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An oblong sandwich with flat browned fritters and round small potatoes.
What may be the world’s starchiest sandwich is found at Pane Pasta.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

11 Unexpected Sandwiches, According to Eater Critic Robert Sietsema

New York City’s vast sandwich offerings include crispy potatoes, plantains swapped in for bread, chopped turkey breast, and more

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Of the countless sandwiches I eat, probably 95 percent of them fall into predictable parameters. There’s ham-and-cheese on white or whole wheat, falafel tucked inside a pita, mayo-drenched chicken salad on a split arepa, and pork belly wrapped inside a steamed bao. But a small group of maverick sandwiches refuse to succumb to this easy familiarity, and insist on following their own idiosyncratic paths. All are worth seeking out for their tastiness and for the cultural underpinnings that made them what they are today. Here is my personal selection, eaten over the last year or so, in ranked order ending in the best of the genre.


11. Pastrami, egg, and cheese at Frankel’s

You might consider it a cousin of New York’s classic bacon, egg, and cheese (BEC), but this unique sandwich ($12.50) at Frankel’s — Greenpoint’s playfully reimagined Jewish deli — explores new sandwich territory. While bacon plays a supporting role to the almighty egg in the BEC, the giant chunks of pastrami with its smoky redness here takes center stage. 631 Manhattan Avenue, at Bedford Avenue, Greenpoint

A hand holds a sandwich on a roll with chunks of pastrami mired in yellow cheese.
PEC at Frankel’s.

10. Maracucha at Tu Cachapa

Let me emphatically state that, despite what Ronald McDonald may say, a burger is not a sandwich. But at what point does a burger become so modified that it qualifies as a sandwich? Enter the maracucha ($13). Not content with just a burger patty, it adds three additional meats, which basically eclipse the ground beef and catapults the maracucha into sandwich territory: pulled pork, luncheon-meat ham, and strips of bacon. Fried potato sticks from a can further confuse the situation, making this a mediocre burger, but a wonderful sandwich. 4195 Broadway, between 177th and 178th streets, Washington Heights

A hand holds up an overstuffed sandwich cut in half with a burger patty visible under a larger pile of shredded meat.
Eating a maracucha without it falling apart is a challenge.

9. Union Street at Bagels Café

In general, I think bagels shouldn’t be used as bread in sandwiches — and I’m not talking about, say, lox and cream cheese on a bagel, which also isn’t really a sandwich. Bagels are just too tough, and even then, they often become the center of attention instead of the sandwich filling. Nevertheless, Bagels Café offers a whole range of themed bagel sandwiches, and this one ($9) really works. It’s a variation on the classic Brooklyn Italian roast beef and mozzarella, modified with tomatoes. But instead of gravy, there’s Peter Luger’s cloying steak sauce, which immediately grabs the spotlight — it’s better to find it here than on your porterhouse. 323 Smith Street, at President Street, Carroll Gardens

A bagel with roast beef and tomato on it, cut in half.
Behold the Union Street — featuring steak sauce.

8. The Griner at Myron Mixon’s Pitmaster Barbeque

One way to land on this list of weird sandwiches is by throwing two completely incongruous ingredients into a roll, and reality TV star Myron Mixon has done just that. It’s like he took a bite of brisket and then took a bite of mac and cheese, and said to himself, “This is too much trouble, why don’t I just combine the two.” And he did just that in a sandwich that matches decent fatty brisket with a lowbrow mac and cheese that might have been made with Velveeta. The result ($15) is surprisingly sublime, a creamy and meaty marriage in which neither dominates. 618 Washington Street, between Sixth and Seventh streets, Hoboken

A round shiny bun with brown sliced brisket and orange macaroni.
The griner at Myron Mixon’s in Hoboken.

7. Arugula, sun-dried tomato, and grilled artichoke panino at Via Della Scrofa

This combination grocery-and-sandwich shop plays fast and loose with Italian traditions, and it was a revelation to realize that a grilled artichoke could be the star of a vegetarian sandwich. The already pickled artichoke explodes with flavor, and competes for attention with the piquant sundried tomatoes, here brought back to life with pungent olive oil. Finally, arugula provides pillowy cushioning and delivers a bitter punch in the arm. The big flavors delivered here are way out of proportion to the petite sandwich ($8). 60 East Fourth Street, between Bowery and Second Avenue, East Village

A messy looking sandwich featuring yellowish artichoke hearts and bright red sundried tomatoes.
Who knew that canned artichokes make a wonderful sandwich filling?

6. Hot honey fried chicken with dizzy egg at Dear Mama

This splendid coffee bar located in a sunny atrium at the Manhattanville Market food hall at Columbia’s Greene Science Center gets jiggy with its sandwiches, including this one ($16) aimed at the breakfast crowd. Deposited on a flaky brioche, it irrationally piles on a fried chicken cutlet, wiggly egg, provolone, smoky bacon, and romaine, then slathers the whole thing with pesto aioli. The result is quizzically delicious, with the multiple flavors melding together and plenty of grease — which is just what you want at brunch. 611 West 129th Street, at Broadway, Manhattanville

The cut surfaces of a sandwich with many jumbled ingredients on a bed of arugula.
Hot honey fried chicken with dizzy egg — that’s a mouthful!

