Sandwiches of the Week

I was going to use this intro space to write about the weird, Zen-like joy I found in manning the grill for the pre-beach weekend morning rush at the deli back in the day, but then I searched this site and realized that I wrote about that exact topic when reviewing a bacon, egg and cheese nearly a full decade ago.

So instead I’ll just give a brief shoutout to the flat-top griddle for being basically the most useful cooking implement for food I want to eat. I don’t understand why they’re not standard on consumer stovetops. I have a big stove, by NYC standards, with four round burners around the side and a long burner in the middle that seems to be designed to heat a long, rectangular griddle. Why not just build that griddle in to the stove? Some quick googling informs me that this is already a thing, but it’s not a thing I have. I’m so sick of needing to own my own, separate griddle, which isn’t as big as it could be if it were just built into the stove.

The sandwiches: I was craving an egg sandwich, but my go-to street cart around the corner has been gone since mid-March. So I made myself a sausage, egg and cheese.

It struck me while I was making it that one big advantage of the bacon, egg and cheese over the sausage, egg and cheese is the crunch from the bacon, so I crumbled up some tortilla chips and threw them on top. I’m trying things out here.

The day after I made that sandwich, I bought a bacon, egg and cheese with ketchup from a bagel place a block from my apartment. Here’s what it looked like:

The construction: For my sandwich, I used another one of the excellent FreshDirect pretzel rolls, two eggs, two slices of American cheese, a sausage patty, ketchup and mayo. I recognize that mayo on an egg sandwich sounds disgusting, but the deli job — where, by the end of the breakfast rush, there would invariably be one ordered-but-unclaimed sandwich, which I would then eat — introduced me to all sorts of egg-sandwich topping options. Sometimes I get a weird hankering for mayo on there. Don’t judge me.

The bagel place’s sandwich had two eggs, bacon, cheese and ketchup on a roll. It looks a lot like a bacon, egg and cheese you might get at any decent deli in the New York City area.

Important background information: People who don’t live in New York mock New Yorkers for insisting we have the best pizza and the best egg sandwiches because the inherent excellence of this city’s pizza and egg-sandwich scenes is difficult for outsiders to understand. It’s not that the standard slice of New York pizza is much better — or better at all — than the best pizza in any other city. It’s the ubiquity of good pizza that rules.

If someone coming to visit asks me for a pizza recommendation, I almost never give specifics. There are exemplary slices of New York pizza out there, but I don’t think they’re really worth going far out of the way for, as they’re not way better than the best slice of pizza in any given neighborhood. If you are in New York City and you’re anywhere south of Van Cortlandt Park, north of, say, Greenwood Cemetery and west of LaGuardia Airport, you’re within walking distance of really good pizza (and the only reason I exclude the further reaches of the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens is that you’re not always within walking distance of stores). That’s simply not the case in other cities.

And you can say, “hey, wait, you’re just talking about population density,” and that’s definitely part of it. But I think the prevalence of pizza parlors here leads to higher standards, and the bottom line is that I can think of eight really good, reasonably priced pizza places within a half-mile radius of my home. Be honest: Can you? If you answered yes, you live in New York City.

This post is about egg sandwiches, but it’s a similar concept. You can live in D.C. and go to some weirdly corporate, disarmingly large brunch spot and get yourself a bougey-ass applewood-smoked bacon, egg and cheese sandwich on free-range brioche with microgreens, but you can’t roll out of bed hungover and stumble in your flip-flops down to the corner bodega, bark out, “baconeggandcheese, saltpepperketchup” and know you’re going to get an incredible sandwich for, like, four dollars.

What they look like:

How it tastes: Look at my beautiful my sausage, egg and cheese! Look at that cheese, lovingly melted over the perfectly over-easy eggs, with their deep yellow yolks ready to burst and spill out all over the plate, to be sopped up by the hearty pretzel roll. That’s a hand-formed patty, folks, and organic ketchup.

And it’s great! The eggs are gooey, the cheese melty, sausage peppery and porky and good, and the pretzel rolls, I keep telling you, are fantastic. The crunched up tortilla chips do nothing for it, but it’s a really good sandwich.

It’s just not as good as the rather pedestrian-looking bacon, egg and cheese from a rather pedestrian bagel place. There’s actual science to the notion that sandwiches taste better when someone else makes them for you, and that’s probably a factor. Plus, bacon is bacon, and shouldn’t be overlooked — even if sausage is obviously fabulous, too.

But there’s just a synergy to the classic, New York deli-style egg sandwich that I’ve never seen recreated elsewhere, not by myself at home or by chefs at fancy restaurants. It’s just this crunchy, salty, cheesy, greasy, ketchupy perfection, and nothing else in the world tastes quite like it.

It seems like this whole pandemic thing is inspiring a lot of people to leave the New York area, and I get it. But good luck finding a credible bacon, egg and cheese, suckers.

Hall of Fame? A definite no for mine. The bagel-shop bacon, egg and cheese is not, on its own, a Hall of Fame sandwich, but bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches in general should definitely earn some sort of lifetime-achievement entry into the Sandwich Hall of Fame.

Sandwich of the Week!

This idea came from Twitter user @ArtVandelay91, to whom I am now greatly indebted.

Before I get into it, I want to at least acknowledge something. No more than 300 people will likely see this blog post, so I can’t imagine I’m at any great risk of landing on the radar of the Internet Shame Police, but there is a whole conversation going on right now about the cultural appropriation of food.

I don’t want to get into much of it, as much of it just isn’t my place to get into. But I will say that the concept of “authenticity” in food is often tenuous and almost always overrated. Food is food. Nearly all of the best foods stem from some sort of intercultural exchange — the banh mi from a particularly despicable one — and while I recognize that people can and should feel pride and passion for the foods of their cultures and the specifics of how they’re prepared, I don’t think it’s reasonable at all to argue that no one has the right to alter or incorporate or build upon those foods. Dishes evolve. It’s all fusion.

That is to say: I was not trying to make an “authentic” banh mi here. I was trying to make a burger that incorporated delicious elements from that sandwich. And I obviously didn’t make it now because this topic is in the news. I made it because I had cilantro left over from the broccoli falafel and ground pork in the freezer from Crowd Cow (where you and I can both get $25 worth of meat if you order with my referral code).

The sandwich: Banh mi burger.

