Eat Drink Local Profile #15: The Simple Tomato Sandwich (aka The Labor Day Special)

The sandwich that could sustain you for a whole season.

The Product:

The Simple Tomato Sandwich

Who Makes It:

Breadzilla, the nondescript bakery and sandwich lab just off Montauk Highway in Wainscott, Long Island (in perfect striking distance of the Sagaponack beaches for quick munchie runs), that has, for more than ten years, made its customers swoon, and which 0ffers a seasonally shifting selection of creatively named comestibles, including the Simple Tomato.

We mentioned the sandwich way back in the winter of 2006 (issue no. 4 of Edible East End), when we suggested that the shop’s 10+ year-old starter, and everything-from-scratch compulsions, would please the legendary M.F.K. Fisher who, in her classic How to Cook a Wolf, relished “the honest exciting smell of real bread baking.” Hold a Breadzilla loaf in your hand, and you’ll get a sense of what fueled the workers who built the pyramids. The result is substantive, yet not dense or chewy. Crusty, yet not hard. (The starter is also the main ingredient in the frying batter that coats Breadzilla’s fried fish.) The bagels have passed an even stiffer test. “Old Jewish men have said they taste like bagels from their childhood,” said Nancy Thompson, who runs the bakery with ex-husband Brad Thompson.

The couple behind the sandwich, Brad and Nancy Thompson. Photograph by Lindsay Morris.

Why We Love It:

Where do we even begin? For its melt-in-your-mouth quality. For putting on a pedestle a perfectly abundant summer ingredient. For inspiring sandwich makers everywhere with its simplicity (not necessarily a trait of Breadzilla’s other mad scientist creations).

As it reads on the handwritten menu that Breadzilla posts each day at 11:30 a.m. (closed Mondays), “Simple Tomato Sandwich – Local Pike Farm tomatoes, on toasted Country White Bread. W/ mayo, salt+ pepper. $5.95. NO CHANGES.” (The TMP—tomato, mozzarella, pesto—is a slightly more complicated variation.)

The Simple Tomato isn’t Breadzilla’s only effort to feature what’s in season. Breadzilla offers local berry and chocolate scones for most of the summer, mixes up peach-ginger scones when the Milk Pail has peaches, and makes pies and apple sauce (year-round) with Milk Pail apples. And this is just in the seasonal fruit department. Brad and Nancy, both marine biologists in former lives,  turn their impeccable seafood connections into summer squid salad, wintery clam chowder and blowfish fritters whenever they are running. Their bacon-Jack cheese-jalapeño scones may not have a particular season, persay, but we don’t really care.  Did we mention that Brad smokes all his own meats?

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All the sandwiches are delivery devices for the bread, of course. (Or is the bread the delivery device for the ingredients inside?) There’s the Sloppydilla (a quesadilla with hamburger, jack cheese, sour cream, avocado, tomato and green sauce); the spicy tuna jack on 8-grain; and the gooey cheesy roasty beasty, a roast beef sandwich with melted mozzarella and fresh grated horseradish mayo. (You’ve got to try it to believe it.)

Where You Can Find It:

At Breadzilla, for lunch, every day from late July to late September, including this Labor Day weekend. Or at least as long as the Pikes are harvesting big beefy tomatoes, which have enjoyed a banner year from the salty fields of Long Island to the dark soils of the Hudson Valley. Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and Breadzilla takes orders by phone, but the harried staff turns off the ringer at 1:30 or so. And be polite. These bakers may put more love and soul into their creations than the entire city of Las Vegas, but they don’t suffer fools gladly.

And ideally, one bite of Breadzilla’s version inspires you to look forward to a whole season of tomato sandwiches. Because theoretically, you can find (and make) this sandwich anywhere you have access to great tomatoes, which can elevate even the most common bread, mayo, salt and pepper.

From September 26th to October 6th Edible Manhattan, Edible East End and Edible Brooklyn — in conjunction with Edibles statewide and GrowNYC — present Eat Drink Local week, our celebration of the local food chain through heirloom vegetable auctions, wine tastings, DIY challenges, lectures, garden tours, farm to table dinners and countless other events. Over the next few weeks we’re highlighting a few of the restaurants, wine shops and wineries, breweries and beer bars, farms and food artisans and cultural institutions that the week is meant to celebrate.

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Brian is the editor in chief of Edible East End, Edible Long Island, Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn. He writes from his home in Sag Harbor, New York, where he and his family tend a home garden and oysters. He is also obsessed with ducks, donuts and dumplings.