February 12, 2009
America loves a good sandwich, but in New York City, we’ve got higher expectations. In satisfying our cravings for adventure and a full stomach, the Vietnamese banh mi and the Mexican torta have risen to the forefront of sandwichdom. So to determine sandwich supremacy, NYC Food Guy called in the big guns: Nicky’s Vietnamese Sandwiches and Puebla Mexican Food & Coffee Shop. Read on to find out if the pork banh mi or the breaded chicken torta wins the sandwich showdown…
Bread: Baguette at Nicky’s Vietnamese
Good bread can make or break a sandwich and both Nicky’s and Puebla’s bread more than get the job done for their respective sandwiches. Puebla’s roll is a standard white hero which benefits from a slight crisping under the sandwich press. Nicky’s toasts a baguette until it’s crispy on the outside but light and chewy inside. Whereas Puebla’s ordinary roll couldn’t really handle the heft and volume of the banh mi’s ingredients, Nicky’s baguette would work for both and that’s why it wins in the bread category.
Nicky’s Banh Mi
Meat: Freshly Breaded & Fried Chicken Cutlet at Puebla
I love pork as much as the next carnivore but the flavor and texture of Nicky’s combo of roasted ground pork, pate and Vietnamese ham, were unimpressive. I was also turned off by the presence of a piece of inedible fat amidst the ground pork. Pubela’s freshly fried breaded chicken cutlet is a model of perfection: crispy, thin and still juicy. It’s rare that you find a freshly fried chicken cutlet on your sandwich, and for that, Puebla wins the meat category.
In regard to quality and portion size, both sandwiches are great values. Nicky’s banh mi costs $5 while Puebla’s Torta costs $5.50. Pricewise you can’t go wrong with either sandwich, hence, a push.
Construction: Puebla’s Torta
Both sandwiches look like sloppy messes and if you’re not careful, they will quickly turn into just that. There’s a method to the madness, however, when it comes to Puebla’s torta. The bottom slice of bread is spread with black beans and slices of queso blanco ( a bland white cheese texturally compareable to fresh mozzarella). The freshly fried chicken cutlet comes next followed by sliced pickled jalapenos, sliced avocado, a thin layer of iceberg lettuce, and mayo. The result is perfectly portioned flavoral and textural adventure that provides a manageable level of lingering spice and a feeling of satisfaction that leaves you just full enough.
Since it was my first time at Nicky’s, I asked the man behind the counter how he eats his banh mi. He told me extra spicy, so I followed suit. The result is a healthy helping of sliced fresh green jalapeno peppers. When I split the sandwich in half I was greeted with a tell tale sign of haphazard construction: a massive chunk of poorly sliced jalapeno, truly a time bomb lying in wait. Granted the fiery jalapeno plays nicely against the sweet carrots and cilantro, the pork takes a backseat to those three dominant flavors creating a thrown together sandwich that was tasty but not blow you away delicious.
Sandwich Showdown Winner: Puebla’s Torta Milanese de Pollo
Puebla Mexican Food & Coffee Shop47 1st Avenue b/t 2nd & 3rd Street (Google map)
New York, NY 10003 212-473-6643 Open until 12AM everyday, no minimum for delivery
Nicky’s Vietnamese Sandwiches (Website)150 East 2nd Street near Avenue A (Google map)
New York, NY 10003 212-388-1088 Open Tuesday to Saturday 12pm – 9PM, Sunday 12PM – 7PM