City Sandwich Brings Portuguese Awesomeness to Midtown West
I first got word of a new Portuguese inspired café, unassumingly named “City Sandwich” (on 9th Ave btw 45+46th St) via Eater this week. With the temporary incapacitation of Xie Xie, there is again a sore gap in Hells Kitchen for ethnic sandwiches, so ‘Portuguese sandwiches’ required immediate investigation.
There’s a lot to like about the humble honesty of this place – whether it’s the inviting Ikea-esque décor, their quirky mantra of “No Mayonnaise” (they prefer yogurt), or their kaleidoscopic menu of soups, salads, and 20 different sandwiches, each playfully named after a friend or family member of the Chef/Owner. Lest we not judge a book by its cover, underneath this demure appearance is some serious cooking and ambitious food… well worth traveling a bit out of bounds for.
The Chef and Owner, Michael Guerrieri, has spent over 10 years living in Europe, first acquiring Italian cooking techniques in Naples, which eventually translated to opening an Italian restaurant in Lisbon, Portugal. Appropriately, the menu at City Sandwich is heavily influenced by Portugal, boosted with Italian flavors here and there. Portuguese proteins such as paio (pork sausage), morcella (blood sausage), alheira (chicken sausage), and bacalao (salt cod) make an appearance on the menu. For the unadventurous, there are family friendly meat and cheese options – roast beef, turkey, ham, mozzarella, and the like.
I first sampled the ‘Chef’ sandwich ($9.75), which is constructed around bacalao, and is obviously the pride of the restaurant given its lofty moniker. The first bite into the crispy, crackly Portuguese roll left a light dusting of flour on my finger tips, and a content smile on my face. Bacalao, one of the treasured national food staples of Portugal, is reconstituted salt cured dried cod and sports an assertively salty, fishy flavor, and a tender, almost fluffy flesh. In the hands of an expert, the mummified cod goes from desiccate to delicate, and is used in a vast array of recipes. Here, this tightly edited bacalao sandwich is paired with briny capers, zippy black olive pesto, lettuce, tomatoes and onions.
I also tasted the ‘Henrique’ ($8.50), which is apportioned with smoked Alheira chicken sausage, earthy collard greens, and creamy mozzarella. I’m a devotee of the Portuguese culinary practice of pairing salty cured sausages with the bitterness of greens, caldo verde being the best example. This sandwich recreates those flavors with precision.
The ‘Pavia’ ($7.50) was perhaps the most substantial of the three sandwiches that I sampled, despite the fact that it was vegetarian. This sandwich was like an egg on a roll on ‘roids, and was packed with layers of squishy egg whites, melted brie, tender spinach and tomato. While egg sandwiches are consumed throughout the day in Portugal, I think this sandwich would have paired nicely with a morning hangover and a cup of strong black coffee.
Despite its out of bounds location, I see a lot potential in City Sandwich. It’s a worthy destination for folks who enjoy Portuguese flavors, and if anything, it’s a fine substitute for Xie Xie. I for one will certainly return – I have 3 sandwiches down and 17 more to try.
City Sandwich 649 Ninth Ave (btw. 45th & 46th st.), 646-684-3916