This question is actually great.

The first thing you gotta know is: every bodega’s process is a little different, like how every snowflake is different, in that I don’t believe that every snowflake is actually different; they’re just mostly different. I mean, how the fuck do they know EVERY snowflake is different?? Do you realize how many snowflakes fall on your block in a single hour of a single snowfall? Like, millions! And they’re ALL different? Unh-unh. I don’t think so.

Anyway, go in with the assumption that the person you’re ordering from already hates you. Because many already do. You’ll say, “Can I get a roast beef on a roll?” And he’ll go, “…You wanches?” And you’ll be like, “Uh, what was that?” And he’ll sigh and go, “You. WANCHES??”

And you’ll be like, “Uh, I’m sorry??”

And he’ll make a big deal like you’re a complete moron and he’s doing you this big favor and spell out for you: “Do. You. Wan. Chizzz?”

“Oh! Cheese! I’m sorry! Yes, please.”

“Watkin chiz?”

“Uh, I don’t unde-… Oh! Muenster??”

And then he’ll silently make your sandwich and thrust it at you.

And after two or three of these interactions it won’t be stressful anymore. Like you’re playing a game of Risk, you’ve worn down this deli and made it your own due largely to attrition and a complete disregard for strategy. Go to another deli and the process will have its own unique intricacies that you’ll have to learn.

There are a few shortcuts, though. Know the lingo: if people say “kaiser rolls” where you come from, tell that phrase “auf wiedersehen” because I’ve never heard anyone say it here. It’s a hard roll, maybe “with the poppyseeds” specified. Like your sandwich on a “torpedo roll”? Well, run silent, admiral, because you’ll get a “hero” or maybe a “sub”. Sometimes it’ll be the smaller size of the torpedo you’re used to, if you’re some sort of fancy pants who expects differently sized torpedoes and heroes, but mostly they’re all the large size. And anyway, if it’s small, then you’re probably at some fancy pants deli that’s not even a bodega anyway. (The best delis, in my mind, actually seem to have these even bigger, harder, like semolina style breads for their heroes, which is the most legit. In full disclosure, though: I’m not sure I really even know what semolina means.)

Otherwise, you should try to plan out your sandwich before you arrive. Or at least order. But you never know who is going to be standing in front of you but too chickenshit to catch the deli guy’s eye first, even though it’s his turn, so just be ready or be flexible.

Your sandwich needs: a bread, a filling (that is, a meat that Boar’s Head makes), an optional cheese, a dressing (mayo and/or salt & pepper and/or oil & vinegar if you’re Italian… And if you’re lucky, horseradish sauce), plus toppings. For the toppings, you’ll probably get lettuce and tomato free of charge. Same for onions, maybe green peppers, but at this point you might be stealing from the salad guy. You can PROBABLY pull roasted red peppers in many places, but it might be an additional charge, and they’re going to massively change the texture of your sandwich, so be prepared.

You may be asked if you want it toasted. Some rare places may even ask if you want the whole thing toasted or just the bread. Have an idea of what you want.

Don’t be tempted by paninis, which is a pluralization of an already pluralized word, but fuck if I’m going to order a “panino”. Anyway, they’re always a little expensive for what you’re getting; I feel like they sit around for a long time; and the vast majority of places hardly warms it at all before you get it, or they heat it fully and it takes forever and maybe got too crispy.

You should order your tomato-y subs (chicken parm, meatball parm, etc) at a pizza place, not at a bodega.

When you order, say it loud and clear. Almost like you’re yelling at the guy. Command him to let you “get” something. Include the full order upfront, with a noted pause after the transition to dressings and toppings. You can be more trepidatious with the verb you use to request toppings. If you’re requesting it hot, just yell the word “TOASTED” at the end or before the transition. Also, once a sandwich is under production it becomes socially acceptable for a straight man to ask a dude with a mustache about his pickle.

For example:

You: “Heyyyyyyy… Lemme get a HONEY HAM .. on A HERO .. with SWISS… …!TOASTED!… …And can I get it with lettuce-and-tomato, and green peppers?”

Guy silently starts making it.

You: “…You got pickles?”

Him: “You want pickle on top?”

You: “Yeah.”

Special note: if you get into a situation where you just can’t understand the guy, you can just say “…Yes” like the out-of-towner that you are. But I recommend just saying “I’msorrybut.. I don’t even KNOW what yer SAYIN’.” Like… He’s the one talking a mile a minute with marbles in his mouth. You don’t gotta feel like the weirdo here.

Anyway, at this point you gotta look around and determine if the guy is going to aggressively slide your sandwich to you across the counter and then you go to the cashier to pay, or whether he’s going to bring it himself. If you can’t tell, just keep an eye on where your sandwich goes. Don’t plan on paying with card unless you know they’ll take it or your order is at least around $8.

You’ll get your sandwich in a bag with probably like 2-4 of the world’s shittiest napkins. Depending on what you got, this will either be about right or far, far too few.

Now you take it home or back to work and eat it. If you know of a way to eat it comfortable without a table, like, on the street somewhere, I’d be interested to hear it, because I feel like this is a recurring solvable problem that I have.

EDIT: A bunch of people have been writing very nice things to me based on this post, so first, thank you, and second, I can’t post any links here but if people like this, I’d love to get a DM and share a project I’ve been working on with you guys.


Taken from Reddit user /u/offlein (thanks to Natalie for sending it to me)!

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About the Author

America Josh

I had a fantastic life in Adelaide and in Australia but thought in late 2015 that it was time to do something new. I handed over control of my company, sold my house, car, and even gave away my cat (“Aslan”) to start on my journey to New York.

I arrived in New York on January 10, 2017, from Adelaide, South Australia and in March 2017, I started America Josh to help make the transition to the US from wherever you’re from just a little bit easier.

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