The Proper Chicken Cutlet Sandwich: Fried Cutlets and a Side of Awesome
August 23, 2010 2 Comments
Spoiler Alert: This sandwich was better than the aforementioned Manganaro hero(s). Like, if-life-was-a-fight-their-asses-would-be-grass better. Saturday we went to My Hero, Long Island’s Great White Hope for having good lunch spots. Back in high school we would drive like the wind to get here, stand in line, eat and race like hell to get back to class on time. It was our Friday treat: My Hero and Metallica.
Why My Hero Is Worth a Speeding Ticket at 17-Years-Old
There’s something about My Hero that, quite abruptly, makes one proud to be from Long Island. The same guys/ladies have been behind the counter for the entire 8-10 years that I’ve been going there; nothing, real estate-wise has been updated in that time; the Lawnguyland-ese is heavy and they don’t take credit. It’s consistent. Really consistent. The proprietors have long memories; they more or less remember my friends and I even though our visits are down to once or twice a month and we’ve gained a considerable amount of weight since high school.
If you walk in on a Saturday, as we did, you’ll see families with cleat and behatted children, dudes covered in sheetrock, pissed to be working on the last nice Saturday of the Summer; bros in backwards hats and sleeveless shirts, hung over. Then you’ll see me and my friends, also hungover, but somewhat more presentable. You wait in the line that snakes past the salad case, past the wall of chips, out the door and under the awning. Bask in the sun, bust balls when people cut to meet up with their friends. Endlessly replay the oft-replayed internal “What Am I Ordering” debate.
What You’re Ordering
When you make it to the counter–and to be perfectly honest here, the wait isn’t bad at all as long as you don’t have 40-something minutes to get there, eat, and get back–one of five people will poke their head around the salad case and ask you what you want. Unlike most high-volume delis, the counterpeople are freakin’ pleasant as hell. It’s not like they smile at you or anything, but they have a sense of humor and they’re more or less patient, employing the Food Service Zen “fuck ’em, they’ll wait as long as they have to” paradigm. But when you get past the case to pay, that’s when you see the lettuce and capicola flyin’. It’s just a mass of bodies in a too-small-space making too-big sandwiches.
Up and to the left you’ll see the obligatory Boar’s Head menu sign, but you don’t need this. What you need is custom-made-15-years-ago sign that enumerates the following sandwiches [ed: Descriptions mine]
The Works? What are these works you speak of? Friend, let me tell you about the works. The Works is My Hero shorthand for Lettuce, Tomato, Onion, Salt/Pepper, Olive Oil and Vinegar (red wine, natch). You’ll want this on everything with the possible exclusion of _____ Parm. But feel free to dispute that in the comments. I’m listening.
Let it be known that you can get whatever you want on a sandwich, they even have pasta and parm plates and stuff, but I always go for one of the above or one of their parmegiana sandwiches. Your options are large or small, with large being about 30% larger than a small. It should probably be noted that I intended to get a Chicken Cutlet Parm to use as a counterpoint/you’re-doing-it-wrong post to weigh out the Manganaro(s) fiasco. Then Jim swayed me and I went Chicken Club with melted American Cheese and the works (yes, with the mayo). Howard got the chicken parm but I forgot to take a picture (I was otherwise detained–nom nom nom).
This is how you make a motherfuckin’ Sandwich! I don’t know where they get their bread from, and it’s not life-changing bread, it’s just an awesome hero-roll.1 Crusty, yielding, there. That brave little soldier will stand up to anything but over-vinegaring. You don’t want to over-vinegar or the binding will break like a Frenchman in the ’40s. Other than that, construction is standard: the hero is opened like a book, condiment goes down, then meat and cheese (in that order) is draped across both haves of the bread. Lettuce, etc. goes down and the knife is used to close. Depending on what you got in there (and the aforementioned liberal dosing of liquid awesomeness) the back may bust. It’s a risk you take.
The ‘wich-wrangler will cut your hero in half, put it in one of those nifty green plastic baskets and ring you up. By the by, a large is like $5.95. It’s great. Take your sandwich outside to one of the three green picnic tables if necessary. It gets pretty crowded inside during rush hour and they’ve closed off their back “dining area” to use for catering prep now.
The Wrap Up
So within this acceptably crusty bread lies a smear of mayo, The Works, your standard deli bacon, and The Chicken. I never really appreciated the My Hero cutlet until… well, until Manganaro’s. I knew there was something awesome, I just never knew what. And here it is: it’s Fried. It tastes like homemade where everyone else’s tastes mushy because everyone else just nukes those Costo cutlets and throws them on the sandwich. My Hero could be (and very well likely is) using those same cutlets, but they’re frying them until crispy and letting them drain a little under a heat lamp on the pass-through. This allows for a crispy-but-neither-dry-nor-soggy cutlet. In short: Cutlet Perfection. The mayo accentuates the bacon’s saltiness while the one-two of the onion and vinegar serves as a counter melody to the Cutlet/Bacon 69 that’s going on.2
Eating outside has its advantages thusly: Amazing people watching. My Hero draws a ridiculous diverse mix (as long as you consider all different kinds of white people as diverse) and is situated on a silly-busy stretch of Jerusalem Ave with very limited parking3. Long story short: No one here knows how to drive or park their cars. It’s like dinner theater; you get your sandwich, then you sit there and you cringe and gasp at no less than 5 near-misses. Sublime.
But wait, there’s more! Open your ears, look around. There’s just too much to take in. Toddlers scarfing reubens. Those bros from before? Their girlfriends, met up with them, resplendent in Solos and Uggs. They’re talking about the party from the night before in some Hofstra Frat house and some sort of tragically awesome gangbang/rape. It’s glorious. Let the cuteness of that reuben kid sitting a table away from the Hofstra Ho really sink in for a second. The cognitive dissonance will make you acid-burp and then you’ll get to taste your sandwich all over again.
My Hero: The Gift That Keeps On Giving.
1. Jim thinks that their bread is specially baked by Lakewood Bakery in Farmingdale, by all accounts a nothing special bakery that apparently churns out some pretty decent bread.
2. Aright, Doom! Pro-Tip: Get a small.
3. Massive understatement.