I’ve been wanting to check out The Smile for a while now but haven’t gotten around to it. I did, however, finally make it to their take away outpost Smile To Go. It’s close to my office and always has delicious sounding sandwiches and salads. It was busy when I got there at 12:15 but not crazy and the line moves quickly. This is probably because their sandwich selections (which are updated daily, though seem to always be the same) are pre-made. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as I found out. They also roast their own chicken, make their own salads and have generally tasty looking pastries available. I had trouble deciding what to get but made a last second decision to go with the mini maple bacon sandwich with a side of their kale salad.
Kale with pickled apples
Delicious indeed. The kale salad comes with pickled apple slices and light coat of vinegar and olive oil. Very simple and refreshing, especially on a beautiful summer day like today. It was exactly what I was hoping for. It tasted very…green and fresh. That’s the best way to put it.
The mini maple bacon sandwich has frisee and date mayo on an itty bitty buttery bun. Did you like that alliteration? You can never go wrong with a bacon sandwich and this was one was a solid choice. It’s small enough so you don’t feel gross for eating a sandwich almost entirely comprised of fatty meat but just enough so that you feel satisfied. I’d definitely say you need one of their side salads or a pastry to go with it though. Not quite enough for a full lunch. At only $4 it was worth every cent.
Last week on a rainy, disgusting, but warm Tuesday, my mom came into the city to get lunch with me and do some Christmas shopping. I got to show her my office and the Courthouse. All very exciting things. I decided to take her to Caffe Falai on Lafayette St., which I had been wanting to try for a while. There were two other branches of this restaurant on the LES but both have closed. When we walked in at noon it was nearly empty and the waiters and management were speaking Italian to each other – always a good sign in my opinion. The space is clean and welcoming and once they got cooking it smelled heavenly.
They start you out with a good bread basket and even better olive oil. It was peppery and fragrant, just asking to be soaked up by their fresh bread. We each ordered a panini. My mom went with the tuna, which looked delish. The bread was crusty and crispy on the outside but broke apart easily so that the innards didn’t squish and fall all over the place – that has to be my biggest pet peeve when eating a sandwich. Don’t you just hate when the stuff inside slips out the sides? Drives me nuts.
I went with the mortadella panini, which came with a truffle robiola type cheese. I can’t remember the exact cheese and it’s not on their menu online. Oh well. It was delicious. They did not skimp on the cheese or the meat. The truffle taste was mild but that was good because it was already a pretty rich sandwich. It came on the same bread as the tuna panini.
I’d love to come back here sometime and try out their pastas and other offerings. Their breakfast menu also looks quite good.
I know, I write about sandwiches a lot on here. I can’t help it. I love them. And they love me. Which is why the Sandwich a Day column at Serious Eats is my favorite blog ever. A different sandwich in NYC every day? Count me in. I frequently use the column to find decent places to eat around my office and recently I stumbled across their post about Bluebird Sky. I was intrigued because it’s ridiculously close to where I work and I had never seen it before.
Bluebird Sky feels like it should be on a bustling trendy corner somewhere in the West Village but instead it’s on a deserted street on the edge of Chinatown and SoHo. It’s light, spacious, and the perfect place to spend your afternoon with some food, coffee, and a good book. I’ve only been there twice now but I don’t think this place gets real busy, which makes it very relaxing – something that you don’t often find in Manhattan. A cute place, with good food, that isn’t jam-packed with people 24 hours a day? This could be a gem!
Sausage & Broccoli Rabe
The first time I went I ordered the sandwich with sausage and broccoli rabe. I had high hopes for this. I love the sausage and broccoli rabe combo and they made everything to order. I watched them cook up the sausage, heat the broccoli rabe with some garlic, real pepperoncini, and olive oil and lovingly place it on a delicious looking roll. However, by the time I got back to my office (a 5 minutes walk) the sandwich was totally soggy. UGH. Such a disappointment. The bread did not stand up to the fillings at all. I assume this wouldn’t have happened if I had eaten the sandwich at the shop but I still expect better from any place that offers take out. The sausage and broccoli rabe were decent, they didn’t blow me away but I’m sure part of that was how let down I was by that soggy bread.
Mozzarella & Avocado sandwich
Moving on. I went back to give this place another shot because it seems too good to pass up. This time I went with the mozzarella sandwich. Winner. It comes with avocado, red onion, and a light vinaigrette. The mozz was creamy, with a slight saltiness and the avocado was perfectly ripe. It’s a pretty mellow sandwich, flavor wise, but it all comes together so well. I just kept thinking “I dont’ want this sandwich to end.” Each sandwich also comes with a lightly dressed salad. It’s a nice touch but nothing special.
