F at East Broadway; B, D at Grand St.
Closed for renovations.
Cheeky, a New Orleans–flavored snack shop on the lower end of the Lower East Side, just east of Chinatown, has a few inspired sandwiches. What it doesn’t have are regular hours or a phone. The seating, such as it is, consists of one bench and a dozen or so painter’s stools of varying height and stability arranged along a narrow feeding ledge. Among the other things that distinguish Cheeky from the presidential suite at the Four Seasons are three space heaters and the lack of a full-fledged door—in its place, behind brightly painted shutters and a cheerful picket fence, there is a thick plastic curtain that wouldn’t appear out of place at a car wash. The look, in sum, is simultaneously rough and quaint, in a struggling-artist sort of way. Cheeky has its charms, and like we said, its sandwiches. Chief among these is an excellent oyster po’ boy. It comes fully “dressed,” in po’boy-speak, with lettuce, tomato, mayo, plus hot sauce and pickles, all of which add vim and vigor to the proceedings. The oysters are fresh and crisply fried, but what makes this sandwich so distinctive is the bread that Cheeky’s chef-owner Din Yates has shipped up north from the John Gendusa Bakery in New Orleans. It’s a remarkably crackly crusted loaf with a light and airy crumb; the closest equivalent hereabouts might be a good rice-flour bánh mì roll. Almost as delicious is a braised beef short-rib sandwich with a creamy horseradish sauce on griddled challah, and the fried chicken with red-cabbage slaw on a buttermilk biscuit. To round out the Big Easy theme, there are Zapp’s potato chips and Big Shot soda, chicory coffee, even what Yates refers to as an anti-muffuletta: Swiss Emmentaler cheese and a zingy olive-and-pickled-vegetable salad on soft, olive-studded bread. That’s right: no meat. That last might not go over in New Orleans, but for the Lower East Side, it has potential.