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Deconstructing Dewey Dufresne

Or at least his Byggybeef sandwich.

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These days, Dewey Dufresne is best known as father of Wylie, New York’s preeminent avant-garde chef. In many ways, though, Wylie is a chip off the old block. Four decades ago, Dewey was a key figure in Providence, Rhode Island’s nascent food scene, a sandwich devotee who “opened two pioneering shops called Joe’s, in addition to the short-lived but seminal locavore restaurant Joe’s Upstairs (among its legacies: Al Forno’s George Germon and Johanne Killeen met working there). Dufresne “lost everything” in 1977 and eventually wound up in New York, where he dabbled in the business (as chef of Global 33, partner at 71 Clinton Fresh Food, and unofficial man Friday at wd-50) but never relinquished his sandwich love. This week marks his reentry into the field, via the Byggybeef sandwich he’ll sell at the Feast of San Gennaro. It’s an appetizer of sorts for Byggyz (pronounced “Biggie’s”), the shop he hopes to open downtown next year. It’ll be a Joe’s for the 21st century, combining his Everyman appetite with some of his son’s sophisticated techniques, legitimizing them for the fast-casual mainstream. Take the Byggybeef, for example: Beef short ribs are seared and braised, plucked into pieces, then compressed into a block with the aid of meat glue and cold-swelling starches. This isn’t for novelty’s sake, but for ideal texture—moist and juicy, cohesive but not bouncy. For Dufresne, as for all sandwich mavens, texture is crucial, as are quality of ingredients and construction. “I don’t believe that shredded lettuce belongs in a sandwich,” he says. “Thrown out of a window as confetti, yes, but in a sandwich, it’s a distraction.” Instead, the Byggybeef benefits from the crunch of pickled vegetables, the ooze of melted American cheese, and contrasting swipes of Dewey’s “XO-llent sauce” (mayo, mustard, and sweet peppers) and a pomegranate-juice-flavored braising liquid on a custom-baked ciabatta bun from Falai, its top lightly scooped. The Byggybeef might be just a sandwich, but it’s 40 years in the making.


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