So I’m working in an office this week–ugh, just like a normal person. How do you people do this every day? I just can’t take the staff meetings, excel spreadsheets, and wearing pants.
But there is one thing I do like–lunchtime. When I’m working at home, lunch is often reheated leftovers eaten in front of the computer. But when I freelance in-office, I get excited about being forced to eat lunch out. Since I don’t do it very much, it’s still exciting, even to get a basic sandwich. But with all the Le Pan Quotidens, Cosis, and Pret a Mangers around, there’s something sinister going on with the sandwich in New York. It’s effing expensive.
Sure, I’ll be the first person to approve the fancification of the humble sandwich– the Tuscan-ized, truffle-oiled, caramelized, and slathered with pesto’d goodness that has overtaken the old school hero in recent years. But I’ll also be the first person to insist that I shouldn’t have to break a $20 for lunch. The way the economy is headed, it’s about time for the sandwich to return to its original conception: quick, cheap, and dirty. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean going back to brown-bagging baloney on Wonder Bread. Here’s a sampling of New York’s most overhyped, overpriced sandwiches—each with a cheaper—and tastier—alternative.
New Yorkers of many vintages will tell you that one of the city’s most legendary indulgences is a pastrami sandwich at the 2nd Avenue Deli (162 E 33rd St, 212.677.0606). But the prices at the recently reincarnated deli scream “tourist trap,” with the triple-decker selling at a whopping $20.95. For meat on bread!
Just around the corner, Sarge’s Deli And Restaurant (548 3rd Ave, 212.679.0442) has all the classic Jewish deli fixings, without the price jack. While Sarge’s ’strami sandwich isn’t quite as loaded—it’s only got enough meat for about three meals instead of five—it’s still a no-brainer at the way-lower price of $9.95.
Photo: Life on the Edge
More sandwich revolutions after the j…
Of all New York’s upscale sandwiches, none has received more over-the-top praise from critics and food bloggers than the sea urchin sandwich at Chelsea tapas bar El Quinto Pino (401 W 24th St, 212.206.6900). “It’s about as close a sandwich can get to really good, hot, sweaty sex,” wrote Andrea Strong of The Strong Buzz. While it’s hard to comprehend how this could possibly describe any sandwich, the sea urchin does indeed have about five different flavors going on in each bite. It’s also tiny—and $15.
Can we stop and think for a second about what a sea urchin is, and why anyone would want to swallow one? Sea urchins are what crabs eat, so take a step back up the food chain and go with crab instead. You won’t find a better seafood lunch than the crabcake sandwich at Tiny’s Giant Sandwich Shop (129 Rivington St, 212.982.1690) in the East Village. It’s even a tad bit fancy itself, with cucumber, tomato, and roasted red pepper layered on a brioche bun. The price, however, is not fancy at all: $6.50.
Photo: Third Ledge
The New England lobster roll is one of many classic American foods to get an upscale New York makeover, and no version has received a more obsessive following than the one at Park Slope’s Brooklyn Fish Camp [162 5th Ave, 718.783.3264]. Sure, it boasts prime, juicy lobster meat piled on a crisp roll, but at last check, the fluctuating “market price” had risen to $30.
Put the $50 bills away and get your fish fix across the street at Chip Shop (383 5th Ave, 718.832.7701), a British import that offers a giant sandwich of crisp batter-fried cod. Served with a heaping portion of fries, it’s a deal at just $10.
Heat It Up
Back in the day, there were two kinds of sandwiches: “hot” and “cold.” Now we have “paninis” and New Yorkers seem only too happy to pay double for a few random grill marks on their bread. Taking the prime place in the panini pantheon is the porchetta panini at Lower East Side hotspot ‘inoteca (98 Rivington St, 212.614.0473). Editor’s Note: You know if it’s a snobby restaurant if it’s name starts with an apostrophe. To be sure, the fatty, herbed-stuffed pork is a treat. But it’s $17.
Maybe porchetta is how they do it in Tuscany, but here we came up with another alternative for the Italian sandwich: cold cuts piled higher than reason would seem to allow. At the Hell’s Kitchen shop Manganaro’s Hero Boy (494 9th Ave, 212.290.8391), they still do it that way: The $10 “mile-high” special is only a slight exaggeration, a mountain of prosciutto, salami, mortadella, and sopresseta topped with provolone, roasted red peppers, tomatoes, onions, and spices. Now that’s a sandwich.
A version of this article originally appeared in the Onion AV Club.