Looking to try Armenian Sausage? I got a place you can try…
I was watching some old Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations (something I am apt to do when I’m writing these reviews), and I decided to watch “Back To Beirut”, Anthony’s return to Beirut after being trapped in Lebanon during the most…or most recent conflict there in 2006.
Fast forward to about the 19:50 mark in the episode, and Anthony starts talking about the various cultures who have fled to Beirut, and the very diverse cultural scene there. He talks about the Armenians who, it turns out, have made a big cultural impact on the city.
It just so happens that I live in a city here in California where Armenian-Americans also have had a big cultural impact.
Tony was served a mountain of food in that scene, some of the names he’s getting, some he’s not. But one dish stood out above the rest. One caught my attention immediately upon hearing it.
Sujuk (or Sujukh) which is a spicy Armenian Sausage.
Yeah, I know. You had me at Sausage.
I think that’s my mission now. I’m out to try every region of the world’s sausages and preserved meats. Why not? As life missions go, I personally think it’s not a bad way to roll.
But where to buy Sujuk? That I did not know.
Well, when looking for the Armenian good stuff, it pays to have Armenian-American friends. Fortunately, I had several to call upon. One of the first places to come up…was New York Cafe (Facebook link only, no website).
Now, you hear the name New York Cafe, and what do you think of?
Somehow I first heard that name, and I was transported back to my days as a Grad Student, looking for the “Utility Slice” on the way to class, as a means of feeding myself that wouldn’t break the bank.
But that’s not what it means here.
New York Cafe is a Mediterranean Food joint, with Armenian Ownership. So yes, you have your Gyros, you have your Falafel Plates, you even have your Pizzas. But you also have some Armenian treats. My friends told me, you want Sujuk? Just go in there and ask them to make you a Sandwich.
Okay, I said.
New York Cafe sits in the middle of Little Armenia neighborhood of Hollywood, and what I also think of as the Kaiser neighborhood, an area of Sunset Blvd. dominated by Hospitals, most of them owned by Kaiser Permanente. In fact, after I had my Sujuk, my plans were to jet across the street and pick up a prescription. Wild and crazy me, right?
New York Cafe is a simple and low key. Step up to the counter, order up, and wait for the magic arrive. Have a Coke, either Bottle or Fountain variety, kick back snack, then head back to work.
And there at long last, I had my first, fateful meeting…with a Sujuk Sandwich.
WHAT SHOULD I GET?: What have I been talking about all this time?
There were a lot of tempting things on the menu, but like I said…I’m here for Sujuk, and Sujuk I shall have.
Unless it’s the Sujukh Sandwich, as it’s spelled at New York Cafe.
Seriously, there are at least three different versions of how to spell Sujuk, so I’ve been going with the one I saw on both the No Reservations Episode and Wikipedia.
It took a couple of minutes for the Sandwich to arrive, but when it does, you can see that the folks at New York Cafe have taken a little time with it. In a conventional sense, it’s a pressed sandwich, kinda like a Panini, toasted to perfection. Inside you’ll find thick cuts of Sujuk, Oregano and Mozzarella Cheese, and hunks of Tomato, all melted into a crispy, crunchy, ooey-gooey goodness.
The Sujuk itself (and yes I took the time to taste the Sujuk) was thickly cut, dense (in a meaty delicious good way) and tasty as all get out.
But that first bite in, it was just tasty. I wasn’t really feeling the spicy.
Then I took the second bite, in, and…okay. Okay. There’s a little kick there.
By the the third and fourth bite, yeah…I can feel it now. This is a spicy sausage.
The uninitiated might compare Sujuk to Pepperoni. That’s a little unfair. Sujuk carries different taste punch than pepperoni, and what I had wasn’t nearly was oily as pepperoni. It was thickly cut, but the preparation was finely ground. If anything, it reminded me of some of the sausages I got at Barbecue joints in Texas, but without that blast of oil on your tongue you tend to get down south.
So yes, friends. I’m giving Sujuk the edge over those other two. I’m aiming to have Sujuk again, so any place you want to point me, I’m down.
I also had the Hummus here, and this too was a bit eye opening.
I tend to think of the taste of Hummus in the vein of Zankou’s or Skaf’s. Tasty, bright, vibrant. I think of that flavor especially coming off my bad experience at Whole Foods, where the Hummus I bought there (I didn’t know better) had the flavor of really good wallpaper paste.
So when I ordered the Hummus at New York Cafe, I was surprised in that I had a really nutty, smoky flavor. Their hummus was the straight ahead flavor of the Chickpeas (I don’t know why I keep thinking Hummus is made with Garbanzo beans). I wiped through my Pita Bread in seconds, and then just concentrated on the Hummus itself. Just soaking it in, tasting it whole.
Is this what I’ve been missing? Is this how Hummus is supposed to taste??
See? My Armenian Gastronomic Education must continue.
Like I said, not a bad way to roll.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: Gotta say, the people at New York Cafe didn’t know me from Adam, but they looked out for me.
One of the things I do when I’m on review meal, is I get two things. Even if I can’t finish it all. It just want to get a sense of two things, and get a better sense of what the restaurant does well, or not well.
So, I ordered the Sujuk Sandwich (of course), but I thought I was going to have significant room. So I’m looking at a Pastry Dish (I swear, I can’t remember the name of it. Starts with an “A”, shaped like a football and had an egg on it.). I ordered it, and the Guy behind the counter says:
“Nah. Nah. Nah. Too much Food, man. That’s too much.”
He goes on to describe the size of this dish. I thought it was just an adorable appetizer treat, so instead, I got the Hummus (as you saw above).
But wherever someone selling something, cautions you to take the least expensive option, that’s a person you can trust. It doesn’t happen in life too often, but when folks in business do that, those are people you turn to.
Also, New York Cafe is only open (at the latest) till 4:00pm. So it’s all about Lunch.
PARKING: Okay, good luck. This is going to be the tricky part. I got stupid luck and parked at a meter along the same block as the restaurant, right on Sunset Blvd. Failing that, you can try along Alexandria or Rossmore, but watch the signs. In either direction, we’re talking heavy residential and business. Keep a weathered eye or not.
New York Cafe
4959 Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Tel: (323) 667-3001
Monday-Friday: 8:00 am – 4:00 pm
Saturday: 10:00 am – 2:00 pm