New feature: REVIEW. Tiny’s Giant Sandwich shop

5 May

Tiny’s GIANT sandwich shop

Get the joke? On the corner on Rivington and Norfolk you find Tiny’s giant sandwich shop.

There is a lot of hype surrounding this lower east side institution. With really dedicated fans that will order delivery to JFK airport and a steady group of new people falling for the funny name,  this place has been around for twelve years, delivering the same oversized and inexpensive sandwiches to the hungry.

Tiny’s is peculiar – good and bad – but is definitely ready for a change.

The first thing that catches your attention is a giant sign with the name, hanging outside the shop – a brilliant move because it has some kind of gravity to it. As you approach the sign you realize what a great space and location it is. Tiny’s giant glass windows allows for insight in the place – great first impression. Happiness. But the happiness is temporary. The windows are covered by steam and eagerly looking through them happiness alters to anger.  Poorly furnished with sketchy black plastic tables and chairs, empty red paint walls and a quite as empty counter, this place radiates an hipster attitude of

“We don’t care,  we make sandwiches and that’s it.

We do our own thing

Take it or leave it”.

Charming? Could be. But upon entering, the disgusting smell of sour old bacon frying oil, makes you pretty certain about that you want to leave it in stead of taking it.

You wonder if you really have ended up in a sandwich place(other than a sign there are no indications of that this is a sandwich place), especially pondering if you have ended up in a sandwich places that has hundreds of “THIS IS AMAZING!!!!!” reviews on Yelp.

But, you probably don’t care about smell, steam or furniture if you have been here every day for the past twelve years.

The owner, Dave, a red-bearded guy dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, is nice enough to convince you to go inside. With a “hey dude – wanna sit in or take out?” he gives the place some personality and adds a somewhat welcoming local feel.

After being assigned to one of those plastic tables, you are served water in disposable plastic cups and given the plastic menu(plastic and table service – weird combination). In line with the name of the place, the menu contains a lot of funny names such as Silly Philly Portobello, Humongous Hummus, pesto-rific, Big Mack Daddy and Spicy Rizakk, but there is no doubt of what sandwiches are the most popular ones. Everywhere in the space there is a buzz of two sandwiches . To the right you hear: “can..I have..big mack daddy” or to the left: “I will go for the Spizy Rizakk” and that makes picking two items out of 30 a lot easier. Notable is that almost each of the 30 also exists in a vegetarian version in the same multilayered presentation.

The Big Mack Daddy and the Spicy Rizakk arrive together exactly seven minutes and twelve seconds later. Quick, considering that it is lunch time and the place is full. Each of them arrive with god ol’ ribbed chips – chips that have become a rarity in today’s jungle of kettle cooked ones. Nostalgic. Sentimental.

Big Mack Daddy is the first sandwich to be victimized. It’s a veggie burger(actually one of  the first ones in New York) topped with mild cheddar, tofu bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickle, ketchup, mustard, and special sauce served on a brioche bun. It’s better than good, but it’s not great. Your teeth cut through a high-quality brioche bun, reach the melted cheddar, wannabe-bacon, tomato, pickle and then the smoky veggie burger followed by an under layer of ketchup, mustard and… the non-existent special sauce…

The first bites are pretty amazing and unexpected- the veggie burger is a good one and goes perfectly well with the mustard and onion- but eventually this sandwich gets a little monotonous. After a while there are no surprises left for your taste buds and in the end everything tastes of mustard and veggie burger.

But that could be good if you are in to that kind of thing.

Second is the Spicy Rizakk, a sinful creation of sliced turkey, crispy bacon, melted cheddar, tomato, onion, spicy chipotle mayo on a toasted sesame semolina hero. This one is by far the most popular sandwich on the menu and, after tasting, it’s understandable why as much as 15 percent of total sales come from this sandwich, but also that it is a little bit, just a little bit, overrated.

Having a bite, your teeth plow through a high quality crispy sesame semolina, bacon, cheddar, tomato, turkey and onion and all the bad thoughts about Tiny’s vanish for a second.

This is good. Really good.

Even better is that after a bite, the chipotle mayo kicks in and adds creamy intensity and spiciness – probably a necessity since this sandwich is named after a rock band.

The sandwich really is like a rock concert- exciting and intense in the beginning, but after a while you realize that the rock band is playing the same heavy kind of songs and that it would be great to have some kind of light, easy pop song in between to contrast; in the Spicy Rizakk case simply some more onion and tomato.

Both Big Mack Daddy and Spicy Rizakk are similar in the way they become “boring” after a while. The latter one much less, though.

Overall it isan interesting experience. Sandwiches are somewhat oversized.

Affordable, yes. But not super inexpensive. Staff is really nice and location is great.

The waiter gets the check and pours some more water in the plastic cups.

Somewhere behind the buss of Spicy Rizakk and Big mack daddy ordering there is music coming out of two speakers. Is it Rihanna? Is it Chopin? Is it Spicy Rizakk? Is it a mixtape of all of them? even though it sounds pretty great , it is really hard to determine, to define what actually is coming out of the speakers.

This is exactly what Tiny’s is; hard to define. It’s not one or the other: it’s peculiarly somewhere in between.

What Tiny’s needs is to define itself, to get a real personality. With the great location, innovative name(s), amazing space, and dedicated clientele, there is a lot of room for improvement and potential for being the best sandwich place in New York.

But the question is… After staying the same for twelve years, will there ever be a change?


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