Papa Lima Sandwich
362 Bedford Ave., at S. 4th St. Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-218-7720
A collegiate brush with sandwich greatness at foodie mecca Zingerman’s while studying at the University of Michigan spoiled Pete Levin for just about everything else he found when he returned to New York. So, Levin—who also runs Professor Thom’s sports bar in the East Village and works as a cue-card man for Saturday Night Live—decided to take matters into his own hands. The result is this southside sandwich shop that smartly bridges the gap between the once great but now rare old-school Italian hero style and the more modern raised-pinkie panini parlor. All the produce comes from Greenmarket, the breads from Tom Cat Bakery, and the mortadella on the toothsome Jones Road hero from boutique salumi maker Fra’ Mani. The Evil Reuben (smoked turkey, provolone, coleslaw, and Russian dressing on marble rye) is first-rate, too, but Levin’s personal fave is the Pablo Honey, a turkey-and-potato-chip sandwich with a side of dipping gravy that he concocted at the NBC commissary.
37 E. 28th St., nr. Park Ave. S.; 212-213-2328
Alex Ureña claims to have converted his eponymous nouvelle Spanish restaurant into a simpler, cheaper bistro spotlighting the classic cuisine of northern Spain. Don’t believe him for a second. The prices are lower, true (entrées, $18 to $24), bistro-style mirrors have been installed and tablecloths banished, but the talented Bouley veteran hasn’t abandoned his sophisticated style. While Ureña has forsaken foams and added crowd-pleasers like gazpacho, paella, and fried chickpeas, he can still be found making chips out of serrano ham and smoking lima beans to embellish wine-braised octopus. In bustling tapas-bar fashion, ham is now sliced out in the open, and the wine list has become exclusively Spanish. He does break tradition with the cocktails, though, daring to spike San Sebastián’s famous calimocho, an unlikely blend of red wine and Coke, with a shot of rum.
121 W. 10th St., nr. Greenwich Ave.; 212-645-0018
Mulberry Street between Prince and Spring is a veritable Little Sydney, with Aussie expats flocking to Eight Mile Creek, Ksubi clothing store, and Ruby’s, the unassuming Nolita café turned antipodean community center. This month, the owners of Ruby’s and Ksubi have joined forces to expand beyond their Down Under comfort zone, both culinarily and geographically. Kingswood—named in part, according to Ruby’s Nick Mathers, for a sixties-era Australian family car—has a design scheme inspired by the verdant Jefferson Market Garden across the street, replete with greenery, butterflies, and a stuffed peacock. A pair of English co-chefs refrain from any obvious Australian or British motifs, showcasing dishes like roasted-peach salad with prosciutto and mascarpone, and Goan monkfish curry. The sole exception is Ruby’s renowned Bronte burger, named for the beach that Mathers claims locals favor over Bondi. “It’s a bit of a staple for us,” he says. “We don’t want to grow up too fast.”
Sammy’s Halal, the chicken-and-rice street-cart chain, continues to plot its world domination: Owner Samiul Haque Noor recently parked a cart at 21st and Park, and says that midtown—where he will vie for white-sauce supremacy with 53rd and Sixth’s Best Halal cart—is next. As for the upcoming Vendy Awards: Having already taken top honors last year, Sammy’s is ineligible to participate. But there is no limit to how many Oscars, Golden Globes, or Nathan’s Fourth of July hot-dog-eating trophies one can place on one’s mantel (or pushcart ledge, as the case may be), and Sammy sees no reason why it should be any different with the Vendys. “Hopefully, they’ll let me compete again soon,” he says. “The last time, I wasn’t even ready.”