The construction: A seasoned pork patty on a pretzel roll with pickled carrots and cucumbers, jalapenos, fresh cilantro, mayo and sriracha.

For the pork burgers, I pretty much followed the exact recipe the New York Times recently published for Vietnamese meatballs, except I used slightly more ginger and garlic, and it took me way longer than 20 minutes. Every recipe underestimates prep time by about half. It takes 20 minutes just for me to peel and mince two tablespoons’ worth of ginger.

Instead of shaping the pound of pork into 12 meatballs and baking them, I shaped it into five burger patties and cooked them on a cast-iron skillet. This turned out serendipitous, as I’ll explain in a minute.

Most of the banh mi-focused quick-pickling recipes I found online called for rice vinegar, but I didn’t have any. I shredded the carrots with a vegetable peeler, sliced the cucumber as thin as I could, and quick-pickled them in a mix of white vinegar and sugar, with a pinch of salt. I didn’t have any daikon radish. It’s a pandemic.

Important background information: One of the five best sandwiches I’ve ever had in my life was a pork meatball banh mi I got from a street vendor in Ho Chi Minh City in 2013. It cost the equivalent of 67 cents USD, it came wrapped in graph paper. and I have spent the last seven years alternately trying to find a banh mi anywhere close to as good and plotting my return to Vietnam.

That’s why @ArtVandelay91’s idea spoke to me, I think: The best banh mi I’d ever had was built on meatballs — not cold cuts — so a banh mi burger made a lot of sense. I can’t remember the original sandwich well enough to estimate if its meatballs tasted anything like the ones in the Times’ recipe (I sort of doubt it), and for all I know using ginger-seasoned meatballs in a banh mi is a major faux pas. But I went with it, and I’m glad I did.

What it looks like:

How it tastes: Spectacular. Completely f-ing spectacular. I have made myself a lot of sandwiches in my lifetime, and this might honestly be the best of them.

The main thing to understand is that the Times‘ Vietnamese pork meatballs make for sensational burgers when grilled on a cast-iron skillet. I don’t know the science behind why this happened — I figure it’s either the fat in the pork or the cracker crumbs mixed into the meat — but a crunchy crust formed on the outside of the patties, almost as if they’d been fried. So the patty itself provided a variety of textures and flavors, with the spicy, assertive taste of ginger standing out from the crispy, meaty, peppery, garlicky mix.

Complemented by the rest of the banh mi stuff here, it’s unbelievable. The jalapenos offer a second, more familiar source of sandwich spiciness to accompany the ginger, and it’s all balanced by the sweetness and tang of the pickled vegetables. The cilantro makes it sharp and the mayo makes it creamy, and the sriracha adds some color for the photograph.

All together, it’s an incredible, harmonious confluence of tastes and textures and temperatures, one that features flavors familiar from banh mi but isn’t exactly like any banh mi I’ve ever had before. It’s so good. Make this sandwich.

The pretzel rolls we keep getting from FreshDirect are again the unsung hero (pun vaguely intended). I don’t want to talk them up too much, and I fear the inevitable day they go the way of yeast and Nutella and hot dogs and stop being available to me.

Hall of Fame? Yes, quite.

Sandwich of the Week


I eat a lot of meat, but I understand and respect vegetarianism, and I’d be fully willing to take it on if I didn’t love meat more than anything else in the world except possibly baseball and my family.

I also aim to be a man of the people, and a handful of people have requested a vegetarian option. This is it. It’s not vegan on account of the yogurt-based tzatziki I used for sauce, and also because there’s egg in the bread. But if you are, somehow, a vegan who reads the sandwich reviews on, you could pretty easily make this sandwich vegan.

The sandwich: Broccalafel!

The construction: I keep mentioning Tyler Kord’s sandwich cookbook, and I’ll do it again. It’s an amazing resource for turning things you have sitting around in your kitchen into delicious sandwiches. I don’t think I’ve yet made a single one of its sandwiches to completion, but it’s definitely in keeping with the cookbook’s aesthetic to pick and choose individual ingredients and customize sandwiches to my specifications.

The key ingredient of this sandwich comes pretty much straight from that cookbook. He calls it “broccoli falafel,” but I decided to cut out some syllables here. Broccoli falafel is made from broccoli, onion, garlic, cilantro, cumin, salt, ground coriander, chile flakes and salt, all slurried together in a food processor, rolled into balls, and fried.

Per the book’s suggestion, I made my broccoli falafel sandwich on a hot dog bun. I topped it with homemade tzatziki (from the same recipe I used here), bread and butter pickles, grilled red onions, and a squirt of sriracha. My wife put some baby spinach on hers to make it healthier. I felt like I was already eating a sandwich built around broccoli and shouldn’t push it.

Important background information: Most of the time, I’m a pretty balanced person, psychologically speaking. But every so often, some stupid little thing upsets me, and I fall into these awful, dizzying spirals of anger or frustration or self-doubt or sadness. And for whatever reason, few things cast me into the darkness quite as quickly as a botched dinner. One time, years ago, inadequately stretchy pizza dough sent me into a blind rage. Another time I fucked up fried chicken and wound up nearly crying.

I botched the broccoli falafel. I’m not exactly sure what I did wrong, but I think it was multiple things. I used my blender as a food processor, but the ingredients were too dry to blend together, so I added olive oil and screwed up the consistency. Instead of deep frying the falafel in a dutch oven on my stove, I tried to pan-fry them in a cast-iron skillet on my grill because I didn’t want my apartment stinking like grease for a week. The first several falafel I tried to make completely disintegrated and spread out into the oil. The oil never quite got hot enough, so the falafel took on more grease than I would’ve liked, and took way too long to fry. My kid kept screaming for my help with a puzzle while I was putting together the tzatziki, and I wound up using slightly too much dill and not enough chives. On and on like that.

It snowballed on me, and I found myself crushed by the monotony and difficulty and inconvenience and just the relentless grind of this whole quarantine thing, thinking about how much more complicated it is to screw up dinner now that the pizza place sometimes runs out of pizza, and how I was going to have to wake up the next day to help the boy with more puzzles and plan another dinner. By the time I constructed the sandwich, which I fully expected to suck, I didn’t want to eat it so much as I wanted to curl up and go catatonic on my kitchen floor.

What it looks like: 


How it tastes: Pretty darn good, actually.

