We Eat Every Sandwich Filling at Kalustyan's

[Photographs: Robyn Lee]

So you know about Kalustyan's, right? The Indian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean temple of specialty foods? It's time to talk about one more reason to have this Murray Hill market on your regular shopping circuit.

Whenever I pay a visit, I make sure to hit up the second floor cafe where you can get dozens of dips, salads, spreads, and sandwiches at pretty gentle prices. The market has an impressive lineup of prepared foods—stuffed grape leaves, chickpea stews, bulgur salads and the like—and of course their whole wealth of specialty products: cheese, labne, cured meat, and more.


About eighteen items are available as sandwich fillings for five or six bucks, with toppings like tomato, tahini, and hot sauce. They're cheap, mostly vegetarian-friendly, and deliciously sloppy—a gem amidst Murray Hill's other lunch offerings. So I decided it was high time to do what we always do when we really love something: try every sandwich they sell.*

* Okay, so we didn't get the potato. They were sold out on two visits. My guess is that you already know whether you're the kind of person who will order a potato sandwich or not.

But here's the thing about sandwiches at Kalustyan's: love them though I do, you pretty much have to eat them at the cafe. When wrapped to go, the wimpy pita they insist on using leaks and sogs up fast. And you're only supposed to order one filling per sandwich; tasty, sure, but it's tastier to mix and match.

Pita Comparison

The sandwich standard on the left as compared to the Damascus brand pita on the right, sold in a pack of six. If you're making sandwiches for yourself, or just looking for dipping pita, go for the Damascus.

There's an easy workaround—grab some friends, half pint containers of your favorite fillings (about $4 each), better pita, and have a DIY sandwich party. It'll cost you about the same as a sandwich, all told, and if you prefer to go solo instead, you'll have lunch for a week. Just be sure to buy squeeze bottles of the excellent tahini ($6.99 for 12 oz.) and hot sauce ($4.99 for 8 oz.). We've been using the leftover sauces on just about everything we can find.

Whether you get your sandwich the normal way or go the DIY route, it pays to visit Kalustyan's prepared, as not all fillings are created equally. Our favorites? The sultry and oily moussaka with chickpeas and fried eggplant; spinach slowly cooked in olive oil with pine nuts; tomatoey butter beans, creamy labne mixed with beefy bastirma, and a pretty decent foul.

Take a look at the slideshow for the full report on all the possible sandwich fillings, ranked in approximate order from best to worst. And if you're a Kalustyan's fan, tell us what sandwich combinations you dig in the comments.


123 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10016 (map) 212-685-3451