I’m not a big sandwich person (more of a noodle soup girl), but this past weekend, all I ate were sandwiches. Not sure what happened, but when a craving hits, you just run with it. And I’m glad I did, because I think I just discovered a contender to my favorite downtown sandwich, Katz’s pastrami on rye.
But before I get to my new possible favorite, let’s talk about Cemita’s. Cemita’s is a vendor from Smorgasburg that is currently at Whole Foods on Bowery until the 20th of this month. (Whole Foods has a partnership with Smorgasburg where each month a select vendor will be taking over the former Italian food station in the café area upstairs.) As the name might suggest, the specialty is cemitas (Mexican sandwiches originating from Puebla, Mexico), but in this case, it’s cemitas with ten layers of filling. I ordered a Cemita with carnitas ($8.27; pictured above), and it came with black bean spread, mayonnaise, pork, lettuce, tomato, pickled onions, white cheese, avocado, and chipotle spread on an eggy, sesame seed roll. Sounds like a lot, but it was actually missing one layer, papalo. According to Danny Lyu, the owner, the imported Mexican herb is hard to come by fresh and in good condition. As I hadn’t been looking out for it, I didn’t feel I was missing out on anything, so it wasn’t a big deal. What I did have issue with was that the pork was a bit bland. Extra chipotle sauce helped, but what I really wished was that I had ordered the southern fried chicken, which David had, instead of the carnitas.
David ordered the Cemita bowl ($8.27), a breadless version of the ten-layer cemita, with southern fried chicken, and it seriously made me jealous the whole time he was eating it. The breading on the fried chicken could have been crunchier, but the flavor was really nice with a peppery bite. Southern fried chicken in a cemita, or in a “cemita bowl” at that, isn’t very authentic, but that’s the beauty of what the vendors at Smorgasburg are doing: twists on classics. A lot of people are obsessed with authenticity, but I say as long as it tastes good, it’s fine with me. Even authentic food tastes like shi*t sometimes.
The next day, as is becoming the weekend tradition, I ended up at Croissanteria. Feeling a little hungrier than usual, instead of a chocolate croissant, I ordered a smoked salmon sandwich on a croissant with arugula and horseradish aioli ($11), and it completely blew my mind. There’s something about a buttery, crunchy croissant from Croissanteria with luscious smoked salmon (one of the owners’ parents own Catskill Artisan Smokehouse which is a supplier to Russ & Daughters) that contrasts so well with sharp arugula and bright, spicy horseradish aioli. You can have the smoked salmon on a baguette also, but I wouldn’t mess with perfection. The buttery croissant is key to this delicious equation.
Katz’s pastrami on rye, you have competition.