Swich’s ‘wiches Are a Notch Above the Rest
When I encounter restaurants that are trying to be cool, I usually turn and run for the hills. Fancy fonts, aggressive graphic designs, and cutely-named dishes are big red flags in my book, and I have a general rule that the more bells and whistles a restaurant has on its website, the worse its food is going to be. If you’re spending time on Flash animating a dancing cat in a chef’s hat rather than on perfecting your food, you need to get out of the restaurant business.
So by all rights Swich on Maiden Lane near Gold Street should have scared me off. The design screams “WE ARE A TRENDY PLACE TO GET A SANDWICH!” The menu offers “Deconstructed” sandwiches instead of salads. The website features a cartoon history of the place. Danger, Will Robinson!
But “the exception proves the rule,” as idiots are fond of saying. Despite the worrisome signs, Swich delivers interesting and well-made food that’s worth checking out.
Let me head off the irate comments at the digital pass: Swich is pricey. If a $6.75 grilled cheese is going to give you indigestion, don’t bother. Sandwiches here start at $5.95 and go as high as $8.95. The sandwiches are creative and the quality is very high, but I know some people just won’t pay these prices. And I understand that. Just don’t say you haven’t been warned.
The part of the menu that doesn’t contain the prices is pretty delightful. There are some interesting choices like the Casablanca (smashed chickpeas, roasted red pepper, watercress and eggplant-mint spread on wheat) or the karate chicken (roast chicken in karate sauce with chopped carrots and slivered almonds on French bread). I have no idea what karate sauce is, but it sounds pretty good to me. In addition to these, the more traditional sandwiches all have that extra ingredient — apples, fresh herbs, olive tapenade, etc. — that separate the men from the boys in the world of sandwiches.
I said the quality is very high and I meant it. For my sandwich, I had the Trojan Horse ($8.75), which was ground lamb with tomato, tzatziki, and fresh mint on rosemary focaccia. I kid you not, I did one of those first bite double-takes that actors do in food commercials to indicate how good something is. The ground lamb tasted like it had just been cooked, the tzatziki seemed just-made, and the focaccia was perfect. All Swich sandwiches are grilled in a panini press, and mine was hot throughout and had that perfect crunchy exterior. Sandwich nirvana.
Everything else I had was great as well. Sandwiches come with a small cup of edamame dressed in lemon and mint. It’s not a tough dish to pull off well, but it’s so good that I made it myself at home the next day. It really is a small cup and so doesn’t do much to mitigate the prices, but it’s nice that they thought of something more creative than just tossing in a lousy shrink-wrapped pickle. Plus they give you one of those tiny ice cream-tasting spoons to eat it with. I know it’s weird, but I love those things.
I also splurged on a bag of Swich’s homemade sweet potato chips. At $1.95 a bag, they’re comparable to any other potato chips you find around here, only WAY better. I’ve got to assume they make them daily, because they really are homemade, and I don’t think they could last much longer than that. They are oily and salty, but in a really good way. Definitely a thumbs up, and I’d consider stopping by just for these.
There’s regular homemade potato chips as well in case the sweet variety doesn’t do it for you, and there’s an Israeli couscous side dish that I’ll be trying on my next trip. And there will definitely be a next trip. Though the prices aren’t the best, good sandwiches are shockingly hard to find down here. The cost at Swich clearly reflects to some extent the quality of ingredients and the amount of care that goes into the food. It’s not a bargain by any means, but you get what you pay for.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- Some of the best sandwiches downtown in terms of ingredients and preparation.
- Creative ideas for sandwiches and some very nice touches on old standbys.
- Good options for sides that are as well thought-out and prepared as the sandwiches.
- Free edamame!
THE — (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- Too expensive, end of story.
- They’re trying a little too hard with the design, cute names, etc.
- I hate panini and want my sandwich cold on untoasted bread, which Swich doesn’t offer. (Note — I haven’t actually asked if you can get any of the panini untoasted, but there are no “regular” sandwiches on the menu at all.
Swich, 83 Maiden Lane @ Gold St., 212-809-9800