Cheeky Sandwiches: An Early Look at Beignets, Po' Boy
Cheeky Sandwiches, a New Orleans-style sandwich shop, opened several weeks ago on the Chinatown end of Orchard Street. The restaurant looks like a mini theme park--a white picket fence lines the front, and the windows are covered with chicken wire and blue shutters. Inside, a white brick wall is painted with the slogan, "A toast to the ducks that live in the swamp," (sure, but why?) and Stayin' Alive might be on the radio. Two other walls are populated by murals by Blue Logan: One of a Halloween party and the other depicting the faces of the artist's friends. "He was going to have a wall of his lovers, too," said the woman behind the counter. "But he took it down." That's probably for the best.
These beignets are actually only the size of silver dollars
Cheeky offers about six sandwiches, plus a soup of the day, and beignets. They also serve a limited breakfast revolving around eggs. Zapp's potato chips and Big Shot sodas, both iconic Louisiana brands, are on the side.
Shrimp and oyster po' boy--pick out that mealy tomato!
Sandwiches run from about $6.50-$8.50, and are generously portioned. Some are obviously Southern--like fried chicken on a buttermilk biscuit--and others are freestylers, like beef short rib with horseradish sauce on challah, and roasted beets with butternut squash mash and fried goat cheese. The latter is one of two meat-free options; the second is a vegetarian (and unorthodox) muffalata, combining pickled vegetables and swiss on an olive loaf.
But to take the measure of a New Orleans-style sandwich shop, you've got to try the po' boy. You can get it with fried shrimp, fried oysters, or half-and-half, which is obviously the best choice. While you're waiting, listen to the mad sizzle of cornmeal-battered seafood hitting hot oil. Once fried, it's tucked into a squishy but resilient white roll with mayo, tart Louisiana-style hot sauce, pickle slices, lettuce and tomato. (Why must chefs everywhere use tomatoes even in the dead of winter when they're mealy and tasteless?)
The seafood is crusty and hot against the cool lettuce and mayo. The hot sauce and pickles give the sandwich welcome lift, but the fat, minerally oysters and sweet shrimp dominate, as they should. It's an excellent sandwich, and at $8.50 for so much seafood, practically a bargain.
For dessert, the mini beignets are fried to order and dusted with powdered sugar. You must eat them piping hot, and not care about the powdered sugar that will cover you in a fine dust. The beignets are light and puffy in texture, yeasty and sweet. Purists may not appreciate the fact that the beignets are so much smaller than usual, about the size of silver dollars, but others may like the low-commitment of the tiny, shareable sweets.
35 Orchard Street