Having just walked two miles from New York’s Penn Station with a 30 pound backpack on my shoulders, a heavy pea coat in one arm and a large pizza cookbook I’d just bought from Eataly in the other (Impulse buy? I say YES.), I was more than ready to sit down. I arrived at Chelsea Market, a large indoor market with gourmet food shops and eateries, during prime lunch hour, when seating was scarce. I decided to kill some time in one of the shops, Bowery Kitchen Supply, until the rush died down.
Bowery Kitchen is a beautiful store that is loaded with every sort of home and commercial kitchen item you could imagine. I picked up a reasonably priced whisk and spatula (as if I could possibly carry more?). As I was standing in line, I heard a woman behind me shouting out order numbers and handing out sandwiches tightly wrapped in white paper. How had I missed this?
Apparently, I’d walked past this tiny deli several times without noticing it. Nestled alongside aisles of cutting boards, mandolins and commercial deep fryers is Bowery Eats. A rectangular chalkboard shares Bowery Eats’ selections. Be forwarned: the menu is enormous and everything looks good.
For once, I knew exactly what I wanted. The French Tuna: white albacore tuna, black olives and capers tossed with olive oil, mixed greens, tomato and a vinaigrette on your choice of bread. The combination of well, everything, on this sandwich just sounded incredible. For my bread, I chose a whole-wheat baguette.
Several other options caught my eye: the Homemade Roast Beef with onion, watercress, tomato and homemade horseradish, the French Cuban with roasted pork, ham, Swiss, pickles and Dijon, and the Juan Manuel with chicken, prosciutto, Muenster cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo.
It’s nice to know that if nothing appeals to you (which will probably not be the case), then you can choose from a large list of meats, cheeses, veggies, dressing, breads or wraps and create your own sandwich.
Thankfully, by the time I received my sandwich, Chelsea Market had emptied out a little and I was able to find a seat. Phew. It had never felt better to sit down. I unwrapped my sandwich and took a good look. Initially, the amount of tuna seemed sparse, overtaken by a forest of mixed greens and a whole lot of bread.
Fortunately, the bread was delicious: perfectly crusty with a nutty, subtle honey flavor. In fact, this bread was so good that it actually took away from the flavor of the tuna. I probably should have chosen a more neutrally flavored bread. Perhaps a wrap? That’s okay. I’d much rather have an ingredient that is too good any day.
The tuna, however, was the true winner in this sandwich. I wished there had been about twice as much (again, this could have been due to a poor bread choice). I did notice that the black olives were cut the same size as the capers, the kind of attention to detail I like to see. The olives and capers brought the otherwise bland tuna to life: the capers gave saltiness and the olives a slight bitterness that were balanced perfectly by the lemony vinaigrette. The greens gave vivid color, texture and a little crunch, too. On the other hand, the anemic tomato did absolutely nothing for this sandwich. Flavorless and even a bit mushy, this poor guy just didn’t make the cut. I know it’s not the right season for tomatoes, but that’s why we have hydroponics, right?
The French tuna sandwich has all the components for greatness, with varied flavors and textures. Just make sure you choose your bread wisely. Oh, and don’t show up with about 40 pounds worth of stuff you’re lugging around town. That probably didn’t help.
It’s too bad Bowery Eats isn’t exactly close to me in D.C. Even so, we’ve got our own share of sandwich gems here, notably Fast Gourmet near W and 14th Street. And the Chivito, their signature sandwich, really is that good. I guess you’ll just have to go and find out for yourself.