It is my intention to celebrate the sandwich this year by finding as many tasty examples as possible, with a special emphasis on fringe styles, but also presenting sandwiches that were considered more normal 30 years ago that now seem quaint. I will do this weekly and periodically present round-ups of the ones I consider best.
$214 gilded grilled cheese and $180 wagyu steak sandwich aside, the sandwich tends to be a rather plebeian phenomenon. It’s a foremost lunch refuge for the secretary sitting at his desk typing, or the gal with a hardhat laboring at a construction site. With acai bowls and kale salads costing upwards of $10 these days, the sandwich is one of the few things you can get for less than that and still have a satisfying lunch, with perhaps a soda or a bag of chips thrown in.
Aside from the expensive stunt sandwiches mentioned above, are there luxury sandwiches that qualify as actual sandwiches without the gold leaf or hilariously overpriced cuts of meat? I stumbled on one the other day at Grand Central’s venerable Oyster Bar. Yes, there’s an expensive lobster roll available at the usual inflated price ($31.45), but this sandwich was novel, interesting, and considerably cheaper.
Costing up to $5,000 per pound, fancy caviar is often served with blini and sour cream in restaurants and at cocktail parties thrown in the homes of the wealthy. The tiny black eggs are powerfully fishy and salty; too potently flavored by themselves, they need a context. At the Oyster Bar, that context is a caviar sandwich at the unexpectedly reasonable price of $13.95.
It goes on a pair of slices of toasted white bread probably baked by Pepperidge Farm or some other standard grocery brand. (Here you don’t need artisanal bread shot with seeds and groats.) A layer of caviar is topped with boiled and shredded egg. On the side lurks a small tub of crème fraiche. Remove the top slice of toast and smear it on. Then take a bite. The egg and dairy balance out the powerful flavor and salinity of the fish eggs, making a distinguished sandwich and one that — via its richness — fills you up, too. And for no more than a kale salad at many of today’s fast casual chains. Grand Central Terminal, 89 E. 42nd St, at Park Avenue, Midtown