In this great city of ours, one could eat a different sandwich every day of the year—so that's what we'll do. Here's A Sandwich a Day, our daily look at sandwiches around New York. Got a sandwich we should check out? Let us know. —The Mgmt.
Growing up in the 1980's at the intersection of 125th Street and Riverside Drive, I can't say I was exactly in culinary mecca. Sure, our McDonald's consistently had the best McDonald's fries in the city (it still does), there were legit sawdust-on-the-floor butchers all over the area, and you could buy the very best frozen steaks your-money-could-buy-so-long-as-your-money-is-only-five-dollars though your car window from the hawker with the beer cooler, but this was before the days of Fairway, or Dinosaur BBQ, or Jin.
In fact, just about the only thing that you had around was a couple of fried-chicken-peddling Chinese takeout joints, some poor pizza, and the Uni One Gourmet Deli on Broadway just south of Tiemann Place. In all my fifteen years living around the corner, I never set foot in there, but had Twitter existed when I was a kid, I might have known that a great sandwich was right under my nose the entire time.
You don't expect much from a $4 soda-and-a-sandwich deal, which is why I was so pleasantly surprised when I ordered the Spicy Chopped Cheese and saw the griddle man not only properly browning slices of shaved steak, but actually taking the time to chop the meat with two stiff spatulas, proper Philly style. The last time I'd had a cheesesteak prepared like that was at Dalessandros in Philly, where they serve it with a great hot and tangy pickled pepper relish.
The Chopped Cheese at Uni One strays from the Philly formula there when rather than just topping with pickled peppers, they add a whole slew of 'em directly to the griddle. I'd estimate it at at least a 50/50 blend of pepper to steak, with a few slices of cheese melted into it. The whole hot mess gets piled into a hoagie roll that's serviceable, but certainly doesn't have the crisp-chewy texture of the bread from Philly institutions like Sarcone or Amoroso. The entire sandwich ceases to be a cheesesteak when the shredded iceberg and tomato get placed on top, but you know what? I don't give much credence to authenticity anyhow.
This thing is sloppy and delicious, hot and tangy, and when you consider there are places where $4 won't even get you a soda alone, pretty insanely cheap.
Uni One Gourmet Deli
3153 Broadway New York, NY 10027 (map)
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.