The Meat Hook Sandwich Shop
495 Lorimer Street, Williamsburg
“We’re out of the House Ham, but we have the Crispy Pig Face instead, and it’s the best,” the cashier, wearing a heavy mustache with a fuzzy George Michael beard, shouted over the blasting chorus of Madonna’s “Dress You Up.” Welcome to the Meat Hook Sandwich Shop. This special-of-the-day was served on trimmed Italian bread. That is, a layer was cut off lengthwise so that the crust and breadiness didn’t overwhelm its knock-out fillings – crispy-chewy pork jowl, chipotle mayo, melted mozzarella, and mounds of freshly chopped cilantro. It was, indeed, the best. Another inspired daily special featured snappy, cheesy sausage on a roll with black beans, pickled jalapeños and a spicy aioli, sprinkled with crushed tortilla chips and brightened with a douse of lime juice.
While the specials were on the daring end of the sandwich spectrum, the regular menu sticks to the classics. The Italian, though it wasn’t bulky or overloaded, was solid as anything you could find in an old-school deli. Thinly sliced pepperoni, soppressata, olive loaf, and mozzarella met red onions, pickled cherry peppers and shredded lettuce, with a vinegary bite from Italian dressing. There was nothing ironic about it, besides the way George Michael kept correcting customers who ordered it by saying “EYE-talian.” With Madonna fading into Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up” in the background, it was hard to tell if he was an out-of-towner clinging to a regional pronunciation or what. Another regular offering was the Hot Chicken – crispy fried thighs, dripping with a searingly spicy sauce, served on a soft bun with shredded lettuce and crunchy bits of pickled celery. The only disappointment was the vegetarian sandwich, which involved fried onions, hash browns, roasted red peppers, pickled onions, and mild white cheese, but mostly tasted like vinegary shredded lettuce with pops of flavor from coriander seeds.
Though the slim sandwich shop felt like a bright alleyway of whitewashed bricks, Whitney Houston’s “I Get So Emotional” playing at wedding DJ volume brought some character to the streamlined space. Its three tall tables fit four stools each, with a couple of extra seats by the front window, but quick turnover made up for limited seating. The sandwiches were filling without being overwhelmingly gigantic, so I had room after lunch for a chocolate chip cookie or perhaps an artisanal Ding Dong and a sing-along to the Bangles’ “Eternal Flame,” but dessert is not (yet) on the menu.