On Wednesday I had the Roasted Leg of Lamb (braised kale, golden raisins, jalapenos and lemon aioli on a ciabatta roll) form ‘wichcraft. This is a combination of ingredients I’ve never had on a sandwich, or even thought to put on one, but what a glorious sandwich it was. The lamb is cooked perfectly, it’s not dry and it has just the right amount of juice. The lemon aioli is a fantastic dressing that I’d love to try on a hot roast beef sandwich (or something comparable). My only problem was the amount of kale, there was way too much, but it’s easily picked off and I was able to tailor the amount of kale to my liking, which was a minimal amount. The lack of raisins and jalapenos had no impact of my enjoyment of the sandwich. The Roasted Leg of Lamb is only available until Christmas Eve, so get it while the getting’s good.

The ‘witchcraft I went to is located at 245 Park Avenue (on 47th St.); http://wichcraftnyc.com/; @wichcraft.

Lemon

December 15, 2011

On the last day on our honeymoon in Dublin, my wife and I ate a late brunch at Lemon, a crepes and coffee company that specializes in breakfast and lunch. Hungry for a sandwich, I decided on the Deli Special, a chicken sandwich with “hot streaky bacon, genuine Swiss Emmental, mixed leaves, tomato, own Dijon mustard-mayo, mixed leaves garnish, and our balsamic dressing” on white bread. Just re-reading the ingredients makes me giddy because this was a great sandwich that I will never have again unless I learn to make it myself or I get my ass back to Dublin.

Perfection on a plate

The Deli Special is basically a grilled cheese sandwich with thin slices of chicken instead of ham, but it’s a damn good grilled cheese. The bread is grilled on hot plates until it turns a nice yellow and brown. I couldn’t believe it was toasted to perfection by hand. It’s toasted with butter on a giant hotplate and this gives the sandwich the illusion that it’s between two pieces of finely made French toast.

Although the sandwich listed two dressings, I could only really taste one, and this dressing was easily my favorite part of the sandwich. The Dijon mustard-mayo was extremely spicy yet unevenly spread across the sandwich, which means you’re getting unequal amounts across the sandwich. There was no mustard-mayo in my first few bites so I quickly forgot about it. But when I finally tasted it I was taken aback by how spicy it was. This is the spicy kick I’ve been looking for in that I’ve been unable to find in the so-called “spicy” sandwiches I’ve ordered in America. It enhanced every ingredient and made me just want more. If I could buy this Dijon honey-mustard in a jar I would because it is perfect and I could see it going on any sandwich.

I’ve been trying for some time now to think of what to say about the rest of the sandwich, but I was so in love with the dressing and the bread that the rest of the ingredients are just faded memories. There was the right amount of each ingredient on the sandwich and all of it tasted fresh and delicious.

All in all, this is another one of those sandwiches where everything goes perfectly together and I have zero complaints about it. When it comes down to it, it’s really a simple sandwich. Chicken. Lettuce. Tomato. Cheese. Spicy mayo. Toasted bread. But what a great simple sandwich it is. It proves that sometimes the simplest, long-standing ingredients can be used to create great sandwich that people living an ocean away will forever crave.

This Dawson St. Lemon location is quite small, so I recommend you carry out rather than eat in. However, if you do eat in, be prepared to be in the way no matter where you’re seated. You can also try and get a table outside if the weather’s on your side.

Lemon is located at 60 Dawson St., Dublin 2 (www.lemonco.com) and can be found on Twitter @lemoncrepe.

Ask any graduate of UVA and they’ll tell you that the best sandwich shop in town is Littlejohn’s New York Delicatessen. Some will tell you that you should only go late (i.e., after 1 a.m.), while others will tell you that anytime is the perfect time. Which assessment was correct? The opinion of the sober college student who, in all likelihood, has been eating only Subway his entire life and, when confronted with his first quality sandwich, immediately labels it “the best”? Or the opinion of a drunk, willing to shove whatever food he can find into his gullet after drinking for who knows how many hours?

Not being big on eating when drunk, I decided to test out the sober portion of this equation.

The menu is a sight to behold. There are 22 specialty sandwiches and subs to choose from as well as “make your own” deli style sandwiches. Since this was my one and only chance to get Littlejohn’s, I had to choose wisely. Although my chaperone recommended some sandwiches to me, I didn’t like the direction she was pointing me in (the Sampson, which features roast beef and turkey, mainly because I felt it was going to make a mess, or the Five Easy Pieces, which features ham and turkey, mainly because it was on pumpernickel and had 1,000 Island dressing).