The consistency of the broccoli falafel wasn’t exactly what I hoped for, but the flavor of them was delicious, and they definitely maintained a nice outer crunch that, in conjunction with the juicy pickles and creamy tzatziki and soft onions, gave the sandwich some excellent textural diversity.

An underrated advantage of some sandwiches, I think, is the marriage of hot ingredients with cold ingredients, and the absurd amount of time it took me to successfully fry falafel meant the tzatziki, for waiting it out in the fridge, was quite cold. The contrast proved pleasant.

And the combination of flavors, honestly, was excellent. The combination of cumin, coriander and cilantro in the falafel made them spicy, warm and just a touch astringent. They maintained the flavor of the broccoli, but in a fairly subtle way, like no one was trying to beat you over the head with the fact that you’re eating broccoli for dinner.

The pickles gave the sandwich a sweet, vinegary bite, the onions added some smoky earthiness, the tzatziki provided an herbaceous tang, and the sriracha offered just enough kick to keep it all interesting. The hot dog roll, for its part, held the sandwich together and got out of the damn way.

Hall of Fame? No, but there’s a lot more potential here than I figured there would be after I fouled it all up. Things could always be worse, I guess.

Sandwich of the Week


Three straight burgers, all of them on identical pretzel rolls? Yes. I don’t know what to tell you. It’s a freakin’ global pandemic. I’ll try to mix it up next week, but I’ve apparently got more ground beef than Wendy’s does right now and I’m aiming to make good use of it.

The sandwich: The Great Caesar’s Ghost Burger. That’s what I’m calling it.

The construction: Two ground-beef patties, made with ground beef from Crowd Cow (which is providing more or less all my meat right now, and where we both can get $25 worth of meat if you use my referral code), with bacon, cucumbers, melted Babybel cheese, and a sauce I’ll tell you more about in the next section.

Why Babybel cheese? Because I had some in my fridge, my kid doesn’t seem to like it quite as much for a snack as he likes cheddar cheese sticks, and because I figured (accurately) it would melt well. Slicing it up into enough pieces to cover the surface of a burger patty was kind of a pain in the ass.

I still have no idea if there’s any actual science behind the idea of making “smashburgers” instead of just forming burgers into patties and throwing them on the grill, but I found a recipe online that boldly called for mixing melted butter into the ground beef so I mostly followed that for the burgers. I didn’t have any Worcestershire sauce on hand, so I replaced it with a mixture of soy sauce and hot sauce. I did have fish sauce on hand and I’ve been looking for an excuse to get rid of it, so I incorporated it, per the recipe, even though I find the smell of fish sauce extremely unpleasant. I know that I love a lot of foods made with fish sauce, but I think I prefer it as a don’t ask, don’t tell type of thing.

Important background information: I’m not about to aimlessly wander the grocery store looking for inspiration right now, so instead I turned to the wealth of mostly empty condiment bottles on my refrigerator door. And while looking them over, it struck me that, where blue cheese dressing and ranch dressing and certainly Russian dressing are very often used as dips or spreads, we pretty much only use Caesar dressing for Caesar salads. I’ve had chicken Caesar wraps, for sure, but I think those are the only sandwiches I’ve ever had with that particular salad dressing on top.

Why? It’s delicious.

For this sauce, I was essentially looking to create the Caesar dressing equivalent of Buffalo Ranch — something that married the creamy texture and tangy flavor of the dressing with a spicy, vinegary hot sauce.

I started by mixing Caesar dressing, Cholula and black pepper, but after tasting it decided it needed something sweet in there to take some of the edge off. So I mixed in some relish. Is that weird? Definitely sounds weird, but it turns out to be a pretty delicious sauce.

What it looks like:


It’s smiling back at you.

How it tastes: Pretty damn good.

First things first, I did a nice job on the burger patties. When you’re cooking them over a super hot cast-iron grill, as I am, it sort of requires a leap of faith to pull them as quickly as you need to pull them. I did not let these linger on the heat, and I think my timing and all the butter that was mixed in to the beef conspired to make for a deliciously juicy burger.

Babybel cheese, in a pinch, turns out to be a fine, if mild, burger cheese. It offered some creaminess and some saltiness, but its flavor mostly lingered in the background behind the more powerful ones, like bacon. Bacon remains excellent. Really can’t say enough about bacon.

I tweeted a photo of this burger yesterday, and a couple of people criticized my use of pickle slices on the burger. These people are flat-out wrong, and their closed-mindedness is negatively affecting their enjoyment of this world. I first encountered sliced cucumbers on a burger at a McDonald’s in China, of all places, but I took note even there that they were a surprisingly tasty way to add texture. I love pickles, too, and I’m not here to bash pickles. But pickles — and I’m sorry if I’m the one to break this to you — are cucumbers, and it’s bizarre that some people might only see cucumbers as an acceptable burger topping if they’re brined.

And the sauce, if I do say so myself, is delicious. It definitely maintains that unmistakable cheesy, tangy Caesar flavor, but it’s also spicy, and it tastes totally appropriate on a burger. I’d make this sauce again, and probably will, seeing as I still have Caesar, Cholula and relish in the fridge.

The main thing holding the burger back is the presence of the fish sauce. I didn’t tell my wife it was in there until after she finished eating, and she said she hadn’t noticed. But I totally noticed. I still enjoyed the burger, but every now and then I got a fish-sauce aftertaste that I wished wasn’t involved. I think I might have still had the smell of fish sauce on my hands.

Hall of fame? Nope, just a really good burger.

Sandwich of the Week


I’ve been thinking a lot about pizza burgers lately, as one does. And the main thing I’ve been thinking about pizza burgers is that I’m not sure I’ve ever had one that wasn’t at least a little bit disappointing. When you attempt to combine two of our very best foods into one, you set expectations enormously high. And too often, I have come out of the pizza-burger experience thinking I’d have preferred a pizza or a burger served independently of one another.

I’ve enjoyed pizza burgers, for sure, as all the standard components — ground beef, mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce — are tasty and complementary. But they always seem to lack some necessary oomph: Tomato sauce is too thin to be a perfect burger condiment, and mozzarella, while amazing, is too mild to offer the amount of flavor you’d get from American or cheddar or Monterey Jack.

I set out to rectify all that this week.

