Sandwich Week braves the rain

I am victimized by rainstorms more thoroughly than anyone else I know. I have no idea why. And I don’t mean I’m out in the rain any more often or anything like that, I mean that for no apparent reason I seem to get wetter than most people when rainstorms hit. It’s weird. I am, 100% of the time, the guy that makes people all like, “whoa, hey!” during a storm, looking like I just jumped fully clothed into a swimming pool.

Am I too girthy for umbrellas? So heavy that I draw raindrops with gravitational pull? Lord, I hope not. I mean, I’ve certainly come across plenty of fatter, drier people. Maybe I don’t use umbrellas right or my attempts at common umbrella courtesy leave me uncovered too often. Who knows? All I’m sure of is that no matter how hard I try to stay dry, I get soaked. I could wear a poncho and end up dripping.

But even knowing my proneness to drenching, and knowing that I had three avenues to walk, did I stop, turn around and get right back on the subway when I stepped out at 23rd and 6th today into a torrential downpour? Hell no, bro. It’s Sandwich Week. I decided so yesterday.

The sandwich: Sloppy Bao from Baoguette, 61 Lexington Ave. in Manhattan.

The construction: The Sloppy Bao is the Vietnamese answer to the sloppy joe, but the traditional ground-beef sloppy joe and not the New Jersey variety discussed in the comments section yesterday. It’s french bread piled with curry-seasoned sweet and spicy ground beef, thin strips of green mango and fresh cilantro.

Important background information: The woman at the counter asked if I wanted it spicy. I find that in certain Southeast Asian eateries — especially Thai and Vietnamese places — if you specify that you want your order spicy or, heaven forbid, extra spicy, you probably won’t be tasting anything else for the rest of the week. I’m pretty sure it’s some sort of culture-spanning practical joke intended to punk whiteboys who have eaten a couple of Buffalo wings and think they can handle real heat. Even a strong affirmative nod when you’re asked if you want your food spicy will land you in tears, quivering in the restaurant, chugging milk and begging for forgiveness.

Though I appreciate the challenge, I prefer to keep my taste buds. I always go with “medium spicy,” to let them know that, while I enjoy spicy food, I am not in any way daring them to humiliate me with their awesome powers of spice. As such, I ordered my Sloppy Bao medium spicy.

What it looks like:

How it tastes: Oh hell yeah; now we’re talking. The Sloppy Bao is what Sandwich Week is all about.

The bread was warm, crusty and flaky on the outside and soft and tasty on the inside like all good French bread should be. The beef was straight up delicious. Like I said, it was sweet and spicy — but not too spicy, at all, just a nice hint of a kick. And the curry and whatever else is in there (I’d guess garlic, chili and maybe some basil, but I’m hardly a super-taster) made it awesome.

The most interesting part, I guess, was the mango and cilantro working in tandem. I never considered how those things might go together before, but since cilantro has that sharp, almost minty flavor to it and the mango was just a little tart. I don’t like to bandy about terms like “party in my mouth” unless I really mean it, but this sandwich was an explosion of excellence. All sorts of awesome flavors.

What it’s worth: At least $7 and a three-avenue trek through a monsoon. They have monsoons in Vietnam, right? Restaurants there must have to make sandwiches this good to get people to brave the elements to come eat them. I got back to the office 90 minutes ago. My pants are still soaked and my shoes are sopping, but I am satisfied. The Sloppy Bao is a destination sandwich.

The rating: 92 out of 100. I have had better sandwiches, but not many. I will definitely go back to Baoguette.

9 thoughts on “Sandwich Week braves the rain

  1. That. Looks. Incredible.

    By the way, you need to finish this week with a walk around the corner from SNY Studios to 53rd and 6th. We both know what’s there.

    • I am debating whether to include the lamb cart. While it is inarguably a purveyor of delicious sandwiches, I get it frequently enough that it’s not all that exciting. I may end up getting one if I get real busy this week at some unforeseen time, but there are so many new sandwiches I want to try.

  2. The Taco Bell tab really needs to be turned into a “Food” tab, with options for Taco Bell, sandwiches, and other assorted food topics. Sandwich week deserves a better fate than to languish in the chronological archives.

  3. First of all, Sandwich week is awesome.

    Second, the week of dedication to all things sandwich inspired me to hit up our local deli. Now I live in a small town & the sandwich options are just not of that in a Midtown Manhattan but the local sub (yes, it’s a sub) shop has my favorite simple sandwich.

    Homemade French Bread, Turkey, Ham, Provolone Cheese, Russian Dressing and Coleslaw (lettuce & tomatoes optional) all toasted just enough to melt the cheese. Sometimes simplicity & deliciousness trump the innovations that sandwiches can be.

    Finally, this sandwich you had for lunch today though….sounds amazing.

  4. This is interesting. We have a Baoguette location right around the corner of my office that I’ve visited a number of times (though the lunchtime crowds get somewhat excessive). I’ve had the Sloppy Bao a couple of times and it doesn’t really do it for me. I can’t really put my finger on it, but something about the mango/cilantro/curry intersection just didn’t taste good. The texture of the mango was kinda more stringy than I enjoyed dealing with, too, as I recall. (But one of my coworkers agrees with you; to each his own.) On the other hand, I think their regular Baoguette sandwich is very good, though not as good as the banh mi at the place in my neighborhood. (Maybe that’s just because when I get the one in my neighborhood I take it home and sit on my couch and watch TV, and when I get the one at Baoguette I go back to work.) Their bread is excellent, as you noted, though.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve also found that medium spicy is about the right thing to tell them when you’re ordering at Baoguette. At the location near me, at least, they also have small cups of Sriracha that you can take with you and add to the sandwich later if it’s not hot enough for you.

  5. I love sandwich week. Reminds me of the main character in the Seven Deadly Sins series of detective books who eats his sandwiches over the kitchen sink. Hope to visit some of the places when I’m in NY in October. Till then I’ll just be salivating in San Francisco.

  6. The sandwich you just described, Ted, sounds awesome. I’m particularly taken with the juxtaposition of mango and cilantro, two very delicious components of many dishes. Mango’s even fine on its own, provided it’s properly cut, which is not an easy accomplishment.
    What’s in store for tomorrow? Is your belt getting tighter?

  7. Ted, “did you lie when you were seventeen”?

    Enjoy the video of Travis-Live. Apparently, they’ve had similar thoughts about the rain.

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