FreeFoods Duck Pastrami Sandwich is a Triumph. A Freakin’ Expensive Triumph.

We could go back and forth about whether or not FreeFoods NYC is a true Midtown Lunch (it’s not), or whether or not I should even be eating at a place like this (I shouldn’t).  But the simple fact is this.  They made a new sandwich, put it on their menu, called it “The Midtown Lunch Special”, and charged under $10 for it (if you don’t include the tax).  So, according to the rules set forth in my Midtown Lunch sandwich challenge, I am obligated to go and eat the sandwich and post about it.  I never said I had to like it… just eat it, and post about it. 

Standing in FreeFoods, I could feel my anger rising.  I mean, this place is really expensive.  Sure, most of it is organic, they use the best ingredients, and it is one of the few places in Midtown where a vegetarian, vegan, or raw foods enthusiast can get a decent lunch.  But I don’t fall into any of those categories, and my category (cheap fatso) is clearly not intended audience.  The sandwiches are all $11 and up (except for the ML special), the by the lb. buffet is $395 a pound (or so it seems), and their non coffee drinks are $3 at their cheapest and $8 at their most expensive.  In other words, if you want more than just a sandwich, you’re not getting out of here for less than $15. 

There is only one problem.  The “Midtown Lunch Special Sandwich”, a duck pastrami reuben, is really freakin’ good.

I am a cheapo, but to pretend like I never spend a lot of money on food would be disingenuous.  I’ve done the $100 price fixe at Ko, and the $115 omakase at Soto (both amazing.)  I enjoyed the $32 crab in chili sauce at Fatty Crab (even though you can get cheaper versions in Chinatown) and I’ve spent more on a steak than I spend on two weeks worth of lunches.  But lunch?  Sandwiches?  There is something in my brain that snaps about spending more than $10 on lunch.  (Especially if it’s just a sandwich.  All you can eat buffets?  That’s a different story.) I’m sure their profit margin on one of these sandwiches is significantly less than what, say, the Biryani Cart makes on their food.  But this site isn’t about profit margin. It’s about what it costs to me.


So there I was, eating the duck pastrami sandwich at FreeFoods.  Spending the big bucks, and doing what I said I would never do.  But putting my cheapness aside, and my staunch Midtown Lunch views, I have to admit, this sandwich is not only good… it’s completely worth the money.  Why?  The duck.  It’s not a big sandwich (it comes on 2 slightly smaller than normal slices of rye bread) but they do not skimp on the duck.  You probably get a whole duck breast (something that would easily cost $20+ at a nice restaurant), and it’s perfectly cured, and sliced thick, with a really nice layer of fat (as it should be.) To give you an idea of its size, it’s about the same size as all of the “fat guy” sandwiches at ‘wichcraft.


The whole thing was perfectly complemented by the slaw, emmentaler swiss, and russian dressing.  The fat from the duck and the cheese greases up the bread real good while it’s being pressed in the sandwich machine, giving you that authentic reuben feel.  What can I say?  It was really awesome, filling in that “fat fills me up” kind of way, and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Do I love FreeFoods now? Let’s not get crazy.  I was pretty angry every single minute I sat in that place, wondering how people could spend so much money on lunch at a place that doesn’t even have waiters. It also didn’t help that the other two sandwiches my friends ordered (the meatball sandwich and the chicken/lime sandwich with avocado ad mango), were pretty meh for $11… or maybe it just seemed that way after eating the duck pastrami special.  Truthfully, if I’m in the mood for a meatball sub- I don’t need to spend $11 on this just ok version (with dry bread.) 

The duck pastrami sandwich, on the other hand… I may have to return for another.  Or better yet, maybe I’ll just order delivery.

Free Foods NYC (Two Locations)

  • 150 E. 52nd St. (btw. Lex+3rd),  212-371-1945 
  • 18 W. 45th St. (btw. 5+6th),  212-302-7195 


  • goddamn it now i wanna go buy a $10 sandwich. goddamn you zach!

  • Oooooooo that looks good… mummmmmm droll…

  • Wait! Are those little fried pieces of onion on the top of the bread?? Tasty caramelized bits!!

