When the Earl of Sandwich famously requested cheese and meat betwixt slabs of bread, he surely did not guess at the great smorgasbord of diversity that would someday bear his name. From the newly chic panini (offered at respected culinary institutions such as Starbucks) to the classic corned beef Reuben (the melted Swiss, the creamy Russian--the Reuben bridges international boundaries Jimmy Carter wishes he could cross), sandwiches are a staple of American cuisine, and will remain so for quite some time.
As such, nearly every one of us has our own personal "Best Sandwich Shop." The title of "Best Sandwich" is one of the more contentious issues plaguing our society today. Husbands and wives have divorced, brother has taken up arms against brother, and countries have rained down destruction upon other lands--all because of sandwiches. Thus, I feel it is my solemn duty to inform you all of what truly is the "World's Best Sandwich."
There are many pretenders to this throne, as is obvious when taking a walk down any street in Manhattan. Tiny corner delis, all offering pastrami and provolone, routinely boast "Best Sandwich In the City" above their doorway. This, my friends, is most blatantly and egregiously incorrect. Even on the Columbia campus, there is much misconception about the sandwich quality of local establishments. There are the devotees of Hamilton Deli (West 116th St. and Amsterdam Ave.)--the subterranean home of the "Clinton" and the famous "Twister"--who claim that the HamDel makes the finest hoagie around. While there is no denying the quality of HamDel, on my list, it ranks a distant third. Coming in at number two in Morningside Heights, Subsconscious (West 119th St. and Amsterdam Ave.) presents a great range of cold subs, along with fantastic philly-cheese steaks and hamburger subs. Unfortunately, the distance from the campus body and the odd hours they are open (it seems like they are closed whenever I want dinner) drag Subsconscious' rank down.
Getting the nod as the number one sandwich place in Morningside Heights is Milano Market (West 113th St. and Broadway). While the prices are slightly higher than the other sandwich joint in the neighborhood, Milano's subs are always much larger than the other candidates', and the helpful counter staff is always willing to make you anything you dream up. Honorable mention goes out to Appletree Supermarket (West 120th St. and Broadway). The cheeseburger and the club specials are two of the best values in the area.
Unfortunately, the Columbia neighborhood sandwich purveyors still have much to learn. Titans of the genre such as Katz's Delicatessen (East Houston and Ludlow Sts.) and the Carnegie Deli (7th Ave. and West 55th St.) serve monstrous heaps of mouthwatering meats and cheese that dwarf the piddling offerings from our neighborhood shops. Yet even the famous and historic delis cannot lay claim to the aforementioned title of "World's Best Sandwich." That moniker belongs to a tiny corner deli in Queens called the Cherry Valley Deli and Grill (150th St. and 12th Rd. in Whitestone, Queens). While the 30-minute trip is impossible without access to a car, the 24-hour service facilitates study breaks at all hours of the night. Offering sandwiches with names like "Bomb" and "TLC," nary a hoagie in the shop comes without some piece of fried food. Accompanying the fantastic sandwiches, buffalo wings, chicken fingers, and delectable gravy-cheese fries can also be purchased. The patrons of this little slice of heaven run the gauntlet from New York's finest to strippers carrying rolls of one dollar bills, but have you ever seen a line stretching out the door at 3 a.m. on a Tuesday?
So I salute you, sandwich makers of the world. Continue with your craft, always striving for that perfect combination of meats, cheeses, veggies, and sauce. Let me know if you find a better sandwich than Cherry Valley--the crown of "World's Best Sandwich" will forever rest uneasily.