For the nine months of her pregnancy, my wife was prohibited from eating things that are Bad For The Baby: cold cuts, sushi, vodka, lead paint chips, and so on. So now that she’s no longer sharing her body with the little rascal, I asked her what was the first thing off the forbidden menu she wanted to eat. No hesitation. Out of all the things in New York City she could have, she requested a Dana Special from Esposito’s. We’ve talked about G. Esposito & Sons before here. These guys are old school butchers who have a killer assortment of fine meats, Italian foods, and they are no joke with the Dagwood-style sandwiches, either. We haven’t come close to trying them all yet, but there can be no doubt that the Dana Special is one of the most eminently cravable sandwiches ever.Picture a fresh crusty sesame seed hero baked a block away at Caputo’s Bakery, stuffed to the brim with Italian ham, spicy soppressato, marinated sweet peppers, fresh Buffalo mozzarella, oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pep… and the colpo di grazia? Paper thin-sliced eggplant, lightly breaded and perfectly fried. Sweet and tart, salty and crunchy, its no wonder that this was the sandwich of all sandwiches my wife wished to eat after nine months. And being a good husband I ordered one for me, too. Solidarity! Can’t let her do this thing alone, am I right?
The Great Breakfast Sandwich Smackdown is underway and already the competition is getting fierce. According to our incredibly willing and highly reliable taste tester (me) a very serious contender for the title can be found at the East Village outpost of Back Forty. The Housemade English Muffin Sandwich is the brainchild of chef/locavore Peter Hoffman who was an early pioneer of the farm-to-table concept at the (sadly) now shuttered Savoy.
This incarnation of the brunch staple consists of what I consider to be the four basic food groups: bread, eggs, cheese and, of course, bacon. Oh, and with a little bit of honey butter to round things out. The sandwich is served open faced, and, at first glance, you might wince at the sight of two (only two??) small pieces of bacon. But fear not my porcine, I mean, pork loving, friends. You will not be disappointed. Upon assembly (i.e. delicately smashing the two halves of English muffin together) the perfectly prepared, over easy egg erupts into a yolky volcanic dream. The texture of the housemade muffin, with its crisp cornmeal crusted outside and soft, spongy inside, is the perfect complement to the crisp strips of bacon and it does a fantastic cleanup job on the egg that runneth over.I’ve been to Back Forty twice in the last month for one of these bad boys. You know, just for the sake of the accuracy of this review. I may not be ready to declare it the ultimate winner just yet, but I will say it’s neck in neck with the current frontrunner. Four out of five eggs.
The Great Breakfast Sandwich Smackdown has barely even started, but we are here to declare the sure loser: the sausage, egg and cheese biscuit (or any other breakfast sandwich) from McDonald’s. You see, every other sandwich that graces this smackdown will be crafted using the finest of ingedients…fresh wood-fired rolls or croissants, homemade sausage from grass-fed pigs, artisanal cheeses from every corner of the globe, free-range chicken eggs layed in heated coops…you get the picture.This little treasure from Mickey D’s is constructed using a greasy mass-produced confection some people call a biscuit, a folded-up egg blanket, a 174-calorie-17-grams-o-blubber sausage patty and that fantastically processed slice of good old-fashioned American cheese. It simply cannot compete. But, our little black sheep has something special going for it that we can’t quite put our finger on. It may be the sprinkle of fairy dust that the ghoulish mean man behind a big door applies before each fixin’ is shipped. Or maybe it’s the time you’ll save by consuming 56% of the recommended daily allowance of fat in just one sitting. We’re not sure, but we do know that every now and then a wild urge wells up deep inside and the need to consume one of these with a crispy hashbrown and icy Coke trumps all common sense. We’ll be hungry in an hour. All hail the loser!
On my way across the Upper West Side today, I passed by the 100 year old institution, Schatzie’s Prime Meats. I’ve meant to go in many times, as the sign in the window bragging about Schatzie’s Famous Dirty Brisket has long intrigued me. There’s also a tag line in the window that is pure gold: “My name is Schatzie. I’m a butcher, I’m not a chef and I don’t speak French. But I do know a beautiful piece of meat when I see it.” Today I was very hungry and I had time, so I popped inside.
It looked just like I hoped it would look! It’s a family business, and Schatzie’s son Richwas behind the counter. I asked, “Why is it called ‘the dirty brisket?’” Says Rich, “Because it’s got barbecue sauce on it.” Good enough for me. He then told me it was definitely his favorite sandwich (I was wavering about the pastrami) so I decided to go with his recommendation. He’s a butcher with a face you can trust. I walked to the park, and unwrapped it.
It’s not the most elegant looking sandwich ever, all wrapped up in brown butcher paper, but damn. A pound of the most melt-in-your-mouth thin sliced beef brisket slathered in ‘cue sauce on unseeded rye. Nothing else. Nothing else needed! Good old Schatzies! Fun to say the name. And a perfect New York sandwich. (If only they’d remembered to include napkins…)
Tucked away under a hard-to-find stoop on St. Luke’s Place is quite possibly the best place to get a sandwich in New York City. Better Being Undergroundis tiny and crowded, but so worth the trip/wait/search for the most amazing lunchtime creations.
It was rediculous. In fact I’d like to have another one. Right now. Try to get there early as the best stuff runs out by early afternoon. But whenever you get there, enjoy!
Weather.com lied this morning and said it wasn’t going to rain, so on my way to drop off a check on Great Jones Street, my ’58 Raleigh and I, of course, got rained on. After the check got dropped, I came out to find it pouring sheets. I was hungry. Thankfully, Il Buco Alimentari e Vineriawas right next door at 53 Great Jones between Bowery and Lafayette.
Their websitesays it best, ”Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria is a market salumeria, bakery and enoteca and restaurant, inspired by simple authentic food that’s made with an uncompromising ethic, and the joy of sharing it with friends.” I’m just going to call it effing amazing.
This is their breakfast sandwich with baked organic egg, rupert cheese, salame rosa, and focaccia fino. Ridiculous. Rounded out with a glass of freshly squeezed OJ…outlandish. Must go. Must try.