It seems that every time you think you have a grasp on the breadth and depth of the city’s crazy sandwich scene, you stumble on a couple more. Sometimes these arise spontaneously, spawned by some unrecognized genius with a cutting board and pile of cold cuts; sometimes the sandwiches are cynically calculated to shock and then sell. Celebrity chefs have gotten into the sandwich game, but many more are invented by immigrant cooks substituting new ingredients in old recipes, or by deli clerks perhaps too naïve to know that they, too, can make a major contribution to food lore.
Here, then, is Eater NY’s third collection of New York’s Craziest Sandwiches
Bombay Sandwich — One late summer day, bleary-eyed from the heat, we stumbled into the food court at Newport Mall in Jersey City, and were astonished to find an all-vegetarian Indian counter. Proudly offered as a perpetual special was the Bombay sandwich ($5.99), name-checking the city now called Mumbai. Unlike the other fare on the buffet it had to be freshly prepared, which took a full 20 minutes. But when it arrived it astonished: slices of toasted supermarket white bread with American cheese, lush sliced tomatoes and crunchy green cucumbers, and a further filling of masala potatoes, which added extra squish and zing. Served with plain ketchup, it was so cool and refreshing. Find it at: Thali, Newport Centre Mall, 30 Mall Dr W, Jersey City, NJ
Mollete — The name identifies an elongated oval roll from Spain, often smeared with lard or olive oil and garlic back home. But the roll landed in Mexico and turned into a splendid sandwich, split horizontally and heaped with fillings. The specimen shown here comes from the state of Puebla, and features paprika-tinted chorizo and melted American cheese, along with black beans, chopped raw onions, tomatoes, and cilantro. Eat it open face or put the halves together. And, what the hell, why not freestyle by putting the fries inside? Find it at: El Pollito, 148 5th Ave, Brooklyn, (718) 623-9152
Chicken Cutlet — It’s a blasé name for a rather flamboyant sandwich at a deli well-known for its unusual sandwiches, many named after personalities or events. In a hero roll are deposited a crisp chicken cutlet, melty yellow cheese, some very damp cole slaw, and gobs of Russian dressing. We dare you to eat this whole trans fat tour-de-force! The miracle is that it really tastes good. Find it at: Sunny & Annie’s Deli, 94 Avenue B, (212) 677-3131
Avocado Del Sur — This open-faced pita sandwich features big ripe chunks of Haas avocado, an herbal pesto that's mainly parsley as a species of Argentine chimichurri, and pickled purple onions. Needless to say, it’s delicious, and a favorite of the model types who hang out at what started out being merely a coffee bar on the Lower East Side, and ended up so much more. Find it at: El Rey, 100 Stanton St, (212) 260-3950
Santina Sandwich — Available breakfast and weekend brunch at Meatpacking hotspot Santina, the self-named sandwich begins with a sesame-seeded brioche that is rubbed with red ripe tomato. The guts of the thing might be mistaken for a classic breakfast sandwich from the deli, only the bacon is sliced thick and ultra-smoky, the eggs creamy and light as hell. And seemingly the most profuse ingredient is roasted and skinned mild green chiles, as if the deli you got this at in was somewhere in Mexico or Peru. Splendid! Find it at: Santina, 820 Washington St, (212) 254-3000
Vada Pav — This sandwich is among the cheapest of street foods in Mumbai. "Vada" is a globular potato fritter colored bright yellow inside with turmeric; "pav" a spongy British-style yeast-risen roll, with a name derived from "pao," the Portuguese word for bread. It comes with a pair of fried green chiles and a coriander chutney as green as a swamp in the hottest month of summer. The problem is wrapping your jaw around it, though the sandwich squishes down as you eat it. Find it at: Fido’s Cafe, 785 Newark Ave, Jersey City, NJ, (551) 200- 6081
Tamale Torta — The vada pav (see above) should be considered alongside the original New Orleans po’ boy — french fries on a baguette — as one of sandwichdom’s greatest starch bombs. But here rises up another close relative: the Mexican tamale torta, consisting of a pair of chicken tamales, light on the poultry and heavy on the lard, stuffed into a tapered bolillo, another roll that originated in Spain. The combination is as filling as filling can be. Find it at: The tamale cart often parked beneath the Myrtle and Wyckoff M station, Brooklyn.
Potato Salad Sandwich — In fact, the theme of this installment of Craziest Sandwiches could be said to be starch sandwiches, and here’s another, this one from a Japanese fast fooder up near the main library. Some very mayo-heavy and rudimentary potato salad — really more like what the South Americans call Russian salad, dotted with frozen mixed vegetables — is put with a penurious hand on two slices of supermarket white bread. Keep this in mind for next year’s $10-a-day contest. Find it at: Café Zaiya, 18 E 41st St, (212) 779-0600
Fried Bologna — Though this sandwich would have been familiar in several areas of the Deep South and in Texas a few decades ago, now it’s little-known even in those places. Especially in hot weather, the sliced luncheon meat is considered better tasting grilled than cold, and a hot bologna sandwich was thought an almost regal luncheon. Grilling only intensifies bologna’s garlicky and salty flavors, and the meat sweats like a field hand sitting on a hot hay mow. Find it at: Wilma Jean, 345 Smith Street, Brooklyn, 718-422-0444
Ceci Panini — Like the Sicilian equivalent of falafel are the discus-shaped chickpea fritters that form the basis of this sandwich, plunked on a round version of the focaccia called pizza bianca. Slobbered with a yogurt dressing, and also topped with cucumbers, red bird chiles, charred yellow beets, and diverse herbs, it makes one of the most delectable sandwiches of the current collection, though also like nothing you’ve ever tasted before. Find it at: Sullivan Street Bakery, 236 9th Ave, (212) 929-5900