My latest craze has been all the sandwiches offered at Cedars Meat House, a Lebanese butcher, market, and lunch counter, on 30th Ave near Steinway. In the last few weeks, I've tried the chicken shawarma, the beef shawarma, the sausage sandwich, and eggplant sandwich, and I feel I've finally found my replacement for my beloved and long gone middle eastern deli, El Manara. The shawarmas are probably the least interesting choices for sandwiches. The chicken shawarma is made with breast meat, and can run dry to very dry, but it's saved with all the fixings that the counterman puts into the sandwich, like pickles, the beet-dyed pickled turnips, the onion salad with sumac powder, tahini, tomatoes, and especially the toum (the pasty garlic sauce) which is essential in the hot sandwiches. The beef shawarma can be a bit tough and chewy, but the spicing is good. This winner is the sausage sandwich. You can either get regular, which I assume to be soujuk sausage, or spicy, which is what I think is the one called makanek. Or it could be the other way around. Either way, these are some of the best things I've eaten this year. The spicy sausage has a wonderful smoky, spice-laden flavor that continues to haunt me.
Sausage sandwich: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3288/3...
The eggplant sandwich is a cold sandwich made with large chunks of previously fried eggplants in the cold case. Along with the usual sandwich fixings, there's some olive oil and added parsley. The eggplant was also a good, light alternative for the heavier proteins.
Eggplant sandwich: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3197/3...
On my last visit, the counterman was preparing a tongue sandwich for someone else, and he gave me a piece of tongue to try. It falls into the cold sandwich category, as it's cooked, sliced and slightly pickled with vinegar and mixed with onions and some herbs and spices. It wasn't as sour as some pickled tongue I've had at the Russian places in Brighton Beach, but with some onion and herbs, I could have wrapped it in a couple tortillas and it would have been better than some of the lengua tacos at some of local Mexican joints. The tongue sandwich is next on my list.
I should note that these sandwiches cost $3.50 for a good portion. The vegetable sandwiches are $3.00. Two of these sandwiches makes a large and satisfying meal. One slight criticism is that the toum (garlic sauce) is very pungent of raw garlic, and can overpower any subtle flavors, so don't go overboard with it (i.e., don't ask for extra). If I get the sandwiches to go, I'll omit the sauce from the sandwich and ask for a small container of sauce so I can make my own adjustment.
Here's the Village Voice review from this summer.
Cedars Meat House
41-08 30th Ave, Queens, NY 11103
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