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NYC bakery sparks outrage over $29 ham and cheese sandwich: ‘This is criminal’


An iconic New York City cafe has raised eyebrows after one person noticed it was selling an ordinary ham and cheese sandwich for a whopping $29.

EAT, the famed Upper East Side marketplace and café owned by restauranter Eli Zabar, turned heads this week when Reddit user u/mauceri posted a picture of the pricey ham and cheese sandwich to the Reddit forum r/nyc. “Spotted while walking around the UES while a family member has surgery at HSS,” the Reddit user wrote. “Eli Zabar’s on Madison between 80/81st.”

The pre-packed ham and cheese sandwich seemed just like any other sandwich. It was sliced in half and placed in a fridge alongside other to-go lunch items (note the $24 egg salad sandwich). But what appeared to set this ham and cheese sandwich apart from the others is that it was made with so-called “health” bread, perhaps the reason for its hefty price.

The Reddit user’s post instantly went viral, with more than 2,000 votes and 600 comments from fellow New Yorkers all asking the same questions: Why is the ham and cheese sandwich so expensive? Do all New Yorkers pay this much? And what exactly is health bread?

“Okay seriously, this is criminal,” said one person. “Seriously… who’s buying this???” asked another. One user wrote: “This is literally unbelievable.”

Well, according to Eli’s son Sasha Zabar, their health bread is exactly that: healthy.

“Every morning we bake our seven-grain health loaf in a special size, which EAT then slices the long way, schmears with French mustard, and covers with thinly sliced roasted glazed ham and imported Swiss cheese,” he recently told Gothamist. In fact, it’s Eli Zabar’s “signature sandwich since Eli first opened in 1973.”

The $29 ham and cheese sandwich is actually two sandwiches packed into one wrapping. A single ham and cheese sandwich at the eatery goes for $16, but the double sandwich is made with the intention of “having one now and then the second sandwich later.”

The pre-packed ham and cheese sandwich on “health” bread costs $29

(Reddit (u/mauceri))

Surprisingly, the pricey sandwich is also one of the cafe’s most popular items. But that isn’t the only high-priced sandwich on the menu. A smoked salmon sandwich to-go is priced at $30, while the turkey club costs $28. Meanwhile, a pack of 12 granola bars goes for $72 and one pound of lox costs $60. “The prices here are insane!” wrote u/borednerd on Reddit.

Still, one person jokingly came to their defence when they commented: “But it’s on health bread!”

As many New Yorkers will know, the Upper East Side restaurant has been known for its hefty prices ever since it first opened on Madison Avenue in 1973. Even a decades-old New York Times article noted the disgruntled reactions from shoppers back in 1993, who are “cordially invited to spend $3 on one brownie, $7 on one hallah, $12 on one chicken salad sandwich.”

“But if they stop complaining long enough to get the object of their disaffection into their mouths – especially the bread, Eli’s bread, which in the last few years has transformed the staff of life in this town – the outrage inevitably gives way to a rush of warm, mushy adjectives. They’ll hate him in the morning.”

The Independent has contacted Eli Zabar for comment.


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