You don't often find a perfectly balanced sandwich in New York. Too many delis have the notion that this lunchtime staple should be X-many inches high, I suspect in a misguided attempt to justify high prices—especially in Manhattan. I've had BLTs with half a head of lettuce piled on or ham sandwiches that must have taken an entire pig's ass to construct. Add to that a jar's worth of mayo or a slick of mustard, and you'll quickly find your meal's innards shimmying out the back door as you smush the thing enough to fit into your mouth.
That's why I have to give props to places like Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company. They understand the notion that less is more.
Take the ham and Swiss on rye I had there recently (above). The meat is not a dense strata of pig flesh. Nor is the lettuce a feast to feed an army of rabbits—here, there's just enough to add a bit of crispness. (And kudos for using whole leaves of cool, crunchy iceberg rather than going with a wilted, soggy chiffonade of lettuce.) Throw a couple slices of cheese on that sucker, a schmear of yellow mustard, and you've got a noontime meal whose components work in harmony.
I'd also like you to take a gander at how everything's loosely layered. There's an airiness to this stack that gives way to masticular pressure, allowing the sandwich to compress vertically rather than blow out laterally and into your lap.
Unfortunately, the less is more approach doesn't carry over into price. The base charge for a ham-only sandwich is $5.95; adding cheese (95¢) and lettuce (35¢) brings the pretax total to $7.05 for sandwich alone. Add a bag of chips and a soda and you're in $10-plus territory, which seems awful steep for such a pedestrian lunch. Compare that to Salumeria Biellese, a few blocks up Eighth Avenue, where I can get out with a small sandwich—albeit one less finely constructed—and a bottle of Coke for $7.05. Still, when I'm really craving a well-crafted sandwich near the office, Brooklyn Bagel can't be beat.
Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company
Location mentioned: 286 Eighth Avenue, New York NY 10001 (b/n 24th and 25th streets; map)
Notes: There are two other locations, neither of which is in Brooklyn, oddly enough: 35-05 Broadway, Long Island City NY 11106 and 35-09 Ditmars Boulevard, Astoria NY 11105
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