Friday: $5 Sandwiches, You Say? Alright, I’ll Bite (aka the “Sandwich Exchange Gamble” Post)

photoI generally hate when people shove flyers, etc., at me when I’m just coming up from the subway in the vicinity of Times Square sometime between eight and nine o’clock in the morning. Seriously, it’s way too early (and, these days, too chilly) for this nonsense; having to emerge in Midtown is unpleasant enough as it is. (Nevermind the fact that I have no gold to sell.)

Yet, on this particular morning, the flyer being wagged in front of my face caught my interest: A $5 sandwich promotion from a place called Food Exchange (never heard of them)? Closer inspection revealed that this promotion appeared fairly gimmick-free; all you had to do was order online, not even a promo code required.

Alright, I’ll bite. I picked the one featured in the big photo on the front of the flyer (all the better to inspect you, my dear), which is the Tuscan chicken sandwich, complete with “roasted red peppers, mesclun and artichoke aioli in an olive pocket.”

photo-1photo-2Ordering was straightforward, other than the minor annoyance of having to set up yet another user profile, and my sandwich arrived within minutes of when my delivery window began.

Nice bag on the outside, nice sandwich packaging and … whoa. A damn good lookin’ sandwich on the inside. Generous portion of chicken on a soft olive loaf (olive pocket has to be the worst name for this type of bread in the universe); everything else present just like the description promised … (pause, savor and repeat.) I enjoyed full-flavor bite after bite, until it was, suddenly, gone. Damn, that’s a good $5 sandwich.

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The (Under) $7 Lunch: Kabab & Grill, Pleasant Surprise Inside

Editor’s Note: Some of my favorite lunch posts have been great lunch discoveries that slide in underneath the $7 mark. So, as a part of the ongoing evolution of the BLD Project, I’m introducing a weekly column that will feature an (Under) $7 Lunch discovery. As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of all invention.

photo-13It was the sign for $1.25 pizza slices that finally got me inside Kabab & Grill. In addition to its waving pizza flag, there is neon signage listing about a half-dozen other cuisines — from the street there’s a lot going to disuade entry.

As it turns out, rather than one restaurant trying to manage around-the-world cuisine on their own, Kabab & Grill is a mini-cafeteria of independent vendors: There’s a Spanish food station, the cheap pizza station, a Mexican station and, deep in the back, a Middle Eastern station.

The whole setup is more akin to a space where a handful of street vendors rolled their productions inside and set up shop than a typical Midtown deli or cafeteria.

photo-14Back in the way, way back, at the Middle Eastern hot food station, this offer caught my eye: Your choice of rice, two vegetable sides, choice of daal (lentils) over rice, a side of naan (flat bread) for $6.50, including tax — and for $1 more you can sub in a meat option. Damn, that’s a good deal.

The food looked a fresher and more vibrant than the Spanish food station up front (yet one more deterant to digging deeper inside), so I went for it. I ordered:

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— Seasoned basmati rice, topped with yellow daal, which are seasoned pretty generously with black pepper. There is a subtle heat from the lentils that sneaks up on you.

— For two vegetarian sides, I chose a sweet, marinated cauliflower and potatoes and … good okra! Not slimy at all. (Okra may actually be one of those rare vegetables that improves to the constant, low heat of buffet stations; it might dry out just a tiny bit.)

photo-12In fact, all the vegetables were well-suited to withstand the hours out on display — something more restaurants should consider when they put out zucchini or broccoli or other delicate vegetables that slowly overcook until they’re mush. I will be back — and next time, I’ll try one of the meats.

Kabob & Grill, 150 W. 36th Street, between 7th Avenue and Broadway.