Editor's note: Or "Serious Sandwich Honor Roll" (read like "on a roll"), what punmaster Ed originally wanted to call it. —Erin
Lately, it seems that serious sandwiches are cropping up on menus at lunch, dinner, and even between at real restaurants and not just takeout kiosks. Often these sandwiches are one of the highlights of the menu. In conducting some serious sandwich research over the last few weeks, I have uncovered a few real gems at Txikito, Gramercy Tavern, and Craftbar. Please note: I have not given these sandwiches a grade. They represent the best of what I have found in recent travels. Otherwise I would not have called them to your attention.
At Txikito, there were always sandwiches on the Basque-inspired menu at dinner, but Alex Raij and her husband Eder Montero have raised their sandwich game considerably when they opened for lunch.
The truly delicious if untraditional (it's not served in the Basque region of Spain) Txikito burger ($11) features two thin patties of well-marbled (20 percent fat) freshly ground chuck cooked a la plancha (on a flat-top griddle); melted Idiazábal, a smoked Basque sheep's milk cheese; a special sauce that according to Alex is half mayo and half creme fraiche-based with pickled guindilla peppers, pickled onions, and cornichon, all on Tom Cat Bakery bread. Wholly untraditional but seriously delicious.
A fried tongue sandwich ($12) is crunchy and supremely beefy. The tongue is braised and breaded like schnitzel then fried on a regular baguette. Then, just to ratchet up the deliciousness and the fat content, they slather a baguette with homemade mayo and add fresh sliced tomato and tomato pulp for health reasons.
Txikito's hot dog ($5) is also mighty tasty. It's a split beef-and-pork Usinger's hot dog made with a natural lamb casing that's cooked a la plancha in brown butter. Then, just to kick it up a notch, Alex and Eder grill the baguette the hot dog comes on in more brown butter. If there are any cardiologists out there, please stop reading now.
A mile or so crosstown from Txikito I discovered a fabulous corned beef sandwich ($12) at Craftbar. It's really a deconstructed fancypants Reuben. A few (I could have used a few more slices, truth be told) thin slices of delicious house-made corned beef (the brisket is brined for ten days), some raclette cheese, and choucroute-inspired sauerkraut go between a pressed halved Tom Cat semolina strata. For a little extra added deliciousness, put the bread and butter pickles in the sandwich before dipping it into the Russian dressing (made with those same pickles).
Lastly, around the corner from Craftbar, I found the finest breakfast sandwich in New York. It's served at lunch at Gramercy Tavern in the tavern section of the restaurant as part of the unpublicized $14 soup and sandwich special (a terrific deal). What's in it? House-smoked, brined and glazed ham that's blessedly not oversmoked, two perfectly cooked and then carefully molded sunnyside-up Norwich Meadow Farm eggs, Fontina cheese, all on what is one of my favorite sandwich rolls, Balthazar's potato-onion bap (what does bap stand for? I don't know). The accompanying parsnip needed more than a little salt to bring it to life.
Now that I have discovered these sandwiches, I look forward to many more days of satisfying sandwich hunting in the near future.