Sandwich Holy War at Shopsin's
CLICK FOR VOICEOVER “A top secret lunch in a city that knows how to keep recipes secret, but on the fourth floor of HQ, one man tries to find the answers to food’s persistent questions. Fry Noir, Private Eye.”
I was eating cold Chinese leftovers when she entered the office, my colleague, a food reporter known for getting a scoop. She’d come from the side of town where when it rains, hipsters don’t get wet, and when they do they look good. She was writing a story about two Shopsin’s sandwiches on the verge of holy war in the Middle Feast—the Jewboy and Jihadboy— which one was better? But there was a hitch: Kenny Shopsin.
“Everything was fine,” she said. “I was talking with Kenny about the Mets. I ordered the sandwiches and a few other dishes. He said my order was too big. When I said I was writing a story, I got the boot.”
“I want those sandwiches, Fry,” she said. “I want this scoop.”
This wasn’t a solo job. I called my friend, Maryse Chevrière.
We needed pictures for the story. But how? It’s an open restaurant with nowhere to hide or sneak a picture. We knew Kenny could blow. Maryse met me at the restaurant with a plan, “We’ll split up, order individually and take them to go.”
If not we’d each eat half. Smuggle the other halves out. Maryse went first, “Do you guys do take out?”
“No. Get in line.”
The server was gruff, like he’d spent too many winters in Lake Woebegone. Seated, Maryse ordered the Jewboy. Pulled beef brisket. Grilled onions. Swiss. Hot or mild. Fourteen smackers. The thought was on her face, like eggs in a pan on low just beginning to scramble. She was figuring how to smuggle her sandwich. I was seated in the corner. I ordered the Jihadboy. Beef. Pomegranate. Olive. Sheep Feta. Pistachio. Tahini. Thirteen big ones.
Kenny patrolled the floor like a great white that could smell chum. The Jewboy was set before Maryse. She didn’t want trouble. She bit into it. Joy washed over her face. She asked for the check and when the change came she said innocently, “I have to run, would you think I was nuts if I took the other half to eat on the go?” The server shrugged his shoulders. She wrapped it in a napkin and rushed past Kenny.
Jihadboy arrived. It was warm and moist enough to use the word ‘moist,’ even though every baker in this town tells me they hate it. The beef was finely shredded. Soft, salty, sweet and juicy, like a Stroganoff jus if there could be such a thing. There were pockets of tangy cheese and crunchy pistachios. You felt like you were eating a French dip sandwich without the mess. I paid the check. Kenny eyed me suspiciously. Maybe it was just my nerves. I wrapped the second half in a napkin, put it in my coat pocket and left.
Outside, Maryse and I traded sandwiches. The shredded meat was tender and juicy, the sauce well-mixed throughout. There was a dark sauce. A little sweet. A little smokey. A little tangy. Maybe molasses? Caramelized onions had nicely charred edges. Soft, sweet, practically candy. Swiss was a subtle choice, its oozing gooeyness adding more to the overall texture than the taste. And the bread. Fresh, chewy, and supremely satisfying.
There was no winner. We took pictures and got them to back to HQ. The next day’s headline:
PEACE IN THE MIDDLE FEAST!