Clancey's vs. Cheeky Monkey ham sandwich: Food Fight
Another holiday, another animal. From the pink-hued corned beef of St. Patrick's Day, we move on to the rosy flesh associated with Easter: ham. Unlike, say, burgers, which are pretty much edible even in their worst incarnations, ham can be downright revolting. Anyone who has perused the processed meats selection at the supermarket (with a shudder for school lunches past) can attest, as can anyone who has watched a perfectly molded specimen slide from its identically shaped container glistening with slime and making that horrible, sucky noise. Fortunately we can easily forgo ham monstrosities in favor of "happy ham" from conscientious, local purveyors. Here's how two of the Cities' best take on the unpredictable meat.
Tinker with tiny bottles of white truffle oil, consider the possibilities of duck confit, and wonder what the hell you're supposed to do with an entire jar of bee pollen, and before you know it you've got a beautiful sandwich. Clancey's has a short deli menu but is long on its condiment curation (you'll never remember all of them) and TLC for its meat. The smoked ham flakes away easily when you hungrily pick off pieces before digging in. It tastes buttery, sweet, and, honestly, sort of like a campfire. The narrow, browned baguette gives that perfect super-crunch. Beware the spicy mustard! The sandwich is hella good, but it's gonna set you back a bit: $8.
Cheeky Monkey's pressed ham and brie sandwich (served on ciabatta) is an exercise in simplicity. Unlike some deli sandwiches, which can cause some anxious peeking under the hood pre-digging in, this compact, cute little guy has got just two fillings. The ham is sliced thick, giving a nice, tasteful reward with each bite. The cheese is subtle, warm, and gooey. One drawback: The meat was heaped mainly on one side, the cheese on the other, creating a lopsided effect. It's also pretty much a steal: $5.92 (incl. tax.).
The Winner: Cheeky Monkey's ham, sliced Easter thick, bears an unmistakable mark of kitchen care, but it was Clancey's soft but still crumbly and smokey, yet distinctly hammy, deli-style sandwich that won us over. The condiments--including thin-sliced red onion, roasted red and yellow pepper, horseradish, baby Swiss, jalapenos, mayo, lettuce, vinegar, and mustard--are badass, but there's no mistaking that it's the ham that carries it, with a generous assist from some olive oil in there that captured and accentuated the other flavors. It costs a fair bit more than Cheeky Monkey's, but its challenge to the palate (we mentioned the mustard, right?) and wealth of flavor make our hearts go pitter-pat.
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