  • The mere fact that it is a DUCK sandwich makes it a winner in my book. Where else can you get a duck sandwich, period, never mind a quality one for $10? One of the filthy chinese places (Dirty Eight) should do one on a bun for $5. That would rock.

  • Droll? :) AS in…’You call him Doc Jones, Droll’?

    WE need scale Zach…put a can next to it.

  • Zach, did they know who they were making the sandwich for when you ordered it? Can everyone else excpect to receive the same amount of Duck if they order the ML special or was it an overstuffed “review version”? Just checking.

  • Looks tastey–but my heart cries at the pricetag, even if it is w/in midtown lunch prices. I want something HUGE for a sandwich that costs nearly 11 bucks (including tax). I want a 3 foot sub packed to the brim with duck! How do the owners of this place sleep at night, knowing they are ripping people off so badly in these trying times…Best beleive they are cleaning up on this midtown lunch challenge profit wise.

  • I just got back from the 52nd st. location. Like Zach, I had been pretty angry with their pricing. But I got a pretty good treatment when I asked for the special. they loaded the sandwich with meat (it looked pretty high before it got pressed) and actually turned around and showed me the sandwich before they put it down on the grill.

    I dashed back to my cube and took a bite, the crunchy sullivan st. bread really makes the sandwich, I must admit they did a pretty good job.

    For some reason I think the cashier may have made a mistake and rang mine up as $9.75 including tax. Thanks to Zach, I am treating myself to an expensive but pretty tasty lunch!

  • If I’m not mistaken, the last post about it stated that the sandwich was only available for the month of February. So I supposed the question is, is it 9.99 for Feb.? Followed by a ridiculous price hike? Or is this sandwich going to be abolished ry 28th, 2009, never to be heard from again until the next challenge… in which case, Zach should just post random challenges to get this place to have ONE thing on the menu SOMEWHAT … a far stretch… but somewhat reasonably price item.

  • “How do the owners of this place sleep at night, knowing they are ripping people off so badly in these trying times…”
    - Goats

    You a communista?

  • wow… that’s friday’s lunch for sure…

  • @DDR: Not a communist but a realist…
    At least I have my tantrums (which I used to throw at overpriced “glorified deli’s” like Silo every day) under control LOL

  • I don’t know… the sandwich looks pretty large to me. And organic meat is really expensive. Compared to the chicken/lamb and rice combo from Kwik Meal, this is quite a bargain. I have never been to FreeFoods and am not a raw foodist, vegetarian or vegan. But I think that this looks like a place where I may want to splurge one day.

    I think people have certain notions in their head that they can’t get away from… like lunch needs to be cheap (though I totally understand that your point of this blog is featuring food under $10), sandwiches have to be cheap, if entrees are above $10, you should have waiter service. If one tries to remove these notions and approach things with more of an open mind, you’ll probably find a whole new world opening up. I mean, you don’t see people balking at the notion of paying $10 (which I know is on the cheaper side in Manhattan) for a drink that probably costs cents to make. And most likely you’ll be drinking that drink standing up with only about a few inches separating you from the person next to you.

    That said, Zach, I commend you for putting your prejudices aside and reporting back on this sandwich. Sounds lovely and can’t wait to try it soon.

  • Shill.
    But still on point.

  • “balking at the notion of paying $10 (which I know is on the cheaper side in Manhattan) for a drink that probably costs cents to make.”

    Here, my friend is where you are inncorrect. ML has also taken over the Drink scene, I do not drink a $10 cocktail! I shudder to think of it. Banish these horrible 10 buck drinks from my presence! (and check out my review tomorrow ;-P

  • Instead of venturing into the scary realm of organic/fresh/raw foods, why don’t you take your $9 and turn it into a dictator special at Hallo Berlin? Since today’s so cold, there was only one other person on line. Mmm…brat breath.

  • I hope they review this on Midtown Sandwich dot com. (Sandwiches in Midtown Manhattan for Under $10 Before Tax!)

  • @wayne – if you venture out to flushing, there’s a take out place called corner 28 that sells individual peking duck “tacos” for $1.25 a piece i believe. you can eat 5 of these little gems and be full.

  • Any single young women eating them alone?

  • actually, i think it might even be $0.75 per peking duck taco

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