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Home / Articles / Food / Food Writing /  i melt with you
Sandwiches
The chicken sandwich at Pasqual’s is a sure winner.

i melt with you

Sandwiches are serious business, and this town has some good ones.

July 28, 2008, 12:00 am
If cookies are a sweet treat whose powers lie in their ability to placate and delight, then sandwiches are the Platonic ideal of lunch. A really good sandwich is greater than the sum of its parts. It can comfort and soothe, and some have been known to compel hungry, weary people to spend their lunchtimes waiting in line for the promise of something delicious slapped between two slices of bread. A disappointing sandwich is a very sad thing indeed.

What makes a sandwich when the tortilla is more ubiquitous in this town than the standard bread loaf? I’d rather eat white bread than be white bread, but in the interest of compactness, burgers and burritos will have to wait for their day in the sun, when they can be addressed with the attention they deserve.

With that disclaimer, there is one burger I can think of that is so decidedly unlike a burger that it was declared eligible by default. The haunting question of what constitutes a burger ushers in a host of ambiguities all their own, but I prefer to think of the Tuscan Burger ($9.75) at Cafe Cafe as a highly seasoned meat sandwich not unlike Middle Eastern kofta, aside from its savory mantle of warm bun, melting fontina cheese and crisp grilled prosciutto. The PLT ($9.75) is a sharp take on the classic: salty and robust with pancetta, pesto aioli and arugula, but muted by the thick, pillowy focaccia; and the Tuna Melt ($9.75) was excessively salty.

Better, simpler versions of both the tuna melt and the BLT can be found at Tune-Up Café. In spite of this, it is nearly impossible for me not to order the Cubano ($8.50), an extraordinarily juicy rumpus of marinated pork loin, cured ham, Swiss cheese and pickles—as snappy and bold as a Ball Park hot dog with mustard. Said mustard, by the way, is French’s yellow, but if there were never another reason to eat the stuff, this sandwich alone is every reason you’ll ever need to keep an open mind. Veterans of Café Pasqual’s, Tune-Up Café owners Charlotte and Jesus Rivera do not shy away from the clear, vibrant flavors that make their alma mater a Santa Fe institution.

So, how about the sandwiches at this beloved institution? If in search of the ultimate BLT experience, look no further than Pasqual’s, where spicy lacquered bacon and crumbly toasted cornbread elevate this sandwich ($15.75) to unprecedented heights. Though it may sound prosaic, the Grilled Free-Range Chicken Breast Sandwich ($15.95), served on the same chile cornbread and topped with manchego, caramelized onions, jalapeño and excellent mayonnaise, is wonderful.

If sticker shock keeps you at arm’s length, be heartened: Half a block away on Don Gaspar is an equally dreamy chicken sandwich at Torino’s @ Home ($6.95), where naturally raised meats, organic greens and hormone-free eggs are built into sandwiches with deft hands and zero pretension. Ask for the Milanese sandwich “hot,” and you’ll get a panino made with freshly baked bread, crisp breaded chicken, pepper jack cheese, tomatoes and a smear of chipotle mayo that you’d want to order by the pound, were it available.

It’s hard to know what to say about the Cubano ($8.95) at Delicasa after being utterly outdone by its irresistible counterpart at Tune-Up, but like many of the sandwiches at Delicasa, it wasn’t bad, just somewhat forgettable. Overall, the sandwich menu is an impressively diverse crash course in international charcuterie, though the sandwiches I expected to like least, a lively Muffaletta ($7.95) on baguette and a rich but placid Greek Lemon Grilled Chicken panino ($8.95) on herbed focaccia with feta, spinach and tomatoes, were the unanimous favorites.

Le Zodiac Café and Bakery sells sandwiches and tartines, but it’s really the hefty Poilâne-like bread that’s worth seeking out—a crusty whole wheat levain-style country bread that is sold by the pound. The Croque Monsieur ($8.95) is not quite as compact and balanced as the version made at Clafoutis ($5.90), but the bread is good enough to forgive all manner of sins.

The quest for a good Reuben in Santa Fe ended at Carlos’ Gosp’l Café with a quiet triumph over four other contenders, though the sides of coleslaw and potato salad left something to be desired. A good, sturdy sandwich ($7.95), it converted the anti-Reuben stronghold of one, while managing not to offend any New Yorkers present. The Egg Salad, on the other hand, looked and sounded promising but was sulfurous with overcooked egg yolks. For egg salad fans, I can think of few better lunches on the run than Whole Foods’ superb egg salad sandwich on soft whole wheat bread; the egg salad is fresh, creamy, and peppery with mustard and sprouts. Just be sure to grab salt, pepper and plenty of napkins.

Not only are sandwiches the best thing since sliced bread; they’re the best thing to happen to sliced bread. Do you know where you’ll be having lunch today?

 

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