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Between a Roll and a Hard Salami

NYC Story Tour Story

“Onward, Sandwich Crusaders!” I shouted from inside a busy midtown deli, holding fourteen sandwich sections and fourteen food tourists & NYers in tow. We sat down at the public tables in Worldwide Plaza and dug into our piping hot Grilled NY State Cheddar sandwiches, on pressed Pullman sourdough from Amy’s Bread. This gooey treat is layered with red onion, tomato, fresh cilantro and spicy chipotle pepper puree.

My Crusaders felt it ranked well among the five tastes we had on this Sandwich Tour of Hell’s Kitchen.

I got the idea to create a sandwich tour of NY earlier this summer, when New York Magazine published a list of the 101 best sandwiches in New York City. I had always been a sandwich aficionado; I used to sell my lunchtime masterpieces in High School for $2 a pop; some say I came out of the womb holding a Cubano. But 101 sandwiches on one tour wasn’t smart – it was insane.

Once I narrowed down NY Mag’s uber-text to a simpler, easily digestible master list of 57 sandwiches, made a Google map of it all, I was on a personal quest to sample all sandwiches.

(Even though I’ve only tried eighteen so far, when you add it up, thats more than 1 sandwich a week. And that ain’t bad.)

I discovered a number of amazing creations in Hell’s Kitchen, a neighborhood sandwiched in history between the blue-collar shipping industry of the Hudson River, the teeming office district of Times Square and the struggling actor’s world of the theater district. If that isn’t perfect breeding grounds for the unofficial lunch of the working class, then consider Hell’s Kitchen’s cutting edge culinary nature, with an average of 20 restaurants per block.
We started at Manganaro’s Heroboy, the birthplace of the 6-foot hero and the site of a dramatic quarter-century feud between two brothers. After a pit stop at the Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market to discuss the varying histories of this neighborhood’s notorious name, we moved on to Amy’s Bread. The only thing more heartwarming than Amy’s story of how she escaped the humdrum life of marketing for the artisanal breads of Paris is her phenomenal grilled cheese!

Keep in mind, a Levys’ Unique New York! tour isn’t a lecture but a conversation, and our tour group discussed creativity in the kitchen while noshing on a “Fourth of July Picnic,”

(15-spice fried chicken, corn slaw, arugula, bourbon BBQ mayo on a tomcat baguette) from Carve Unique Sandwiches. One Sandwich Crusader admitted to a wild invention of hardboiled egg, soft cheese and melted dark chocolate!

The next stop was the crème de la crème. At Sullivan St. Bakery, on a lightly salted and oiled stecca roll, manzo beef, piquito peppers, goat cheese and aioli rocked our world. The small, soft sandwich slowly consumed in no more than four bites proved that less is more. Moving across the street to Tulcingo Del Valle Restaurante, we could barely finish our al pastor cemitas amid the layers of avocado, oaxaca cheese, refried beans, chipotle AND papalo peppers. Proclaiming “I got my money’s worth”, the customers eased themselves slowly out of their seats and stumbled back into the cool overcast summer day.By Jonah Levy

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