The Blue Sky Deli (Haiji’s)
2135 1st Avenue & 110th Street
NYC, NY 10029
Open 24 hours
My review on TripAdvisor:
The Blue Sky Deli (Haiji’s) is becoming a cult favorite in the restaurant industry as the home of the ‘infamous’ chopped cheese sandwich, otherwise known as a ‘ghetto’ sandwich. I have been coming into New York City for fifty years and had never heard of this sandwich. The one thing I can tell you is that a trip to the Blue Sky Deli is interesting. It is located in East Harlem and surrounded by housing projects on almost all sides. It is a destination place for anyone from other parts of the city.
There is a big debate now online of where it originated but most people will tell you it was created here on the corner of 1st Avenue & 110th Street and more rappers, neighborhood residents and food bloggers will swear by how it originated in its current form here.
When I created this blog site, I thought of this as my first blog as this cult sandwich is up for much discussion. Many people online debate why it was created or where it was created but the best is when a uptown rapper put a Midwestern girl in her place who ‘discovered’ the sandwich and chastised her for commenting on it like it was something new. Better yet, for having a ‘Christopher Columbus’ complex that newcomers to the city have when they ‘discover’ something new that had always been there.
The chopped cheese sandwich
I was walking East Harlem for my project, “MywalkinManhattan” and made it a point to visit the restaurant which is more of a bodega. Part of the debate online was how cheap the sandwich was but as one of the guys said in an interview, when you’re dealing with poor people and a lot are from the surrounding housing projects, they don’t have much to spend. That’s why the prices are so cheap because you’re dealing with people who have a certain budget and that’s it.
I have to admit I like Blue Sky Deli because when you are on a budget, 50 cent chips, $1.00 candy bars and soda and $4.00-$5.00 sandwiches sound pretty good. That and everything is so fresh because of the turnover in product. There is a great selection of snacks to choose from. There is a lack of things like fresh fruit but you can remedy that at one the stands that line 1st Avenue.
The first time I visited, I think I made quite the splash because the other customers and the owner really looked me over to figure out both why I was there and who I was. I just told the guy I came up for the chopped cheese sandwich and that I had heard so much about it. That made the counter guys very happy to hear it. So much has been written about their grill cook that a picture of him is posted in the restaurant. Even Frankie, the grill cook, had a big smile on his face when he heard that.
The chopped cheese sandwich is pretty simple. All it is is a double cheese burger chopped up on the grill and then topped with the option of onions, lettuce and tomatoes and then placed on a long hoagie roll and then the whole thing is pressed and wrapped in wax paper. Advice is to get it once with just chopped onions and extra cheese then get it with lettuce and tomato. Both choices are great and the best part is the ‘deluxe’ version is only a dollar more.
The sandwich is the best! They took two large hamburger patties and chopped them up, then salted and peppered them and topped with American cheese and flipped around the grill and when it is fully cooked, it placed on a hoagie roll and pressed down. The result is a crisp on the outside and moist and juicy on the inside sandwich. I have to admit, there is nothing like it.
I take my sandwiches over to Jefferson Park a block up and sit back and eat my lunch. It is so much fun to indulge in this sandwich while watching the dog walkers and soccer players roll by. They look with envy with the way I enjoy it.
If you are on budget, there are other sandwiches as well such as a breakfast sandwich. I tried the Bacon, Egg and Cheese on a hoagie roll that was $4.00 and was more than generous in size. The turkey bacon was perfectly cooked with a generous portion of eggs on a fresh hoagie roll that was pressed like the chopped cheese. I could not believe the sandwich was so cheap. Word of advice, order it with mayo for some extra flavor.
Bacon, Egg and Cheese on a hoagie
You can walk out with a good lunch for about $6.00 plus a snack for later. I stock up on the snacks here, priced around $1.00-$2.00 dollars, when I need to for the long walk in Manhattan ahead of me. You have to visit Haiji and his chopped cheese sandwich. This is New York.