The joint: Marty’s on Park, 703 Park Ave., Rochester. (585) 434-3292.; martysmeats.com. Dine in or takeout.
The meal: “The Carolina” pulled-pork sandwich, with side of chips.
The check: $9.72.
The story: At the last Food Truck Rodeo I attended, three people — in completely separate conversations — asked me, “Have you tried Marty’s Meats?” So when The Man with Three First Names (foodie entrepreneur Michael Warren Thomas) suggested Marty’s recently opened brick-and-mortar locale, it was a no-brainer.
Marty O’Sullivan was a star basketball player at McQuaid not so long ago (All-Greater-Rochester Player of the Year in 2003) who took a trip into the corporate world after college. But passion and serious culinary chops led him first to the food truck, and now to a small shop on Park Avenue. He’s getting an awful lot very right.
“What’s the one thing I should try?” I asked. “The Carolina,” the waitress said with no hesitation.
It’s a pulled-pork sandwich, but that simple description doesn’t do it justice. The pork itself is perfect. You want it tender, but also with those crispy bits of skin and fat. Check. You want smoky goodness through and through. Again, exceeds expectations. It’s piled high and deep on the right roll (more on this in a moment), layered with a slightly sharp, fresh and crisp apple slaw, then topped with Marty’s own barbecue sauce. The sauce isn’t odd or gourmet; just dead-on the bull’s-eye of sweet, sharp, moderately hot and aromatic without being too dang, you know, culinary.
One of the problems the high-end low-end places sometimes have is bread that is, frankly, too good. What you want in a slice or torn-off piece of artisan bread isn’t necessarily what you want for a sandwich. The Marty’s roll isn’t too fancy for the purpose: It’s simple, maybe a touch sweet, and soft enough to be both easy to eat and a good medium for sauce sopping.
It’s a fantastic sandwich, and Marty’s house-made chips are a worthy accompaniment.
The options: Marty’s serves six of its 13 standard sandwiches on any given day (all of them $9 with chips), plus a couple of specials. The Man with Three First Names had the “Country,” buttermilk-fried chicken breast with lettuce, tomato, ranch and house-made pickles. If you like the breast sandwich thing, this is a cutlet above. Another companion had the “Big Rig,” a burger with bacon, cheddar, tomato and “rig sauce” (not as spicy as he had expected, but “by no means disappointing”). Both sandwiches were very good, but not quite the value of the Carolina, which was huge.
Two sandwiches in the rotation have an Asian spin: a pork belly banh mi, and the “Uncle Joon,” which features shaved rib eye in a bulgogi glaze with kimchi (and, oddly, American cheese). I’ll try them on future visits. And my imagination runs wild on “Offal Tacos.”
Don’t forget to ask … for the beets. I’ll repeat: GET THE BEETS. Side vegetables are pricy at $5, but you get a large, shareable portion. We tried corn on the cob with red pepper aioli and cilantro. In my book, all that stuff on good corn on the cob is gilding the lily, but we liked dipping our chips in the aioli. But oh my, those beets! Roasted, then grilled with Marty’s barbecue sauce, they were good enough to fight over. The Man with Three First Names, who has had his share of excellent beet dishes, proclaimed them, “the best beets I’ve ever had.”
Former star “mathlete” Adam Wilcox can also roast a beet.