Photos by Liz Barclay (@liz_barclay)
From early morning pick-me-ups (bodega bacon, egg, and cheese), to late-night drunk food (sloppy, over-sized parms), New York is a bonafide sandwich town. And with its laundry list of old-school Italian delis and burgeoning Hispanic communities—who have brought, among other things, cemitas and pernil on fried plantains to the table—the Bronx is no exception. While the borough’s most famous sandwich may be one very excellent eggplant parm, it’s hardly the best in the game. Here, our list of must-eat sandwiches of the Bronx, from a simple, mozzarella-centric hero on Arthur Avenue, to a Poblano spot that serves exceptional carnitas.
Loeser’s Old Fashioned Kosher Deli
Adress and phone: 214 W 231st St (718-601-6665)
Good for: A window into the Bronx’s past
Back in the day, Kosher delis dotted the Bronx, once known as “the Jewish borough,” like freckles on a sunburnt face. But these days, there are just two left: Liebbman’s in Riverdale and Loeser’s, the city’s oldest continuously operated Kosher deli, in Kingsbridge. Both are among the city’s best—despite the fact that they’re often left out of the conversation—but the pastrami at Loeser’s takes the knish. Fredy, who opened the place as a doughnut shop with bar mitzah money more than 50 years ago, still mans the counter and cuts his cured meats. Served on rye from New Jersey’s Certified Bakery, with just a smear of sharp mustard, the meat is tender and spicy, and it will bring you right back to the days of egg creams and soda jerks.
Order this: Pastrami on rye
Casa della Mozzarella
Address and phone: 604 E 187th St (718-364-3867)
Good for: Squeezing into a sardine can of a store for a Sicilian immigrant’s famous mozzarella, stretched by hand
New York is the city of the overstuffed sandwiches, and nowhere is that more clear than in our delis. So it might come off as sacrilege to declare that the best sandwich on Arthur Avenue, one of the city’s great deli streets, is one of restraint. But it’s true. This hero is really just a vehicle for Casa’s irresistibly creamy, hand-pulled mozzarella, one of the borough’s great treasures. Cut into thick slabs, it’s stuffed between crusty, seeded bread from nearby Addeo, with a generously thick layer of fatty prosciutto, and just enough herbaceous olive oil. Anything more—some banana peppers, say, or sun-dried tomatoes—would just get in the way.
Order this: Mozzarella and prosciutto
Greco’s (a.k.a., Mike’s Deli)
Address and phone: 2344 Arthur Ave (718-295-5033)
Good for: Gruff, sometimes abrasive deli men in a LaGuardia-era market, shilling soppressata and an eggplant parm that shook up Bobby Flay
A deli of the classic order, Greco’s (né Mike’s) is most famous for its eggplant parm, which emerged victorious in a vicious Throwdown! with Bobby Flay. It’s excellent—not leaden and greasy, but surprisingly light and lively. You’d think that it would take the cake (it’s a winner if you’re red sauce or die), but there is an even better sandwich here: the Italian combo. Second-generation owner Mike Greco has taken the over-the-top staple of the Italian deli and one-upped it. What you’ll get is a pirate’s chest of meats (mortadella, ham, salami, capicolo) and mozzarella with lettuce and, if you’re doing it right, hot cherry peppers. Even when you order it as a roll, it’s a hulking behemoth of a sandwich, a delicious frenzy of salty cured meats that will make you question whether you really know what an overstuffed sandwich is all about.
Order this: The Yankee Stadium
Carnitas El Atoradero
Address and phone: 800 E 149th St (718-292-7949)
Good for: Homespun Poblano favorites from a cook who is willing to travel thousand of miles for the right herbs
This tiny Melrose restaurant has made a name for specials like albondigas en chipotle and a smoky mole poblano, but it makes a mean sandwich, too. Being Poblano, the chef naturally specializes in cemitas, a sandwich of meat, avocado, beans with chipotle, and more layers stuffed between slices of the eggy, namesake roll. At El Atoradero, you’ll want to get the carnitas it built its name on. These are not the shredded, pull pork-esque carnitas New Yorkers are used to, but cubes of succulent meat. It’s a big sandwich packed with creamy beans and enough vinegary heat to stand out far from the pack.
Order this: Cemita con carnitas (Photo: Chris Crowley)
Address and phone: 252 E 167th Street (718-681-4015)
Good for: Super cheap eats before a Yankees game in a no-frills environment
You probably don’t think of Jamaican food when you day dream about sandwiches. But then you probably haven’t heard of the classic carbo-loading dish of split coco bread stuffed with a patty. At this ramshackle bakery just off the Grand Concourse, you’ll find the hands-down most delicious patties in the borough. While many patties have dry and unsettlingly smooth, these flaky pastries have chunky fillings laced with strips of fruity, invigorating habanero. Soft and fluffy coco bread makes the ideal foil to all that heat, and it’ll fill you up for a dime on the dollar.
Order this: Chicken patty and coco bread
Bonus: Seis Vecinos
Address and phone: 812 E 149th St (718-684-8604)
Good for: A low-key meal of Central American specialties in the heart of the Bronx’s Honduran community
Honduras’s signature snack, the baleada, is something like a cross between a quesadilla and burrito. (Being a single tortilla wrapped around a filling, it’s not legally a sandwich but, for the sake of deliciousness, give us a break.) At Seis Vecino, a low-key and homey neighborhood spot in Melrose, they make thick, chewy wheat order tortillas. There are several options available, but the best is the original and most basic. All it takes is an ample but not overwhelming smear of refried black beans, some tangy sour cream, and a dose of salty, pungent queso duro, a Parmigianino-like cheese.
Order this: Baleada Regular