Damn, that steak sandwich at Pastis is just the best steak sandwich in town.
I went in there on a freeeeeezing cold day in NYC, sat at the bar by myself and chatted up the very nice bartender. He was kind enough to think that I had something to do with fashion week, since the floor was jammed with gorgeous young frenchmen fresh from the runway, tall blonde women on cell phones and rich european men in suits. They must have been on hyper-warp fashion week mode since my food came out with lightning speed, but wow, oh wow that sandwich is great. Roughly chopped skirt steak (is it skirt? I've really no idea) is intensely beefy and sometimes almost gamey (as gross as that sounds, I mean that in a good way), salted and peppered agressively. There's a strong gruyere melted over the top, some sauteed onions in there too, all on a perfectly soft roll that yields perfectly to the teeth and soaks up all the juices as you eat. They get 100 extra points for serving the sandwich and the accompanying crispy fries always with a small ramekin of mayo (eh, they would probably say it is some sort of aioli). Perfect.
I contend that Pastis has the best food of all the McNally places - I usually find myself annoyed at Balthazar (huge crowds and medicore food), and disappointed at the Odeon (overpriced and mediocre food). Schiller's is great for some things, but not as good as it used to be.
But back to the steak sandwich, a dish that can be seen as the hamburger's ignored older brother. It was something my mom always used to order in restaurants, and felt like a special treat to me, fancy and casual all at once. But I can't even think of one other steak sandwich in town that I've noticed on a menu, much less sampled. I'm sure there are a thousand other versions in this city. I think I'll make it my February campaign to uncover the steak sandwiches of New York!