The sandwich: Pizza Burger a la Ted. Wait, no: The Pizza Berger. There it is.

The construction: Two seasoned beef patties with mozzarella cheese, grilled salami, mozzarella sticks, fresh basil and tomato sauce on a pretzel roll.

I started with a pound of ground beef from Crowd Cow, where you’re still welcome to use my referral code and get us both $25 worth of meat. I seasoned it with a lot (probably around two heaping tablespoons’ worth) of grated parmesan cheese, some chopped fresh oregano (maybe a tablespoon), plus maybe a half a teaspoon each of black pepper and garlic powder. Then I divided it up into five patties, two of which went on my burger.

As the son of an Italian woman, I judge the heck out of jarred tomato sauce. I’m more lenient when it comes to pizza sauce, but I still prefer to have control over what goes in there. So I started with a half a can of tomato sauce — the extremely bare-bones kind available from the same companies that sell canned tomatoes, generally found among the different varieties of canned tomatoes.

I put it in a small pot over low heat, gussied it up with some dried oregano, black pepper, garlic powder, crushed red pepper (i.e. all the things you sprinkle on pizza), then — and I think this part’s important — I hit it with a heavy splash of balsamic vinegar. This may be sacrilege, or some breach of cooking fundamentals. But the way I figured it, if tomato sauce usually lacks the assertive, vinegary sweetness that ketchup provides a traditional burger, balsamic made for a good and thematically consistent way to add sweetness and vinegary flavor to a pizza-burger sauce. And putting it over heat let it cook down a little, thickening it up.


I used Friday’s brand frozen mozzarella sticks for a simple reason: They’re flat, and I didn’t think a round mozzarella stick would stay on top of the burger. The idea to explore the use of mozzarella sticks on sandwiches, which set this project in motion, came from O.G. TedQuarters comments-section mainstay Catsmeat, who’s a real dude that I’ve gotten sandwiches with and not actually named “Catsmeat.”

What I would have preferred to salami would’ve been the big, slicer friendly pepperoni we sold at the deli back in the day, but Fresh Direct seems to only offer tiny pepperoni, and I didn’t want to deal with all that. Fresh mozzarella cheese is obviously superior to slicing mozzarella, but I wanted thin slices and know that the latter is a little saltier and tends to melt better.  The basil is basil.

Important background information: This was my first go-round with the Pizza Berger, and also my first time cooking burgers on a new toy I got myself. I’ve been grilling so much that I decided I deserved a cast-iron attachment for my grill, and I’ve already used it successfully to cook steaks, shrimp and asparagus. But “smashburgers” seem very of-the-moment right now, and even though I have no idea why forming meat into a ball and then squishing it on grill should be preferable to just forming meat into a patty and laying it down like it is, I decided to make these smashburgers.

But you know what? There’s a big, bottle-opener shaped hole in the back of my grill spatula, and I had my fire really hot. Smashing the burgers turned out to be a dangerous and somewhat painful experience, and it took enough time that it prevented me from getting the salami on the skillet as soon as I’d have liked. And that was bad, because it turned out it takes significantly longer than I would’ve guessed to grill salami until it’s crispy. The salami needs basically the same amount of time on the cast iron as the burger does. Who knew?

What it looks like:


How it tastes: Better than any pizza burger I can remember, honestly, and also, quite a bit like a meatball hero. I don’t know at what point a pizza burger becomes a meatball parm sandwich and I’m not sure which side of that line this falls on. But I’m certain that the line doesn’t matter in any way, and this is good food.

There’s just no shortage of flavor here. The cheese and seasoning in the burger kicks the beef up to meatball territory, though still with burger texture, and the sweet, peppery, vinegary tomato sauce absolutely achieved the effect I was going for when I modified it. The crispy texture of the salami mostly got lost and the salami taste pretty good job of hiding, but it’s there when you look for it, offering pleasant but fleeting hints of that familiar salty beefiness.

Basil is such that two leaves of basil are enough to prove one of the dominant flavors on this thunderous sandwich, but luckily the flavor of basil is incredible and adds some pungent spiciness here. And the mozzarella sticks, perhaps the boldest addition to this sandwich, successfully maintain some of their crunchiness despite all the moist things around them, plus they ooze out creamy melted mozzarella cheese that joins all the other creamy melted mozzarella cheese that is already obvious on this burger.

Also, the pretzel rolls FreshDirect sells turn out to be pretty excellent. They did a heck of a job here holding together and maintaining the sandwich’s structural integrity.

Still, there are some things I could’ve done better. As mentioned, I would’ve liked to give the salami a little more time on the grill to get crispier. I was hoping it would do the job bacon does on a bacon cheeseburger, but it just didn’t have anything like that type of crunch.

And, while it feels strange to write this, I think I may have used too much beef. This is often an issue for me while making burgers — a pound of ground beef is more than my family needs for a single meal, but not nearly enough for two meals, so I’m stuck in an in-between zone. In this case, I think, the ground-beef-to-other-stuff ratio was a bit too high, and I certainly didn’t need the extra beef to make this a meal-sized burger.

Hall of Fame? Not quite. It has all the elements of a Hall of Fame sandwich, but the execution wasn’t right. Still, it’s a step forward.

Sandwich of the Week!


Going to keep this quick today because I got roughly 90 minutes’ worth of sleep last night. This happens to me sometimes, but I’m not entirely sure why it happened this time. I have a couple of theories.

The first is that quarantine has devolved into something close to a vegetative state, so I don’t really need proper sleep because I’m more or less always at rest now. The second and more likely explanation is that I was simply too fired up about this sandwich. Look at that thing.

The sandwich: Lamburger!

The construction: A grilled, ground lamb patty with homemade tzatziki, sliced cucumbers, butterhead lettuce, grilled red onion, and sriracha on a pretzel roll.

The lamb, like a lot of my meat, came from Crowd Cow, where you and I can both get $25 worth of meat if you use my referral code and keep making me a meat influencer. I prepped it by vaguely following this recipe, up until the point where he says to shape the lamb patties like footballs so they fit inside a pita.

