The city of Buffalo has a strong regional cuisine that has had a profound effect on New York City. Is there a bar here that doesn’t serve Buffalo chicken wings? Another of its towering contributions is the beef on weck sandwich. This is a roast beef sandwich made with a very special round roll called a kummelweck (also called kimmelweck) that has caraway seeds and salt crystals planted on top, making it something like a bloated pretzel. Since roast beef always begs for more salt, the roll is perfect. The sandwich is slathered with a white horseradish sauce that adds just the right creamy pungency.
Known by its nickname of weck, the kummelweck was introduced to Buffalo by German bakers in the 1890s, and has miraculously persisted there. The only thing we have similar is our own kaiser roll, which may have been introduced about the same time. More properly known in High German as a kummelweck, “kummel” refers to the caraway and “weck” refers to the roll.
That New York City has never embraced this sandwich on a grand scale is something of a tragedy. The now-defunct Mile End sandwich shop in Greenwich Village offered a distinguished one around 2012, with the beef sliced thin and served warm. In 2016, a Ditmas Park restaurant called Buffalo’s Famous opened on Church Avenue just south of Prospect Park — an entire restaurant (well, a very small one) devoted to the specialties of Buffalo and Rochester. The sandwich was a bit small, but it was presented warm, with the horseradish on the side. The restaurant is now closed, though it has reportedly implanted itself as a concession in Coney Island Avenue’s 773 Lounge.
A smattering of places serves takes on it, like Park Slope diner Bonnie’s Grill and High Street on Hudson. Newcomer Soho Diner, a restaurant adjunct to the Soho Grand Hotel right on West Broadway, also has a prime example of the treat. It appears on a classic sandwich menu that also includes medianoche, grilled cheese, and a tuna melt. The beef on weck ($18) is made with a real kummelweck and sports a good pile of warm roast beef, not quite rare but not too far past. The thing is lavishly squirted with a horseradish sauce that drips down the sides — not a bad representation of Buffalo’s legendary sandwich. And BTW, there’s a cup of beef broth served on the side for dipping, a detail not in the original. Ignore it, the beef on weck is already wet enough. 320 W. Broadway, between Canal and Grand streets, Soho
It was my intention to celebrate the sandwich when I started this column early last year by finding as many tasty examples as possible. The emphasis was on fringe styles, but also presenting sandwiches that were considered normal 30 years ago that now seem quaint. I have done this weekly, and periodically presented round-ups of the ones I consider best.