Yes, the sandwich is a prodigious mess — but that doesn’t mean it’s not good.
Yesterday, I dropped into Bowery Beef (f/k/a Bowery Poetry Club) to grab a mug of Blue Bottle. The staff was sitting around celebrating the fact that the place had just passed its Health Department inspection, and was ready for business. The first roast beef sandwich was to roll off the line today. I resolved to be one of the first to check it out.
As promised, the place was decorated with chandeliers, with dozens of giant pots and other institutional cookware hanging from the ceiling. The prep area, which extended from the coffee counter, had little on it besides a slicer, bun toaster, and cold cabinet of condiments. It was like a scene from the movie Slackers, with everyone entirely nonchalant, and not at all frantic at the prospect of starting a new endeavor, as restaurateurs often are.
The sandwich was $5 — $6 with cheese. I ordered the latter and set the process in motion.
One guy, showing another guy what to do, as a couple of others watched, pulled a hamburger bun from a plastic bag, split it, sprayed it with generic Pam, then dropped it into a strange vertical toaster. I wish I had one at home. When the bun popped out, another guy put a wad of rare beef on it. He asked what I wanted, and I replied (maybe foolishly, since I had no idea what “everything” might be), “Everything.”
Who could resist a sign like that? And on the Bowery, too!
Don’t let that slice of cheese poke you in the eye on the way toward your mouth.
He put on a piece of white American cheese, squirted on some mayo, smeared lots of horseradish, then squirted on the special barbecue sauce that’s supposedly the soul of the Boston-style roast beef sandwich. Oh, and he put some raw onion on it, too. The result was something so gloppy, that when I unwrapped it at a table in the “dining room” (really, the foyer of the poetry club), I was loathe to start eating. The sandwich was a mess.
No matter, I tore into it and found it excellent, in its own unambitious way. It was like an Arby’s sandwich before they went downhill. Make sure you grab a stack of napkins before finding your seat, and get everything on it, as I did.
Want a stanza or two to go with your sandwich?