Is creativity where sandwiches are concerned a plus? Does hearing of some innovation automatically make you want to try it? Foxface is a good test of these questions. It occupies a tiny East Village space just west of First Avenue, inside a bar that’s connected to the historic Theatre 80 St. Marks. The windowed kitchen, which can be seen from the street, was previously flogging Feltman’s frankfurters.
Foxface is a sandwich stall that serves five or six sandwiches per day with punning names. Many deploy multiple, often seemingly incongruous, ingredients. On a recent weekday afternoon, the fixin’s of various sandwiches included goat, Ethiopian berbere spice powder, line-caught halibut, turnips, horseradish, apples, and wild boar prosciutto. How random is that? Because the menu shifts on a daily basis, you’re never sure what you’re going to find on the white strips of paper that flap outside the order window. But there’s one constant: the smoking fox ($12).
This marquee sandwich features smoked pork rib, coleslaw, pickles, and a spicy slather of cryptic sauce. It’s damn good, a mixture of sneakily familiar flavors together for the first time. The smoked ribs, which sounds like the most difficult preparation step, boast a hammy flavor unlike barbecue, and reminded me of versions I’ve had at Eastern European butchers in the East Village and Greenpoint.
Nevertheless, all the sandwiches at Foxface take a long time to prepare, and there are often three employees gyrating in the small space at once. Not everything tried there have I liked, but the smoking fox is a triumph of sandwich making. As I said, this is a place for adventuresome sandwich eaters, for whom a ham on rye or PB&J is never enough. 80 St. Marks Place, between First and Second avenues, East Village