Welcome back to The Bite, Sheepshead Bites’ weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.
It’s time to visit another old standby – Bassett Deli & Caterers (1404 Avenue X) and try something new. New, to me at least. This week’s “Bite” is Bassett’s roast beef hero.
It’s hard to believe, but I’ve never had the roast beef sandwich at Bassett’s. I’ve been a customer for years enjoying just about everything else on the menu, but not the roast beef. Bassett’s offerings are so diverse and plentiful that eating a roast beef sandwich, which I can get in just about every deli and bodega in the neighborhood, never entered my mind. But, after my visit to John’s Meat Market back in May, a roast beef sandwich has been on my lunch plate fairly often. How does Bassett’s stack up?
Like John’s, Bassett’s roasts their beef in house. Both stores offer their roast beef with your choice of toppings and offer both heroes and rolls. My personal choice of toppings are roasted red peppers, fresh mozzerella cheese and a squirt of oil and vinegar. There is one major difference between the two offerings; John’s uses bottom round, Bassett’s cooks top round.
According to Certified Angus Beef, bottom round is “an economical and flavorful cut that is perfect for autumn and winter comfort food dishes. A great dollar stretcher. Perfect for slow cooker method.” Top round, on the other hand, is “an economical, moderately tender roast. Size varies by retailer. The whole top round weighs approximately 15-17 pounds.” They recommend braising as the cooking method of choice for both cuts. Interesting – braising is not roasting, roasting is cooking in a dry environment. Braising involves cooking the meat in liquid and is the go to choice for tough cuts of meat.
For only $7, I was served an over-stuffed hero filled with rare roast beef and fresh cheese but only a couple of roast peppers. The bread was crunchy on the outside, light and fluffy inside and perfectly suited for the task. The roast beef was beautifully cooked to just under medium rare and the fresh mozzarella creamy and dense. I enjoyed my sandwich at Bassett’s – this was a good sandwich, but something was missing. It just missed the mark of being great.
Thinking back to my sandwich at John’s, what made that sandwich so memorable? Ah yes, it was the meat. Both Bassett’s and John’s cooks their meats perfectly, but John’s roast beef is much better seasoned and more flavorful. All was not lost; a quick dash of salt and pepper on Bassett’s roast beef upped the beefy flavor of the meat and pushed it across the finish line.
So, which deli style roast beef sandwich rains supreme? It’s really hard to say. With a little doctoring Bassett’s roast beef enters the winner circle; John’s gets there on its own. Bassett’s is a little more generous in its meat stuffing of the sandwich, but John’s adds more toppings. What a dilemma to have!
We’re all familiar with the Roll -n- Roaster vs. Brennan and Carr debate – but is a new battle forming? With Bassett’s and John’s only five blocks apart will Avenue X be littered with bodies as the battle for the roast beef crown plays out?
Or, an even more important question for Sheepshead Bay’s legacy, are we home to not only the best hot roast beef sandwiches in New York City, but also the best cold roast beef? We’ve definitely got two of the top contenders.
Bassett Deli & Caterers, 1404 Avenue X, (718) 332-9000.