Two weeks ago we put up 10 of the city’s strangest sandwiches, including one that substituted wedges of Spanish tortilla for bread, and another that used baby waffles — with syrup — to cradle a chicken cutlet.
Will the madness never cease? Probably not, because here are 10 more. Despite the way some of them look, all are definitely worth trying.
Broccoli Rabe Hero — Normally, you might say a sandwich has to contain some sort of meat, poultry, or fish, or if it’s a vegetarian sandwich, an alternate protein like cheese, eggs, or in a pinch maybe seitan or tempeh. Proving all sandwich theorists wrong, this Sicilian example contains only broccoli rabe sauteed in olive oil with tons of minced garlic. It’s one of Bay Ridge’s best sandwiches. Find it at: Leo’s Casa Calamari, 8602 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, (718) 921-1900
Yo Yo — Venezuelans are well known for their intense sandwiches, especially the patacon, which presses such fillings as chicken salad, fresh cheese, black beans, pulled pork, and sliced avocado between two firm Frisbees of fried green plantain. Even more unusual is the yo yo, which deploys similar fillings but substitutes ripe plantains that have been compressed into squishy plates, sweetening the sandwich. Shown is carne asada, but sometimes three or four different meats are used at once. Look for it at: Cachapas Y Mas, 107 Dyckman St, 212-304-2224
Nutted Cheese Sandwich — Long ago our city was paved with Chock Full O’Nuts, a chain of lunch counters founded in 1932 that later became famous for its supermarket coffee. Its most notorious sandwich was something called the nutted cheese, which featured cream cheese embedded with crushed walnuts on date nut bread. The sandwich was universally recognized as unique to New York but seemed totally weird to outsiders. Find it at: Chock Full O’Nuts, 8521 4th Ave, Brooklyn, (347) 207-4877
Curious George — We’re suckers for french fries, especially when they show up inside a sandwich. After all, the original New Orleans po’ boy was just french fries and gravy inside a baguette. And at Pittsburgh’s Primanti Bros., they've been putting fries in their sandwiches since 1933, making us wonder, why isn’t the practice more widespread here? Well, if you order the Curious George, you get three eggs, three strips of bacon, three pieces of melted cheese, and two slices of ham, along with a big wad of fries. Order it at: Johny’s Luncheonette, 124 W 25th St, (212) 243-6230
Hudson Special — Fifteen years ago the sandwich industry bottomed out. Sure banh mis and Italian heros retained some semblance of popularity, but the workhorses of the industry — two slices of bread with fillings like ham and cheese, roast beef, and tuna salad — went nearly moribund. So, delis got proactive and started inventing startling sandwiches to revive interest. The Hudson Special is one such product, stuffed with the frankly weird combination of smoked turkey, bacon, cream cheese, onion, green peppers, and cucumbers on a triple decker. Get it at: Ray’s Super Deli, 452 Hudson St, (212) 242-7912
Pambazo — You’ve probably had tortas and cemitas, two scrumptious Mexican sandwiches stuffed with refried beans, avocado, and cheese, in addition to marquee fillings like chorizo, chicken, and head cheese. But have you ever had a pambazo? This sandwich said to have originated in Veracruz usually comes with no choice of fillings — you always get potatoes and skinless chorizo. But here’s the most important part: both pieces of bread are deeply dipped in red chile sauce, making a delicious mess! Find it at: El Coyote Dormilon cart, 92nd St and Roosevelt Ave, Queens
Spam Sandwich — Let’s face it, Spam is severely undervalued as a sandwich filling in the United States, even though this lively ham substitute was invented by Hormel circa 1937 in Austin, Minnesota. But the story is far different in the Philippines and elsewhere in Asia (and Hawaii, too), where Spam is a treasured commodity, as seen in this tiny sandwich slathered with margarine and a modest, can-shaped slice of Spam, served at a famous Filipino fast food chain with one New York branch. Grab it at: Jollibee, 62-29 Roosevelt Ave, Queens, (718) 426-4445
Chinese Hamburgers — First popularized by the Xi’an Famous Foods stall at the Sunshine Mall in Flushing, but also simultaneously by David Chang at Momofuku in the East Village, these sandwiches deploy a northern Chinese steamed or baked bun called a bao and use it to cradle a filling of stir-fried beef or pork. Calling the thing a hamburger was an attempt to ingratiate it with Western diners, but it’s really more of a sandwich. Find them at: Biang!, 41-10 Main St, Queens, (718) 888-7713
Vastedda — A swamp of fresh ricotta and grated caciocavallo flow atop dark red cow spleen, sliced thin and sauteed in oil. The organ meat develops a grainy texture and liver-y flavor and the cheeses make the sandwich as rich as rich can be. This flavorsome masterpiece originated in Palermo, Sicily, as a workingman’s lunch at snack shops called focaccerias, but you can get it in Gravesend at: Joe’s of Avenue U, 287 Ave U, Brooklyn, (718) 449-9285
Peking Duck Sandwich — When dumpling spots hailing from northern China started opening on the Lower East Side 20 years ago, we were first introduced to round sesame seed pancakes, one of the most prominent forms of bread available in that part of the world. Soon dumpling impresarios were using the bread to make wedge-shaped sandwiches, principally from aromatic preserved beef and roast pork. Variations followed, and now this Peking duck sandwich version features shards of the meat, a julienne of cucumber, and a slather of hoisin sauce. Utterly delicious! Get it at: Vanessa’s Dumpling House, 118A Eldridge St, 212-625-8008