Ilene Rosen and Sara Dima have been making loads of good, homey food for their neighbors in Prospect Heights since 2012, when they first opened a sweet little cafe called 606 R&D on Vanderbilt Avenue. 606 only lasted a few years, but their spinoff catering operation and salad and sandwich shop next door, R&D Foods, remains a solid neighborhood favorite, maybe even more so during the pandemic.
"In the beginning of the pandemic we were rethinking what we were doing every day and trying to remain flexible and nimble," chef and co-owner Rosen told Gothamist. "Then things sort of leveled out--I won't use the word 'normal'--and we went back to more of what we were. Like, we stopped including a roll of toilet paper in each order, and we allowed people to come back inside. And Open Streets was amazing for us. This is a great block to be on—the sense of community here is fabulous."
Another pandemic side effect: everyone seems to be eating a lot more sandwiches. "We're really doing so many sandwiches now, but I wanted something that would feel like the quintessential winter sandwich," said Rosen about her latest creation. "So, of course, I landed on chicken soup. So many people are just not feeling the way they should, for obvious reasons, so I took a little of the Jewish penicillin from my heritage and morphed it into a sandwich."
The result is the R&D Chicken Soup Sandwich, which is exactly as wonderful as it sounds. The foundation to this open-faced beauty is a slab of challah, upon which Rosen piles tender bits of pulled chicken, hunks of soft carrots, onions, celery, a mess of crispy shallots and plenty of dill. The meat and vegetables have all been swimming in Rosen's chicken broth before moving on to the bread, and she ladles on more of the stock right before she hands it to you. The challah is sodden in the middle, but the edges keep their crustiness.
Just a masterclass in sandwich construction.
If you're getting it to-go, the Chicken Soup Sandwich is served in parts--the bread, the chicken and veggies, the shallots and dill, the broth to dump on top everything--which you assemble at home. Or you can sit at one of R&D's handy outside tables and tuck right into a ready-to-eat model. Even during this past week's frigid blast, there was enough warmth and love put into this dish to keep me comfortable out there as I wolfed it down.
R&D Foods is located at 602 Vanderbilt Avenue, between St Marks Avenue and Prospect Place, and is currently open on Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Chicken Soup Sandwich will be on the menu for the foreseeable future (347-915-1196; rdfoodsbklyn.com)