When Sandwiches Were Simple
Claiming to make "the best damn sandwich on the planet," as Big Slick's Deli does, is no small feat, considering the competition. In Manhattan, Craft's famed New American chef Tom Colicchio recently opened Witchcraft, where the tuna fish sandwich is an innovative and high-quality combination of Sicilian tuna, fennel, Moroccan olives, and lemon. At Nancy Silverton's Campanile in Los Angeles, celebrities flock to a weekly Thursday "Sandwich Night" for combos such as roast pork with caramelized onions, sautéed broccoli rabe, and yam purée, drizzled with balsamic/sage brown butter. Today's chef-driven sandwiches are far from humble convenience food; they are more like cutting-edge entrées on bread.
According to his resumé, Big Slick's co-owner Adam Kanner a dean's list Johnson & Wales culinary school graduate once worked as the personal chef to picky Hollywood stars such as Val Kilmer and Janet Jackson. And his current catering menu includes snack foods such as tortilla chips topped with Santa Fe tuna tartare and ancho chili sour cream. Supreme sandwiches, therefore, sounded within the realm of possibility, especially since bread is baked in-house daily.
Big Slick's subs are above average, but on a planetary scale, hardly earth-shaking. The tastiest sandwich I tried was an "Italian" oil-and-vinegar-dressed Genoa-style salami, hot cappicola, boiled ham, and Provolone, loaded with the works: tomato, onion, pickles, vinegary hot peppers, shredded lettuce, and olives (regular American water-packed kind). The mix was flavorsome when heated, but it took considerable negotiation to get the veggies added after the hoagie was hot-pressed so that they remained crisp. Warm bread: good. Warm lettuce: not so good.
Those who don't mind supermarket-quality faux Jewish deli cold cuts might find Big Slick's hot pastrami on rye passable, but it made me long for the Rascal House. Better-quality ingredients made one of Slick's "picks," a Straight Flush (genuine prosciutto di Parma, housemade mozzarella, tomato, basil, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar), more satisfying. The cheese, however, was disappointing; a sample I extracted for test purposes was relentlessly hard and devoid of dairy flavor even after hours at room temperature.
Low-carb dieters can choose from creations wrapped in tortillas or lettuce. But a dieting dining companion found the whole-wheat wrap of a "healthy pick," Acey Ducey (roast vegetables, tomato, mozzarella, and pesto), woefully dry. And an alleged antipasto (described as prosciutto, salami, cappicola, roast peppers, olives, pepperoncini, and Provolone) that contained none of the promised salami or pepperoncini and mere shreds of prosciutto and Provolone was mostly a pile of mediocre boiled ham and boring lettuce.
Lunch ended on a higher note, with tangy made-from-scratch lemonade; an old-fashioned, not overly sweet strawberry milkshake (made with fresh strawberries); and a homemade chocolate chip cookie from which nothing was missing but culinary creativity. A layer of housemade ice cream between two such chewy delights would truly have been one of Miami's best sandwiches.
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