Slummin’ It — Big Jack Daddy Burger, Buffalo Wild Wings

It’s been more than six months since the last installment of Slummin’ It, and that’s because I generally don’t go out of my way to eat terrible sandwiches. Sometimes I find myself in an establishment that promises 1600 calories full of burger (and fries?), a giant stupid pile of the usual lettuce/tomato/beef, plus a helping of pulled pork and some onion rings. I like big, stupid sandwiches in an abstract sense, and occasionally in real life. Buffalo Wild Wings is the kind of crap-on-the-walls establishment that should really excel at big, stupid sandwiches, so I was genuinely looking forward to what they could muster up.

This wasn’t the worst hamburger I’ve ever eaten in my entire life, but it does join a very short list of sandwiches I wasn’t willing to finish. It was dry and bland, the patty too thin to be anything other than well done, a meager offering of two onion rings, the whole thing just a sad display, like some manner of firework spinning in sad circles on the ground, putting out clouds of smoke.

I want to be clear that I did not expect this burger to be good. I expected gusto, not quality. I wasn’t expected pulled pork that had been lovingly smoked, I was expecting something that came out of a bucket and was reheated before being drenched in sauce. I was expecting sub-TGI Friday’s food, and I was still incredibly disappointed. It was just a bad sandwich, and that’s a bottom line that’s hard to escape. Modest or grandiose, at family-run landmark establishments or the Funnest Feedbag in all Fifty States, a bad sandwich is just a bad sandwich.

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Slummin’ It: Ham & Turkey, and Bacon Club on Wheat Bread – 7-11

We all have moments where we fall prey to cravings. If you’re reading this there’s a good chance that your average craving, like mine, is for a sandwich. And when these cravings strike we are often able to seek out our local favorite, or a new establishment we’ve had our eye on for a while, or we simply head to the kitchen and see what we can put together. But what happens when that need strikes in less opportune times? I headed out with the full intention of buying this sandwich, but in my mind I was imagining a situation of much uglier circumstances. I pictured myself stranded on foot, heading through an unfamiliar city, beset by a foul mood or a string of bad luck. In such a situation I might say to myself that I just want a sandwich, any sandwich will do. What sandwich am I most likely to come across? Is it likely to be any good? If, in my darkest moments, I put my faith in fate and just go for the nearest sandwich, am I likely to meet satisfaction or further dismay? This is almost certainly geographically specific, but if dropped at random the only thing you’re more likely to come across than a Subway is a 7-11. So 7-11 was the natural choice to explore this hypothetical set of unfortunate circumstances, and 7-11 is where I went.

Look at the name of the sandwich for a moment. Ham & Turkey, and Bacon Club on Wheat Bread. Why is the first “and” an ampersand and the second one the full conjunction? It feels as if the cold cuts and the bacon have been segregated somehow, almost placed in different philosophical categories. What necessitated this? The label also includes “with tomatoes,” but doesn’t include the information that lettuce is present. Again, there seem to be two sets of rules for two different ingredients. It’s hard to overstate how unsettling I find that. But I went to the 7-11 for the sandwich, and I was not going to leave empty handed.

I went into this with pretty low expectations, but this sandwich still managed to fall short. The tomatoes are tasteless mush, the ham and turkey are flavorless & uninspired, and the bacon…the label doesn’t mention that the sandwich contains mayo, but it does. It contains a lot of mayo. This is likely to protect the bread, but it’s so much mayo that it manages to match the bacon in intensity of flavor. Granted, it’s particularly bland bacon, but just consider that. The sandwich featured flavors of bacon and mayonnaise in about equal proportion. If that sentence doesn’t horrify you, well, let’s just say you and I worship at different churches. I only ate half of this number, because while I’ll swallow a bitter pill in the service of sandwich blogging, swallowing two is just silly.

Returning to my earlier hypothetical situation, what I learned in eating this sandwich is not very comforting. It raises the question of whether any sandwich is better than no sandwich at all, an issue which I am not prepared to settle at the present moment. It’s a larger question than this sandwich can answer, and I hope that the next time I consider the issue I’m not in a strange city, walking the streets desperate for a sandwich, any sandwich at all.

The United Nation – Green Leaf Deli, Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY

There are some really good corner delis in New York City, but they can’t all be good. The law of averages, in fact, would have it that there are just as many that are lousy as are good. And if you’re in an unfamiliar neighborhood, finding a good deli can be a bit of a crapshoot. There are frequently many to choose from and they all seem to serve largely the same thing. You can go by price, by looks, by how popular they seem to be, or just choose at random. You put your faith in fate, get your sandwich and go on your way.

And so it was that I found myself on the upper west side on a bright sunny mid-morning, looking for a sandwich. The Green Leaf Deli seemed as good an option as any, and I admit to being charmed not by the kitschy names for the sandwiches, but by the grammatical tweaks. The United State. The Union Square Best. The United Nation. Singular/plural can throw even the best of us for a loop some time, and I hold no error in language against a good sandwich. Unfortunately, The United Nation was not a good sandwich. Dry, tough prosciutto accompanied dry, waxy mozzarella cheese. Peppers, onions, lettuce and tomato were all present but woefully inadequate and the promised oil & vinegar had barely any taste at all. This was the first sandwich I ate on a day where I figured to eat a good number of sandwiches, and midway through I looked down and couldn’t think of a single reason to finish it. Wasting food is a sin, and wasting a sandwich is likely cardinal. But this sandwich was just no good, and no amount of piety can save a bad sandwich.