If you have the privilege of eating in a particular restaurant many times over the years, you may eventually develop a sandwich that can be made especially for you. Such is the case with Mimi Sheraton. She was born in Brooklyn, educated at Midwood High School and New York University, and after working as an advertising copywriter, served as food critic at the New York Times from 1975 to 1983. Subsequently, she’s written 15 books and innumerable articles. Sheraton celebrated her 90th birthday recently and is still active in food writing.
She’s also a longtime West Village resident and patron of the La Bonbonniere. While it may sound like a fancy French restaurant, the slightly ramshackle place — recently featured in Amazon show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel — is at its heart a Greek diner that opened some 80 years ago, and still has a menu featuring hamburgers and pancakes. I went there recently with Sheraton, to try her favorite sandwich, which is basically a grilled cheese with Swiss, bacon, and tomato on rye bread ($8.25).
“That’s an interesting cheese choice,” I said as the sandwiches arrived, one for each of us, thinking I might rather have cheddar. “It melts really well,” she replied, “and the tomato provides extra moisture.” The sandwiches were indeed wonderful: the bread perfectly toasted and the bacon— though probably fried hours ago — reanimated by the toasting on the flat top, its flavors penetrating the cheese. A paper cup of coleslaw and pickle wedge were served on the side.
As we munched, we talked about her preference for Manhattan clam chowder over New England (“We’re in Manhattan for God’s sake!” she exclaimed); about the wonderful black bean soup served at the Coach House, the famed Village restaurant that was replaced by Babbo; and she told me a wonderful story about taking Harland Sanders of KFC to lunch in 1976 for a Times story: “He was so cheap, he had his white suits made in Canada and then wore them across the border so he didn’t have to pay duty.”
It was an excellent sandwich accompanied by some amazing stories, I reflected as we walked out of the cafe into a cloudburst and made our way somewhat unsteadily along the uneven West Village sidewalks. 28 Eighth Avenue, between West 12th and Jane streets, West Village