It’s been nearly three years since the COVID pandemic encouraged us to love sandwiches again: There’s nothing better for outdoor dining in all kinds of weather. And as inflation picks our pockets today — sandwiches have retained their utility and affordability.
We’ve kept up with sandwiches the whole time, rounding them up like stray dogies on a ranch every three months or so, staying abreast of innovations and revealing new finds after extensive fieldwork. Today we present a collection of irresistible sandwiches.
Here you can read the previous columns if you wish: Eater Critic Robert Sietsema’s 9 Favorite Summer Sandwiches So Far, 11 Unexpected Sandwiches, 11 Favorite Hot Parm Heros, 11 Favorite Winter Sandwiches, 11 Favorite Fall Sandwiches, 11 More NYC Sandwiches That Are Getting Us Through the Pandemic, 11 Great NYC Sandwiches That Got Us Through the Pandemic
Pho short rib banh mi at Little Kirin
This micro eatery in the East Village specializes in reinvented Vietnamese food, sometimes with Japanese twists. Sure, there are great breakfast sandwiches — including one called hangover cure with bacon, Spam and hash browns— but the unholy marriage of pho and banh mi into a pho short rib sandwich ($15, broth for dipping $3 extra) is more delicious. It almost seems like a Vietnamese take on a Philly cheesesteak that has lost its cheese, but better, with layers of beef deliciously zapped with onions, scallions, shallots, and cilantro with a kick of sweet hoisin. 81 St. Marks Place, between First and Second avenues, East Village
Aloo grilled cheese at Bombay Sandwich Co.
Indian snack shops have developed some pretty wild and tasty vegetarian sandwiches over the years, and six-year-old Bombay Sandwich Co. on 27th Street in the city’s Wholesale District is no exception. This beauty is described on the menu as having a “samosa filling” and indeed it’s as if the outer layer of the hand-held tetrahedral treat has been stripped and the insides infused the sourdough bread. But then it’s layered with muenster and cheddar and it becomes a toasted cheese sandwich with the flavors of a samosa. Brilliant! 48 West 27th Street, between Sixth Avenue and Broadway, Nomad
Pastrami on rye at S&P
Sandwiches don’t have to be newfangled to be great. S&P – the rebirth of Eisenberg’s – has reached into the past to recreate the business-like lunch counter of a century ago, where a highlight of the menu was a spare pastrami sandwich. This is no Reuben dripping with cheese and sauerkraut, but a reasonable quantity of thick-sliced pink smoked meat($16). The pastrami, too, is a little sweeter and not overly salty. 174 Fifth Avenue, between 22nd and 23rd streets, Flatiron
Devito at Chipilo
Oaxaca is known for many things, including mezcal and moles, but fewer people are aware of its small, late-19th-century colony of Italian immigrants centered in the small city of Chipilo. That’s also the name of a Chinatown sandwich shop that commemorates the colony, and the sandwich maker told me he was from a place “two towns over.” Chipilo might be any other Italian panini shop in town — of which there are many — except for a few details. For example, my mortadella sandwich ($8) came with mozzarella and arugula, with the surprise inclusion of avocado, which turned the sandwich from good into wonderful with its green slipperiness. 48 Mulberry Street, between Bayard and Worth streets, Chinatown
Fried chicken sandwich at Baby’s Buns & Buckets
What do you do about a fried chicken sandwich that’s too hard to pick up? Deconstruct, or grab a knife and fork. I tried both and neither was quite satisfactory — but that didn’t interfere with my extreme enjoyment of this sandwich ($7). Yes, it comes on a small brioche bun, but that bun is piled so high with fried chicken and greenery that it’s more vertical rather than horizontal. A hot sandwich that starts with chicken fried to order finishes with papaya slaw and garlic mayo that adds a creamy tartness — with some pickled purple onions in there, somewhere. DeKalb Market Hall, 445 Albee Square West, Downtown Brooklyn
Mixed lamb and chicken gyro at Memo Shish Kebab
More properly called by its Turkish name of doner kebab, the tapered cylinders of lamb and chicken spin in the window of Memo, luring Brooklyn passersby (though there’s another branch in Chelsea, too). With a choice of pocket pita, Turkish bread, and a flatbread that’s something like a flour tortilla, I’d urge you to choose the second along with a combination of meats ($10). Order it dressed with everything, which includes lightly pickled purple cabbage, lettuce, tomato, and onion, plus two sauces: dilled yogurt and a red, vinegary hot sauce. 1851 Kings Highway, at East 19th Street, Madison
Catfish po’ boy at Cornbread Farm to Soul
Among the heros, hoagies, and grinders available in NYC, the most neglected may be the New Orleans po’ boy. When we do see them, the baguette is rarely crusty enough, nor is the mayonnaise thick enough (compare a jar of Hellmann’s with Duke’s someday). Nevertheless, one of the best I’ve had in the last year came from Crown Heights newcomer Cornbread Farm To Soul, a branch of a restaurant based in Newark. The catfish po’ boy here ($15) is nearly perfect, with freshly fried fish that imparts an earthy and slightly fishy flavor, layered with parsley and a homemade tartar sauce smeared on like there’s no tomorrow. 409 Eastern Parkway, corner of Bedford Avenue, Crown Heights
Samosa sandwich at Punjabi Junction
The sandwich from Bombay Sandwich Co. mentioned above boasts that its filling is the same as that of a samosa, and then turns it into a toasted cheese sandwich. Well, it wasn’t long thereafter that I stumbled on a sandwich actually made with intact samosas — a pair of them squished into a kaiser roll at the Upper East Side’s Punjabi Junction. The sandwich ($8) is completed with the accouterments of a deli sandwich: lettuce, tomato, and mayo, though the samosa remains the crunchy, masala-laced star of the show. 1665 First Avenue, between 86th and 87th streets, Upper East Side
Tunisian sandwich at Modern Bakery & Bagel
The Upper West Side’s Modern Bakery & Bagel (there’s also a new branch on Chelsea’s West 14th Street) is a gluten-free bakery with Israeli flourishes, with features that extend to its excellent Tunisian sandwich. It normally contains canned tuna, boiled egg, black olives, and mayonnaise, but in this case, the tuna is ramped up with harissa and pickled lemon, and instead of a boiled egg, there’s an egg salad substitute, the eggs minced with herbs like dill and chives. The sandwich comes on focaccia ($11). 472 Columbus Avenue, between 82nd and 83rd streets, Upper West Side