5. Chopped sandwich at Farmer in the Deli

This Fort Greene deli is pretty much like any other except for one thing: It may have invented the chopped sandwich. It begins with typical sandwich fillings, in this case smoked turkey, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and raw onions. Prior to layering them on the bread, a cook wielding an angry-looking knife starts shredding the ingredients, Freddy Krueger style. (Yes, this is the same process used in a chopped cheese.) Who knows why you’d want to torture your sandwich ($7) this way, but it renders nearly any filling into a something that reads like tuna salad — but deliciously so. 357 Myrtle Avenue, at Adelphi Street, Fort Greene

A round sandwich on a roll with one corner being lifted to reveal contents.
Whatever filling you pick, it ends up looking like tuna salad.

4. L’Inferno at All’Antico Vinaio

The Florentine sandwich shop All’Antico Vinaio took Times Square by storm when it opened a branch there late last year. There’s nothing unusual about making sandwiches on plain focaccia, sometimes known as pizza bianca, but what was uncommon was the quantity of ingredients and the strange combinations here, like nothing Italy had seen before. (The typical sandwich often features a single slice of meat or cheese on an undressed roll or split focaccia.) Order L’Inferno ($12), which is stuffed with pork roast porchetta and then adds creamed salami, grilled and diced veggies, and arugula. 729 Eighth Avenue, at 46th Street, Hell’s Kitchen

A man in a black t-shirt holds up an overstuffed sandwich on two flatbreads.
L’Inferno at All’Antico Vinaio.

3. Panelle and potato panino at Pane Pasta

Those of us who battled our way through the low-carb era that seized the popular imagination 20 years ago are relieved to be able to get a sandwich like this today ($8). Unapologetically, it’s nearly 100 percent glorious carbohydrates. A modest-sized seeded roll is heaped with deep-fried chickpea fritters (something like ravioli) along with small round potatoes. Who ever heard of potatoes and ravioli in a sandwich? The effect is a riot of starchy textures, the flavor ramped up with a squeeze of lemon. In the true spirit of the Italian panino, there is no further dressing. 58 West Eighth Street, near Sixth Avenue, Greenwich Village

A seeded roll on a printed sandwich wrapper in front of a window.
Chickpea fritters and potatoes make for a very starchy sandwich.

2. Vroopy at Court Street Grocers

My dad, who grew up on the South Side of Chicago in impoverished circumstances, used to complain that he had to eat rutabagas every day. I was rarely exposed to them, but it seemed like a particularly tough vegetable, one to be avoided under normal circumstances. But the sandwich-development scientists at Court Street Grocers have turned these roots (half turnip, half cabbage) into gold, by roasting them and making a hero ($13) that pairs the dense orange vegetable with canned fried onions, which add crunch and a zingy flavor. The horseradish mayo (made with Dukes) melds the whole thing together, but it could do without the arugula. 540 LaGuardia Place, between Bleecker and West Third streets, Greenwich Village, other locations

Two cut halves displayed with arugula and big slices of rutabaga, dirty orange in color.
Vroopy is a silly name for a sandwich.

1. Chorizo patacon at Cachapas y Mas

It’s clear by now that just because a sandwich is difficult to eat (or one you may not have known about) doesn’t mean it’s not great. Native to Venezuela’s coastal city of Maracaibo, the patacon is made with woody fried plantain slices about as flexible as a sheet of plywood substituted for bread. That means you have to concentrate on not allowing the fillings to shoot out the sides as you bite down. The juicy Spanish sausage makes a wonderful filling, along with fried cheese and moistening doses of tomato and lettuce. Somehow, despite the ungainly feel of the sandwich as you hold it in your hands, the snap of the plaintain as it cracks and the slipperiness of the greasy and garlicky chorizo make for a perfect sandwich experience. 107 Dyckman Street, between Post and Nagle avenues, Inwood

A sandwich on an orange tray with an orange soda in the background.
Hold on tight as you bite down on this sandwich made with fried green plantains.

Want to read the previous installments of this sandwich column?

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

Frankel's Delicatessen & Appetizing

631 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11222 (718) 389-2302 Visit Website

Court Street Grocers Manhattan

540 LaGuardia Place, New York, NY

Jerome L. Greene Science Center

3227 Broadway, Manhattan, NY 10027 Visit Website

Sal, Kris & Charlie's Deli

33-12 23rd Avenue, Queens, NY 11105 (718) 278-9240 Visit Website

All'antico Vinaio

729 8th Avenue, Manhattan, NY 10036 (917) 970-0033 Visit Website

Pane Pasta

58 West 8th Street, Manhattan, NY 10011 (646) 891-0006 Visit Website

Cachapas y mas

678 Seneca Avenue, Queens, NY 11385 (347) 721-3767 Visit Website

Via Della Scrofa

60 E 4th St, New York, NY 10003

Myron Mixon's PITMASTER BARBEQUE

618 Washington Street, , NJ 07030 (201) 526-4023 Visit Website

Farmer in the Deli

357 Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11205 (718) 875-9067
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