I also used’s tzatziki recipe, except I didn’t have sour cream so I added a splash of vinegar to the yogurt. Also — and you may have figured this out by now — I don’t often follow recipes closely and almost never measure anything. Who’s got the type of time for that? It’s nice to have a general sense of proportion, but I always adjust based on what I like and what I have. In this case, I didn’t have that much mint but I had a ton of chives and dill, so I used a ton of chives and dill. (Chives, it turns out, just sort of keep on coming forever if you plant them once. Even in the dead of winter, there are usually chives growing in the pot I use as an herb garden. Useful herb, too.)

I found that site’s recipes because it’s almost always the first place I look for grilling tips when I pick up a meat I haven’t cooked before. The world of online barbecue discourse is fraught with ridiculous pseudoscience, and Meathead Goldwyn is a beacon of reason.

Important background information: I don’t especially love lamb. It’s fine, and it’s decidedly better than not having meat, but it’s rare that I eat lamb and don’t consider how the meal it came in wouldn’t be improved by using plain, old, incredible beef. Basically, as a rule of thumb: Unless your lamb dish comes from Xi’an Famous Foods, I’d rather it be beef. Or squab. You ever get down on some squab? Incredible meat.

I also don’t like onions in most contexts. I’m fine with the flavor of onions and I use them to cook somewhat frequently — it’s unavoidable, really — but something about the texture grosses me out, so usually I try to dice them up into the tiniest pieces possible. But I figured, if nothing else, this shutdown period should be a time to expand our sandwich horizons, and I had some red onion in the fridge, and another thing to throw on the grill gives me more time to play with fire.

What it looks like: 00100lrportrait_00100_burst20200419183556770_cover

How it tastes: Like a f@#!ing symphony.

Where I went in with doubts about my use of lamb, one bite quieted them: Lamb and tzatziki are a perfect pair. The tart, lively, light, herbaceous flavor of the sauce is the ideal complement to the rich, gamy, garlicky lamb burger, and I suspect those two ingredients alone on a bun might’ve still made this a Hall of Famer. Though the ground lamb did not prove quite as juicy as a beef burger, my heavy hand with the tzatziki ensured the sandwich was thoroughly moist.

Cucumbers are a wildly underrated sandwich topping in general, and here they add crunch, moisture and flavor. The lettuce? Whatever. It’s lettuce. I could take it or leave it, to be honest. It made the sandwich a little more colorful.

Someone on Twitter called me out for mixing tzatziki and sriracha — as though that’s some sort of faux pas — but the light squirt of sriracha that I used added just some subtle heat to the whole thing, amplifying all the flavors without making any bite taste like sriracha itself.

And the red onion, I want to say, was a great call by yours truly. Grilling it brought out some of its sweetness, and there was enough textural diversity to the sandwich that I didn’t even notice the slitheriness that usually turns me off of onions. I was proud of myself for including it. I remain proud of myself.

All the parts are good, and yet the sandwich is better than the sum of its parts. If I had one quibble, it’d be that I screwed up on the bun a little by foolishly forgetting to take it out of the freezer to thaw before I started cooking. Instead, I threw it on the grill for a minute, but the inside part was still frozen when the lamb patties were ready, so I hastily cut it open to make sure the interior bun got warm, and in so doing I hacked the pretzel rolls to shreds. So it goes. Didn’t really take away from the sandwich, which ruled.

Hall of Fame? Yeah. Heck yeah. Go Ted.

Sandwich of the Week


My wife pointed out recently that this crisis doesn’t seem to change personalities so much as it amplifies them. I think that’s right: People who are usually assholes are now acting like outrageous assholes. People who are typically friendly are being extremely friendly. Trouble is, it’s hard to tell one group from the other when everyone’s wearing masks.

When I am out and about in New York City in normal times, I am neither mean nor nice so much as I am dedicated to not inconveniencing people. Call it my own implementation of the Golden Rule: I do not wish for people to treat me with outgoing kindness so much as I wish for them to not block my egress from the subway.

So right now, I find myself trying very hard not to get in anybody’s way, which is difficult to pull off while shepherding around a 2-year-old who can’t grasp the concept of social distancing or the measure of six feet. Lots of people seem rightly paranoid about letting him or me get too close, but some are pretty cool about it and some are way less cool about it, and, again, it’s impossible to guess how people are going to react when their faces are covered.

This morning, I was walking along a narrow path in Central Park when the boy started to melt down a little. A moody kid, in my experience, is far less apt to take instructions, less willing to be gently tugged away from strangers by the hood of his coat, and generally more demanding. And it so happened that a masked man with a dog was coming our way right as I could tell things were about to get hairy.

Wanting to give the guy and dog as wide a berth as possible, I pulled my son toward me. As I did, he spotted my phone peeking out of the cupholder on his stroller, pointed at it, and demanded I play a song on it. This is something he does sometimes, and most of the time I can figure out what song he means, either because he knows the title — “Down by the Bay,” “Wheels on the Bus” and “Everyday People” he has down — or because I know his name for the song — “The Train Coming Song” is “Folsom Prison Blues;” “Are You My Sunshine?” is “You Are My Sunshine;” “The Talking Heads” refers, oddly enough, to Al Green’s version of “Take Me to the River.”

This morning, he said, with increasing urgency, “Want Dada to play ‘More We Get Together.’ Want Dada to play ‘More We Get Together!'”

Not realizing that “The More We Get Together” is, in fact, the name of a song, I tried to get him to clarify what he meant.

“I don’t know ‘More We Get Together,'” I said. “How does it go?”

Then, from beneath his mask, the dude with the dog — in a singing voice so lovely and so polished that I assume he is either a Broadway guy or at least someone who came to New York to be a Broadway guy — busted out: “The more we get together, together, together; the more we get together, the happier we’ll be!”

I realize this anecdote is so delightful as to seem unbelievable, especially given the extremely on-the-nose choice of song, but it really happened, on a path just west of the Alice in Wonderland statue, roughly four hours ago. Made the kid’s morning, too. People aren’t so bad sometimes.

Anyway, here’s a sandwich.

The sandwich: Roast beef with avocado-ricotta spread, fried garlic, and “pico de lettuce” on lightly toasted sourdough.

The construction: All those things I just said. Should I start coming up with names for my homemade sandwiches? Probably.

Like last time I did a roast beef sandwich, I roasted the beef myself using a rump roast I got from Crowd Cow. Like last time, I will now shill for my own Crowd Cow referral code, with which you and I can both get $25 off our next meat purchases. A bunch of people have already done this, and I am extremely appreciative — both because it has provided me with a ton of free meat and because it allows me to consider myself a meat influencer. It’s not just beef, either. Thanks to the people who bought meat with my referral code, forthcoming Sandwiches of the Week will likely feature chicken breast and ground lamb.

