Sandwich of the Week

The sandwich: The Godfather Part II from No. 7 Sub, three locations in New York City. I got mine in the baller-ass basement of the Plaza Hotel.

The construction: Salami, Mexican chorizo, ham, Muenster, pickled jalapenos, sweet potatoes and Thai basil on a toasted hero roll.

Important background information: This is the third sandwich I’ve reviewed from No. 7 Sub on this site. I think only Shake Shack has seen more sandwiches discussed here, and as far as I can remember no place else has even provided two Sandwiches of the Week. That’s not a coincidence, nor is it purely a function of No. 7 Sub’s relative proximity to my office.

I sometimes daydream about opening a sandwich shop, even though it’s not something I imagine I’d ever have the patience or wherewithal to execute. Basically, I just want to come up with creative new ideas for delicious sandwiches based on my extensive research in the field, then serve them to people, and have them revel in my mastery of the craft and tell me I’m the greatest artist of all time and break down in tears because my sandwiches are majestic and heartbreaking.

No. 7 Sub is a bit like that. It features a fluctuating menu of smartly conceived sandwiches, most of them featuring ingredients that seem discordant but which inevitably work together. I’ve yet to enjoy a less than excellent sandwich there. And — perhaps greater praise — I’ve yet to eat any sandwich there that tastes just like another sandwich I’ve had elsewhere, but none of the ingredient choices peculiar to No. 7 Sub ever feels forced.

What it looks like:

How it tastes: Predictably awesome.

This is a tough thing to describe and I fear this post will become more about sandwiches than this sandwich, but it doesn’t really taste like you’d imagine all the ingredients would combine to taste — if that’s something you could even imagine. With great focus you can identify certain flavors from each element, some easier than the others.

But this tastes more like a Godfather Part II than it tastes like salami, ham, chorizo, Muenster, sweet potatoes and Thai basil, if that makes any sense. It’s salty with a crispy hint of the Thai basil’s fragrant bite, and spicy in multiple ways but mellowed by the earthy sweetness of the sweet potatoes. For some reason it makes me think of pizza, but it’s not like any pizza I’ve ever had. Maybe it’s the salami and the sausage under a mild melted cheese. Or maybe all good things just make me think of pizza.

Oh, and the bread is amazing. That’s the constant at No. 7 Sub. They toast fresh, hearty, crusty, delicious bread that’s basically the ideal sandwich-holding stuff. It adds crunch, tastes great and maintains its integrity but never overwhelms its contents.

On another recent sandwich expedition, I had a bacon, egg and fried oyster sandwich. It was fine. But I couldn’t for the life of me determine why someone felt the need to put fried oysters on a bacon and egg sandwich. The moisture from the egg sogged the breading on the oysters before it even got to the table, so it didn’t add crunch. It added a seafood flavor that, though pleasant enough on its own, felt utterly extraneous on and perhaps even detrimental to a bacon and egg sandwich. I’d definitely have preferred the bacon and egg sandwich with a couple of fried oysters on the side.

If your thing is piling unlikely elements on sandwiches for the sake of having unlikely elements on sandwiches, then by all means, foie-gras the hell out of that peanut butter and jelly. But if you’re legitimately interested in making great sandwiches — the noblest pursuit — I would suggest considering, before adding any ingredient, whether a) the ingredient will make the sandwich better and b) the ingredient will be better as part of the sandwich than it would be on its own. It’s about synergy, or something.

And this is what I like about No. 7 Sub, at least based on the sandwiches I’ve had there: Every ingredient always appears to have some purpose, like someone’s putting real thought into the sandwiches’ construction, not just piling on a bunch of random crap and pawning it off on hipsters who love random-crap sandwiches.

The only element on the Godfather Part II that’s hard to wholly justify is the ham, since its flavor gets a little lost under all the more powerful ones and since its bulk doesn’t seem all that necessary on an otherwise hefty sandwich. But then I suppose the people behind this sandwich have earned the benefit of the doubt. Presumably the ham is there for a reason.

(If you plan to follow the two-step process for adding ingredients to sandwiches detailed above, I beg you now to consider the case of ham. Ham is always better on a sandwich than on its own. That’s indisputable. If you’re eating somewhere and you know you’re about to be served ham, stash away some dinner rolls. You won’t regret it. It would also help to have mustard. Also, if you don’t believe me that ham is always better on a sandwich, please bring me bread and a ham and I will prove it to you. Also: Mustard.)

Only a few things held the Godfather Part II out of the Hall of Fame. The first and foremost is the high standards I now have for No. 7 Sub, which isn’t really fair. But I suspect if I went in there cold and ate one of these, I’d be adding it to the sidebar here as we speak.

Second, the starchy texture of the sweet potatoes up against the bread wasn’t my favorite. The sweet potato flavor was an important element of what made the sandwich so good, so it’s obviously a tough thing to balance. But the chunks of sweet potato were a bit thick, and their mushiness sort of distracted me from the rest of the sandwich.

What it’s worth: $13, which is a lot for a sandwich anywhere. Presumably space in the basement of the Plaza Hotel doesn’t come cheap, nor does stocking a host of fresh, delicious ingredients. It’s a cost I’m willing to bear occasionally, but it’s enough to keep me from eating there more regularly. Maybe that’s ultimately a good thing.

The rating: 87 out of 100.

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