There are still quiet pre-/post-lunch moments at Bunk when you can sit at leisure, pick up a wrinkled copy of the paper, and listen to the chatter of the chefs above the sizzle of the grill. Breathing in the thick savory air, it's possible to dream yourself into some mythic urban sandwich shop—a hole in the wall known only to you and a group of regulars you barely tolerate because, as nice as they may be, they're horning in on your special joint. It's a place that has what you crave, often before you even knew you were craving it. Yeah, it's not much to look at, but who cares, you're here for the food—comforting, filling, always good. It's just a pleasant bonus that the staff is friendly; if they hated your guts, you'd probably still show up at least twice a week.
For a few hours, Bunk Sandwiches embodies paradise. But lunchtime at this cramped sandwich shop is a whole other world. The atmosphere is thick and close. A line forms outside. There isn't a table to be found. It's all rush and bustle. But that's what happens when word gets out Tommy Habetz is making sandwiches... really good sandwiches.
Habetz (previously of Meriwether's and Gotham Building Tavern), and partner Nick Wood, preside over an ever-changing, regularly surprising chalkboard. Consider the pork belly Rueben ($8). Enough to make an orthodox Jew shpayen, there it is on a sheet of butcher paper, a blasphemy rendered in pork, kraut, Russian dressing, and rye. The result is unctuous and savory with a fine sour twang. It's lighter than your average Rueben, but just as messy. And like any blasphemy, it's damn enjoyable.
I'll challenge any eater to work their way through breakfast or lunch at Bunk and come away clean. Some of the sandwiches on Bunk's blackboard present a pointed challenge in food-to-mouth delivery. The meatball hero is such an example with four pliant medium-sized meatballs wrapped in sauce, parmigiano, and a soft roll. It's not necessarily a pick-up-and-eat sandwich, but there's something about Bunk that inspires one to rise to the challenge.
The reasonable roast beef sandwich is delicate in comparison to the meatball monster. Here, a mound of tender roast beef on a pert kaiser roll is incorporated with onion and a creamy, mild horseradish sauce—from first to last there isn't a single dry bite.
All Bunk's sandwiches shout "grub," but the cured-meat grinder (my term, not theirs) is a dynamic explosion of meaty Italian goodness. With mellow provolone and a spicy vinegar kick of pickled hot peppers, this is a sandwich that disappears quickly, leaving you slightly dazed and pleased, wondering what the hell just happened.
Though Habetz can make a meal out of a sandwich, there are plenty of sides to round out your lunch experience. The potato salad, studded with bacon and suffused with mustard, is a great accompaniment to the roast beef sandwich; the roasted Brussels sprouts will make you chastise your inner child for never having liked the tiny, crisped parcels of cabbage-y love.
Someday, Bunk will actually become that mythic urban destination. It'll just take a while for the new sandwich smell to wear off. And when it does, it will be your place, your secret pleasure, your lunchtime retreat, and it will be just about perfect. You can wait.