In a town that’s towering with great sandwiches — Sunny & Annie’s, Defonte’s, Court Street Grocers, et. al — when it comes to going-out spots, few bars seem to have them. Yeah, plenty of bars in New York City have the regular ole sandwich you can get smushed together on a precariously rigged-up panini press (shout out to the pimento grilled cheese at Doris). But a dive bar with sandwiches prepared with what I will lovingly call a sandwich program is more or less unheard of.
The question of why sandwiches, objectively a perfect food to pair with drinking, don’t appear more in night life was something I pondered while sipping a Lagunitas at Joey Roses, a bar and sandwich shop that opened on the Lower East Side last fall at 174 Rivington Street, between Clinton and Attorney streets.
From the outside Joey Roses is just a dive bar — well not just — there is a coffee table that looks like a cassette tape and the outdoor structure is made to look like an RV. But curiously, there’s little advertising that suggests that sandwiches are served, unless you follow the Joey Roses Instagram account where it’s promoted front and center. But if you know, you know that owner-slash-comedian Joe DeRosa has some can’t-beat sandwich deals that are no joke.
With inflation well under way, sandwiches in New York City have crept up to an increasingly troubling $15 standard. At Joey Roses, sandwiches like the Rosie with its mortadella, tomato, mayo, and hot cherries; or the Beefie with roast beef, provolone, sweet peppers, horseradish, and mayo — are a mere $8. On top of that, every day there are two happy hour deals at the bar: From 5 to 7 p.m. and then again at 10 p.m. to midnight, Joey Roses has a buy-two-sandwiches-get-one-free deal. So, essentially, three sandwiches will only run you $16 bucks total (bring friends).
“I wasn’t pursuing enough shaky ventures. I was like, let me add another anxiety-inducing venture to the mix,” DeRosa said in a recent podcast appearance.
A sandwich deal this good has no business actually tasting good. But the sandwiches, which are generously packed, are clearly made with care — more care than most people drinking at a bar will maybe notice.
Each arrives with bread that DeRosa’s team takes the time to bake daily. The result is a ciabatta-y sub bread that’s really nicely chewy, that sops up some of the mayo and brine. The Joey Roses team tells Eater via Instagram DMs that the bread is a “combination of elements of other types of rolls we enjoyed and wanted to combine in one,” and that they’re baked at (and are a collaboration with) the Stand Restaurant and Comedy Club, which an owner of Joey Roses also operates.
For the most part, the sandwich selections are just simple variations of Italian combo classics, rather than veering into kooky (save for a PB and J version with chips inside). But on the Rosie, for example, the right ratio of mortadella to mayo, makes it a satisfying, easy way to win over crowds.
If you’re just in the mood for a sandwich rather than a dive atmosphere, Joey Roses sandwiches can be ordered to-go.