Must-Try Sandwiches 2016 Update

Julie Besonen

The 2016 sandwich report can't help but celebrate Carnegie Deli getting back in the game after a nearly 10-month closure. Fans have returned in droves to devour the institution's glorious pastrami and corned beef. In the meantime, a host of other great sandwiches have helped people get through the day, notably Mighty Quinn'sfall-apart brisket and David Chang's floppy, crusty, deep-fried chicken on a bun at Fuku. At the new Pennsy food hall by Penn Station, meat lovers are lining up for Pat LaFrieda's meatballs on ciabatta and toasted black angus steak sandwich with caramelized onions and melted Monterey Jack. In the West Village, the bread is lined with gold when it comes to the crunchy “XL” croque monsieur at Dominique Ansel Kitchen and the delicious patty melt at Quality Eats. The spicy Portuguese sardine banh mi at Mary's Fish Camp and the luscious duck meatball sub at High Street on Hudson, also in the neighborhood, are only available at lunchtime; plan accordingly. And vegetarians across the City have been flocking downtown day and night for the juicy, meat-free patties between the squishy-soft buns at By Chloe and Superiority Burger. For more hot-off-the-press sandwich news, read on.

Cemitas El Tigre
45-14 48th Ave., 929-296-3946, Sunnyside, Queens

Mexican food lovers are well versed in burritos and tacos, but cemitas loitered in relative obscurity until Danny Lyu's hit-making sandwich stand at Brooklyn's Smorgasburg came along. It might be the cemita's game-changing moment now that he has a sweet café in Sunnyside—a Queens neighborhood that has developed into a destination for global eats. The menu at Cemitas El Tigre is more expansive than the Smorgasburg offerings—yes, there are great burritos and tacos as well as dark chocolate milkshakes, beer and wine—but you're traveling here for the signature sandwich. This ultra-filling Pueblan specialty is four fingers tall, a sesame-seed bun that encloses 10 ingredients: avocado, Oaxacan cheese, chipotle, papalo (a cousin of cilantro), pickled onions, mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, black bean puree and either a meat of your choice (tops is the moist Southern fried chicken) or portobello mushrooms.

Courtesy, Kossar’s Bagels & Bialys

Kossar's Bagels & Bialys
367 Grand St., 212-473-4810, Lower East Side, Manhattan

Kossar's has reopened on the Lower East Side after a complete overhaul, now trimmed in spiffy white tile and purveying a lot more than bagels and bialys. Founded in 1936, moved twice from its original location and after changing owners a couple of times, the bakery-deli has expanded its offerings to include all kinds of Jewish baked goods, various flavored cream cheese schmears and double-smoked salmon. And for the first time in its history: sandwiches! The Czar is a pumpernickel bagel generously stuffed with folds of Nova salmon, a swipe of parsley-dill cream cheese, pickled beets and glistening jewels of salmon roe—the high-caliber ingredients justifying the $14.95 price tag. Messiness aside, request it on a pumpernickel everything bagel, crusted in seeds and salt.

Mekelburg’s. Photo: Bradley Hawks

293 Grand Ave., 718-399-2337, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

The ultimate expression of the Roman-style porchetta sandwich is in Clinton Hill at Mekelburg's, a delightful little underground specialty grocer with a bar and tables in back that look fabricated from bowling alley wood. Pork loin is cured with salt, pepper, garlic and herbs in a pork-belly blanket for three days and then roasted for about four hours to a pliant tenderness. The deeply flavored meat is sliced thin and piled on a toasted sesame-seed loaf along with shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano and slightly bitter, olive oil-slicked stems of broccoli rabe—an effective foil for the flavor of the meat. The sandwich is $14; get an extra one to go since you'll likely be longing for it the next day. Find a bounty of beer here too, with more than a dozen craft varieties on tap plus hard cider, along with a discerning collection of wines and spirits.

120 Prince St., 212-941-0111, SoHo, Manhattan

Olive's is an old-timey, gourmet soup-salad-sandwich-cookie shop that's lasted in the heart of SoHo since 1992. Lately it's been on the cultural radar after it was reported that David Bowie was a regular. His frequent purchase was the grilled, marinated chicken breast (antibiotic- and hormone-free) with tomato, a fistful of watercress and chipotle mayo on focaccia ($10.50). It turns out that Bowie not only had good taste in music, fashion and art, he could also spot a good sandwich. The chicken is supple, the rosemary-flecked focaccia is fresh and there's a subtle sting from the chipotle mayo. The artist lived not far from Olive's and was able to walk around downtown largely unrecognized, which was how he liked it. “Yeah, I heard from people he came here a lot,” said a woman running the cash register, “but I never noticed him.” Perfect.

Salvation Burger
230 E. 51st St., 646-277-2900, Midtown, Manhattan

The burgers are sublime at Salvation Burger—both the greasy double-beef patty classic and the signature “Salvation” burger of dry-aged, wood-fired steak—but consider the fish on a densely sesame-seeded bun. A fat chunk of fluke is battered and fried, daubed with tarragon-tinged tartar sauce and scattered with strips of crisp cabbage ($16). It smacks of British pub origins, fitting since April Bloomfield, the pride of Birmingham, England, is the chef. She and restaurateur Ken Friedman are also behind The Spotted Pig and The Breslin, among other sensations. Her cookbook, A Girl and Her Greens, is displayed among whiskey bottles and figurines of charging steers behind the bar. This casual Midtown East spot gets jammed at prime lunch and dinner hours; try going at the beginning or end of service. Various seating arrangements include counter stools, bar tables, tables pushed together and a few curtained booths, most of which provide a view of the active open kitchen.