I’ve been cheating on my favorite sandwich.
Scintillating, I know, but it’s true.
For the past 2 or so years, I’ve lived in SoHo, just south of Prince St. When I moved recently, it was literally only one block over, from the quiet tree-lined block of Sullivan over to the quiet, but slightly more commercial block of Thompson. While my old block had only a bar, two sandwich shops and a magazine shop on it (as well as a few high-profile but, for my purposes, moot restaurants), Thompson had a coffee shop, a Cuban restaurant, a hair salon, a Greek restaurant, a Pizza place, a full-service Korean grocery story, a DKNY and, oddly enough, the bar my dad used to go to when he was about my age when he lived in the city, about 3 or 4 blocks away from where I live now.
It might not sound like much, but for me it was funny how it constituted a relative sensory overload from the previous nonchalance of my small apartment, one block away.
Anyway, I went exploring in this new wonderland in the week following my move-in and found a little bistro-type place huddling in the back of a DKNY, a place I had summarily dismissed at first glance, but which I was inspired to try out of a mix of perhaps boredom, perhaps virulent DKNY branding.
The place was called Tisserie, another branch of which I remembered from my time living on Union Square West, where that branch was, once upon a time. I say “once upon a time,”, because now where that Tisserie was, is a Pret a Manger, the popular British sandwich chain, that I admit some small amount of admiration for. I was supposed to have a phone session with my therapist and decided the large space along with the extreme lack of people at 9:00am in the morning would be a good area to not be disturbed while having some coffee or some food.
I ordered off the menu, off the suggestion of the nice girl working behind the counter, named Abby. I introduced myself to her, since I figured she was about to introduced to most of my life’s secrets and thus, might as well know my name. She was pretty though I’m not sure I fit the model of the sort of boy she would like to meet in a bistro in back of a SoHo DKNY and I wouldn’t know anyway, because it turned out when my therapist called that I didn’t have a phone session and that I would have to jump in a cab to her office.
Before I left though I got Abby’s suggestion, their Goat Cheese, Roasted Red Peppers and Basil Pesto Panini, with Grilled Chicken added into the mix. The price was relatively expensive ($9.75), but the Sandwich which I ate on the subway ride home from my tussled journey to my therapist’s office, was very good in several ways. The peppers were obviously not from a can, enjoying a crisp juiciness that I didn’t get from my local Pepe Rosso, whose peppers were imported from Italy. The Grilled Chicken was savory, not fake (always a turn-off), and was cut in chunks interspersed in the sandwich. The pesto and goat cheese held it all together, blending indistinguishably from one another in a mixture that both flavored the sandwich and acted as its glue. The bread, a wide-pressed baguette, was both soft and chewy at the crust. What’s more is that it was served with a little salad–an appropriate portion–and “veggie stix”, which sounded abominable, but turned out to be fairly tasty lightly salted, hollow rectangles, vaguely reminiscent in their airiness of a snack-food favorite, Pirate’s Booty. All in all, the portions were very well-sized and the food all complimented each other in excellent accord.
It felt very… tasteful, in several of its meanings.
By contrast, my previous winner (the cuckolded party) for a local sandwich was the brunch-restaurant Jane, a place I had been a regular at for the 2 years I had lived in SoHo. I had once proclaimed their Grilled Chicken Sandwich ($13.00, give or take tip+tax) as the best example of the genre. First of all, where the Tisserie sandwich is tastefully portioned, the Jane sandwich is huge. It is a monster 6-8 inch hoagie, filled with multiple-pressed grilled chicken breasts, the best Joe’s Dairy mozzarella, arugula-almond pesto and improbably fried-peppers, which are greasy and drippy and delicious. To top it all off, they don’t play around with the sides, giving you about as many french fries as would fit in the size of your sandwich, if your sandwich was a hollow mold of itself, filled, brimming with french fries. The fries are slightly curly (a plus) and topped with rosemary, which cuts a little bit of their greasy and saltiness with a hint of sophistication. It is a huge, comforting, mouth-filling lunch.
Every time I go to Jane though, recently, I feel more and more disappointed. Jane is too much of a hip spot, for one, and often I spot “celeb-utards” sitting at other tables and on any of the weekends I try to go there is always a line. I usually cut this by sitting at the bar, a tactic I learned from both my grandmother and my friend Davis, the manager of another local haven, Dallas Jones. But the whole place is crowded and noisy. The waiters are picked for their looks (they look like a crowd of mostly spokes-models) and the whole place just feels out of sync with my wild-haired down-trodden post-hangover need for their comforting sandwiches.
The last time I went, a Monday, I sat at the bar and ordered a special, which I usually don’t get, but when I asked the waiter for advice, he neither had tasted the special, nor the dish I had had on the menu for the previous two years, one of their few menu items. The special, a Fried Chicken sandwich, was pretty terrible, stringy and tough and topped with a regular tomato when it had been advertised with a roasted one. What’s more is that it was salty to all hell and I felt tormented, sitting at the bar, peering at the taps, when I was first given a glass of water (bizarrely without ice), which was then never refilled. In fact I never saw another waiter again until the time I went to leave and had to go walk over to the host to give her my credit card. I was pissed, when I got the check and decided to express my anger the only way I felt I could: democratically. If I had talked to the manager, perhaps they wouldn’t have cared or perhaps someone would lose their job, a fate not equal to my 30 minutes of neglect. If I had accosted the waiter, they would have apologized but probably not cared, thinking instead about their next corporate gig and how they were going to make “renewable annuities” sound like “rim job”. So I did what I could, an angry act, but an act nonetheless: I withheld my usual one-to-two dollar tip and wrote instead in the “Tip” area:
“Service Was Poor”
This morning, I was hungry.
I had gotten back at 3am from a party I had attended at Rob “The Artist Formerly Known as Beardo” Malone’s house in Western Pennsylvania, slumming on an NJ Transit train, talking with my friend and co-party-goer Blake LaRue about the best way for him to break into playing Magic: The Gathering while he pretended to listen while sleeping.
I woke with a start at 7am, a mental-alarm clock, realizing that today was the last day to edit at Tisch.
I got my stuff together, threw on some clothes, didn’t make my bed.
It was about 10:30am when I finally headed out.
And I was hungry.
I made my bee-line over to Jane, now more convenient than ever to my house, but as I passed it, I saw the waiter who I’d snubbed the other day, who glared at me, as if I were a witch or, once upon a time, a Jew.
I kept going towards Tisch, still hungry.
I guess I’ll be eating at Tisserie, a lot more now.
Goat Cheese, Roasted Red Peppers, Basil Pesto Panini (w/extra Grilled Chicken)– $9.75
Thompson St bet. Prince and Spring Sts.
CE to Spring St
Grilled Chicken Sandwich (Fresh Mozz, Arugula Pesto, Rosemary Fries)– $13.00
West Houston St bet. Thompson St and LaGuardia Pl
1 to Houston, BDFV6 to Broadway-Lafayette