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Underground Lunch Is Full Of Wow

February 12, 2011

An all-too-easy-to-miss sign, especially behind the construction.

So the other day on my way back from picking up the surprisingly decent burger from Five Guys, I walked past a clapboard sign on the street that said something like Underground Lunch Is Better or some such. I was intrigued: they certainly know their audience. I looked into it a little bit and found out about this place, located essentially in a tiny basement storefront at 55 Leroy street. You’d walk right by it if you weren’t looking. Certainly it doesn’t look like a good spot to get lunch from the outside.

It's a tiny, tiny place.

The space inside is absolutely tiny. I took this pic at the counter with my back pretty much against the door to get in. I mean you can’t fit six people in there, it’s smaller than many elevators. But it is packed with extremely promising, fresh-looking sandwiches. Their menu apparently changes daily, depending on what’s available at the market.

El Jefe.

The proprietor suggested I try the El Jefe sandwich, saying it was popular but also a bit of a task, since it’s so big. It comes with pickle and chips, or an organic apple. I selected the latter. I was extremely shocked when those things rang up to nearly $12. Ouch. El Jefe better be mucho delicioso.

That's a very big bun... uh oh... .

So I got it back to my desk and frankly was concerned. There was the weird way it was cut, a slash through the top, creating a kind of wrap of the bread. The bread itself seemed very very fresh, but as you can see, plentiful. I was starting to feel a bit hornswaggled. Twelve bucks for some fancy bread and nouveau cutting technique? Oy.

The chicken - along with the other ingredients - is very fresh.

It was delicious! According to Underground, the sandwich itself consists of grilled free range chicken, homemade chimichurri, a braised pinto bean puree, chipotle mayo and avocado salsa. It was delightful. While it looks like a lot of bread, it really isn’t, since it is so fresh and fluffy. The bread tasted quite a bit like challah, slightly eggy, which I enjoy a great deal. But the star of the show was the complex mix of oddly complementary flavors at work in the sandwich itself. It is full of flavor.

Substantial, but not deafening.

The chicken breasts are fresh, not at all tough, and among the better I’ve had in this sort of thing and the zest of the chimichurri note is inspired. The pinto bean flavor is also present and slightly smoky, working well the slightly sweet and fat of the light mayo. I can’t lie, the sandwich is terrific! It has a wild spice to it as well, which is sharp but not too overwhelming. If only it weren’t so darned expensive.

Organic Granny Smith. Yummy.

By the way, the Granny Smith apple at the end was a perfect touch. All in all a sensational lunch. I’ll be back, better prepared for the sticker shock.

Underground Lunch

55 Leroy Street
New York, NY 10014

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