This one came on rec from @BobbyBigWheel. The man can scout a sandwich.
The sandwich: Chicken from Cheeky Sandwiches, 35 Orchard St. in Manhattan.
The construction: Fried chicken with red cabbage slaw and white gravy on a buttermilk biscuit.
Important background information: You could walk right by Cheeky Sandwiches twice and miss it. I know because I did. Nearby, pierced scenesters spill out of a gallery full of black and white photographs that look ripped from the liner of a Tool album, smoking cigarettes and saying things like, “fresh” and “bold.” Inside, Cheeky Sandwiches is tiny, clean and unpretentious. It serves beer, soda, wine and sandwiches, and it feels like a sensible foothold upon which to steady yourself before or after venturing into the gripping Lower Manhattan strangeness beyond.
How it tastes: Fresh. And bold.
First, the former: It seems possible everything on the Chicken at Cheeky Sandwiches save the slaw was prepared after I ordered it. And that seems almost impossible, given how quickly the guy worked. The chicken was moist, and the breading remained crispy under the strain of the creamy gravy. And the biscuit, piping hot, was crumbly and toasty on the outside and soft on the inside, buttery with just a hint of buttermilk tartness.
As for the bold: That came from the slaw, an assertive, crunchy, vinegary bite mixed in to an otherwise homey, comforting sandwich. It reminded me a bit of the red cabbage often served with German foods like sauerbraten, and indeed, at times felt like something that would fit better in a different sandwich.
It’s tough: I feel like if I had this without the slaw, I’d pine for a little something extra to put the sandwich over the top. But with the slaw, I found myself wishing at times that it wasn’t distracting my palate from the biscuit, chicken and gravy. Some tastes were perfect — Hall of Fame-caliber bites. In others, the slaw was too strong.
This seems like as good a time as any to remind everyone that nearly every one of these sandwich reviews comes off a pathetically small, one-sandwich sample. I suspect I could return to Cheeky Sandwiches, get this same sandwich with slightly different proportions, and deem it an inner-circle Hall of Famer.
But since that hasn’t happened yet, and this is the only one of its kind I’ve sampled, this still-awesome sandwich will fall slightly short of that hallowed distinction. It didn’t help, I will add, that the biscuit could not quite withstand the elements of the sandwich and fell apart before it was finished. The biscuit is crucial to the excellence of the sandwich, though, so I’d never suggest it be replaced with another form of bread.
What it’s worth: It costs $6.50. It’s not huge, but it’s certainly a small meal, and two of them would be more than a large meal. The price seems very reasonable, given the quality of the ingredients.
How it rates: 88 out of 100.