After a few minutes perusing the menu, I chose the 21 Society, which features Virginia smoked ham, cheddar, yellow onion, blue cheese, lettuce, tomato, Virginia cured bacon, and honey mustard on an 8″ sub. I didn’t see what all the fuss was about. The sandwich was decent, but it wasn’t one of the best I’ve ever had. And I can see why it holds a place in the heart of UVA graduates but to me, it was just another sandwich shop.

I may not know how this sandwich got its name, but it was decent. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it had its moments. My favorite moment was the dressing. Having had mayo on most of my sandwiches for almost my entire life, it’s always a welcome change to have something different. The honey mustard used on the 21 Society doesn’t taste like store-bought honey mustard, it’s got that fresh, homemade taste as if it was just mixed together that morning. It was sweet and tangy, but mixed perfectly well with the turkey and the onions. Each time I took a bite that featured a nice heaping helping of honey mustard I was in heaven. Every time I took a bite that was mostly cheddar, I was not happy with my sandwich. And it’s the cheddar that is my biggest complaint. It overpowers the taste of every other ingredient. The melted cheddar on top was too much. It doesn’t look like much, but when it melts and gets in every nook and cranny of the sandwich, it’s not a pleasant taste.

As you can see from the photo, rather than be in the sandwich, the bacon was on top, almost as if it was asking for me to just pick it off and eat it, rather than have it as part of the sandwich. I took the bait and ate the bacon separately. With all that melted cheese blocking the way, that was no way to strategically add it to the sandwich anyway.

The sandwich comes with a handful of tortilla chips, which obviously come out of an industrial-sized bag. ‘Nuff said.

This is a college town, and college football is the biggest sport of them all. If you go on game day, make sure you get there bright and early, otherwise, expect a line that goes out the door and wraps around the corner. Otherwise, avoid Littlejohn’s for that 6-hour period and go at any other time during the week.

The sandwiches are very affordable, which makes them perfect for a student’s budget, but I couldn’t see myself going there too often. The counter staff gets a little confused, even when there’s no one there, so patience is a must.

I’d love to go back over and over and try other items on the menu, but it’s not a possibility (unless, of course, I open a franchise here in NYC). Maybe I chose poorly. Maybe I had a bad sub maker. But I know this, as long as there’s a college in that town, students, both drunk and sober, will flock to Littlejohn’s.

Littlejohn’s New York Delicatessen is located at 1427 University Ave, Charlottesville VA (http://www.littlejohnsdeli.com/) and can be found on Twitter @littlejohnsdeli.

On Friday I posted my Top 5 sandwiches. In a matter of fairness, is are the Bottom 5 Sandwiches I have ever had. These are the sandwiches I will never order again (some of which I have yet to write about and have no plans on writing about them.)

1. Every sandwich from Subway

2. The Popeye Way from This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef

3. The American Sub from the World’s Best Sandwich Truck

4. The Tuna Fish from Piccolo Cafe

5. Leo’s Classic Club from Leo’s Bagels

Whenever I tell people that I blog about sandwiches, I’m immediately asked what’s my all-time favorite sandwich. I’ve even been asked to pick my Top 5. In order to please both parties, here are my Top 5 All-Time Sandwiches. (Click the hyperlinks to learn why).

1. The Romeo at Alidoro

2. The Pork Belly from Num Pang

3. The Lobster Roll at Luke’s Lobster

4.  The Pastrami on Rye at Katz’s Deli

5. The Roast Beef sandwich from the Gramercy Meat Market

Baohaus

October 5, 2011

Over the summer of 2011, Baohaus opened its second outpost on 14th St. and I took the short walk to see what all of the fuss was about. I don’t know how I feel about steamed sandwiches. My only previous experience with steamed sandwiches has been the pork buns from the Kuma Inn. I felt that the best way to get a good sample of what Baohaus has to offer was via the Straight Frush combo, this way, I could sample three sandwiches in one sitting (Note: The combo options are no longer on the menu). Below are my findings. Oddly enough, the order I ate the sandwiches in was also the order I liked the sandwiches in.

CHAIRMAN BAO
The Chairman Bao was excellent. I’m new to eating pork belly, but I’ve been enjoying it so much I’m pretty much ordering it on sight nowadays. And this was a wise decision because this is a tasty little sandwich. Not only does the sandwich feature pork belly, it also has crushed peanut, cilantro, Haus Relish, and Taiwanese red sugar. The meat and the bread are what really make this sandwich work. I couldn’t really taste the cilantro, relish, and sugar (but the sandwich does have a red hue, which must be the sugar). But this sandwich isn’t about those, it’s about the meat and the bread. The pork is well made and there’s a nice hunk of fat peeking over the bread (and we all know the fat is the best part of pork belly). This sandwich leaves you wanting more but in a good way. I can’t even fathom how many of these I would need to eat in order to be full, but I’m willing to try.

