Sandwich? of the Week

The candidate: Texas Hand Roll from Hill Country Chicken, 25th and Broadway in Manhattan. The original Hill Country is an excellent barbecue joint around the corner with the best brisket I’ve had in New York City. The fried chicken at this place matches that standard. It’s good stuff. Also, there are a bunch of games in the basement (though I was alone today and the basement was closed).

The construction: Chicken fingers with cole slaw and pepper jelly in a tortilla, served in paper sno-cone holder-thing. The menu said the Texas Hand Roll has almonds and toasted sesame seeds inside, but I neither saw nor tasted either. That’s a mixed blessing as far as I’m concerned: I like almonds and was intrigued by their inclusion here, but I don’t much care for the taste of sesame.

Arguments for sandwich-hood: Meat (and other stuff) wrapped in bread again. I decided the chicken and lamb combo pita from the Halal Guys was a sandwich. Kind of portable.

Arguments against: While it’s listed under “sandwiches” on the menu, it’s not called a sandwich — it’s called a “Texas Hand Roll.” Non-burrito sandwich stuff inside a tortilla is generally known as a “wrap,” the sandwich-hood of which has not yet been determined by this website but which has a name distinct from “sandwich.” Also: pretty messy, what with the cole slaw.

How it tastes: A little bit confusing, to be honest.

Now look: Nothing in here isn’t great. The chicken tenders are piping hot, crispy and perfectly seasoned on the outside and moist on the inside. The jelly, sweet and gooey with just a hint of peppery front-of-the-mouth spice to keep things interesting, goes well with the salty chicken. And it’s hard to imagine many sandwiches or sandwich-type food items upon which the tangy, crispy cole slaw — wet but not watery, creamy but not drenched in mayo — would not taste fantastic.

But whether it was because the almonds were missing or because the tortilla added almost nothing or because my hands wound up sticky or because the ingredients were not evenly distributed — some bites were all chicken, some were all cole slaw — about halfway through eating this thing I started wondering why it needs to exist.

Chicken tenders are already portable! Hell, they’re already meat wrapped in bread (though not sandwiches on their own, obviously). And if I were served chicken tenders with the pepper jelly for dipping and a side of cole slaw, I could have enjoyed nearly the exact same effects I got from the Texas Hand Roll and actually kept my hands cleaner.

I’d have needed a fork for the cole slaw, I guess. But since there were precious few delicious bites combining the chicken, the jelly and the cole slaw, it’s hard to argue that wrapping them all up together in a tortilla had much of a purpose here besides suggesting they be served together.

The verdict: No. I’m going to say not a sandwich. For one thing, it wasn’t completely wrapped up and it needed to be eaten out of a cone for neatness, so it’s not going to settle the inevitably forthcoming wrap debate on its own.

For another — and this may be shakier territory, I’ll admit — I think I’m prepared to argue that for a sandwich to really be a sandwich it needs to be a sandwich for some purpose. It doesn’t have to be a strong purpose, mind you: Maybe the bread is just there to hold together a bunch of ingredients meant to be bitten into at the same time or to keep the hands from getting covered with dressing or because bread is delicious and will go nicely with whatever other ingredients are involved.

But just wrapping something up in bread when it doesn’t necessarily make it neater, tastier or more cohesive doesn’t seem like creating a sandwich in the spirit of sandwiches. I’m still hashing this one out, though.

What it’s worth: It costs $9, which doesn’t seem too bad until you realize that a two-piece dark meat chicken with a side and a biscuit costs the same. And the biscuits (as seen above) are amazing.

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