After-School (Deli) Special
Photo Credit: Su-Jit Lin
You may call it a sub. You may call it a hoagie. You may even call it a grinder. But this New Yorker calls it a hero and it lives up to its regional identity. However, this sandwich is even more special when it’s a hometown hero, and the surprisingly glorious, technically humble Deli Special at the (sadly) now-closed Campus Heroes in Selden, New York, was exactly that. This was the sandwich to end all sandwiches on Long Island and one of the three things I absolutely had to eat during every visit — no matter how short — from college in order to truly feel like I was home.
Reflecting on it during National Sandwich Month, the Deli Special seemed so simple but it was the stuff legends are made of. The golden bread was from local wholesaler Modern Italian Bakery, which supplied most bodegas and delis with New York’s famous kaiser rolls. Baked only a half hour away and shipped across Long Island, Manhattan, and the city’s other four boroughs, this bread remains the closest thing to a Viennese Kaiser roll in texture. It was studded with toasted, baked-on sesame seeds and seemingly hard on the outer crust until you sunk your teeth into the cool, moist insides, surprised that the barrier layer didn’t shatter.
The meats within were Boar’s Head, sliced thin but not paper-thin. Ovengold Turkey, classic boiled ham, and roast beef were gently folded like sheets of fabric atop one another down the interior of the 14-inch roll, which was generously slathered with mayonnaise. On top of the protein pile, more protein: yellow American cheese sliced thicker than the meat and overlapping like a creamy fan.
Piling On the Works
Next came “the works.” Technically, mayo was part of “the works,” but as a base condiment it needed to come first to anchor the fillings. Over the meat and cheese rested shredded iceberg lettuce, precut like little crinkles of green confetti. Next came thin-sliced white onions, piled on abundantly and evenly; tomatoes followed, the round slices cleaving to the onions below.
The final touch? A few generous shakes of Campus Heroes’ herb blend, a zesty oregano base with black pepper and other secret spices … or was it just those two? Who knows? Red wine vinegar and oil, shaken in a squeeze bottle, was the final touch on this behemoth of a sandwich, squirted over the veritable salad on a mountain of deli meat.
This was the sandwich to end all sandwiches on Long Island and one of the three things I absolutely had to eat during every visit — no matter how short — from college in order to truly feel like I was home.
And a mountain it was, weighing in at a whopping two pounds on average and good to the last vinegar-soaked bite. So stuffed that it defied folding, this was the standard to which I held all monster sandwiches — held them open-faced and with greenery falling off the top and mayonnaise smearing my hand as dressing dripped down my forearm.
It was heaven. It was home.