BIRDHAUS BAO
My next sandwich was the Birdhaus Boa, which features free range chicken, spicy salt, cilantro, and crushed peanuts. Although not as tasty as the Chairman, it did have its perks. The chicken has two types of taste. The first is the crispy outside. Because the sandwich is topped with the crushed peanuts, they give the chicken a lot of added flavor. The second taste is when you bite into the sandwich and only get the inside of the chicken. The inside of the chicken is nice and juicy and you can taste the fact that the chicken was brined over night.  The problem with the dressing is it pools at the bottom of the sandwich. Thus, rather than coating the meat, the dressing only coats the bottom of the bed. I kind of didn’t see the point of it being on there if it’s only meant to give the bread more flavor.

ROBIN GIVENS BAO
Sadly, the Robin Givens Bao was the worst of the three, mainly because it had so much going on yet it still tasted flavorless. The sandwich features chicken, Sichuan peppercorns, chilis, garlic, cumin, cilantro, and cucumber slivers. One problem is, all of these items mask the flavor of the chicken. I can’t recall tasting any chicken, you’d think with all of these spice the sandwich would be somewhat spicy but it isn’t spicy at all. Months later, and that is all I remember about that sandwich.

The Robin Givens Bao has been replaced with the Adobo Bao, which features chicken and pork. Although I haven’t had this boa just yet, it sounds like a vast improvement over the Robin Givens (at least on paper it does).

THE BREAD
I’m fairly new to eating sandwiches on steamed buns and it’s actually quite refreshing eating a sandwich on extremely soft and fluffy bread. With a steamed sandwich you don’t need to tear through the bread to get to the meat. It’s almost as if the meat becomes one with the bread and melts into each bite. The main disadvantage though is the size. I almost consider these to be Asian sliders, thus there is a need for someone my size to order many in order to get full. I’ve never seen a steamed bun larger than 5 inches long or so, and I wonder if the bread just can’t get any bigger and still be stable. Also, I felt like the bread itself is a little bland.

CONCLUSION
Although my order was hit and miss, I blame my lack of familiarity with the menu and cooking methods. I’ll be going back, and I might possibly order only many, many Chairman Baos when I do, as I didn’t actually fell full after eating three of these. These little sandwiches are too good to pass up, it’ll just take me some time to navigate the menu to figure out which sandwiches I like the best. But the sandwiches are so small, you really just want more and more when you’re done. My best recommendation: find the sandwich (or sandwiches) that you like, and order multiples of the same one. You’re less likely to be disappointed this way, and eating three sandwiches with one kind of meat will make you feel like you’ve had one sandwich.

Baohaus is located at 238 14th St. (http://www.baohausnyc.com/; @baohausnyc).

After five days in Spain, I finally found a sandwich to eat for lunch, and what a sandwich it was. The “Castillo” at the El Castillo del Gourmet on the Golden Mile in Marbella was phenomenal. The sandwich consists of an egg (over easy), bacon, ham, mayo, tomato, and lettuce in three slices of toasted white bread. Yes, I ate a glorified breakfast sandwich for lunch. I hadn’t had a sandwich in days, go with me here.

I was awestruck when the sandwich arrived because there was a hole cut out in the top making the egg yolk visible. This is the only sandwich I’ve ever had with a dome cut into the top of it. I didn’t know if I should put the dome back on before my first bite, after, or not at all. I choose not at all. After the first bite, the egg yolk runs down the side of the sandwich, covering your next bite with yolk. If you like yolk, this adds a solid amount of flavor to the other parts of the sandwich. As we all know, yolk adds flavor to bacon and ham, so this run off was a positive mistake.

The sandwich holds up well after the first few bites, but it starts to lose its structural integrity after a few bites. However, this allows you to re-make the sandwich on your own. The reason the integrity fails is the amount of mayo on the bottom half of the sandwich. There is a lot of it, but this mayo is needed once you run out of yolk.

The only real problem with the sandwich was the egg overwhelmed all of the other flavors. A week later and I can’t remember what the bacon and ham tasted like. I know they were on the sandwich, but my memory is savoring the taste of the egg and that is all. I think there was only one slice of bacon and one slice of ham on the sandwich. Although this was a “problem”, I love egg sandwiches, and I loved this sandwich. Anything other than egg was just an accessory.

