Leave it to the New Haven craftsman of cocktails, John Ginnetti of 116 Crown, to make us demand more from a sandwich. His newest venture is Meat & Co., a sandwich shop located next door to his 9th Square bar and restaurant known for serving Connecticut’s most inventive cocktails. With Meat & Co., Ginnetti has turned this same discerning gaze onto the art of the sandwich.
The mission of Meat & Co. is to treat the sandwich, that familiar and humble lunchtime meal housed between two slabs of bread, with the same “contemplation and calculation” that goes into the carefully constructed 116 Crown cocktails. According to owner John Ginnetti and Chef Will Talamelli (also of 116 Crown), this means “a great deal of prepping, cooking, technique and spice” goes into each sandwich. Toss out the words "Boars Head" or $5-foot-long and they WILL be met with a grimace. In other words, leave your notion of the sad lunchtime deli sandwich at the door. The implicit part of Meat & Co.'s mission is a sense of style, perception, and culinary cool written all over its carefully constructed menu and the rehabbed red brick walls.
The space is essentially the day time equivalent of its evening carousing neighbor, with sandwiches replacing cocktails, daylight traded for twilight, and chicness replaced with tasteful industrial touches. A long white marble bar lined with aluminum stools face a brick wall, welcoming dine-in guests. Opposite is a chalk board listing the sandwiches and their ingredients, a list of eight strong, worthy of their cheeky titles, such as the “Rick Reuben," "Equestrian," and “God Forbid.” The latter becoming the object of my affection when I visited on their first official day of business last Thursday.
The menu is certainly meat-centric as the restaurant's name implies, but a fish and a vegetable offering also compete for attention. For the meat contenders, you'll find the PLT, an elevated version of the BLT, with porchetta, arugula, tomato confit and paprika aoili. Ginnetti's favorite is the Rick Reuben, a sandwich filled with your choice of pastrami or tongue (or 50/50), "all day sauce," swiss cheese, cardamom, and braised cabbage slaw. A bit lighter, but no less worthy of attention is the Garden Rustler, a vegetarian offering of barbeque squash, onion frizzle, and house-made bbq sauce.
Recommended by Chef Talamelli, I opted for the “God Forbid,” an insanely decadent yet perfectly-balanced combination of roast beef, liverwurst, balsamic red onion jam, and Landaff cheese (a cheddar-like cheese from Jasper Hill Farms) on a Whole G pretzel roll.
I know no appropriate way or superlative to describe how the God Forbid made me feel except to share what it instantly reminded me of–my first and only sandwich love, a hard fought acquaintance nearly three decades into my life (I'm a late sandwich bloomer). It wasn’t until a certain porchetta sandwich outside San Francisco’s Ferry Building shifted my perspective of what a sandwich can and should be. In the language of my life in food, there was a time before porchetta, and there was a time after. Meat & Co. deserves a place along this timeline, firmly next to my porchetta experience. My first Meat & Co. experience and the “God Forbid” will be imprinted onto my memory as the time when serious sandwiches finally came to Connecticut.
Meat & Co. was just formalizing their hours, website and menu when I visited on their first day of operation. They will open for business with regular hours beginning Tuesday, September 17. For more information: 203.776.MEAT and firstname.lastname@example.org.