This time, I followed this pit beef recipe a little more closely. And this time, I still had cornbread left over from Easter on the day I roasted the beef, so I served it as straight-up roast beef the first day and made sandwiches the next.


This worked out well for me, as it meant that the roast beef was cold when I sliced it up for sandwiches the next day. Cold roast beef is way easier to slice thin.

I made the avocado-ricotta spread by combining a slightly overripe avocado with some ricotta I needed to use before it went bad. I included a pinch of salt, too, out of habit. It turns out this is a pretty incredible sandwich spread — it’s a little wetter, creamier and tangier than if you just used straight up smashed avocado, but more colorful and flavorful and less goopy than ricotta alone.

Fried garlic is what it sounds like. I made mine by slicing up garlic as thin as possible and pan-frying it in oil. I think I had the oil at slightly too high a temperature, as I scorched the garlic a little bit.

TedQuarters completists with incredible memories might remember “pico de lettuce” from this 2012 Hall of Famer from No. 7 Sub. That was before I met No. 7 Sub sandwich guru Tyler Kord, talked sandwich theory with him, and convinced him to make me a sandwich — all of which you could still watch if websites everywhere weren’t so dedicated to using fly-by-night in-house video players instead of just sucking it up, giving YouTube some of their ad money, and having people actually watch the videos they spend so much time and energy making.

Important background information: I don’t know much about the ethics of recipe-heisting. I know that excerpting from books is generally OK, but would it count as excerpting if I just lifted the entire recipe for “pico de lettuce” from the No. 7 Sub cookbook and shared it with you, free of charge? Feels like a lousy thing to do to a guy who once gave me a sandwich.

Also, the guy Tyler Kord is an actual, culinary-school trained chef who knows what he’s doing and I’m some bored shmo in his apartment trying to figure it out. I modified the recipe for pico de lettuce — his used romaine, but I used butterhead lettuce because it’s what I had, and I added some shredded Brussels sprouts to try to give it a little more crunch. I can’t tell in good conscience tell you what I made without crediting his recipe, but I’m at least mildly concerned that if I relay to you what I made, some Grand High Master of Chef Society will see it and be all, “Kord told this guy it was OK to mix Brussels sprouts and butterhead lettuce? That’s a clear violation of Statute 79.2b! Oust him from the club and shame him in public.”

I feel comfortable saying that, in the book, Kord explains that he made up the term “pico de lettuce” because it sounds better than “old salad,” and that — as I suspected in the 2012 writeup — it is, in fact, “some sort of dressed lettuce.” I will also say that, in times like these when you are presumably trying to come up with interesting new ways to combine the mundane foods in your pantry, A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches will be your gospel. Buy the guy’s book so I don’t feel bad trading on his ideas. Save the beef and the bread, every element of this sandwich is at least influenced by something I saw in there.

What it looks like: 


How it tastes: Great!

First, regarding the part of this sandwich I had nothing to do with: The sourdough (from a brand called Heidelberg, via my freezer) is a huge upgrade over the wheat bread I’ve used for previous quarantine sandwiches. It’s a bit more dense, which is a good thing for holding together under duress, and it’s got a pleasant chewiness to it, more flavor, and it’s not as dry.

The roast beef was remarkably tender, and the smoke flavor I got from following the above-linked recipe just barely poked its way through all the other tastes here.

The interplay between the fried garlic and the avocado-ricotta spread, if I may say, is fabulous. The crunchy, pungent garlic adds both texture and flavor, and perfectly complements the creamy, mild spread upon which it rests. Because I overdid the garlic a bit, I think, there’s a hint of an unpleasant aftertaste, but not nearly enough to derail the sandwich.

And the pico de lettuce, as it did on that 2012 sub, just really shines as a sandwich topping. It’s got some acidic bite without overpowering the sandwich, it’s got some crispiness, and it’s moist without turning the bread into a soggy mess. I happen to think the shredded Brussels sprouts were a nice add, as they gave it a bit more crunch.

It’s a delicious sandwich, but if I were making it again, I might search for a way to add a tiny bit more oomph. I don’t know if that means something of contrasting temperature — a hot item to go with all these cold things — or something a little spicy or something a little sweet. Just something. And not too much of it. There’s already a lot going on here.

Hall of Fame? Not quite, though I can’t exactly explain why. I think this sandwich has all the elements of a Hall of Fame sandwich, and it would have gotten there if I perfectly executed all of them. But I stacked the roast beef a little thick in the middle and a little thin on the edges, I burned the garlic a bit, and I probably should’ve put the avocado-ricotta spread on both sides.

Also, you really can’t put too many of your own sandwiches into your own Sandwich Hall of Fame without trivializing the entire institution. I’m going to have you believe that I’m so talented a cook and conceiver of sandwiches that I can just churn out all-timers on the reg? C’mon.

Sad sandwich of the Week


It’s pathetic, I know. But it’s Thursday already, I hadn’t eaten any notable sandwiches yet this week, and I figured a bunch of people are going to have a bunch of hard-boiled eggs they need to get rid of once Easter’s over. Making egg salad from Easter eggs is fun because you get little colorful highlights in there from where the dye seeps through the eggshell.

A much better version of spicy egg salad can be made with the incredible green sauce from Pio Pio, the world’s greatest condiment. Sadly, I did not have any handy this morning when I decided I should come up with a sandwich to share here.

Egg-salad traditionalists might balk at both the notion of adding some hot sauce and also serving egg salad with bacon, but luckily I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who’d call themselves an “egg-salad traditionalist.” Egg salad and bacon is a go-to order for me at bagel places, and since hot sauce clearly belongs on a fried or scrambled egg sandwich, I don’t see why it should be out of place in egg salad.

The sandwich: Sriracha egg salad and bacon on whole-wheat toast.

The construction: I started by boiling eggs, obviously. I do it fairly frequently and I’ve gotten pretty good at it, and I know it’s a source of frustration for some people, so I’ll share my method here. It goes:

  1. Put eggs in a pot of warm water, cover.
  2. Bring water to a boil over high heat.
  3. As soon as the water starts boiling, turn off the stove and set a timer for 11 minutes.
  4. After 11 minutes, pour out hot water and run eggs under cold water.

