Sandwiches in this town can be a dime a dozen, especially in the barren lunch land that is Midtown Manhattan. So when we heard about a new joint called Untamed opening up just south of Bryant Park, we had a feeling we were in for an intriguing bread-bound treat. Visions of wild, frollicking sandwiches in a vast, green field filled our hungry heads before we perused the new menu. Grass-fed beef brisket? Charred broccoli? Fried almond butter? Ah, yes, we were on board.
Since they opened the doors almost two weeks ago on West 39th Street, the shop has had a steady crowd queuing up for a fix. We moseyed on over to take a bite for ourselves and talk with the duo behind the new outpost. Andy Jacobi mans the front of the house while R.L. King (aka Ricky to his friends) runs the show in the kitchen. Together, they must just be a new sandwich force to be reckoned with. “With sandwiches, people are used to seeing ingredients that they understand right off the bat,” Andy says. “And I think people have had fun learning about what Ricky throws at them.”
So how exactly does one go about building a ‘wich that stands apart from its corner-deli brethren? One word: braising. “The focus of the menu is braised meats made with sustainable ingredients,” Andy explains. “The Goldie and the Butt have been the most popular so far.” The Goldie shines with grass-fed beef brisket, red onion, sweet and sour cabbage and black pepper aioli; and the Butt gets its name from the cider-braised pork butt gracing its buns. Ricky also adds broccoli rabe, pepper jelly, dijon mustard and sharp cheddar to make this thing a real hit. We’re personally enamored with the Chupacabra because: braised goat meat. The juicy beast gets dressed up nicely in with charmoula carrots, whipped goat cheese, kohlrabi slaw and red onions.
Andy says the key to it all the richness is in their four day cooking process. “We make what they call a double brown chicken stock,” he says. “We start out with roast chicken bones and water, then we take the liquid out and roast it again with more bones.” Making the stock takes about two days, then they bring out the meats. “It takes about a day to do each braise,” Andy explains. “Most cook for about eight hours. Then we let the meat rest it for a day so it can settle and reconstitute a bit before putting it in the sandwiches.” (Sort of like how a meatloaf or Thanksgiving turkey sandwich tastes so inexplicably good the next day.) When it’s all said and done, that’s four days that go into making these bad boys. We’ll proudly salute that kind of ‘wich dedication.
According to Andy, the basic idea for Untamed was to produce the kind of food and ambience that we’d expect from a sit-down farm-to-table restaurant, like the ones popping up in the East Village and Brooklyn, and bring that concept up to the Midtown crowd. “Braising meats is a very efficient way of making delicious sandwiches,” Andy says. “There’s a long prep time but a short service time, so serving that kind of food to people who don’t have a lot of time for lunch really seemed like a good idea.”
Granted, the whole braised menu has us drooling, but Andy and Ricky also made sure not to short-sheet the vegetarians among us. Even omnivores will enjoy what they’ve done with the veggie sandwiches. “We tried to come up with a pretty diverse list of sandwiches,” Andy says. “We’ve got two options right now: the Carla Bruni and the Sheemakers Bounty.” The French-themed former has a heaping of Ciambotta-style braised vegetables, stravecchio cheese, olive spread and basil. The latter has to be our favorite though, with a mad-scientist level mixture of charred broccoli, fried almond butter, pickled raisin jelly and cress. “It sounds crazy, but the charred broccoli is really great with it,” Andy says. “It’s our own twist on a peanut butter and jelly.”
Test out that twist for yourself over at 43 West 39th Street or start grazing on the menu with your eyeballs on their website.