In search of the perfect sandwich

Not to be all Joey from Friends, but I love sandwiches. I would not go so far as to say that they’re my favorite food–that distinction is reserved for pierogi and Velveeta shells and cheese–but I do love them so. The sandwich is the ultimate food item, as it is relatively portable, self-contained, delicious, and also affords a great opportunity for flavor combination, which I love. There are people in the world, people I know, who don’t let different foods touch on their plates. I am not one of those people. I love mixing foods to achieve ultimate taste combinations, and a sandwich is a relatively easy way to do that.

I actually have a Favorite Sandwich Of All Time. I discovered it sort of haphazardly two years ago while I was living in Chicago, going to grad school at the U of C, and working as an intern at Ivan R. Dee, a small literary nonfiction publisher on the North Side. Several of my fellow interns were U of C classmates of mine, including Mike. Mike is a vegetarian, and one day he came upstairs from lunch with what looked like a delicious sandwich. I was all, “What is that and where did you get it?” He told me it was a veggie sandwich from the bakery downstairs, so at the next opportunity I went down and got my own. I ate them consistently for five months, tried with limited success to recreate them at home, and have been on the search for a similarly delicious sandwich ever since.

The Best Veggie Sandwich Ever (TM) is comprised of this:

fresh avocado slices
shredded lettuce
shredded carrots
swiss or provolone cheese
Dijonnaise (mayonnaise and Dijon mustard combo)
all served on a whole wheat roll baked fresh that morning, toasted in the oven

The thing that was interesting about this place was that it was just a bakery, not really a sandwich shop, that specialized mostly in cakes (of the large and cup variety), cookies, and various other confections. It’s almost always empty but for the woman who owns it and various female family members, so it doesn’t always look open when it is. They only seem to do lunch to capitalize on the fact that there aren’t very many good places to grab a bite between meetings right there in that part of the city, and they usually have prepared salads and soups as well as sandwiches. It’s pretty easy to get to, just a few blocks away from the North/Clybourn station on the Red Line. The bakery is called Work of Art Cakes, and as you can see from the Yelp link I just provided that I’m not the only one enthralled with this bakery, and those sandwiches. I’m planning on going to Chicago over MLK weekend, and I want to come in on Thursday night so that I can have Friday to go uptown and get a sandwich at Work of Art.

But because I can’t go to Chicago as often as I’d like, I conducted a search for a replacement sandwich. Despite all the sandwich options in New York, no one really comes close to providing such deliciousness, BUT, I’ve found a way to alter the Lenny’s #11 Veggie Special to suit my particular needs. It’s a little complicated, so I had to write it down on a Post-It just to keep it all straight when I order at the counter. This is how I do it:

#11 Veggie Special
no cabbage
no sprouts
no sweet peppers
no honey mustard

swiss cheese
Dijon mustard

on a whole wheat roll, with the bread toasted and cheese melted (you have to ask them to do this)

I usually supplement what always turns out to be less mustard than I need with my own store-bought Dijonnaise. What’s nice about the Lenny’s sandwich is that the avocado is so fresh and perfectly ripe. It’s hard to come by really good avocado in New York, for obvious reasons like geography and climate, but living in California for eight years spoiled me. The only thing lacking, really, is the bread. For some reason, the Work of Art Cakes version was so compact, and the bread was the perfect size and shape to contain the deliciousness that strained to burst forth. (Why is this post sounding more and more like a romance novel with every sentence? I’m not even hungry!) The Lenny’s whole wheat roll is not nearly large or sturdy enough to withstand all the goodness within, but you take what you can get. This is a pretty good approximation of the Best Veggie Sandwich Ever (TM), and I’ve eaten it many times since Lenny’s opened a store near my work.

Welcome to my life! Yes, it really is this boring.

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