Shifting Sandwiches

Shifting Sandwiches

There’s a classic scene in the Oscar-winning 1963 film Tom Jones in which the titular “adopted bastard,” played by Albert Finney, enjoys a succulent meal with actress Joyce Redman that’s clearly not focused on what they’re eating. I was recently reminded of that moment while surreptitiously taking in a young couple enjoying lunch at Meat & Co. In this case, although they rarely broke eye contact, I sensed that their true fascination was with the sandwiches.

Such rapture has been the goal of this countertop sandwich shop since John and Danielle Ginnetti opened it next to their upscale cocktail bar, 116 Crown, in 2013. After a decade on Crown Street, Meat & Co. moved to East Rock Market two Septembers ago, where it’s finding a new audience. “In the past, we weren’t seeing many customers other than those working downtown in offices, at the hospitals, at Yale,” Danielle says. Once the COVID pandemic hit, their business dwindled as hard-earned regulars started working from home. “Now we’re seeing more families and people going out to lunch socially. People have really welcomed us into the neighborhood.”

What hasn’t changed is Meat & Co.’s focus on locally sourced organic ingredients, which for now add up to a menu featuring 10 all-time customer favorites. My go-to is the Haute Tuna Melt ($15) on ciabatta, featuring distinctively vibrant Sicilian tuna, American cheese, lettuce, tomato and zippy Thai pepper.

I also enjoy the D. Wayne Johnson ($14), a hearty composition of house-smoked, thin-sliced turkey breast with bacon, tomato, mixed greens and salad cream, and the Cubano ($16), a rich and tangy blend of roast pork loin, ham, Swiss cheese, red onion, dill pickle and Dijon mustard. Others include the Steak & Cheese ($16), with Angus ribeye and young American cheese; Who’s Roast Beast? ($16), combining roast beef and horseradish sauce with “frizzled” onion; and the famous Rick Reuben ($16) blending pastrami, American cheese, cardamom-braised red cabbage slaw and “all-day sauce” (jalapeño relish, aioli, shallots and cornichons).

Those with extra-large appetites can order a side of French fries in plain ($6), Cajun ($7) or truffle ($8)—the latter, shoestring-style, will always be my choice—or go for a bag of Dirty Deli-Style Potato Chips in flavors from sea salt to Funky Fusion. Available beverages include Canada Dry Lemon-Lime Seltzer as well as glass-bottled Coke, Sprite and orange Fanta from Mexico.

Missing for the moment are any dessert options—which were readily available at the former location due to its proximity to 116 Crown—or much in the way of vegetarian options, although the grilled-cheese Delilah ($10) is another menu classic. Reasons for their absence include restrictions of space and seasonality. “We used to offer salads at the old place, but don’t really have the storage options now, “ Danielle says. “And there’s another salad purveyor in the market Raw>, so we didn’t want to infringe on that business.” That said, Danielle says, “We want customers to tell us what they’re looking for. We’re more than happy to oblige if we can.”

Currently under consideration are the additions of chicken nuggets, especially for customers with kids, and 116 Crown’s popular chocolate chip cookies. One of the advantages of East Rock Market is that customers can mix and match food choices among different vendors, blending a sandwich from Meat & Co. with a salad from Raw or sushi from Rockfish, maybe also a cocktail or two from Rick’s Bar. Sadly, tenants selling pasta, tacos and gelato have closed, but the bright and airy market struck me as a beautiful space with great potential—a unique place to meet up and, now, Meat up.

Written by Patricia Grandjean. Image 1, featuring a mixed stack of the Steak & Cheese and Haute Tuna Melt, sourced from @meatandco. Image 2 photographed by Patricia Grandjean.

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