Sunday, October 2, 2011

Num Pang

21 East 12th Street Map
New York, NY 10003

by Beau Cadiyo

Walking through crowds is an art. Some people approach CrowdWalking™ as an opportunity to join the masses, just going along with what everyone else is doing, moving at the crowd pace. Some people bumble along even more slowly, disrupting and inconveniencing everyone else. Others successfully move through the crowd at a faster or slower speed at will, cutting through an otherwise solid mass swiftly and easily, without interrupting other peoples’ courses; they react to the movements of others and respond accordingly in order to maximize their own speed and avoid collisions. When they do get in the way of other people, the others may feel momentary annoyance, but then they realize that they’re in the presence of a Super Walker™ and don’t fault them for this transgression.

I am a Super Walker™. I’m really fucking good at walking.

It took these skills to get from Union Station to Num Pang Sandwich Shop. Union Square was packed on a Saturday morning; artists set up their tables everywhere with farmers, a sexual harassment exhibit staffed by nubile college-aged coeds was attracting half-shaved middle-aged men, and people lounged around on stairs, benches and fences, blocking everything up in a sea of humanity.

I meandered through the streets; for a city, New York feels safe and, as a tourist, it’s hard to imagine that these streets are considered “hard.” Suddenly, I passed a sign advertising Bahn Mis. I started, immediately flipped through my New York Moleskine and located the shop on my list of potential places to try. The window was open, as was the door, and I walked in only to be told that it would be another 15 minutes until they actually opened. Dejected, I went to buy fruit at a grocery store, then returned. I ordered a peppercorn catfish sandwich for $7.50 – a very good price – and rubbed my hands in anticipation.

They handed me a bag, and I brought it back to Union Square. I was salivating, the heat was permeating the bag in a teasing way. Sitting on a somehow-vacant bench, I pulled it out of the bag and popped open the cardboard container expectantly.

I was again dejected.

The bahn mi was actually pretty good – delicious, really. The chewy bread had a nice crust and the filling was delectable – simultaneously sweet and salty and spicy, all of the elements mixing in perfect balance of tastes and textures. The problem, of course, was that the price may have been low for a bahn mi in New York, but was nevertheless exceptionally high for the amount of food I actually got. It was barely bigger than a dinner roll, and, while the filling was good, there was not much of it. My paradigm may have made an adopted New Yorker blush, and a native New Yorker scream, but if I’m going to pay that much for a sandwich, it better be big enough to satisfy me. This was barely a cocktail appetizer, much less a $7.50 sandwich.

I’d feel bad about these expectations, or at the very least embarrassed in front of my New York readers, except that these sandwiches are a ripoff. If people want to tell me that I’m a backwoods hick, well, that’s fine. As a New Yorker at Time once wrote, “There is no provincialism so blatant as the metropolitan who lacks urbanity.”

Num Pang on Urbanspoon

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