The Ear Inn is one of the oldest bars in Manhattan, and I think it’s safe to say that most patrons are there more for the atmosphere than for the food. However, the Ear has one of the better bar food menus in Manhattan. Normally I order the burger, which is good unto itself, but, feeling the need for a change, I ordered the cheese steak on the “Specials” board. I was pleasantly surprised with how great it was. I think the lower your expectations are when you order a sandwich, the more surprised you are when that sandwich exceeds expectations. And this sandwich certainly exceeded all of my expectations.

This cheese steak is minimalist. It’s meat, cheese, and bread. No onions. No peppers. No extraneous toppings. The steak was of the thick variety, not the overly diced meat you get from 99 Miles to Philly. I’ve found that the thicker the steak is, the tastier the sandwich. And this was definitely the case here. Each bite had the perfect amount of all three ingredients. No bite was heavier on one item than the other. There’s just the right amount of cheese placed on the meat that it’s not running over the sides or taking over the sandwich.

The sandwich arrives open on a thick ciabatta. There’s so much meat on the sandwich that I needed a knife to properly fold it.  The ciabatta bread is a perfect choice here because it allows the sandwich to retain it’s structural integrity because it doesn’t get dampened by the cheese or the juices from the meat, which means it doesn’t get soggy or mushy. If this sandwich were on your typical roll, the back end of the sandwich would have been a greasy mess.

Washing it down with a pint of Guinness makes the meal even better. (Actually, washing down any meal with a Guinness makes it infinitely better),

The cheese steak isn’t always on the menu, so when you see it on the specials board, order it and chow down.

The Ear Inn is located at 326 Spring St.

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Leo’s Bagels

December 10, 2010

Having recently switched jobs, I found myself in a new part of town: The Financial District. Hoping to find myself some new sandwich shops, I quickly learned that I was surrounded by Subways. (Side Note: Is this why tourists come to my city? To eat Subway?). Thus, finding new sandwich shops hasn’t been easy. I soon stumbled upon Leo’s Bagels and it was nice to find somewhere that specialized in sandwiches.

Leo’s Classic Club

Thinking this was the house sandwich, I ordered Leo’s Classic Club. I was confident that this was the best sandwich to try.

I was wrong. Why? Because it worries me when I order a sandwich and the sandwich maker has to consult the board with the list of ingredients before making my sandwich. Especially when the sandwich only has four simple ingredients (turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato).

All around, the sandwich was very dry. The bacon was over cooked to the point of shattering in my mouth when I took a bite. Although tasty, the turkey was also a little dry. The sandwich was in need of dressing, and mayo is the only dressing that I can think of that would have made this sandwich better and I’m kicking myself for not thinking to ask for it.

Other than the dryness, there was nothing memorable about this sandwich and, based on taste, there is no reason to order this sandwich again.

The Catskills

Oh, the high hopes I had for this sandwich. Roast beef. Muenster. Russian dressing. Cole Slaw. Oh, how disappointed I was.

First mistake: They gave me turkey instead of roast beef. Rather than have them re-make the sandwich, I took it anyway.

Second mistake: The Cole slaw was on the side, not on the sandwich. Considering that all of their sandwiches come with Cole slaw on the side, I incorrectly assumed that this sandwich had the Cole slaw on it. Maybe if the sandwich maker had read the board, he would have known what to put on the sandwich.

Finally, the bagel was just too big. Trying to squeeze the sandwich into an edible portion caused the dressing to force the cheese and turkey out of the back end and onto my plate. Thus, the structural integrity of the sandwich was utterly ruined and I was picking chunks of turkey off my plate.

Like the Classic Club, the turkey is good and tasty; it just needs to be placed on better sandwiches.

Even though I’m a glutton for punishment (as well as a glutton in general), I can’t see subjecting myself to another sandwich at Leo’s. Maybe a bagel with cream cheese, but definitely not a sandwich of any kind.

The search continues.

Sides — Each sandwich comes with a side of Cole slaw and a small pickle. The Cole slaw is small enough and juicy enough to make you want more but the pickle is a tiny sour gherkin and is not my cup of tea.

Leo’s Bagels is located at 3 Hanover Square (www.leosbagels.com/)