People I respect have been recommending Cherry Valley Deli in Whitestone since I started writing about sandwiches. Hell, before that — when I was just a guy who likes sandwiches, not a guy who likes sandwiches and also reviews them. Mets-fan Pete from my weekly baseball game was the first to tip me off, I believe. Countless others have followed.
The sandwich: The Corona from Cherry Valley Deli, 150th St. in Whitestone, Queens.
The construction: Chicken cutlet with cheddar cheese, bacon, onion rings and barbecue sauce on a garlic roll.
Important background information: There are so many tempting options on the Cherry Valley menu that as soon as you order, you notice something else that sounds even better than what you told the guy you wanted and become overwhelmed with sandwich regret. Most of them — or at least most of the really awesome-sounding ones — are some meat with bacon, some cheese, some sauce and some bonus fried thing, generally either onion rings or french fries. I prefer french fries to onion rings and waffle fries — another option — to most traditional french fries, but I didn’t immediately see any sandwich with a bunch of ingredients I knew I wanted that had waffle fries on it.
So I went with the Corona, in part because I panicked, in part because it was among the sandwiches recommended to me by multiple people.
What it looks like:
How it tastes: Honestly? Underwhelming.
Look: Any sandwich with fried chicken, bacon and cheddar cheese on it has a pretty high floor, but the Corona — at least this particular Corona — wasn’t far above it. For one thing, when I hear “garlic bread” I assume that means loaded with butter and toasted with strong garlic flavor. I’m pretty sure they forgot to do any of that to my roll, and since it was about 9 p.m. and they presumably had the rolls delivered in the morning, it was reasonably stale by the time I got to eat it.
Second, nothing on this sandwich except maybe the bacon was even warm. Look at the cheese in the picture above. What do you notice about that cheese? It’s not melted. I don’t expect a deli to necessarily melt the cheese on top of the chicken cutlet, but I would hope the chicken would be warm enough to melt at least some of the cheese by the time I got it back to my car and unwrapped it. Wasn’t the case. Perhaps I’m missing the point and this sandwich isn’t intended to be served hot, but the aluminum foil certainly implies otherwise.
The onion ring was there, but I was hoping it’d give me something extra crispy on the sandwich, and no dice. I’m pretty sure it only made the whole thing saltier, and the whole thing was pretty salty to begin with. The barbecue sauce — perhaps KC Masterpiece — was unevenly applied, and sweet enough to be nearly cloying on the end of the sandwich where it was heaviest. The best I can say is that the chicken wasn’t dry, as some deli chicken cutlets can be.
Don’t get me wrong: Still enjoyable. It had bacon and chicken and cheddar cheese, like I said. But given the amount of hype I’d heard about this place, I was almost amazed by how pedestrian the sandwich was.
Is Cherry Valley Deli resting on old laurels, or did I just get the wrong sandwich-maker on the wrong day? Was there a bad taste lingering in my mouth from the Mets’ woeful home opener?
Herein lies the unspoken, inherent flaw with my Sandwich of the Week reviews: Sample size. I judge a sandwich’s merit off only one tasting. It’s like drawing conclusions from one week — or one game — of a baseball season. I hate when people do that with baseball, and yet I do it all the damn time with sandwiches. Certainly you’d hope that sandwich purveyors strive for some sort of consistency, but baseball players do too, and we see how often they actually achieve that.
Still, I’m too far along now to roll back on this system. I will probably give Cherry Valley another shot based on the number of recommendations and its proximity to Citi Field — about a 10 minute drive. It’s open late, too, which could come in handy after some night games.
What it’s worth: Six bucks plus tax. Pretty reasonable.
How it rates: 70 out of 100. Tempted to go lower when I consider the magnificently constructed Fed Ex. I’m not done with this place though, so perhaps there are sunnier ratings to come.