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[Photograph: Max Falkowitz]

You go to El Chivito D'Oro for massive platters of grilled meat. But before that comes, there's bread.

The bread basket is piled high with big, fluffy rolls. They're fresh and warm, but not that good—their crust is lacking, their crumb is bland. But they serve an important purpose that I consider as vital to a meal here as the meat itself: they take care of the Provolone ($7.50).

That's what you see above, an escargot dish repurposed to house little thimbles of melted, broiled provolone cheese. Each little pocket also has a thin slice of ham, and the dish gets topped with dried oregano. You stick your knife in a crack, pop out a cheese thimble, and have yourself a rather satisfying appetizer.

Or you split open one of those cheap rolls, slather on some of the excellent house chimichurri (that verdant green sauce you see in the background), slip in a cheese bit or two, and have yourself a surprisingly good sandwich. That chimichurri has enough heat to cut through all the dairy, and the bland-but-fresh roll adds carby contrast without getting in the way of the good stuff.

It's a bit of restaurant alchemy, taking some simple but unobtrusive offerings—two of them freebies—and making something that's so much more. Just don't fill up—you've got a pound of assorted grilled meats to eat.

About the author: Max Falkowitz is the editor of Serious Eats: New York. You can follow him on Twitter at @maxfalkowitz.

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