Duran Sandwiches

Mouth is alive
With juices like wine,
And I’m hungry like the wolf.
-Duran Duran

New York City and its surrounding ‘burbs are well known havens for killer sandwiches and all things tasty that get slapped on or between some kind of bread item. The subs of Long Island, the American heroes of the city proper, and the wedges, hoagies and grinders of Westchester and New Jersey… we have it all here.

In fact, over the centuries this glorious city has taken very kindly to the sandwiches of our rich and diverse immigrant communities, whether it’s Italian sausage and pepper sandwiches, Grecian lamb gyros, near-eastern falafel-stuffed pita, Vietnamese banh mi (with a touch of French colonial influence, of course), or tomato-, cream cheese- and lox-crammed bagels from the Jewish community. We truly are a melting pot that embraces different food cultures. Shit, even just a few weeks ago I had some nice Brazilian sandwiches and burgers in Astoria. The international sandwich community here just keeps expanding.

So what’s left? Which other cultures’ sandwiches are missing from the NYC foodscape? Enter Eastern Europe: Austria, to be precise. At least at first.

Duran Sandwiches was started by the Duran brothers, Tomas and Vladimir, in Vienna, 1969. From there, the family began operating bakeries and restaurants in the city. They later expanded to Hungary, Turkey and the Czech Republic in the 90’s.  This joint on 27th and Madison is the first franchise to hit the USA. It’s operated by Hungarian-turned-American Tom Szebeni, who was a TV producer in Hungary, where he used to eat sandwiches at Duran during breaks from work.

It’s been open since October, and in my opinion the timing couldn’t have been better. “Elevated Toast” has been crushing the food world lately, trending hard, and the concept of Duran Sandwiches is to deliver light, open-faced, cold sandwiches that are clean and easy to eat, don’t fall apart or drip, and focus on high quality, delicious, natural ingredients that happen to be presented beautifully.

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There are three different styles of bread: rye, pumpernickel and whole wheat. Vegan options are available, but the bulk of the menu showcases classic Austrian fare like sausages, salamis, sliced meats, cheeses and cream-based salads.

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The sandwiches range from about $2.50 to $3.50 each, and there are nearly 40 different sandwiches you can choose from.

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I was invited in for a press tasting by my friend Jay at The Dishelin Guide and Duran’s PR folks, Benvenuti. You guys know I’m brutally honest in my reviews. If something bugs me, I say it! And that’s regardless of whether it was free or for the press. I must say: I was really happy with this place. My first instinct was “I’m not going to get full, these sandwiches are too small.” But after about five I was stuffed. That’s only about $13-$15. Not bad at all! But then Tom kept feeding us more and more, and since they were so good we couldn’t stop! I think we ended up trying eight or nine in the store, and then Tom packed up a box of nine for each of us to go.

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All in, I tried about 15 different sandwiches. They break down into three categories: meat, fish and vegetarian.

My favorite vegetarian sandwich was probably the the sun dried tomato and date sandwich. The fresh tomato and sun dried tomato had just the right amount of sweetness added in from the dates, and that struck a perfect balance. Pretty funny: The steak guy ended up loving the vegan option!

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Sun Dried Tomato & Date: fresh tomato, sun dried tomato and dates.

As for the fish, I liked the salmon sandwich. Resting beneath the smoked salmon was a scoop of celery root salad that was really unique and flavorful. To me, this made for a much better cream element for the smoked salmon than the more familiar cream cheese. And, in fact, you can get just that celery root cream salad by itself, on its on sandwich, if you want.

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Salmon: smoked salmon with celery cream, lettuce and dill.

My favorite of the meat sandwiches was the spicy Hungarian salami. It had great fat flavor content, it was super soft and tender, and had a really nice spice level to it. In fact I might have to find out where Tom gets the salami, so I can keep some stocked in my fridge at all times. If not I’ll just have to keep coming back here! I even got to sample the slices of salami by themselves back in the kitchen.

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Spicy Hungarian Salami (left): spicy salami with Duran spread, boiled egg, cucumber and carrot.

Here are the others I tried:

Turkey Breast: carved turkey breast with horseradish cream, Duran spread, carrot and cucumber.

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Roast Beef: carved roast beef with Duran spread, onion and chives.

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Traditional Hungarian Salami (center): salami with Duran spread, boiled egg, cucumber, and carrot.

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A salami sample from the kitchen:

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Traditional Hungarian Sausage: paprika sausage with Duran spread, pickles, carrot, boiled egg and cucumber.

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Salmon Caviar: salmon caviar with Duran spread, lettuce, boiled egg, tomato, cucumber and lemon.

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Tuna Salad (right): tuna in water mixed with tuna in oil (makes for a very creamy tuna salad), with tomato, onion and lemon.

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Lobster Salad (left): lobster salad, tomato and lemon.

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Sheep Cheese: sheep cheese, farmer’s cheese, tomato, cucumber, onion and olive.

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Egg Salad (left): egg salad with parsley and boiled egg.

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Hot Pepper & Egg Salad (right): egg salad with Hungarian hot pepper, tomato and jalapeño.

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Egg Salad with Curry: egg salad with boiled egg, curry and cucumber.

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Curd Farmer’s Cheese (center): farmer’s cheese, sheep cheese, paprika, and caraway.

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Asparagus: pickled asparagus with farmer’s cheese, cucumber, boiled egg and tomato.

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This place is a lot of fun, and it’s perfect for summer eating, since it’s cold, not messy, and easy to eat. In fact, if my wife and I ever throw another scotch party at our place, I’m going to cater it with Duran Sandwiches instead of busting my ass cooking for it! A large chunk of their business, both here and overseas, revolves around external catering, providing food for corporate functions, private parties, etc. The full-sized sandwiches lend themselves well to hors d’oeuvres or tapas, but Duran also caters bite-sized, circular versions of every sandwich for even easier, mess-free eating.

DURAN SANDWICHES
62 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10016

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