I’ve never successfully soft-boiled an egg. But usually the above method leads to appropriately hard-boiled eggs that do not crack during the boiling process. If you’ve got a technique you prefer, by all means, go to town.

“Sriracha egg salad” is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. I shelled a couple of hard-boiled eggs, smashed ’em up in a bowl with some mayo, then mixed in a healthy squirt of sriracha. This is something I make with some frequency. In this particular instance, I tried to further gussy up my egg salad by including some relish, but that was a mistake. I wanted some sweetness to balance the saltiness of the bacon and the spiciness of the sriracha, but I failed to consider that sriracha is also low-key sweet.

Bacon is bacon, and toast is toast.

Important background information: Hey! If you’re going to have a bunch of hard-boiled eggs around because of Easter, why not adopt a Berg family Easter tradition this year? Growing up, we often expressed our love by viciously trying to dominate each other in any form of competition, and the annual dying of Easter eggs was exciting for everyone because it meant the start of egg-fight season.

To have an egg fight, start with both competitors choosing an egg from the basket of Easter eggs. There’s a strategy to selecting the best egg for an egg fight, but I’m not going to share it with you because my family reads this and I can’t have them knowing my methods. It is generally considered poor form to choose one of the beautiful eggs my artsy-ass dad spent lots of time on, but eventually it’s going to come to that.

From there, it’s pretty simple: Keeping their elbows on the table, both competitors hold their eggs between their thumbs and index fingers, with the pointiest part of the egg facing outward. Whoever first cracks the other person’s egg without their own egg cracking is the winner. Then you eat the eggs.

Apparently this practice dates back to medieval times, so I’m sure mine isn’t the only family that does this. It’s fun!

What it looks like: 


How it tastes: Fine.

I don’t know what to tell you. Have you been to a New York City supermarket lately? Weird scene right now, and it really doesn’t feel like the time to be idling around the aisles looking for fun ingredients for interesting sandwiches. I’m trying to make the best of what I’ve got.

I’m certain I can make more of it than this, though. I do believe it’s an upgrade over a traditional egg-salad sandwich, if only because the bacon adds textural diversity and amazing bacon flavor. And I do think the incorporation of sriracha improves the egg salad, though — again — I should not have tried using relish, because it added a sugary sweetness that felt out of place, especially at breakfast time.

Also — and you can’t really tell this from the photos above — my kid needed my attention while the bread was in the toaster oven and I let it get past the optimal, golden-brown toastiness, which sort of negated the crunch of the bacon.

Hall of fame? C’mon. Look at that thing. No.

Sandwich of the Week


Here we go:

The sandwich: Smoked brisket with Alabama-style white BBQ sauce and Brussels sprouts on whole-wheat toast.

The construction: All those things I just said. The aforementioned Crowd Cow — where you can sign up with my referral code and get $25 worth of meat for both of us — sells full briskets, brisket flats, and brisket points. Flats are the lean type available at many supermarkets. They can be delicious, but if you’re smoking them, they sometimes end up pretty dry. The point — a.k.a. the deckle — is the fattier part sold as “moist brisket” at a lot of barbecue joints, and it’s both tastier and more forgiving. I buy the points.

Brisket has so much flavor and takes on enough smoke that it doesn’t require more than salt and pepper as a rub, but I gave it a light coating of yellow mustard and used a mix of the Trader Joe’s coffee-garlic rub and a the remains of a container of Chicago-style steak seasoning that I bought years ago in Arizona when my spring-training hotel had a barbecue. Here’s the brisket is on the grill:


This happened to be an exceptionally fatty brisket even after I trimmed it, so I wound up cutting some fat out of the center and melting it in a skillet. I shredded the Brussels sprouts and fried them in the beef fat, in the hopes that they’d crisp up and provide some texture to the sandwich.

I chose Alabama barbecue sauce because I knew I had the necessary ingredients and because I wanted something with a strongly acidic, vinegary flavor to give the sandwich bite and to balance out the bitterness of the Brussels sprouts. There are a bunch of recipes for Alabama-style sauce online. I used mayo, apple cider vinegar, the juice of half a lime, horseradish, brown sugar, salt, black pepper, garlic powder and cayenne pepper.

If you’ve got a smoker at home, you probably don’t need this advice, and if you don’t it doesn’t apply, but I cooked the brisket over indirect heat at around 250-degrees. I used oak, which I believe to be the best and most versatile wood for beef and pork smoking. To me, hickory and mesquite have way too much smoke flavor, and I don’t often like the sweetness of fruit woods.

Important background information: I need to address an elephant in this digital room, because it’s one that has me awash in guilt right now: I live in a Manhattan apartment with outdoor space. It’s a phenomenal thing, and one for which my landlords could certainly get away with charging (someone, not us) way more in rent. The interior of our place is cramped, but the patio is big enough for a small dining table, a couch and a fancy grill.

And because it’s New York City, there are roughly 50 other apartments that can see right into our backyard, and these days, I can sense the eyes of all my neighbors firing death rays at me every time I’m out there. I feel like a goldfish nonchalantly barbecuing inside its fishbowl while everyone outside the fishbowl is dying of thirst.

What can you do? I’m not about to stay indoors out of solidarity, and if any of my neighbors want to devise some contact-free meat-moving system, I’ll happily throw their steaks on the grill next to mine. In the interim, I feel like I should move into more performative grilling, like I’m manning the hibachi at Benihana. I need to practice my knifeplay, for the people.

What it looks like: 


How it tastes: Honestly? Meh.

It was delicious, no doubt, because the brisket was delicious — salty, fatty, beefy and smoky. But I believe a sandwich should be better than the sum of its parts, and I can’t say with any confidence that I upgraded this brisket by slapping it between bread with sauce and Brussels sprouts.

My hopes for crispy Brussels sprouts were foolhardy: Though they had some light crunch coming out of the pan, that crunch was no match whatsoever for the greasiness of the moist brisket, so the Brussels sprouts served only to provide some not-unpleasant but also not-at-all necessary vegetal flavor.

