Last October we checked in with Tyler Kord about the newly announced No. 7 Sub, the sandwich shop that he was planning to open at the Ace Hotel with Matt Sumchowski and Amanda Clarke, his partner and pastry chef, respectively, at Fort Greene’s No. 7. Kord, who opened No. 7 in 2008, expected the shop to open in January at the earliest, and envisioned a menu filled with imitation lobster rolls and sandwiches bursting with things like Kewpie mayonnaise, chicken-fried steak, and albondigas, or Mexican meatballs.
When we caught up with Kord yesterday, he told us that No. 7 Sub, which was reportedly going to open this week, will be opening “anytime within the next couple of weeks.” He also talked to us about why we shouldn’t get attached to anything on its menu, his feelings about Twitter, and what he does to get tofu to taste so damn fine.
So what do you love about sandwiches?
I love sandwiches. Who doesn’t love sandwiches? I’m a chef and I’m busy. I eat standing up and quickly, so I appreciate the ease of a sandwich.
No. 7 Sub’s sandwiches are a really eclectic bunch — this is the first sandwich menu I’ve seen that has both ham with marschino cherries and pineapple and hot and sour egg salad with bamboo shoots and wonton crackers.
This menu admittedly sounds kind of weird, but it kind of makes sense. They’re all a protein and something pickled and something creamy, and then I try to put something crunchy on them. Each one hits the standard ingredients categories; they just seem weird. It’s like salty-sweet- sour-crunchy. There’s a billion sandwiches out there and these aren’t so dissimilar. It’s like with Vietnamese sandwiches, they basically have Vietnamese food on them.
Speaking of Vietnamese sandwiches, do you think the explosion of banh mi shops helped pave the way for something like No. 7 Sub, in that banh mi introduced a lot of people to sandwiches with more unconventional ingredients?
I don’t think anybody needs to pave the way for a sandwich shop — people are always ready for it. I think the downturn in our economy really paved the way.
That said, are there any sandwich trends or ingredients you’re sick of or feel are overused?
I don’t like Subway. I don’t want to hate on anything, but I ate a lot of sandwiches to see what everybody’s doing and the fast-food ones do not stack up. They’re just bigger and cheaper.
You once worked at Subway, right?
I did when I was a teenager. I got to eat a lot of free sandwiches. I thought they were OK.
How do they get the bread to smell so good?
I don’t know because we got them frozen and we just baked them. But our production bakery’s gonna smell pretty good too.
What sort of sandwich bread will you be making?
Straight-up almost white bread with oats and wheat bran and flax seeds. That’s the only one we’re gonna do.
Your menu includes a lot of vegetarian options, including your much-loved fried tofu sandwich. Most non-vegetarian chefs won’t even look sideways at tofu, but you seem to love it. Do you make your own, and how do you get it to taste so good?
I buy it — it’s a lot easier than messing around with the quantity we’d need to make. I just fry it and season the shit out of it so it tastes good. A deep-fryer and a lot of salt make a lot of things good. I had a girlfriend who was really into [tofu]. We would follow recipes and end up with this soy saucey thing. I always hated it, and thought it was really gross. But one day I got it fried with a sweet chili sauce at a Thai restaurant and thought, oh, I get it.
It’s easier with tofu. It doesn’t matter what farm the tofu came from; I don’t think anyone is going to accuse anybody of abusing soy beans. Tofu and kohlrabi and those things can be manipulated as often as meat, and it just avoids the issue of using factory farmed stuff.
Do you have a favorite sandwich on the menu?
I don’t know. No. Well, maybe. I’ve made them all once or twice, though one I don’t think I’ve even made yet — it just sounds good on paper. I like to change menus a lot.
So the menu that’s already been published won’t necessarily be around for awhile?
Yeah, definitely. I might not even open with those sandwiches. We’ll see, but things change. You can go to a bodega and get a ham cheese and egg sandwich everyday — I do, and I love it. But I don’t feel the need to maintain anything. Nothing’s sacred.
Do you have a favorite sandwich, period?
That’s a tough question. Honestly, my favorite sandwich in the world is a slice of pizza folded over. It’s the most balanced, perfect thing. A New York City slice joint pizza with tomato sauce and cheese — you’ve got protein, bread, a tart element, and creaminess.
Where do you go for a slice?
I’m pretty easy. I like Joe’s on Carmine a lot, but I’m not picky.
Matt [Suchomski] said in an interview that it took the Ace a year to convince you guys to open the shop. Why were you hesitant?
I think if there was any hesitation it was like, we don’t know what we’re doing — we’re in two places, and we can barely run one. Matt and I both want to be there 24 hours a day and at No. 7 24 hours a day. It wasn’t like we weren’t into the idea; it was more logistics.
So how will you divide your time between the two?
I plan to be at the sandwich shop for lunch and No. 7 for dinner. I’ll be riding the train again. I kind of like riding the train; I’ll get to read more books. I haven’t read a book in a long time.
Sounds like you don’t really get a lot of time to eat out — when or if you do, where do you go?
I do I don’t go out a whole lot, but I like 67 Burger a lot . My favorite Chinese place just closed — it was this little take-out place called Lucky Chinese. Now it’s become another Chinese place.
Any thoughts on Twitter?
I don’t really know how to do it, to be honest. I saw Pete Wells walking into brunch one day — someone pointed him out to me. I’d just read on Eater or one of those sites that he’d gone somewhere for brunch and Twittered about it, and it made it onto a blog. So he was sitting there and I thought, maybe he’s going to write something. So I went to Twitter and signed up and he hadn’t written anything. I have like five followers, and I think they’re not just all weird porn things. I never write anything. I don’t think anybody needs to know what I think.
Do you think we need to know what any chef thinks on Twitter?
That’s the Internet — I guess there’s room for anybody to do whatever the hell they feel like doing. Who am I to say they shouldn’t? It’s a stressful job, so if that’s a way to let off steam, than why not?
How do you let off steam?
I’m an extremely functional alcoholic. So maybe those dudes at Twitter need to drink more.