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