Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter
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Saturday, July 04, 2009

The trendy sandwich of the moment is the bánh mì, a Vietnamese composition which includes thinly sliced pickled carrots and daikon, onions, cucumbers, cilantro, jalapeño peppers and meat (or tofu, in theory). Typically the meat is roasted or grilled pork, ham, and/or paté. I've been reading articles about great bánh mì places in New York, and I have really wanted to try one to see what the big deal is, but I haven't been back to the City with time to do this kind of culinary exploring. Last week I decided to see if there was anyone around here that's making these, and was pleased to discover that Joe’s Deli on Hertel makes one. Joe's Deli used to be Mastman's, so it usually makes me sad when I see it. Mastman's was the best Jewish deli in the area (although it was certainly not kosher), and I miss the Delaware Avenue-- corned beef, pastrami and chopped chicken liver with Russian dressing and hot pepper rings, it was a gout attack between two slices of rye. Lancaster and I would share one occasionally, and that's how she learned the word sandwich.

My bánh mì proved to be as good a sandwich as the hipsters promised, and certainly it was less heavy than a Delaware Avenue. The trick, if that's the word, is that the pickled carrots and the jalapeños bring sweetness, heat and acid to the meat and mayo, and the cilantro adds a fresh herbaceous note. The whole thing is a pleasing combination of tastes and textures, with some crunch from the carrots. The baguette is good too. I can't say if it is the baguette that is called for, but I thought it was above average by Buffalo standards, and a good textural match for the other ingredients. Bread is often the weak link in Buffalo sandwiches, but it wasn't here. For some reason it appears on the menu as "The Body", which meant that I didn't have to worry about pronunciation (ˈbʌnmiː)-- perhaps just as well. My weekly gyro order sounds like a debate on pronunciation, and I don't have the strength to engage in another dialogue about how to say the name of a sandwich.

It's funny that Hertel has developed into the sandwich district, but perhaps it is just as well that Buffalo's sandwich district is somewhat inaccessible from my office.

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