthusiasm, I didn’t trot out my theory that restaurant banh mi are passable at best compared to those from sandwich shops and delis.
As we were looking at the menu, I remembered something I wanted to try, call it a Vietnamese French dip. (I’m sure whatever blog I cribbed the idea from does.) In no sort order Chef Dave and I had each ordered a sandwich—classic pork for him and highfalutin steak for me—and a large bowl of pho tai. The latter is the most minimalist of the 10 or so beef noodle soups offered, containing little more than noodles and rare slices of beef. (more…)
Nothing so much disappoints as an ill-made, breakfast sandwich. (For those of you outside the New York City metro area, a breakfast sandwich is defined as bacon, egg, and cheese on a kaiser roll.) American’s the standard cheese, though I do not mind a good Cheddar. One thing is not debatable though, the bacon should be crispy.
As way to recover from a poorly made spin on a BEC I recently tried a far better interpretation of the NYC classic, the Breakfast Ramen Burger as Keizo Shimamoto’s Ramen Shack. The $7 sandwich is a far cry from the coffee cart classic, but it’s one of the best breakfast sandwiches I’ve had in recent memory. Two ramen noodles bun stand in for the roll. They encase a well fried egg, and crisp bacon topped with white American cheese. The noodly buns have a nice chew to them and held up well to the ingredients. Eating it gave me hope for New York City’s BEC, classic and otherwise.
Ramen Shack, 13-13 40th Avenue, Long Island City, 929-522-0285
I have yet to eat one, but the combination of smoked pork loin, fried eggplant, kicky pimento cheese, piquant pickled green tomatoes, fruity mincemeat, and maple cream looks absolutely heavenly. Click on over to Esquire’s Napkins Necessary for the recipe, or better yet throw on a sweater and take a stroll over to Harry & Ida’s.
Harry & Ida’s Meat & Supply Co., 189 Avenue A., 646- 864-0967
The spicy fried chicken sandwich from The Rooster’s Crow in Macy’s Herald Square.
A department store is the last place New Yorkers would expect to find a winning fried chicken sandwich. After all we Iive in a city of Fukus,Chick-fil-A’s, and Shake Shacks—each of which offer exemplary fried chicken sandwiches. So I was very surprised to learn that the basement of Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square is home to a delicious spicy fried chicken sandwich ($7.95) from a counter called The Rooster’s Crow.
It’s part of a concept called Chef St. NYC, which is supposed to mimic the city’s food truck scene. In addition to fried chicken, it offers Italian, Tutto Buono; hamburgers, Rollies; and ramen, Tabo Noodles. I’ve never thought of ramen as street food and prefer to think of Chef St. as a mini food hall. But back to that sandwich, it’s certainly the best spicy fried chicken I’ve ever eaten in department store. It’s easily in my top five fried chicken sandwiches in New York City. For an extra kick ask the dude behind the counter to hook you up with some scorcher hot sauce.
The Rooster’s Crow, Chef St. NYC. Macy’s 151 W. 34 St., New York, NY
You would think after a weekend spent surrounded by smoked and cured meats at Charcuterie Masters, I’d be tired of ham and pâté. Not so. Which is exactly how I found myself at Violet’s Bake Shoppe ordering a Pâté Supreme bánh mì earlier today. My go to order is the house special, which features crumbled roast pork and Vietnamese charcuterie.
In addition to a homemade pork liver pâté, the Supreme ($6.50) features Vietnamese ham and salami with all the standard fixins. The cold cuts and shmear of peppery pâté combined with the veggies and fresh jalapeños made for a satisfying lunch.
In case you’re wondering the Charcuterie Masters 2017 Grand Champion was Mark Elia of Hudson Valley Sausage Company who took home the crown for his liverwurst. I’ll bet it would be just splendid on a Vietnamese sandwich!
Violet’s Bake Shoppe, 72-36 Austin Street, Forest Hills, 718-263-3839
“I’m going to take you to a real Queens institution,” my pal said. “Someplace you’ve never been. When we pulled up to the corner I saw a spot I’ve been hearing about for years, Cherry Valley Deli & Grill. For a guy who’s tasked himself with writing about sandwiches every Wednesday it’s amazing I’ve never been to this neighborhood institution boasting more than 80 sandwiches with fanciful names like the Bushman (chicken cutlet with bacon, brown gravy and American cheese on a toasted garlic hero) and the Z-Zoo (grilled chicken with bacon, mozzarella, nonion rings, and brown gravy on a toasted garlic hero). (more…)
Kickshaw’s ‘Hero’ eats like veggie version of a roast pork Italian.
Astoria’s Queens Kickshaw might be best known for its fancy pants grilled cheese sandwiches, but the other day I tried a sandwich there that was far from dainty. Listed simply as Hero ($13), I like to think of it as a vegetarian version of a Philadelphia roast pork Italian sub. This is mainly because the ingredients feature plenty of broccoli rabe and provolone in addition to fried eggplant and sauteed peppers and onions. It’s the best vegetarian Italian sandwich I’ve had in Astoria, mainly because it’s the only one I’ve had. Faint praise aside, it is a lovely gooey hot mess of a sandwich. I only wish there were some hot cherry peppers and sauteed garlic on it!
The Queens Kickshaw, 40-17 Broadway, Astoria, 718-777-0913
“They should call this place mei you xiao long bao,” I cracked to a buddy on one of my first visits to The Bund, a newish Shanghai spot in Forest Hills. Two chefs from Shanghai and nary a soup dumpling in sight. Apparently the guys who started it wanted to make the point that Shanghai cuisine consists of so much more than XLB.
I’m not sure if they made their point, but I’m happy to say that they’ve changed their minds about XLB. They recently introduced soup dumplings to the menu. Today I stopped in with some friends for a steamer full of pork and another of pork and crab. The skins were a bit on the thickish side, but they were fine otherwise, certainly the best in the hood. As long as they don’t start selling those ridiculous novelty dumplings with the straw the Bund is all right by me. (more…)
After two decades of eating around New York City I finally got my fress on at Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop last week. Funny thing is my first job out of college was right around the corner. I’m not sure what kept me away back then, but these days the proximity of Ben’s Best Deli to my home does a good job.
But back to Eisenberg’s. Gotta love a joint whose slogan is “Raising New York’s Cholesterol Since 1929.” That cholesterol along with plenty of schmaltz and New York attitude has also managed preserve the old school deli tradition.
My pal Drew, clearly an old hand at dining in the joint’s bustling lunch time atmosphere, humored me as I briefly considered the shrimp salad sandwich. “I always get the combo Reuben,” Drew said. Between his cajoling and the waitress’ claim that it was “the best thing in the house,” my choice was made, and I am glad it was. And it wasn’t just any plain vanilla Reuben either, but a combo of pastrami and corned beef. Well worth it for $13, too. The dynamic duo of deli meats, kraut, and cheese almost put me in an old school deli coma. (more…)
Violet’s house special bánh mì with grilled pork, Vietnamese ham, Vietnamese salami.
Friends and neighbors had been telling me about Violet’s Bake Shoppe in Forest Hills for months. First, there was talk of lovely egg tarts and Vietnamese iced coffee. And then, they hit me with the big guns, bánh mì. The Vietnamese sandwich is one of my all-time favorites, so I hightailed it over to Austin Street.
There I found a respectable roster of 10 Vietnamese sandwiches, including a House Special ($6.50), Baked Fish with lemongrass and turmeric ($6.95), and a Pâté Supreme ($6.50). I almost went for the Pâté Supreme, but I’m a bánh mì traditionalist, so I opted for the House Special. (more…)