It's not every day the restaurant I'm scheduled to review ends up being a victim of a break-in. Such was the case at Dignowity Meats, which opened in early January inside the former Blind Man's Kitchen. An unidentified suspect burglarized the eatery the weekend of March 14. Though the cops have yet to find a link, the items and products stolen have the modus operandi of a certain meaty mugger. Again, we're not saying it's THE Brisket Bandit, but the casing of the joint, the way the culprit carved his way into the back patio using wire cutters and how he made off with more than $1,000 worth of corned beef (while accidentally leaving several bundles of brisket untouched) is just a little too suspicious.
Having said that, my first visit to the joint was on a flawless spring day. There's no indoor seating to be found, so make note of that. Instead, there are half a dozen picnic tables and a handful of wooden two-seaters made out of giant spools and wooden pallets. The large carport covering provides plenty of shade, and there's more than enough parking for to-go orders and sit-down eaters.
Dignowity Meats operates similarly to barbecue joints — when the food runs out, they're done. But for someone who's been harping about finding readily available sandwiches worth a damn around the office, I counted myself as an eager fan ... now if only I could work on having lunch before 2:30 p.m.!
The menu is short and sweet — just the way I like it, and after all, they're only open four hours a day. Patrons will find eight sandwiches on the most recent print-out, two of which feature poultry of some sort. If I were to speak for my vegan/vegetarian brethren (which I don't try to do very often), I'd ask the owners, Shane Reed and Andrew Samia of Crazy Carl's food truck, to carry a suitable alternative for the meat-free crowds. Otherwise, the menu is meaty in the best way possible.
Samia and Reed, longtime friends and recent business partners, have a thing for smoked meats and they're sharing their love through sandwiches. On our first visit, I enjoyed a salumi, or cured meat, sandwich on ciabatta stacked expertly with soppressata, salami, provolone, fresh mozzarella, olive relish, house giardiniera and a garlic pesto spread along with arugula, tomatoes and house vinaigrette. This could have devolved into a messy situation, but instead the sandwich held its own while balancing a nice wave of salty, briny and vinegary flavors.
We stacked up on sides — a sharp cheddar mac with smoked bacon (yes, please), a cream cheese corn bake and the pasta & arugula salad, which were evenly seasoned, though I could have had fewer dried cranberries in my pasta salad (they're just not my jam these days). My sister's chicken salad, made with smoked chicken, tarragon, walnuts, apple, dried cranberries (but why?) and fixings, was refreshingly modest and sturdy.
For my second visit, I popped in to pick up a few sammies to go. I had wanted to order the house-smoked pastrami during my first try, but they had sold out with good reason, I found out. Unlike the gargantuan stacks of meat served in famous New York delis, Dignowity Meats pastrami is less intimidating, but just as rich and delicious. Get it Reuben style with sauerkraut and homemade Russian dressing on fresh rye bread. The Turkey Caprese, which also made the drive home with me, is one of the few menu items grandfathered in from Crazy Carl's (which is still open)menu and it's easy to see why as Cajun-rubbed smoked turkey meets house pesto, fresh greens and balsamic mayo. Good flavors, no mess and it won't put you in a meat coma come 3 o'clock.
You're going to want to pick up these sandwiches for lunch. There's no unnecessarily lengthy menu to choose from or gimmicky items to distract from the task at hand. If recent press coverage due to the burglary has changed anything, it's how long you might have to wait to get your order. Regardless, these sandwiches are worth standing in line for.
1701 E. Houston St., 462-1496, dignowitymeats.com
The Skinny: Dignowity Meats adds tasty grab-and-go options for the Downtown denizen in search of lunch.
Best Bets: House smoked pastrami, turkey caprese, sharp cheddar mac, salumi sandwich
Hours: 11am-3pm Mon-Fri
Price: $6-$9 sandwiches, $1-$2.50 sides, $1-$2.50 drinks
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