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Pret a Manger in NYC?


stellabella
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From this week's [or last week's?  or next week's?] New Yorker--a funny little piece about the attempt to grab a share of the Manhattan lunch market.

I have never eaten a Pret sandwich in London--I find the whole steel/lights/neon facade off-putting & chintzy.  I can't imagine, then, actually eating one in New York.  Others' opinions?

I will say this, though:  I love the British approach to sandwiches--the prepackaged but fresh and often very tasty quick snacks to go from Marks & Sparks & other such places.  Especially while touring the countryside, it's nice to be able to grab a quick bite when peckish but not quite ready to stop for lunch.  I don't want sandwiches every day, but I will say I'd rather have a fresh sandwich over a McD's burger ANY day.

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I've never had a Pret sandwich because I generally dislike that kind of cold sandwich, but I do have a little anecdote.  I was working in an office on Tottenham Court Road, and one of my coworkers (another computer tech guy) asked if I would grab him a couple of sandwiches at Pret while I was out.  I asked him what kind, and he said, "Oh, any kind is fine."  I pressed him, and he really meant it:  he wanted two sandwiches with absolutely anything on them.  From this I concluded that either the guy had no taste preferences and I should be in awe, or the sandwiches at Pret had no taste.

Now that I write this up, it seems like maybe this strikes me as weird but would be considered normal behavior on one or more sides of the Atlantic.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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Pret sandwiches are in fact pretty good. (How long they'll stay that way with McD owning a third is another question.) The sandwich scene in England has changed dramatically in a very few years. Not worth a detour certainly, but I'd take pot luck at any service station over the boring identical rows of dreary baguettes almost anywhere in France. No wonder that the Paris M&S was always crowded with workers buying sandwiches which had been driven all the way from the north of England!

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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I was at the Pret a Manger East 54th Street shop on the day before its 'official' opening and I'm here to say there is such a thing as a "free lunch." People rushing busily on the street during lunchtime would stop to peer in at the new shop that was opening in a very food shop-deprived area. I popped my head in and a manager from the store invited me in. A young woman escorted me to an attractive case of sandwiches. I chose egg salad. I was then escorted to the counter and offered a choice of soup. I offered to pay and they said my lunch was free. I was delighted by the courtesy and public relations effort. As I turned to leave, another woman behind the counter offered me a free cookie. This shop is definitely welcome and I hope many more open in New York. The food was delicious and tasted very fresh. I've been back since.

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I had to laugh at that article.  Made me think of when Eatzi's opened at Macy's, or J. Bildner (remember them, from Boston?).  They are going to teach us what a sandwich should be?  Please!  Although reading the preceding posts, I can see that they'd be successful in areas that are desperate.  But still, the attitude that came across really turned me off.

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I'm eating one right now. Turkey with avocado, cress, on rye bread. Lovely, if falling apart from a wee bit too much mayo. The box is sealed with a sticker which reads:

"Pret creates hand made natural food avoiding the obscure chemicals, additives and preservatives common to so much of the 'prepared' and 'fast' food on the market today."

The napkin repeats much of this and adds:

"What doesn't sell out we give to City Harvest at the end of the day".

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Also 55th between 6th and 5th (right around the corner from the LOVE sculpture on 6th and 55th). Just had a "Coronation Chicken" sandy from there today. Good, not great...reminds of the Brit sandwiches in London - couldn't find cheese and pickle or Brie and apple, however.  Skip the fruit salad, my healthy addition in lieu of chips, mealy and overripe fruit.

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Thanks Ruby and Damien.  I also just saw one on 45th (or possibly 46th) between 5th and Madison.  Didn't realize they'd opened so many.  Unfortunately, I had already bought lunch.  Would be interested to know what New Yorkers make of the Pret experience.  I am reminded that there used to be a small chain in midtown called Sandbox, which was very similar to Pret, but seems to have failed.  Since I don't know why it failed, I can't infer from that how Pret will do.

