The deli sandwiches from my neighborhood bodega are reserved for particular times of day: 4 a.m., when I’m stumbling home drunk, or around midday after a big night out when I’m stocking up on water and Advil and don’t have the willpower to wait for a more decent meal to soak up the hangover.
Sunny and Annie’s is not in my neighborhood–it’s in the Lower East Side. But it’s still a bodega, and so I was skeptical. I quickly learned, though, that this bodega offers some strange things from its deli counter, a menu of sideshow freak sandos with head-scratching names, quirky misspellings, and a slight political bent.
A rainbow of neon construction paper, each sheet scrawled with a different sandwich description, is taped to the glass of the deli case, and it can be a hazard to pause and read: You’ll be forced to contend with shoppers squeezing by to grab sundries off the narrow aisle’s shelves. But if you can secure a good position, you’ll notice some absurd descriptions amid the classics, all served on 10-inch hoagie buns.
The inexplicably named 2013, for instance, stacks three kinds of cheese, dried cranberries, cantaloupe, cucumbers, avocado, arugula, onion, green chile sauce, and pesto between two halves of a roll, a senseless amalgamation of produce and green sauce that I’m still trying to understand. Of course I had to order it.
The first thing I noticed about the $8 sandwich was its weight, which was probably around two pounds. Mozzarella, cheddar, and provolone cheese account for a fair amount of the heft; pairing those with avocado, cantaloupe, and cranberry creates a flavor profile akin to the one-two punch of a slice of cheddar with apple pie. The raw onion and green chili sauce add a spicy note, but the earthy, nutty pesto sauce is a weird addition. I still haven’t figured out what any of this has to do with 2013, by the way. And the sandwich is unrelated to the 2011–a mix of hummus, avocado, and other veggies–as well as the 2012, made with tuna.
I will never order this sandwich again, but that’s not because I found it revolting–despite its roughshod construction, it actually tasted a lot better than I expected. There are simply so many other weird sandwiches at Sunny and Annie’s, it’s not worth revisiting the same one.
Like the bodega’s claim, the P.H.O. Real sandwich, which puts some essential pho ingredients–beef, cilantro, bean sprouts, basil, and Sriracha sauce–on a hoagie to form the mother of all banh mi. Another winner is the kimchi bulgolgi sandwich, which blends the spicy pickled cabbage with roast beef, fried onions, and avocado.
And then there are the politically charged meals: The bodega’s democratic sandwich selections include the “John carry” (their spelling, not mine), which campaigns on a platform of lemon chicken, chipotle peppers, mozzarella, avocado, cilantro, tomato, and onion. Republicans can chow down on the Bush sandwich, which amalgamates teriyaki chicken, roasted seaweed, hot peppers, avocado, cucumber, onions, fresh mozzarella, and ranch dressing (because he’s a goddamn American, obviously). And our soon-to-be-ousted mayor has his legacy enshrined in the “Mr. Bloom burga,” which gives you a choice of curry chicken salad or lemon chicken with avocado, seafood salad, jalapeño sauce, cilantro, watercress, spinach, cucumber, tomato, and onion.
Not sure I’ll ever try that last one, though: I’m not terribly interested in putting something named after Bloomberg in my mouth (sorry, Mike, it was the seafood salad that put me off).