All photos by Liz Barclay (@liz_barclay)

There is much joy to be found in the simplicity of a sandwich. As kids, we enjoyed brown-bagging a tuna fish or PB&J. Now that we’re grown-ass adults (sort of), we can appreciate the transformative power of a great sandwich—one crafted from top-notch ingredients, with a sensible ratio of bread to filling and a studied balance of flavor and texture.

To grasp the nuances of what makes a transcendent sandwich, we went to the pros. Gil Calderon and Ben Turley, of Meat Hook Sandwich in Williamsburg, shared their secrets to sandwich enlightenment. Draw from these Holy Standards, then go forth and forge your own sandwich-making traditions.

1. Care about the bread.

“You’re going to be stacking this sandwich (unless you’re stuck in the days of PBJ’s) with rich, juicy, and possibly fatty meats and vegetables. You’ll need a bread that can take the punishment you’re going to dish out.”

2. When it comes to meat, don’t be cheap.

“It’s not just there because it should or could be. Meat is there to add flavors that are impossible otherwise, so make sure those flavors count.”


3. Just because you love meat, don’t make your sandwich all about meat.

“You should know better than that. Don’t think of your sandwich as a Beyoncé, think of it as a Destiny’s Child.”

4. Always have vegetables.

“Sliced thin, roasted, marinated, fried, whatever you want—just make sure they’re invited to the party.”

5. Vinegar.

“Maybe it’s just me, but if you don’t have a vinegar-y something on your sandwich, I’m just not that interested. Vinegar helps to cut through the fat of your meats and adds brightness to your sandwich.”


6. Add something crispy if possible.

“This can be anything: lettuce, marinated veg, or—like in our Roast Beef sandwich—it can be fried potatoes. Anything so that you’re adding to the textural balance of the sandwich.”

7. Be aware of your layering.

“You want flavors to hit your tongue in a specific order. How a sandwich tastes is a reflection of layering as well as flavors.”

8. Don’t ever look down on mayonnaise.

“That’s it. We’re done here.”

9. Personal Preference Alert

“You can put savory with sweet, but you can’t put sweet with savory. A sandwich is a meal, not a dessert, so it’s savory by nature. Keep your fig jams, apple slices, or other sweet concoctions on the shelf for this one.”

10. If you want a sandwich, eat a sandwich.

“Otherwise, eat a salad.”

meat-hook-sandwiches_48Visit Meat Hook Sandwich at 495 Lorimer St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-302-4665)