Maybe if I had a kaiser roll or something, I could’ve found some extra ingredient to throw on this sandwich and give it some extra oomph. But my neighborhood, like many, lacks for bread selection right now, and this wheat bread was (and remains) all I had available. It held together surprisingly well under the onslaught of dripping fat, but it added nothing more than something to hold on to while I enjoyed the brisket inside.

Hardcore Sandwich of the Week heads might recognize it as a rarity for me to write up a less-than-spectacular sandwich, but since there is no small-business owner behind the creation of this one, I can be honest: It was just OK. As referenced, I think I would have preferred the brisket on a plate with Brussels sprouts and toast.

Hall of Fame? Nah.

Special shout-out: A handful heroes used my Crowd Cow referral code to buy meat, meaning my next big order of meat to prepare and review is going to be more or less free. Thanks so much to all of them. It’s like getting paid to write again, except this time around I am paid directly in meat, which would be my preference.

Also, seriously: The selection is limited right now, but Crowd Cow can probably deliver food to you faster than FreshDirect or anybody else at this point, so I’m going to keep plugging it and my referral code for as long as that’s the case.

Sandwich of the Week


As promised. Here we go.

The sandwich: Smoked turkey, bacon and mozzarella from Faicco’s in Manhattan’s West Village. The combination happens to be listed as an option on a whiteboard above the deli counter, but I feel fairly confident that Faicco’s is the type of place that would still dutifully and masterfully pile those (or any other) sandwich components on a hero even if they weren’t listed together on the menu anywhere. Which is to say: It’s a good type of place. More on that soon.

The construction: The above listed ingredients, plus lettuce and tomato. I have had this sandwich four times, twice with hot peppers. Every time, I got it with oil and vinegar as a dressing. Once, while feeling fancy, I specifically requested oil and balsamic vinegar. It comes on Italian bread, sometimes with sesame seeds.

Important background information: I’m not really moved to do any more whining about my old job in this space, so I’ll spare you some utterly un-salacious details here. But I’ll note that I had been reviewing sandwiches and food fairly regularly at For The Win until last August, when, dumb story short, I stopped doing that. Again, I don’t really want to get into it except to say that I found myself in a weird and uncomfortable position with regards to sandwich writing, which I recognize is a ridiculous thing to say.

Every time I ask readers what it is about my work that they enjoy, roughly half of the respondents reference sandwich reviews. It’s amazing and hilarious and appreciated, and it has always felt like an online identity worth cultivating because it, like so much else of what I write about, is part of my actual, analog identity.

This may be a performance of sorts, but it isn’t an act. I really do love sandwiches, folks.

The first time I went into Faicco’s, I did so with the intent of acquiring a sandwich to discuss in some forum. I found myself briefly, pathetically paralyzed by the notion of the forthcoming sandwich as #content, worrying about which option on the menu board would best lend itself to photographs, which might best grab readers’ attention, and whether it should be within my rights as an upstanding sandwich man of great integrity to take so bold a step as requesting hot peppers atop a sandwich that does not normally include them.

The point is — and I’m embarrassed to admit this — I let these motherf-ers complicate sandwiches. Heartbreaking stuff, I know. But really, in this case, all the fault lied with me and my vanity.

Then, after a few moments of agony staring at the menu board, I looked around the store and realized that, though I’d never been there before, I’d been there a thousand times before.

Except not even. Faicco’s isn’t a typical New York-area Italian deli and butcher shop so much as it is the apotheosis of the New York-area Italian deli and butcher shop, brilliantly clean and impeccably appointed, with one counter framing a beautiful store-length refrigerator lush with red meat and another guarding a dizzying cornucopia of charcuterie. It’s perfect.

What am I thinking? Why am I thinking? I know what to do in this place. I am a full-blown expert in what to do in this place. Faicco’s is a flat, belt-high, 88-mph fastball down the heart of the plate, and I am Barry Lamar Freakin’ Bonds standing in the batter’s box worried he can’t hit it. Get ahold of yourself, guy.

So I let instinct take over.

“Gimme a turkey, mutzuhrella and bacon, please,” I said, letting slip the Long Island Deli Guy accent I try to tone down on TV. “And lemme get some hot peppers on that with, uhh, oyy-uhl and vin-uh-guh.”

What it looks like: 


How it tastes: I giggled.

After the first bite of the sandwich, eaten alone on a park bench a block away from the shop, I actually giggled. Had I really allowed myself to climb so far up my own ass that I doubted my ability to choose the right sandwich at the place that made this sandwich? This sandwich, it’s… spectacular.

And yeah, it’s but a humble combination hero of turkey, bacon and cheese, forms of which can be found practically everywhere. But it’s the perfect version of that. This is the Faicco’s of turkey, bacon and cheese sandwiches.

The turkey is sliced impossibly thin and piled high, but carefully distributed so there’s no single bite of the sandwich that’s overwhelmed by the quantity of turkey or that meat’s inherent dryness. The homemade mozzarella is fresh and creamy, the tomatoes are sweet and juicy, the lettuce is fresh, the dressing adds the acidic sting of vinegar and keeps everything moist, and the peppers, when added, provide enough heat to amplify all the other flavors.

The bacon deserves its own paragraph. I never confirmed whether the bacon they use is house bacon, but it’s so good and so flavorful that I will assume as much. It’s thick, but cooked evenly, and thoroughly crunchy without being burnt. It’s the type of bacon that makes you want to renounce the lousy, plastic-wrapped supermarket bacon you’ve been purchasing for home use and commit to buying butcher bacon from that point forward.

If it seems like a simple sandwich, it’s because you haven’t had one yet. I ate half of one on a gorgeous afternoon last week while my kid climbed on a nearby playground, and the sandwich conjured memories of carefree summer block parties or barbecues at the beach, with the subtle hint of smoke flavor from the turkey peeking through. I ate the second half alone in the narrow living room of my cave-like apartment, and the sandwich seemed moodier and more complex.

This sandwich contains multitudes. This sandwich rules.

What it costs: It’s a $15 sandwich, which sounds expensive until you hold it in your hands and realize that the thing probably weighs two pounds. I can eat a lot, but it’s difficult to fathom how someone could eat an entire Faicco’s sandwich in one sitting. Just half of one is a full meal, and when you look at it that way — $7.50 for lunch, another $7.50 for dinner — it seems like a downright bargain. I really don’t know of anywhere in Manhattan where one might find as much food of this quality for less money.

Hall of Fame? Yes. Hell yes.