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Paris Sandwich

1/2 I’m frequently torn between trying to learn what patience means (I already have prematurely high blood pressure and am half-convinced that a heart attack will seize me before forty) and being uncontrollably speedy and efficient. Today, I was able to put both lifestyles to the test when I became stricken with a violent craving for a banh mi around 11am.

Normally, I don’t eat until 2pm and have a hard time getting worked up over anything, especially in a five-block radius. But obtaining a banh mi became such an overwhelming mission that by 12:55 I couldn’t sit still any longer. And I didn’t care how far I had to go to find one.

I have a full hour lunch, which I rarely take advantage of, so it wasn’t as if I was in a real hurry. But because I’m always manic and huffy, I had a self-imposed sense of urgency. How fast could I get to Chinatown, order, and get back to the office? It would be a fun, sweaty little contest with myself. Never mind that I did so many leg presses and thigh squeezey things at the gym on Sunday that it still hurts to stroll with a normal gait. (I recently re-joined my gym and clearly didn't realize how out of shape I'd become even though I'd continued to exercise on my own. All I know is that when I last frequented the place I didn't have an iPod yet and there was lots of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah on my mp3 device, so I'm fairly certain it was 2005.)

So, out the door at 12:55. I don’t wear a watch so I could only get so frantic on my sandwich run. Getting to Canal from Broad was a breeze. Navigating the three blocks to Paris Sandwich (there might be a closer shop to Centre St. but I’ve been meaning to try this bakery) was anything but. Between the meandering tourists, three-foot tall Chinese shufflers and thick-headed locals, it’s always perpetual gridlock.

Thankfully, Paris Sandwich’s service was crazy-fast and organized. Simple, you order in the front from a photo menu, and pick up in the back. My number #39 was squawked and I had a grilled pork and standard sandwich in less than two minutes, way before I expected them. That’s an assembly line. There was no time for dilly-dallying, scrutinizing the menu, searching for anomalies and atypical gems. I barely glanced at the refrigerated case and shelves of baked goods. I tried to ignore the sign on the door for a tomato slushy, which would normally weird me out enough for a double take, but not this time.

The north side of Canal St. is minutely more walkable, so I tried maneuvering through jewelry shop gawkers. Despite my initial annoyance at a woman in a wheelchair clogging up the already maxed out sidewalk, I lucked out on the way back. I realized that everyone willingly moved aside for her and her motorized ride, so I got right behind it like a speeding car trailing an ambulance and benefited from the temporary path she created.

Paris_bakery_banh_miI was pleased with myself until I got thwarted by the turnstile pile-up while trying to get into the subway station. I got downstairs just in time to see the J pulling out. Damn. The next M only went one stop to Chambers St. where I got stuck at 1:21pm and lost steam. I didn’t get back on track literally, until 1:31. When my mom was in town a few months ago she thought it was strange that I’d complain about waiting ten minutes for a subway since the light rail runs like every 15 minutes during rush hour, but ten minutes is a freaking long time to stand around in the dank humidity (and no one takes public transportation in Portland anyhow).

When all was said and done, the trek spanned from 12:55 to 1:45. I really thought it’d be quicker. Fifty minutes to go three stops, walk three blocks, get take out, and then do the reverse? If there had been better subway and elevator (I can only take one elevator from bank of four to get to 33, the top floor, mine) alignment, 15 minutes could easily be shaved off.

Paris_bakery_cross_sectionOddly, the special banh mi contained no cucumber and next to no mayonnaise, which didn’t traumatize me because those are my least favorite components even though I hate to admit it (phew, now that’s off my chest). Some vegetables creep me out warm, lettuce and cucumbers are two. While a solid amount of cold cuts are folded inside the roll, there was a surprising lack of flavor and more cartilagey bits than I’m accustomed to. The pickled essence could’ve been stronger. And I like more of that reddish ground up mystery meat. But these are all nitpicks; the sub more than served its purpose.

I ate half of each sandwich and saved the rest for tomorrow’s lunch. The grilled pork was very sweet and saucy, more candied than the grilled pork you’d find atop a bowl of rice vermicelli.

Paris_bakery_summer_rollsAs is often my way, I grabbed some summer rolls at the cash register (they’re always at the counter). I didn’t even have time to see which variety I snagged. They all looked brown through the translucent skins, I’m fairly certain they were all pork, no shrimp anyway. Nice and compact, the fillings stayed put and didn’t make for messy at-desk eating, though the nuoc cham was dangerously drippy.

I never got the point of a camera phone until today when I left the house camera-less.  I’m not even joking when I say that I’m not even up to speed with texting and talking and walking at the same time. Forget about control over focus, lighting, sizing or any of that. What you see is as good as it gets.

Paris Sandwich * 113 Mott St., New York, NY

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