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What NYC does so magnificently, that Pret will never match, are the gobsmackers that take six pallbearers to carry. I know only one such place in London -- Onion, on Sicilian Avenue, just up Southampton Row from the Holburn tube station.  It's been there, unaltered in menu or decor, for at least a quarter-century.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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Not worth a detour certainly, but I'd take pot luck at any service station over the boring identical rows of dreary baguettes almost anywhere in France. No wonder that the Paris M&S was always crowded with workers buying sandwiches which had been driven all the way from the north of England!

interesting.

sandwiches are one of the many "little things" i love about london/UK--one of the many small ways in which the culture differs from that here in rural GA.  

i visited paris for the first time in feburary, and i had a HORRIBLE baguette from a  shop near Sacre Coeur.  but that seemed like an anomaly--perhaps not.  at this time nothing has yet come close, for me, to the italian trattoria, wax-paper-wrapped focaccias stuffed with fresh mozzarella and tangy greens, roasted peppers, etc.

appreciate all the comments about the new prets, too--i am definately going to give it a try when i get a chance.

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I think that Italy does rather better by those at the very bottom of the economic/food chain because prosperity has been around long enough to improve the peasant standard of living but not long enough to replace it with international anonymous pseudo-middle-class.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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Long,long ago,while working in NYC,my Dutch friend and I discovered a Broodjeswinkel and had tasty sandwiches on really good rolls. He got nostalgic for home and said the sandwich shops are all over Amsterdam. Has anyone seen one elsewhere? If not,it's fun to say Broodjeswinkel,anyway.

Judy Amster

Cookbook Specialist and Consultant

amsterjudy@gmail.com

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What did you get, tommy? How's the wet/dry ratio?

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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well, it's not like eating pie, that's for sure.

it's a thai chicken sandwich, with red peppers, cucumbers, and some greens on some sort of grain type bread.  it's really tasty.  the chicken, described as chicken breast on the sign, is actually chopped up and mixed with the dressing, which is clearly ginger flavored.  the moisture level was just right.  

good overall, although i think i need another. but at 5.50 or whatever it was, i ain't doin' another.  

i'm quite impressed actually.  a nice little snack.  oh cool!  it's noon...time for lunch.

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Uh...Okay, Liza. I don't think I want to even think about why. :confused:

edit:

tommy's post came up while I was typing. Sounds nice, tommy. The size factor was another of the questions of Pret's marketability in NYC.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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The size factor was another of the questions of Pret's marketability in NYC.

As in they're too big or too small?

Personally I find Pret's sarnies pretty filling, especially the richer ones like the BLT or chicken and avocado. I worry about a city that wants them to be bigger.  :wink:

Miss J

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It's just that New York deli sandwiches, with which they're in competition, are terrifyingly large.  Like most English people who come to New York, I found the sandwiches ridiculously over-stuffed at first - and I suspect New Yorkers may think the Pret sandwiches are a swindle.  Depends what you're used to.

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Thank you Wilfrid, the value-for-money comparison makes sense. Especially since, when I was last in Manhatten, I was struck by how incredibly thin everyone was in comparison to their whopping deli sandwiches.  :biggrin:

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It's just that New York deli sandwiches, with which they're in competition, are terrifyingly large.  Like most English people who come to New York, I found the sandwiches ridiculously over-stuffed at first - and I suspect New Yorkers may think the Pret sandwiches are a swindle.  Depends what you're used to.

ironically, "new york deli sandwiches", with the exception of the 1/2 dozen or so jewish deli type places around town, are hideously skimpy and lame.  they are all bread.  

now NJ on the other hand...let's just say we know a thing or two about sandwiches over here.  we've got *crumbs* bigger than these pret things.

miss j:  little known secret:  NYC is the purging capitol of the world.

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I'm a fan of the Thai Chicken and the Avacado-Bacon, myself. Thier key lime pie is pretty good too, as is their thick-cut potato chips.

"If it's me and your granny on bongos, then it's a Fall gig'' -- Mark E. Smith

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