There's no end to our supply of superlative sandwiches, from Southern imports to trendy newcomers and everything in between. A visit to classic roast beef spot Roll n Roaster last week got me thinking about other ways to enjoy sliced beef with gravy, aka the French Dip.
Toasty baguette, thin, fatty slices of beef, maybe some cheese or horseradish and, of course, a steaming crock of savory meat juice for dipping make this sandwich a comfort food classic and a big middle finger to the notion of portable meals. Below, a few places to sate a meat craving; bonus points for drinking any leftover au jus.
WALTER'S Judging by the size of the broth bowl accompanying the French Dip ($19) at this Fort Greene and Williamsburg restaurant duo, you know you're working with some seriously crusty bread. The baguette encasing a stack of thinly sliced beef boasts a hefty exterior that stands up well to a dunk in the steaming au jus on the side. A slather of horseradish mingles with the tender pieces of beef to cut through a bit of the fat. Of course, the heap of french fries on the side counteracts all of that, but this wasn't a health food dish to begin with.
Walter's is located at 166 Dekalb Avenue in Fort Greene, (718) 488-7800 and Walter Foods is located at 253 Grand Street in Williamsburg, (718) 387-8783; website
This place looks so weird and run-down that it's hard to imagine it's turning out some of the best bar food in the city, but it's true. Their burgers and wings are top-notch, to be sure, but their French Dip ($10.95) is a delicious, savory, filling meal when only a gigantic pile of bread, meat and potatoes will do. The bar's version comes on garlic bread (A+) with a mound of tender beef and soft, doughy bread. They'll add a few slices of mozzarella if you ask, but the simplicity of this sandwich is what makes it so special. That, and the fact that it's only $6.95 on Fridays.
Rathbone's is located at 1702 2nd Avenue on the Upper East Side, (212) 369-7361; website
BOOMWICH All applicable sandwiches should be served on a pretzel roll, the unsung hero of the bread world. The Brooklyn Dip ($10) served at this hot new sandwich spot employs one in hoagie form to house slices of house-roasted beef and "fresh motz"—lots of fresh mozzarella cheese. Purists might be offended that the sandwich comes pre-jus'd (it's a thicker style gravy than most other types) but the shop assures us that customers can also order it in a cup on the side if that's their preferred au jus delivery system. Either way, stock up on napkins.
Boomwich is located at 311 Atlantic Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn, (718) 643-9229; website
For round one of the "fancy" version of a simple sandwich, we turn to this Major Food Group newcomer, who offer a Dip ($23) during lunch and brunch hours. A baguette custom-made for the restaurant by Pain d'Avignon holds pepper-rubbed, slow-roasted beef, one of the more "rare" (temperature-wise) versions you'll find in the city. A slathering of horseradish-infused creme fraiche and caramelized shallots and the sandwich is ready to dip into jus made from beef fat, bones and deckle, aka super fatty brisket.
Dirty French is located inside The Ludlow hotel at 180 Ludlow Street on the Lower East Side, (212) 254-3000; website
MINETTA TAVERN Many praises have been heaped upon the famed Black Label Burger at this MacDougal Street mainstay, but at lunchtime, it's all about the Minetta French Dip ($25). This sandwich bucks with tradition with thicker slices of roasted culotte steak but from there, it's all about keeping with custom. The roll is buttery and garlicky, there's grated horseradish sprinkled over the meat and the cup of au jus is redolent with rich, beefy flavor with an amber hue to match. Order this and the burger, split with a friend, rinse and repeat.
Minetta Tavern is located at 113 Macdougal Street in Greenwich Village, (212) 475-3850; website
Bonus: If you want to buck with "tradition" completely, try the Vietnamese Dip ($14) at Wild Horse Tavern, a new rock and roll bar on the Upper East Side. The international menu includes a rare roast beef sandwich topped with radish, carrots, onion and horseradish with this kicker: a cup of beef pho on the side for dipping.