Thursday, December 18, 2008

Casablanca, Astoria

Had I not run eight miles yesterday afternoon, I probably would have passed on the merguez sausage. I try not to make sausage a part of my everyday dining diet. But those eight miles burned a hole in my stomach the size of Morocco so I headed a few blocks past my apartment for possibly the best sandwich has to offer.

Merguez, for those unaware, is a spicy lamb-based sausage. Origin, Morocco. The spot I visited, which was also visited last year by intrepid borough hounds from the New York Times, is called Little Morocco and serves far more than the hailed merguez sandwich.

The glass case near the register boasts different types of meat, some on skewers and some not. Chicken, pork, and lamb skewers are all marinated and waiting. Organ meat--liver, heart, kidneys--is available, grilled, for the more adventurous eater. Tiny lamb chops (next time, next time) look more than inviting on a large platter on the case's top shelf. Red merguez sausages crowd an adjacent plate.

Order a sandwich or plate at Little Morocco and you'll have to wait about five minutes while they cook your meat to order. I stood and watched the sandwich guy negotiate several orders of merguez over a large grill behind the glass case. When the sausages have the requisite grill marks, they'll end up in a hero roll with chopped onions, lettuce, and hot sauce. The hot sauce is hot, but not unbearable. Don't skip it.

The sandwich, sliced in two, is wrapped in wax paper and foil and stays warm for a good ten minutes. Everything about this sandwich is perfect, right down to the hot sauce. The meat isn't mealy, as merguez sometimes is. The vegetables are crunchy. The roll is fresh. The sauce makes my nose run.

I'm not sure I even stopped to breathe between bites. It was that good. Maybe next time I'll try the grilled kidneys.

Little Morocco
24-39 Steinway Street
Astoria, NY 11103

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