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Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Mess of Meat (on Rye)

Last year I was eating “pigs-in-a-blanket” at a buddy's wedding when something strange happened. One of those blankets was stuffed with two pigs. It seemed pretty wild, friend; even risqué. But the experience imparted a valuable life lesson: sometimes you really can double your pleasure... especially with “Double Meat.”

Double Meat is the sort of mantra/knowledge that comes in handy when you are trying to decide between sausage or pepperoni pizza (order both, silly!); or when you add a slice of prosciutto to your chicken parmigiana (now it's definitely kosher); or when you top a burger with Bacon and Ham (Balance and Harmony). But if anything, the Double Meat Dance delivers its biggest dividends on a sandwich. Sometimes a combo just brings you higher, offering flavors and textures that solitary slices cannot provide.

On this front North Jersey knows what's up. Hence the preponderance of their curious regional delicacy, the Sloppy Joe. We've already covered this sandwich's history but to remind you: it's a double-decker on rye with two meats, Swiss Cheese, coleslaw and Russian dressing. The combo is gimongous, tasty, messy. And every place does the Joe a little different.

On our quest for the best, The Porkchop Express prowled many delis and found two final spots worth touting: Evergreen and Hickory Tree. Names notwithstanding they are in no way related, save for both offering that real-deal New Jersy delicatessen experience we have come to... relish.The Evergreen Deli has been around awhile: some 75 years, if you include it's run as a butcher shop. About 4 decades back Tony Pascucci of Newark bought the spot and turned it into an eatery. Sandwiches – sold to local neighbors, kids, cops, characters – are the main draw, but Mr. Pascucci has always taken his food seriously. Hence the daily specialties, a range of homespun dishes (brisket, mac & cheese, Italian classics) prepared with pep and care.
Your eyes don't deceive: Evergreen Deli brings the Extreme Double Meat Style

As for their Joe ($9.95)? Sloppy, good reader. And big and good-natured. Which makes it the official “George Wendt” of Joes. 6 full ounces of rich house-roasted beef and turkey left little to the imagination. But this wasn't their only use of double meat – or even our favorite. Mr. Pascucci's Chicken Murphy took top honors, a tasty combo of savory sausage, plump chicken, potatoes, peppers and onions. They should probably rename this Sausage Murphy, as the links really stole the show. But by any name the dish speaks for itself: a testament to thoughtful preparation and sound execution, with just enough vinegar and spice to keep the affair surprisingly light, lively and balanced.
Mr. Pascucci's son Anthony keeping tradition alive

Evergreen has been, and remains, a true neighborhood destination. On our visit Tony's son Anthony enthusiastically greeted patrons by nickname (Mr. Roastbeef, Mr. Crispy), tending to the lunch rush before heading off to his regular gig as a lawyer. His father passed away suddenly earlier this year, and ever since he has taken up the slack: meeting and greeting, prepping and cooking. As to why he does it, the answer comes quickly with a big smile: serving families who have grown up with his father's food and carrying on the tradition just “makes you feel happy.”

Amen: happy and full.But not so full that we couldn't appreciate one more good thing. Hence our stop at the Hickory Tree. They serve one of the most highly touted Joe's around, and we wanted to check the technique in person.
As with every Joe spot worth its salt, you will find at least two or three loyal customers who swear “this one is the best.” And for all the talk, Hickory Tree's sandwich walked tall. This turned out to be one of our favorites, largely due to – surprise! – their meats. Exhibit A(wesome)? One seriously delectable roast beef. Each plump rosy lump is seasoned, tied, aged, cooked, trimmed and sliced in-house. Owners Anthony Pascarella and Louis Napolitano take pride in the results, and they should. It is fresh, well-seasoned and supremely tender. So when you order your Joe make sure to include beef in the mix. It goes particularly well with their tangy Russian dressing, soft rye and sweet slaw. To make matters more enticing, at $7.50 this is a real Flavor Bargain.
Full Counter at Hickory Tree Deli: Beef and Beefsteaks

While you're there, take some time to peruse the aisles. Hickory Tree has a refreshingly eclectic selection of sundries, culled from around the world and Jersey both. Local iced teas and farm fresh tomatoes mingle with balsamic figs, imported sauces and freezers stuffed with freshly prepared Italian food. Flavorful, professional, cosmopolitan: this is a satisfying stop on any Sloppy Joe tour, and a fine way to round out our New Jersey Deli Drive: with double meat delights for all!

Evergreen Delicatessen
529 S. Springfield Ave.
Springfield, NJ
(973) 376-6095
Open from around 6am-3pm, Monday thru Saturday

Hickory Tree Delicatessen
648 Shunpike Road (Chatham Mall)
Chatham, NJ 07928
(973) 822-1956
Open from 6:30am-5pm, Monday thru Friday; 6:30am-5pm Saturdays



Blogger Nathan Kensinger said...

Dude - check out this photo my friend took - its triple your meat, to go! Should be your new logo.


10:10 AM  
Blogger J. Slab said...

nate dogg thats a terrific photo. you have the pig-eagle eye of the pork-tiger, my friend

3:00 PM  
Anonymous colleen said...

Makes me want to grab the next Zipcar...

Is the NJ Sloppy Joe related at all to the other sandwich of that name, or is that just an interesting coincidence?

11:09 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Yo, J.

How could you not mention In-n-Out double-double in the intro?! You were the one who introduced me to those, and boy did I miss them after leaving Cali.

Love your blog, man. Found it recently and have subscribed to read about all of your incredible meaty finds.

Matt S., 1-yr sagehen

12:17 AM  
Blogger J. Slab said...

colleen, nj indeed -- click here for the history

matty, holy crap! been forevah man, great to hear from you. drop me a note (porktuesday at gmail), lemme know what yer up to

and since you brought it up... i actually spent a few hours hounding in-n-out this summer, on a rumor they were expanding to nyc. (they aren't, but...)

9:06 PM  

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