They also have some really tasty looking breakfast options here. Perhaps one morning when I have some extra time I’ll check it out on my way to work.
I recently discovered that August is National Panini Month aka my favorite month ever. Sandwiches and pasta make up my 2 main food groups as I could live off of them and never get bored. Funny story – when my older brother came back from studying abroad in Italy he started calling me panini, for reasons unknown. “What’s a panini???” I asked. “It’s a sandwich.” “Why are you calling me a sandwich?!” After that I was a little distrustful of the panini but that changed once I got to Italy and realized how wonderful they were.
Despana Store Front
Ok, so technically the sandwiches at Despaña are bocadillos, not paninis, but they’re essentially just the spanish version. I had heard that Despaña made a mean sandwich and had been looking for a reason to go check it out. The store is on Broome between Cleveland and Lafayette in SoHo – close enough for me to walk from my office. Along with their bocadillos, they serve salads, soups, tapas, flautas, etc and sell Spanish cheese and charcuterie. It’s an awesome store. They have free samples out of almost everything they sell and the people who work there are extremely friendly and helpful.
The first bocadillo I tried was their namesake Despaña. It’s made with serrano ham, goat cheese, and a tomato-garlic spread on a ciabatta roll. I thought the sandwich as a whole was pretty good but I had a few complaints. The ciabatta was a bit chewy and could be tough to rip through and the serrano ham didn’t have as much flavor as I had expected. The sandwich was definitely dominated by the goat cheese, which was extra tangy. I love goat cheese but I also like to be able to taste the other things in the sandwich. I guess I’m used to salty prosciutto and that’s why I thought the serrano fell a bit flat. Regardless, I enjoyed the sandwich but I wasn’t totally blown away by it.
Since my first bocadillo wasn’t a huge success I figured I had to go back and try another. This time I went for the Quijote, which was made with lomo embuchado (dry cured pork loin), manchego, and sweet quince spread on a ciabatta. Again, the ciabatta crust was a bit chewy but this sandwich impressed me. It was really delicious. The salty manchego and pork played perfectly against the sweet quince. Salty and sweet things are always a good match. By the end of the sandwich though, the sweet did become a little much but I’m not complaining.
I really like this place and I’d like to try more of their bocadillos and perhaps some of their other offerings. I’ll have to do an updated review once I try more of their food.
Some of the vendors on Broadway & Liberty
Street food and food trucks are huge here in NYC. Trucks have their own twitter feeds, die-hard followers, websites dedicated to discussion of these trucks, annual awards for food vendors, etc. So you can see that we have a bit of an obsession here. Street meat, along with the dirty water dogs, are the original food cart vendors. There are hundreds of these carts all throughout NYC – just check out Midtown Lunch’s review of them. The food is Middle Eastern in origin and taste, much like shawarma or gyros, but not served in sandwich form (though you can get it that way).
I was a relative street meat novice, having eaten plenty of shawarma abroad but never having ventured out to eat the street meat here in NYC. Clearly that was a mistake on my part. Rick finally took me to the vendor he goes to during lunch to teach me the ways of the street meat. We both work down in the Financial District so we hit up the food carts on Broadway between Liberty and Cedar. The cart Rick goes to doesn’t have a name but it was reviewed on Midtown Lunch (apparently this guy doesn’t work there anymore though).
Lamb & Chicken Platter
Rick ordered the lamb and chicken platter, which comes served over rice with the white sauce and hot sauce and a soda. It is a lot of food. You could probably make this into 2 lunches and for $6 that’s a pretty great deal.
Lamb & Chicken in the pita
Despite the dire warnings that I would end up with meat and sauce all over myself if I ordered the sandwich, I decided to go for it anyway. After all, Rick had ordered the platter and we couldn’t technically get the same thing! The lamb and chicken come doused with white sauce and hot sauce in a pita wrapped in tin foil…the tin foil is the only thing holding together this beautiful mess of food. And it is messy but totally worth it. The hot sauce is SPICY. If you don’t like spicy food do not get the hot sauce! Seriously. My lips were on fire. Still, it was one of the more enjoyable lunches I’ve had recently. The meat is tender and flavorful. The sandwich also comes with a soda but is only $5. Can’t really make 2 meals out of this one though – you just gotta eat it all before it falls apart.
Midtown is more known for its street meat than downtown but I’ll be hitting this food cart up again sometime soon.