The Picnic Basket

 65 W 37th St. New York, NY10018 • (212) 382-262 • thepicnicbasketnyc.com
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The name is about the only thing charming about this place, so don’t be fooled. It’s nothing more than a galley lined with a few tables on each side that funnel you towards a counter flanked by refrigerator cases and menu boards. So not the place you want to come to for a sit down lunch if you as me. Grab ‘n go is the way to go.

To drink I had the green pear tea and lemonade because as we all know by now I dig on the AP (Arnold Palmer).

As for the sandwiches, I think I preferred the houlumi over the French Goat Cheese, mostly due to the bread. The houlumi being served on a warm, toasty, crunchy ciabatta. Whereas the goat is on a fresh baguette, which has its charms, but in a knife fight against ciabatta, it loses that battle nine times out of ten.

The ingredients on both sammies, however, fails to impress, especially when you have over-achievers like Untamed and No. 7 just blocks away. So, not sure why this place boasts the crowd or reviews that does, but I’m also baffled that Trump is going to be the Republican nominee, so what the hell do I know?

2 teeth

Mayhem & Stout

711 2nd Ave. New York, NY 10016(212) 986-1600mayhemandstout.yolasite.com

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I grabbed a bite from the Madison Eats stand during lunch on a workday, so I forewent the Stout side of the offering, but fully embraced the mayhem side, jumping in both feet on The Dragon, a pulled pork hero heavily sauced with fiery goodness (aka Asian BBQ sauce) and topped with slaw. And while I scored points for the smarts it took not to get all boozy before going back to the office, those points were quickly takeneth away by how ridiculously messy it was to eat, making me look like a two year old trying to eat a bowl of spaghetti for the first time, sauce all over my hands and face. Scarfing it down as fast as I could to minimize how many co-workers saw this and judged me.

But beyond the mess, I haven’t enjoyed a Dragon this much since Game of Thrones. It’s not life changing by any means, nor is it an Ultimate, but it is a nice departure from the usual pulled pork par. And like Untamed Sandwiches and No.7 Sub, Mayhem has a plethora of inventive twists on the sandwich scene, so if the Dragon doesn’t do it for you, rest assured you’ll find something to please your puss.

3 teeth

Untamed Sandwiches

43 W 39th St. New York, NY 10018(646) 669-9397 untamedsandwiches.com

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Move over No.7 Sub, there’s a new game in town, just 10 blocks North, packing some serious skill between two slices of bread. But like No. 7, the ingredients list reads like a basket in an episode of Chopped, sourcing and mixing with reckless abandon. This place is undoubtedly destined for franchise greatness, so get in on the ground floor before it goes wide.

The bread alone is simply magnificent, a mini rustic Italian hero with great crunch on the outside, and just the right amount of air on the inside so as not to overpower the mastery of the innards.

As for the masterful innards of which I speak, let’s begin with the most masterful of them all, the Sheemakers Bounty, made with charred broccoli, fried almond butter, pickled raisin jelly and cress. Yes, a surprise vegetarian underdog takes the pole position. But don’t be thrown by the notion of broccoli in sandwich form, because the only thing crazy about it is how crazy good it is.

A close second for me would be the Nettle Neck. Once again, a road less travelled, like the Sheemaker, but I assure you these are the shiznit, contrary to the popular vote. The Nettle is made with braised lamb neck, walnut nettle pesto, gruyere and both pickled and charred onions. The tenderness of the neck meat assimilates with the other ingredients on the sandwich so well, it’s like utopia on a hoagie.

After that I’d go with The Butt (insert joke here), garnering its name from the headliner ingredient, cider braised pork butt. The pork is then accompanied by broccoli rabe, pepper jelly, sharp cheddar and Dijon. And while the thought of sinking your teeth into the backside of Wilber might be off-putting to some, for me it was kickass. No ifs ands or butts. Sorry… I had to.

In fourth, the Carla Bruni was almost as delicious as its namesake is beautiful. Loaded up with Ciambotta style (Southern Italian stew) braised vegetables, goat cheese, olive spread and basil. Again, a solid showing from the vegetable contingent, but compared to the Sheemaker, the Carla Bruni is more like Carla Hall.

After that, the sandwiches become a little more mortal, but not just because they are more mainstream and not for a lack of trying. For example, the General Zapata offers nice heat from its pickled jalapenos, but the chicken tinga, queso fresco, pickled onions, etc… all blend a little too much into the bread, making for an unimpressive takeaway. But even less impressive was the highly touted Hot Goldie, after all, we’re talkin’ short ribs here, backed by a sweet and sour cabbage saw and black pepper aioli. But pound for pound, it is the least flavorful sandwich of the lot.

And while the sandwiches are definitely more hit than miss, sadly I can’t say the same about the sides. Skip every last one of them. The jalapeno cheddar grits were neither spicy nor cheesy. The “spicy” broccoli rabe was also suffering from absent heat. The collards with bacon were bitter and bland. And the roasted carrots, while easily the best of the bunch, were nothing more than you might expect to find at a Dig Inn.

Yet with all of the transgressions on the sides, if I hold them to their true intent, to make sandwiches that think outside of the bun, the box is hella checked. After all, their name isn’t Untamed Sides. That said, someone really does need to crack a whip on whoever was making them, because they cost this place five knives.

4 teeth

Melt Shop

55 W 26th St. New York, NY 10010(212) 447-6358meltshop.com

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Upon entering we were immediately greeted by a beggar asking for us to buy him the fried chicken melt. Not the best first impression for a restaurant.

Unfortunately second and third impressions weren’t much better. The second being the fact that they were already sold out of one of the main things I came there to get, the tomato soup. And this is before 1:00pm on cold winter day. How poorly planned can you be?

The third, was the fact that they only have about 4 tables. Which makes it primarily a take out joint- not ideal for a grilled cheese establishment.

So, with three strikes against it before I even took a single bite, this was an uphill battle in the making. And then came strike four. The Buttermilk Chicken was dry and the melt, if you can call it that, was barely blessed with cheese.

Fortunately, I split with a friend, so I also got to try the Shroom and that was actually pretty darn good. As were the tots. Granted, there’s nothing really special about them. They’re just tots. Really makes me question what impresses people these days.

In general, if you crave a good melt, I’d suggest ‘wichcraft, Eataly, Beecher’s or No. 7 Sub, all in the area and all of them MUCH better.

2 teeth