Friday, August 7, 2009

A sandwich served sans smile at Num Pang

Now that I no longer work in NYC or have my own place in Astoria, when I'm back visiting it's a rare occasion that I arrive to Manhattan early enough to have breakfast on my own. My parents' house is deep enough in Queens so that by the time I wake up, shower, pack my bag, and make my way downtown the clock is usually ticking toward noon; plus, there's so much food in the house there's no reason to wait until I reach the city to eat.

But one day last week I had stayed with TL, and woken up when he left for work. With nothing else to do in his apartment, I decided to head in to Think Coffee for the afternoon. I could have gotten off at a closer subway station, but I arrived to Union Square around 9:45am, fully intending to eat a fun breakfast first.

I hadn't decided where until I passed the sandwich shop Num Pang, which I'd been wanting to try for a while. The girl at the window informed me that they wouldn't be open until 10. And I'll say this—while she wasn't unfriendly, she certainly wasn't friendly, either. Maybe I've grown soft from hanging out in Colorado, where strangers smile and say hello even when you are simply passing them in the aisle of a grocery store, but to me her vibe seemed unnecessarily aloof, given that for a while I was the only person standing on the sidewalk outside of the shop that morning. Whatever. I decided to wait anyway.
At 10:01am, she took my order. Having had ample time to consider what I felt like having, I asked for the blood orange lemonade and one of their daily specials, a lemongrass chicken liver pate sandwich. I was order #0001 on the receipt.
And then I settled myself upstairs, in front of a window facing out onto the sidewalks. I must admit I felt quite luxurious, leisurely sitting down for breakfast while cab after cab clogged the street below, ferrying people to work. I was glad to be waking up my sleepy tastebuds with cold, sweet blood orange lemonade instead of rushing to an office.
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As for the sandwich, it was good. I'm not sure how much I would sing its praises beyond that. At $7.25 for a relatively small sandwich, it wasn't cheap. The chewy toasted roll was delicious, but too stiff to properly hold its contents without squirting them out the sides and bottom—I ended up splitting my sandwich into two open-faced halves, not wanting to deal with a landslide of pate each time I took a bite. The pate itself was studded with coarsely ground peppercorns and had a loose, chalky, vaguely gloppy texture; the advertised grilled pickled red scallions made no impression; the garnishes of cucumber, mayo, cilantro, and pickled carrots were fine. All the elements seemed of decent quality, but there was just something about the sandwich that felt like it had been executed with a lack of soul.

Or perhaps I was just responding to that girl at the counter. Sometimes you just want a little friendliness in the morning, you know?


  1. That's been my experience there. I think they get enough customers they don't feel a need to be friendly, which actually does mean I go there less. I also agree that the sandwiches are too small for the price.

  2. Being cold to strangers is definitely a NYC thing. Unfortunately, that's the product of being in a city. :(

    On to better things - how was the lemonade? Worth it? Real blood orange or fake syrup?

  3. The luxurious feeling of watching people rush off to their jobs with furrowed brows? I do that too whenever I go back home. I always feel guilty though, and I have no idea why.

    As for the curtness factor, I get that in Chicago, and after five years in eastern WA, it definitely feels as if I've been disconnected from something I used to be very in tune with--do you get that feeling?

  4. Colorado has turned you into a wuss.

  5. Gastro888, the blood orange lemonade was pretty refreshing. I'm pretty sure it wasn't a fake syrup.

    EMC, it seems I feel more and more disconnected every time I return. But not in a bad way, more in a way that heightens my awareness of the differences in both worlds. It's nice to know I can survive in both.

    qsoz: Yep, spoken like a true New Yorker.

  6. Yes, good but pricey so I haven't been back since my first visit. If you want to be in the city early next time, you can stay with me and we can go for a nice walk with Ice in the morning and grab yummies a long the way. (This is of course, assuming good wetaher. You know I don't go out in bad weather.)