Our latest installment of Quick Bites brings us to the East Village, for a decadent, underground encounter with sandwiches.
With its oversized presence in NYC's cultural imagination, it's easy to forget that St. Mark's Place, the most famous street in the East Village, is only three blocks long. And that one of those blocks, the stretch between First and Second Avenues, is surprisingly sedate throughout much of its middle—which is right where The Dip resides. It's a new sandwich spot in that set-back, subterranean space that promised us Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken for like two years without ever materializing.
The Dip is tiny, with only about six stools set before the narrow eating counters along both walls and the front window. It's hard to really tell what's going on here from the sidewalk, but once you get inside, the huge chalkboard menu—really, the only decor—and the pleasantly loud soundtrack of Motown classics serve as able introductions. The Dip sells sandwiches (most notably, a French Dip) and the co-owner and co-chef Geoff Taylor comes to us from Detroit by way of Chicago.
Taylor arrived in our city three years ago, as executive chef for the opening of impossible-to-get-into West Village steakhouse 4 Charles Prime Rib. The man knows meat, as does his partner Sara You, who seems to be the one actually making the food here on a nightly basis. Together they have their work cut out for them creating some excitement for their sandwiches amidst the usual St. Mark's fare.
The best thing at The Dip, as one would hope, is the French Dip, a deeply satisfying sandwich that combines piles of greasy shaved beef, sharp melted gruyere, and fiery cherry peppers inside garlic bread dense enough to handle it all. A crock of horseradish sauce adds to the fun, and, of course, you should shamelessly dip your sandwich in and soak up all of the accompanying rich, salty jus.
Other very good sandwiches here include a Buttermilk Fried Chicken monster, which is plenty juicy but also brings a nice crunch to things (the pickles and slaw are fine complements as well), and the gooey Grilled Cheese, with ample amounts of both sharp cheddar and chewy Chihuahua held in place by slabs of buttery Texas toast. When The Dip first opened the fries were something of a disgrace, but Taylor quickly rebounded, revising his recipe four times before landing on the current model, which are first rate and a solid addition to whatever else you're getting.
The Chicago Dog is a lovingly assembled recreation of that Midwestern city's overwrought street sandwich and, while totally acceptable, is probably best left to nostalgia seekers. The headliner in the Corned Beef Sandwich is as fatty and delicious as ever, but a mess of overly sweet red cabbage sinks this otherwise admirable stack, proving once again that the tangy sauerkraut of a Reuben is the way to go here. There are also two soups currently on the menu, a scorched Creamy Tomato and an unnecessary French Onion.
High quality sandwiches are always welcome, and The French Dip at The Dip is one of the best versions of these too-seldom-seen creations in the city. Here's hoping Taylor and You can attract enough people down into their meat cave to stay around for awhile.
The Dip is located at 58 St. Marks Place, between Second and First Avenues, and is open Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and Thursday through Saturday from 11:00 to 12:00 midnight. Closed Monday. (646-559-9050; thedipnyc.com)