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$20 Dinner

Greenpoint’s Restaurant Row Gets a Nifty New Japanese Sando Shop

Taku Sando puts an American twist on Japanese sandwiches.

12:09 PM EST on November 29, 2023

Tonkatsu sando, $16. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Remember when the dominant feature of the Greenpoint skyline was the water tower that read "Save the Palestine"? Those days are long gone, as spanking new luxury residential buildings now line the waterfront all the way up to Newtown Creek, coupled with an attendant transformation of the neighborhood's whole vibe at retail level. 

Perhaps most startling, however, is the emergence this past year of a bona fide restaurant row at the butt end of Greenpoint Avenue, where today, seven (and soon to be eight) spots are lined down the once-barren block in back-to-back fashion before it hits bucolic Transmitter Park.  

True, the original Ovenly has been holding it down over here since 2012, but everything else, including the excellent Lingo and Radio Star, all opened just recently.

And now, a terrific little sandwich shop called Taku Sando has entered the fray, whipping up a tight menu of first-rate Japanese sandos with a decidedly American twist. Namely—unlike what you might find in, say, Tokyo, these beasts are stuffed to overflowing.  

"The traditional Japanese sando has a different shape, and is more organized, than what we're serving here," said Taku Sando co-owner and creative director Kiyo Shinoki, who grew up in the Saitama prefecture north of Tokyo but has lived in Brooklyn for 15 years. "Americans like big portions. Big ingredients, tiny bread, like Katz's. So these are American-style sandos."

Tonkatsu sando, $16; tamago sando, $12.50. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)   

 Either way, they're very good. Two katsu creations are the headliners, one pork, the other chicken, and in both cases, the meat is marinated overnight before getting covered in panko and fried, so it's nice and tender and juicy. Shredded cabbage brings further crunch to the party, the house sauce adds a touch of sweetness, and the karashi mustard mayo has a bit of bite. There's also a pickle involved, though it's place haphazardly. One bite can be all pickle; the next, no pickle at all.  

The egg salad is not the sleeper hit at Taku Sando—it's good, but pretty basic—but the korokke, or potato croquette, sando definitely has potential in that category, the two fat fried spuds crackling on the outside, fluffy within, and costarring enough spicy karashi mustard to clear your sinuses. Shinoki says he's hoping to add seasonal sando specials to the menu in the coming weeks and months, as well as collabs with his many new Greenpoint neighbors.         

 Classic korokke (potato) sando, $14 (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Holding everything together is the squishy housemade shokupan, or Japanese milk bread. The restaurant makes 50 loaves a day, and when they're gone, Taku Sando closes up shop. The place was hopping during its opening week, so I'd advise going on the early side to avoid any no-sando sadness.                 

Prepping that sweet, sweet shokupan. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Supplementing the sandos are bowls of fun, chewy ribbon fries, which are like those tornado potato sticks you see at every food market in town these days, minus the stick aspect. You can get these simply salted or, better idea, well-seasoned with dashi furikake for a fishy kick. There's also a vegan furikake version. A couple of umami-rich salads round out the food offerings. Taku Sando sells booze if you want it—beer, wine, sake—as well as tea and coffee, but the potent handcrafted yuzu ginger ale is my beverage pick.  

Ribbon fries, $7.50 (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Taku Sando is run by the same team that does the ramen and rice bowl izakaya Takumen across the creek in Long Island City, but they decided to go the sando route here in Brooklyn because, as Shinoki put it, Greenpoint is really cool.   

"Greenpoint feels like my favorite places in Tokyo, Harajuku and Nakameguro," Shinoki told Hell Gate. "There are so many hip independent stores and local shops around here. And a sandwich shop just makes it easy to grab a bite and catch up with friends."   

Having Transmitter Park right there adds to the picnic-hang appeal of the place, of course, but really, the backyard of Taku Sando is spacious and spiffy as hell— just a really chill, comfortable spot to wolf some sandwiches with a buddy or two and forget for a moment about all those hundreds of new, completely unaffordable apartments looming above. 

(Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Taku Sando is located at 29 Greenpoint Avenue, between West Street and Transmitter Park, and is currently open on Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 8 p.m., or until the shokupan runs out. Closed Monday and Tuesday.   

(Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)
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