Certe’s Bayou Sandwich is All About No Expectations

You could probably say this about anything (movies, music, art), but I think half of whether or not you love or hate food comes from expectations. Nostalgia can cause you to enjoy a meal more than a person who is trying it for the first time (or have the opposite effect, if it isn’t as good as you remember); an incredibly positive review can cause you to judge a restaurant more harshly than if you had stumbled upon the place accidentally; and, finally, “authenticity” can be the killer of an otherwise enjoyable meal- if it doesn’t conform to exactly what you thought you were getting when you ordered it.  A perfect example of that is Baoguette (which was the catalyst for Ed Levine’s review of Ba Xueyen on Serious Eats: NY this morning.) As mere sandwiches, you could argue that Baoguette is making some of the best food in New York City.  As “banh mi” you could complain about ingredients, lack of ingredients, bread, authenticity, whether or not a banh mi should have catfish, and of course price (“banh mi should always be under $4!”)

The same kind of thing could be said of Certe’s new entry into the Midtown Lunch Sandwich Challenge.  Called “The Bayou”, this sandwich evokes many expectations (New Orleans, Po-Boys, what blackened catfish should or shouldn’t taste like), and if you fall prey to these thoughts, you may be disappointed.  Go in looking for nothing more than a satisfying fish sandwich, and you will be rewarded.

It doesn’t help that this is Certe’s second entry into the sandwich challenge, and their first entry was pretty awesome (The Thanksgiving Dip).  So my expectations were already pretty high… it also sounds awesome: blackened catfish, corn salad, bib lettuce, and jambalaya aioli, on a soft Portuguese roll.  Some expressed hope that this would be a po’boy, but I knew better (po’boy should have fried shellfish, or roast beef… not blackened catfish).


So here it is… I can’t say the catfish had a very “blackened” flavor to it. And I don’t know if the corn salad added anything discernible.  Plus, by itself, the sandwich is kind of on the dry and borderline flavorless side.  Luckily I heeded the advice of ML’s early adopters, who suggested asking for extra sauce on the side. Once you pour on the hot sauce, and extra “jambalaya” sauce, the whole thing comes together to make a really tasty sandwich.  They also give you a good amount of fish for the $9 price tag (even though catfish is admittedly not very expensive, relative to other fish).  On the negative side, it appears as if they toast the buns and cook the fish in advance of the lunchtime rush, so depending on your timing your sandwich may or may not be super hot… but even with lukewarm fish and cold bread, I rather enjoyed the thing.

Will it transport you to “the bayou”?  No.  Is it a good Midtown sandwich, that I would get again?  Most definitely.

Certe, 20 W 55th St. (btw. 5+6th), New York, NY 10019, 212-397-2020


  • I humbly disagree, and posted my comments to the contrary on this site yesterday. The catfish was moist, generous and cooked to a perfect doneness. The blackening spices were piquant without being dominating. The aioli/corn/lettuce were fresh and supported the blackened fish. Finally the roll was lightly toasted, so it was a bit crispy. I had my Bayou delivered. It arrived ten minutes after I called in my order (a distance of two blocks) and was still warm. Like the Monkees, I’m a believer.

  • I’m a believer that Famdoc’s post above is a total shill! Take your “piquant” and stick in your “perfect doneness”…

  • thanks for that kind feedback. no, it’s not a shill. i don’t work in the food business.

  • “piquant”, you type that with your pinkie extended?

  • It sure does read like a shill, even if it isn’t one….Regardless, I think the pic of the food looks great, even if it doesn’t taste as good as it looks…Very hearty!

  • famdoc, you are Ben Shiller passing through Shilladelphia in the Shill of the Night.

  • Tough crowd…

  • Just had the Bayou from Certe that I ordered via Seamless at 2:30pm. Overall ? Very nice!
    My fish is juicy and I can taste the blackening spice. I agree that the corn is not really a needed addition since it all falls out of the sandwich. I can smell the grill on the bun (yummy, reminds me of summer and the bbq) so I can assume it was made to order. The aioli sauce is really good (even though they didn’t give me the extra sauce I asked for)! So, I’d say the reviewer should try it again. I thought the Thanksgiving Dip was tasteless (except for the overwhelming taste of cranberries) so I say the Bayou is a vast improvement. Definately worth a try!!!

  • Sorry… I think my review came off as sounding worse than I meant. I think the sandwich tastes awesome. I loved it… and would totally go back for it.

    I also didn’t mean to make it sound as if the fish was dry… it wasn’t. I just thought the kind of bread they were using makes the whole thing a tad bit dry without the sauce.

    Finally, the whole point was just about expectations. I went with two other people… one wanted to be able to taste more of the blackened fish flavor (which as one commenter noted, does not dominate the sandwich), and another person I went with expected it to be like a po’boy… and it’s not. My point was, go expecting a tasty fish sandwich, and you won’t be disappointed.

  • I’ m sorry, my friend. This place is a nightmare. So small and disorganized. You have to do this dance with everybody else “Where’s the line?” “Did you order?” “Who’s next?” It takes 10-15 minutes for your order and it’s usually wrong. As for the food, please Zach. The T-Day Dip was not up to snuff. The chutney was too tart and the gravy salty. But I do above of the stuffing. Your duck sandwich is king on the challenge.

  • Just had the Bayou sandwich for lunch. Fish, sauce, etc was quite decent, BUT the dry, stale, cooked yesterday- toasted this morning, cardboard by lunchtime roll ruined the whole thing. I eventually resorted to eating the components with a fork and ditching that inedible round object.
    On the other hand I had a slice of their pizza which was quite tatsy!

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