The sandwich: The James from City Sandwich, 9th Ave. between 45th and 46th streets in Manhattan.
The construction: Roast beef with melted mozzarella, broccoli rabe, roasted peppers and olive oil on a hero. It’s supposed to come with sauteed onions, but I ordered mine without them.
Important background information: It’s probably by coincidence, but I’ve been winding up in more and more sort of high-endish, European-inspired sandwich shops lately. This is not a bad thing, as they often serve good sandwiches. They mostly boast various imported and/or otherwise exotic cured meats, fancier cheeses than you usually get on a sandwich, and extremely hearty bread.
The bread in many of those places, I find, often actually takes away from the sandwich. It’s delicious, fresh bread and something (like most things) I would love slathered in butter, but it’s so thick that it’s sort of a bear to eat as a sandwich and sometimes even rough on the roof of the mouth. Also, many of those places seem to think importing fancypants meats and cheeses and serving them on giant loaves of bread means they can get away with using like two thin slices of meat per sandwich, and this is America bro.
What it looks like:
How it tastes: Delicious.
I went into City Sandwich knowing that it boasted Portuguese and Italian influences, concerned about that bread thing. But City Sandwich removes the inside from their loaves, creating a strong, crispy-crusted but not too bready platform upon which the sandwich is built.
Also, it’s toasted. And in combination with the roast beef, it creates an awesome, underrated sandwich effect that I fear I haven’t spent enough time discussing here: the mix of hot and cold ingredients. The roast beef here is cool, like you’d get at a deli where it’s kept in the fridge before it’s sliced. And with the warm, toasted bun and the melted mozzarella, you’re getting not only a combination of flavors and textures but also temperatures. And it’s good.
The fresh mozzarella is amazing, like most fresh mozzarella. City Sandwich does a good job with the broccoli rabe and roasted pepper, too. I think some places, when adding an uncommon ingredient like broccoli rabe, tend to go overboard with it to rub it in your face like, “hey man that’s right it’s broccoli rabe look at me look at me look at me.” But not here. It’s chopped up small and cooked tender, and there’s just enough of it to give the sandwich a little bit of its bitter flavor without making the whole thing just taste like broccoli rabe. There are a few more roasted peppers, but they’re in perfect proportion to the rest of the sandwich and add a nice sweetness.
Oh, and the roast beef! It’s really good. Roast beef can be kind of a crapshoot everywhere and I’m working with a one-sandwich sample size, but the roast beef on my sandwich was sliced extremely thin and served incredibly rare — real nice and pink, and extremely tender.
There was olive oil on there too. It must have done its job because at no point while eating this sandwich did I think, “this sandwich could be or should be wetter.” But because of the stronger flavors (and the way I normally associate olive oil with roasted pepper flavor, I suppose), the olive oil didn’t really stand out. More of a glue guy.
What it’s worth: The James cost $8.95 plus tax, and it was huge. It probably could have been two small meals but it was good enough that I wanted to keep eating.
How it rates: 88 out of 100. This sandwich lacked that extra, transcendent element to take it to the Hall of Fame level, but it’s delicious nonetheless. I will be trying other sandwiches at City Sandwich after future appointments at my doctor’s office nearby.
Thanks to Mark for the tip on this one.