One of the greatest joys of the hectic schedule that employs me comes during the rare times when I have the time (and pocket money) to sit down for a hot lunch. The Czechs are great about lunch. They feature a variety of cheap meals at most of the pubs. Hearty Czech food: meat, sauce, and dumplings. But sometimes, I just want a sandwich.
In New York, lunch equals sandwich. Three years amid Gotham’s tremendous arsenal of sandwich shops isn’t something that you shake easily. There was always something amazing available: from the glorious combination of pickled vegetabes, fresh bread and alien meant that is the Vietnamese bahn mi; to a seriously Italian, two-serving sub from a tiny deli with a “soup nazi” atmosphere; or my sentimental favorite: rare roast beef-mayo-lettuce-tomato-salt-pepper. There was always a reliable bread and meat creation to fall back on or a new one to discover.
In Prague, what they do reliably well and with stunning creativity are open face sandwiches. These beauties feature a base of diagonally cut french bread smeared with butter, mayo or potato salad and creatively topped with everything from pickled peppers
to hard boiled eggs. While lovely and delicious, they’re overly ornate, difficult to eat (and transport) and not very filling.
Regular sandwiches are available, as testified to by the presence of the Subway and Bageterie chains, but I they simply don’t fill that sentimental spot in my stomach. My homemade sandwiches, made with Czech ingredients, reliably capture the Czech sandwich but without Italian or American ingredients, again, I can’t make anything like home.
Yet after several daring culinary exploits I’ve come to rely squarely on one sandwich to fill the void: the Döner Kebap. This glorious Turkish spit-roasted delicacy puts the US/Greek gyro to shame. My best lunches when I surrender to a pillowy roll filled with perfectly cooked lamb and topped with lettuce, onion and a tangy yogurt sauce.
I love it because it’s an honest sandwich. Warm because the meat is right from the spit and the bread fresh from the oven. Rich because the meat has been cooking slowly for hours. Refreshing because the sauce was made this morning and cheery because the restaurant fills up with Prague’s Turkish population during lunch. While Döner doesn’t replace all the sandwiches I’ve given up, I’m glad to have a new one to rely on.