Sandwiches: The Upper Crusts

Café Sabarsky: Some herring-do in the delicate lunchtime sandwiches.


Café Sabarsky
1048 Fifth Avenue, at 86th Street; 212-288-0665
Do delicate Viennese-style open-faced sandwiches stand a fighting chance in this double-fisted sandwich town? Yes, when they're made from Balthazar's rustic rye, swiped with a tasty egg spread, and embellished with matjes herring, paprika-sprinkled eggs, or ham and fresh horseradish — a.k.a. Austrian wasabi.
Cheese Steak

BB Sandwich Bar
120 West 3rd Street; 212-473-7500
Okay, it's light on the cheese, comes on a kaiser roll, and doesn't drip all over your shirt. So what? This unfettered take on the Philly comes with a pile of four-hour-marinated onions, terrific hot-pepper relish, and breath mints. And thanks to careful wrapping, it even travels well.

188 Orchard Street; 212-979-5564
Italian canned tuna is to the regular stuff as Poilâne pain au levain is to a Pepperidge Farm hot-dog bun. Here, they spread the superior olive-oil-packed variety onto chewy brick-oven rolls from a Bensonhurst bakery and add hot peppers and shaved provolone.
Popover Sandwich
New York Popover
789 Ninth Avenue, near 53rd Street; 646-746-0312
It doesn't sound like a great idea — stuffing popovers with various sandwich fillings — especially if you've experienced the Burger King Croissanwich. But somehow, a hot, puffy popover crammed with grilled chicken, Fontina, and pesto won us over. Plus, it comes with salad and a spork.
Grilled Cheese

2 Park Avenue, near 32nd Street; 212-725-8585
No contest. Take the best English farmhouse Cheddar (Keen's or Montgomery), the best applewood-smoked bacon (Wisconsin's Nueske's), slap it down on Balthazar's pain au levain, grill it extra-crispy in butter, and how could you not triumph? Stuffing the thing with Granny Smith apple slices is overkill.
Manhattan Shawarma
Bread From Beirut
24 West 45th Street; 212-764-1588
They bake their own pita here and stuff it with charcoal-edged chicken, pickles, tomatoes, and gobs of the most garlicky sauce you've ever eaten. They roll it up as tightly as if it were a newspaper and they were going to hop on their delivery bikes and chuck it onto your front porch. Then they smoosh it on a sandwich press to crisp the bread and seal in the juices. Bring Tic Tacs.
Pressed Panini

47 East 19th Street; 212-780-0880
Chef-owner Tom Colicchio calls it a bread sandwich, because it's all about the bread. Thin is in: Deliberately stingy slivers of top-notch Italian ingredients like coppa, soppressata, and Taleggio tantalize but never steal the show from the superbly crunchy ciabattalike star.
8 Little West 12th Street; 212-463-8345
The Francophile answer to the pressed-panini craze, but here they call it a sandwich grillé: addictively rich duck rillettes tempered by capers, roasted tomatoes, and shallots on Blue Ribbon Bakery ciabatta. This is also a wine bar, and the perfect place to test out the French paradox.

Photograph by Kenneth Chen.