Sandwich Review: Bunk Sandwiches

For some reason the corner of SE 6th & Morrison felt more urban than normal. Maybe it was the problem finding parking, the jackhammer noise from the street repair crew, or the persistent panhandler, but this felt more like a brief lunch hour in lower Manhattan than southeast Portland.  The line outside Bunk Sandwiches didn't do much to change the view. At 11:45 am the lunch line – mostly young hipsters --spilled onto the street. I pulled out my iPod Touch, so I'd mix in with the crowd, and wondered what was inside that was worth the wait.

Inside, the space was cozy, noisy, filled with people talking about lunch, work, and who knows what. Everyone seemed to be excited to be there, even the employees. The cooks dominated a space behind the counter, slapping together sandwiches at the grill, or piling on the ingredients at the cold table. If you were quick enough you could grab a spot at the bar and watch as they prepared your meal.
I surveyed the menu and decided I couldn't decide. I'd heard good things about the Italian with Mama Lil's peppers, but the Pork Belly Cubano looked interesting, so I bought one of each. There were some sides, but I stuck with the default bag of kettle chips that accompany each sandwich.

After I ordered I skipped to the back of the restaurant to wait while others churned in and out of the place. I could see through the plate glass window that the line outside had grown longer.  I grabbed a Portland Mercury and leaned against a crate of poppy-seed Kaiser buns and tried to look hip -– or at least low-key.  After a bit the cashier called my name and I grabbed the bag to retire to a calmer milieu and enjoy my lunch.

True to form, the sandwiches are as brash as the establishment. The Italian Cured Meats sandwich ($9) is a hefty sandwich, bursting with aroma as well as flavor. I needed extra napkins for the amount of olive oil dripping from it.  I'd heard some hubbub about Mama Lil's peppers, but to my surprise although they enhanced the flavor of the sandwich they weren't used very well, piled on top of the lettuce instead of buried deep within.  The meats were tasty, a bit salty, but nothing to write home about.  On the whole I had a problem with the structure of the sandwich, but I'll save that for another blog post. In short, it was a serviceable Italian grinder.

The lunchtime jewel, however, was the Pork Belly Cubano ($8).  When I read the description "ham, swiss and pickles," I pictured a hot ham sandwich with a dill pickle on the side.  Not so! I don't know how they prepare the pork, but it tasted like a cross between bacon and corned beef (yes, corned beef).  It had layers of flavor which I couldn't even begin to describe: black pepper, sweet bacon, zest of smoke.  The genius is putting the pickle into the sandwich. It adds to the crunch, but also stands apart from the meat, cheese and bread.  Believe me I thought kindly about this sandwich the rest of the day.  So, yes, it was worth the wait in line.

OK, I'll admit it: Bunk Sandwiches has got something going on. It's also open for breakfast on weekdays and Saturday, so I plan to stop by there sometime soon and try the Bacon Egg & Cheese on a hard roll (as pictured on their website).

Bunk Sandwiches
621 SE Morrison , Portland, OR
Monday - Saturday 8-3
Lunch served 11-3p

1 comment:

  1. To me, it feels more South Philly, than NYC, but I know what you mean. Love the place, though rarely find myself there because it's always so crowded. You'll have to eat there at some point, because you missed the heat and smell of the place (which is so East Coast) and the grease on the paper over the plate.