The sandwich came with French fries that were nice and crispy. (Really, what else can be said about fries lately?)

Overall, this was a quality breakfast sandwich that could be eaten at any time of the day. It’s easy to replicate, and I’ll probably make it when I find myself missing Spain. If you find yourself in Marbella, Spain seek out El Castillo del Gourmet (Avenida Duque de Ahumada 8, 29602 Marbella).

My first few visits to Defonte’s of Brooklyn came shortly after the Manhattan branch opened, and, as previously mentioned, there were a number of issues with those initial visits. After a long hiatus, I returned to Defonte’s to see if the food, and the service, had improved. Thankfully, both have, as the sandwich makers now know exactly what’s going on your sandwich without consulting the board.

JOEY BISHOP

On my first return trip I decided on the Joey Bishop (Virginia ham, provolone, roasted peppers, balsamic vinaigrette, and EVO), and I was more than pleased with my decision. Even though I’m not a big fan of warm (or hot) hot sandwiches, this sandwich is exceptionally good and filling. There’s a healthy amount of ham, so much so that it’s hanging over all of the sides of the bread. Same goes for the large slices of provolone. This abundance of meat and cheese gives the sandwich the appearance that it’s much bigger than it actually is. But it’s the taste that I was most pleased with. Everything goes together. This is one of those sandwiches with the perfect mix of ingredients. You might get too much provolone in one bite and too much roasted peppers in another, but the ham brings it all together. You’d think the flavor of the sandwich would come from the EVO, but that’s not the case. It comes from the roasted peppers is where the real juice of the sandwich comes from.

My lone problem with the sandwich is the bread. It’s too small for a sandwich this size. I like when the meat and cheese are falling over the sides, but this was a bit too much. A large loaf of bread would have been able to better handle this sandwich.

DEFONTE’S CUBAN

I can’t recall ever having a Cuban before, so I don’t know what makes Defonte’s Cuban different from a regular Cuban (Sounds like I have a case of the “Too Lazy To Google”s). Their Cuban features roast pork, Virginia ham, Swiss, and pickles on garlic bread. I don’t know what it is about sandwiches with two types of meats that I like so much. Not every sandwich likes this is perfect (I’ve learned that roast beef and turkey does not go well together), but when it works, it’s a sandwich to order frequently. And this Cuban is one of those sandwiches where two meats work. The pork and ham paired well together, and it created a flavor I would like to experience more often. But, to be honest, I rarely tasted the pickle. It seemed like another case of something that’s better next to a sandwich rather than on one. I don’t know if pickles are on the sandwich out of the tradition or to enhance the flavor, but it definitely didn’t do the latter. I’ll have to seek out a traditional Cuban to find out the difference, but if it’s anything like this, I’m fairly certain I will find myself liking it.

SHRIMP PARM

I was very excited about the shrimp parm sandwich because I haven’t seen it on a menu in years. This shrimp pram is minimalist: fried shrimp, Parmesan cheese, mozzarella, and marinara sauce. That is all.

Part of the sandwich is made in the front of the store and then it disappears into the back of the store. I’d love to say that’s where the magic happens, but it doesn’t. This is not a magically tasty sandwich; it’s actually quite bland. The shrimp is fried to the point where lost its flavor; they taste like any piece of fried food you’d purchase as an appetizer at a sports bar. I could have used a lot more mozzarella, because the amount I was given was non-existent. Maybe some additional spices, or even not breading and frying the shrimp, would add to the flavor.

I was hoping for so much when I ordered this sandwich, and I received so little when I ate it. For now, this is one special I want to see removed from the board.

CONCLUSION

Of the three, I find myself constantly going back for the Joey Bishop. It’s a well-made, tasty sandwich that can fulfill any sandwich craving.

Although I’m still not a fan of the fried eggplant that they have on nearly every sandwich, I’ve learned how to navigate around it. I’m also not a fan of the cutesy names you need to use to order a sandwich, but I’ll take a quality sandwich with an embarrassing name over a crappy sandwich anyway.

Defonte’s of Brooklyn is located at 261 3rd Ave (www.defontesofbrooklyn.com/)

The Piccolo Cafe

August 30, 2011

The Piccolo Cafe focuses on Italian-style paninis, pastas, and coffee. Although I love coffee and pasta, I focused on the paninis.

