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.
Where can you still get a wild sandwich in the wee hours, post-coronavirus? Well, East Village deli Sunny & Annie’s — open 24 hours — continues to fulfill that sacred imperative. To say that the sandwiches offered are oddball is an understatement; in fact you’d be embarrassed to order a ham and cheese on white once you’ve stepped up to the high counter and examined the crowded display of colored cards that constitute the menu.
These sandwiches often have political or geographic themes: there’s one called the Obama (grilled chicken and eggplant), another known as the Bernie Sanders (teriyaki chicken and shiitake mushrooms), and a third called the Mr. Bloom burger, cryptically based on a patty of curried chicken. Others are named after the year of creation, or demonstrate artistic (Mona Lisa) or Korean (kimchee bulgogi) culinary themes. It’s a confusing welter of choices, especially since many of the sandwiches have so many ingredients, it’s impossible to tell what they’ll taste like. So, take a chance!
On the other hand, social distancing dictates that you make your choice fast, and then go outside on Avenue B to wait for Annie to give you a high sign through the window. I picked the Jackie Chan, because I like Jackie Chan, but was he there as a comic actor, martial arts star, or guy who has seven branches of a sushi chain in South Korea, at least according to Wikipedia?
The Jackie Chan begins simply enough with beef bulgogi, beefy tasting and slightly sweet, then adds black bean sauce, muenster cheese, cilantro, cucumber, pickled jalapenos, spinach, radish, and sesame leaves on a giant hero ($11.99). And the preparation is so complicated, I waited outside for 15 minutes, feeling both important and embarrassed at the same time. Then I took it to my community garden across the street to assay it.
The sandwich was delicious, though so filled with ingredients that it was impossible to keep them from falling out of the bread. The thing was a compendium of flavor jags (sesame leaves, purple onions, and jalapeno stood out). Some freestyling from the cook that had not appeared on the red ingredients card had included avocado, which lent a certain unctuous slipperiness, and an extra level of greenness to a filling that already seemed very green. Yes, it was a magnificent sandwich once comprehended, and so big I saved half for later.
Pick one up in person, or have it delivered by Postmates.