The renaissance of downtown Highland since the Walkway over the Hudson became a hot tourist destination continues apace, and folks who spend time in or near the hamlet now have an appealing new place to go for lunch or an early dinner — or have a meal brought to them. Located in a small storefront just off the intersection of Main and Church Streets, it’s modestly named the Sandwich Shop.
“I thought about names and decided there’s nothing else to call it. It’s just a Sandwich Shop,” says proprietor Kevin Burchell, who took over the premises two months ago. It had briefly been a deli, and before that the space had lain vacant for more than a year. But now the joint is jumpin’, as locals begin to discover the tasty, inexpensive treats that Burchell is cooking up in his tiny kitchen.
You can order a sandwich on a Kaiser roll or in a white, whole wheat or gluten-free wrap, but the specialty of the house is definitely hot panini. The menu features 20 different grilled cheese panini, of which #13, the Roast Brie — stuffed with roast beef, Brie cheese, onion and spicy mustard — is the most popular so far, according to Burchell. All 20 are priced at $6.95. Or for $7.95 you can specify your own custom sandwich combination from a long list of ingredients, including nine types of meat, 13 types of cheese, 12 veggies and 11 condiments. If a panino with prosciutto, goat cheese, fig jam and sriracha is what floats your boat, Burchell will whip one up for you, judgment not included.
I went for something a little less adventurous: #17, the Caprese, filled with fresh mozzarella, paper-thin tomato slices and baby spinach. Burchell layers cheese on both the top and the bottom of the filling so it will all stick together nicely when melted, and drizzles both sides of the bread with extra-virgin olive oil to make it crisp up in the panini press — “so your teeth go crunch and then soft,” he says.
The fillings are fresh and generous, the cheese thick and gooey. But what makes these sandwiches really special is the excellent bread: thinly sliced rustic panini bread with a chewy crust that Burchell fetches twice a week from a traditional Italian bakery in New Jersey. “The word ‘panini’ means ‘little bread’ in Italian, but the loaves are actually big,” he points out. “So it’s kind of an oxymoron.”
Another specialty of the Sandwich Shop is dessert panini, made with rich challah bread and filled with your choice of milk or white chocolate, Nutella, bananas, strawberries, blueberries, marshmallow, mascarpone, Brie and/or cream cheese. Burchell’s Highland-born wife, Amanda, makes homemade sweet cream cheese for the dessert panini.
If you’re a Nutella nut (and I know you’re out there!), this is definitely the place to indulge your cravings for the trendy chocolate/hazelnut spread. Dessert panini cost $4.95 each, but you get one free with a takeout or delivery order of $20 or more.
If you have something a bit less caloric in mind, the Sandwich Shop can accommodate you as well. For $5.95 you can create your own salad from any combo of ten veggies, four fruits and ten dressings on a bed of baby spinach and mesclun. For an extra $1.50, you can add chicken, turkey, smoked salmon, candied walnuts or edamame to make it a full meal. “It’s a big salad,” says Burchell. “I fill it up good!”
There’s always a Soup of the Day on the menu, and you can get a hearty combo of a half or whole sandwich with soup or salad on the side for under ten bucks. Burchell makes his own soups from scratch, many of which he learned how to cook from his Italian grandmother — like roasted garlic noodle soup with cannellini beans, which sounds like an amazing dish for a cold afternoon. “If you have pneumonia, it’ll make it go away the next day,” he promises with a grin.
Takeout and delivery are the bulk of the Sandwich Shop’s business, but the space itself has been enticingly spruced up, the walls painted terracotta with white trim and the floorboards glossy black. Though the two dining rooms are small, the five glass-topped wrought-iron tables don’t feel cramped. There’s a restroom, a pour-your-own-coffee counter in the front window, a drinks cooler, a rack loaded with bags of chips and a freezer from which Burchell plans to dispense genuine Lemon Ice King of Corona Italian ices as the weather warms up.
Clean, warm and cozy, the shop is a pleasant place to hang out and even offers free Wi-Fi. “I get middle school kids after school, eight or ten of them at a time. They eat up all my Internet and get one grilled cheese among them,” he says with a laugh, not seeming to mind. Burchell grew up in New Paltz, but now lives within walking distance of the shop. He has gotten to know all the downtown merchants through his other business, Hudson Valley Mobile Apps, and wants to make the place a friendly neighborhood gathering spot. In downtown Highland, he says, “Everybody helps each other out.”
Being a self-taught information technology professional, Burchell is relying heavily on social media to promote his new business. If you want to know what today’s specials and discount offers are, Facebook is the easiest place to find out, under The Sandwich Shop Highland. Closed on Sunday, the shop opens at 11 a.m. Monday through Friday and at 12 noon on Saturday and stays open until 7 p.m. “or later.” If customers are still lining up or phoning for takeout orders at closing time, Burchell says that he’ll accommodate them.
The Sandwich Shop is located at 33 Main Street. To place an order, call (845) 834-2489.