NYC Sandwich Showdown: Nicky’s Classic Banh Mi vs Puebla’s Torta Milanese de Pollo

Date 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…

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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.

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Nicky’s Banh Mi

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Puebla’s Torta

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.

Value: Push

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.

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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.

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Sandwich Showdown Winner: Puebla’s Torta Milanese de Pollo


nyc-food-guy-dot-com-011Puebla  Mexican Food & Coffee Shop

47 1st Avenue b/t 2nd & 3rd Street (Google map)
New York, NY 10003
212-473-6643
Open until 12AM everyday, no minimum for delivery

nyc-food-guy-dot-com-nickys-vietnameseNicky’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

24 Responses to “NYC Sandwich Showdown: Nicky’s Classic Banh Mi vs Puebla’s Torta Milanese de Pollo”

  1. michele said:

    As much as I’d love to try the Vietnamese sammich, I can’t stomach surprise chunks of fat. The Puebla sammich sounds really good and this makes me want to go there to try it out. It sounds safer, for me.

    Good game.

  2. BBQ said:

    This is a first: using the word “inedible” to describe a piece of fat?? After the Daisy Mae’s review, I was sure you never met a piece of fat you didn’t like. There’s hope for us all.

  3. FN said:

    Nicky’s has a branch on Atlantic Ave in Brooklyn (at least I’m thinking these are the same company) and I didn’t much care for their Bahn Mi. Hanco’s is only a block away – that’s my go-to neighborhood Bahn Mi shop.

    Got a short write-up here:

    http://pufflist.blogspot.com/2008/10/hancos.html

    In that post I have a link to other Bahn Mi spots – though I have yet to try a lot of them. The one that everyone keeps telling me to check out is in Ba Xuyen in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Haven’t been there yet – anyone out there have feedback on that spot?

  4. AG said:

    NYCFG, nice showdown. Nicky’s is good, but there are so many better options in Chinatown. Check out Vietnam Banh Mi So 1 ( http://always-eating.blogspot.com/2008/10/quick-eat-viet-nam-banh-mi-so-1.html ). Got to love the Banh Mi’s, cheap, filling and delicious. I wish they were more scattered throughout town, although Baoguette (an okay spot) just opened up near Madison Sq. Park.

  5. Adam said:

    Great, now I have to get a torta for lunch!

  6. Zeitgeisty said:

    You are a brave man… I’ve passed those places by a million times without even a thought of trying em’ out… They’re not the cleanest looking establishments in the east vill…

  7. Nick said:

    You must try Michael Bao’s new Banh Mi sandwich shop called Baoguette on 25th st. and Lexington. It’s much better than Nicky’s. They have a spicy catfish that is out of this world. Try it!

  8. Susie said:

    Nicky’s all the way!

  9. Susie said:

    Next time don’t get the Bahn Mi spicy – and get the Chicken Bahn Mi!

  10. FN said:

    Nick and AG – went to Baoguette for lunch today after reading your posts. These guys are scrambling and were not quite able to handle the big crowd that was there at 1:30pm. They couldn’t keep up with the orders and were making a lot of mistakes. In fact, I ordered a bbq chicken but found out when I got back to my office that they had mistakenly given me the one with pork terrine, pate and pulled pork. I didn’t like it – but then again, I wouldn’t have ordered that anyway.

    I will give them another shot though. The sandwich was super-spicy – the way I like them.

  11. fivefingerfeast said:

    I can’t believe I used to live around the corner from both of these places and never tried the sandwiches! Does Nicky’s make any without pork that are worth trying? Puebla is awesome. I used to rely on them for a sure shot hangover cure: authentic huevos rancheros with blackbeans and salsa verde. They open at 6am or something. You’ll never have an excuse to be late to work again!

  12. lickety said:

    it’s banh mi, not autoBAHN mi, food guy

  13. The NYC Food Guy said:

    michele,
    The Puebla “sammich” really is awesome. There’s a chicken banh mi as well that may be tastier than the pork, if you’re hankering to try a banh mi. Where are some sandwiches you absolutely love?

    BBQ,
    Point well taken. I think you’ve done some damage in your time as well if my memory serves me correctly?

    FN,
    I’ve only had a banh mi at Nicky’s in the East Village. I’m definitely game to check out the spot you’re talking about in Sunset Park. I’m planning on hitting the area in the next month or so with AG (below) for a taco tour, maybe you want to come along and we can check out the untested banh mi spot.

    AG,
    Thanks for the heads up. I’ve heard great things about that spot, particularly on Serious Eats.

    Adam,
    Did you end up getting a torta for lunch? If so, where did you go?

    Zeitgeisty,
    Sometimes you can’t judge a book by its cover.

    Nick,
    Spicy catfish, eh? That sounds pretty delicious. That’s the 2nd recommendation for Michael Bao’s spot in this comment section.

    Susie,
    Funny you say that, I actually tried the chicken and it was pretty tasty, still not better than Puebla’s torta.

    FN,
    Disappointing to hear the experience wasn’t as great as it was for others. You’ve got the right idea, however, giving them another chance especially since they’re really blowing up now.

    fivefingerfeast,
    Breakfast is next on my list at Puebla! Great value in regard to portion and price. What else have you had at Puebla? I had the chicken mole poblano platter for $8.50 the other day, it spread over the course of two filling dinners. Strongly recommend it.

    lickety,
    Wow, great catch. That’s embarassing. Thanks for your help.

  14. Gilda MacDonald said:

    I nominate the FOODGUY for the Food Netwrok. Look out Guy Fieri!

  15. FN said:

    I posted about Baoguette if anyone is interested. It was pretty comical actually.

    http://pufflist.blogspot.com/2009/02/baoguette-manhattan.html

  16. Before Sunrise said:

    Gilda, I am with you on that 100%!!!

  17. wich said:

    Nickys is fantastic, I agree. I’ll have to head down to Puebla and give that a spin. Thanks NYFG!

  18. Alex said:

    damn that torta looks good. i miss good mexican food from san diego.

  19. Evan said:

    I prefer the pork chop banh mi at Nickys to the other sandwiches. The only thing that would make it more perfect is if were just a smidge bigger.

  20. Inclined to Create » Blog Archive » NYC loves their banh mi said:

    [...] can’t seem to stop writing, blogging, eating and blogging and writing about the beloved banh [...]

  21. Al the food machine said:

    I’ve tried both these places and nicky’s win hands down. How dare anyone criticize eaterys. You guys don’t get paid to be critics. So everyone stop trying to put down food establishments. I’ve got to know the guy(dennis) that works at nicky’s and he is very humble. I’ve waited 20 minutes one time for 2 classics and it was worth the wait, plus they were working nonstop to get it to me with over 10 customers ahead of me. People that complains about waiting for food are just idiots. Cause quicker service mean hiring more help that means HIGHER PRICES!! So just be patient with the mom and pop eating spots. And to all you phony critics just get a life and concentrate on your own business and get a real job not just posting negative comments.

  22. RC said:

    ba xuyen has the best banh mi
    list of banh mi places in nyc

  23. Chorizo breakfast tacos with potato & Huevos a la Mexicana at Puebla Mexican Food & Coffee Shop | NYC Food Guy said:

    [...] Related: NYC Sandwich Showdown: Puebla’s Fried Chicken Torta vs Nicky’s Vietnamese Banh … Puebla Mexican Food & Coffee Shop 47 1st Ave near 3rd Street  New York, NY 10003 212-473-6643  $10 Minimum for Delivery Open Mon. – Fri. 7AM-11PM, Sat. 7AM-12AM, Sun. 10AM-12AM [...]

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