THE ROASTED TURKEY SANDWICH

I felt really good about the Piccolo Cafe after my first sandwich, the roasted turkey panini which also featured mayo, mesculun greens, and marinated tomatoes (although I couldn’t tell what the tomatoes were marinated in). The turkey was cubed, which was surprising as I thought it would be sliced, and heavily marinated in the mayo. This is one of those sandwiches were the ingredients are combined so perfectly that there is an even amount in each bite. Which in turn means that all of the ingredients go extremely well together and form an almost perfect sandwich.

Sadly, after this sandwich, my other choices were not as wise (or as good).

PROSCIUTTO SANDWICH

Where's the beef?

I’m not a big prosciutto fan to begin with, and this sandwich didn’t do anything to help me change my mind. The main reason: This sandwich was severely lacking in prosciutto. It was more ciabatta than anything. This sandwich also features buffalo mozzarella and arugula but they don’t really add anything to this sandwich because they were also barely there. Although, it does look like there is more arugula that prosciutto, there isn’t really enough of either. This sandwich is also very tough to eat. The sandwich is also very dry, made even drier by crispiness of the ciabatta. The sandwich needs more oil, either olive or EVO, which could possible make the sandwich tastier, and it would also make the sandwich a little softer.

 

TUNA FISH

Lastly, I tried the tuna fish and mozzarella and I was extremely disappointed. The main reason for my disappointment with this sandwich is it tasted exactly like the tuna sandwiches I make at home. The difference is I would have added some extra flavor with pepper, onion, celery, and dried cranberries. SOMETHING needs to be added to enhance the flavor.

When I opened the sandwich the mozzarella looked like it was lumped into one spot at the center of the sandwich rather than spread across the bread. As you reach the butt of the sandwich, it’s all tuna and no mozzarella. It was tasteless and inconsistent, two of the worst things I sandwich can be. I can’t recommend ordering this sandwich because it’s just a regular tuna sandwich that any Tom, Dick, or Harry could make in his own kitchen. And I hate ordering food that I could just as easily make at home.

BREADS

Piccolo offers either ciabatta or focaccia for the paninis. The ciabatta has been one of the few highlights for each sandwich. It’s crisp, airy, and very tasty and works well with all of the sandwiches I ordered.

SIDE

Each sandwich comes with a side “salad”: mesculun greens with oil and vinegar. It’s minimalist yet effective.

THE MENU

The only real problem I have is the lack of description on the menu. For example, “The WORKS OMLETTE” has no information as to what exactly, is in the omlette. Why would I want to order this? I don’t want mystery with my food, especially omlettes. And I have no idea what their definition of “WORKS” is.

CONCLUSION

The sandwiches are moderately priced but you’re definitely taking your chances. Once you find a sandwich you like, stick with that one and don’t stray unless you like to be disappointed in your lunch.

Piccolo Cafe is located at 157 3rd Avenue (www.piccolocafe.us/157-3rd-ave)

Marshall Stack is a small craft beer bar in the Lower East Side that eschews standard pub fare (ie, burgers and wings) for a menu that is reminiscent of a school cafeteria, albeit a very high-end one. However, unlike the cafeteria of your youth, this is one you’d actually want to eat at frequently (it’s also one where you can drink exceptionally good beer). On my last visit, I opted for the sloppy joe sliders, and let me tell you, these are not your father’s sloppy joes. Having previously only had Manwich or cafeteria sloppy joes, these sloppy joe sliders were a revelation. Mainly because I had no idea they could be this delicious.

The sliders are served on small potato rolls, with a heaping of grated cheddar cheese on top. Not being used to eating tasty sloppy joes, the level of spiciness in the middle of each slider was an unexpected (but delicious) surprise. Oddly enough, the spiciness wasn’t apparent near the corners. I realize this sounds weird since it’s a tiny slider, but it’s the truth. Because of this, the second bite, the bite that takes out the entire middle of the slider, is the best overall bite as it seems to be where the true flavor of these slides lies.

Although small, these sliders are flavorful and filling. My only complaint is that I didn’t have a fork to eat the bits that fell onto my plate. Full disclosure: I used my fingers. Yup, I’m part caveman.

As a side dish, the tater tots complete the cafeteria vibe and perfectly pair with pretty much anything on the menu. The tots are airy, which makes them very fluffy and crisp and not greasy whatsoever. If you aren’t hungry for something more substantial, they make a good snack whilst drinking.

It’s cash only and the staff is very knowledgeable about the beers, but I haven’t bothered them with pairing questions yet. I just stick to questions about the beer. Next time I go, I’ll have to figure out which is the best beer to pair with the sliders.

Marshall Stack is located at 66 Rivington St.