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.
Some wonder, Is an open face sandwich really a sandwich? I’d say an emphatic yes, especially in these low carb days when even a single slice of bread is considered a dietary sin. But, looking back to medieval times when entire roasts were served on a hunk of bread called a trencher, we might see Europe’s first sandwich as an open face one.
This open face preference persists in Scandinavia, where sandwiches are typically made on a thin slice of very coarse, dense, and dark rye bread, and called smørrebrød. Sometimes these sandwiches are small, snack-size affairs; other times they’re big and thick enough that they constitute an entire lunch. Flavored with fresh herbs, and often featuring pickled or otherwise preserved fish, mayo-bearing meat or poultry salads, and various vegetable preparations, the smørrebrød is one of the world’s most interesting sandwiches.
The East Village newcomer Smør specializes in them. This small space flaunting its big windows and modern decor might be a rest stop on some Scandinavian highway. I highlighted some of the offerings earlier this month, but the most intriguing smørrebrød of the crew is the potato ($8), with three or more small, skin-on spuds cooked to creaminess. Indeed, they must be perfectly cooked, or this sandwich would be a dud. Tarragon and chives provide mild flavor, while aioli furnishes welcome lubrication. Then there’s crunch from toasted rye crumbs. All together, this filling open face sandwich is one of the most enthralling so far in my sandwich journey, and not just for the wealth of starches contained therein — carbophobes beware! 441 E. 12th St., between First and Second avenues, East Village