Turkey essentially serves two culinary functions—either as the (arguably) edible centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal, or offered as an alterna-sandwich filling at delis, for customers that don’t groove on real Italian cold cuts, such as capicola or salami. That being said, there are a few places in Brooklyn that have actually managed to elevate the oft-insipid combo of bird + bread, eschewing waterlogged lozenges of Boars Head to create sandwiches that we’d willingly—yes, willingly—choose to order.
The Turkey Leg Sandwich at Henry Public: Brooklyn may be synonymous with bespoke, pre-Prohibition-inspired cocktails, but Henry Public extends the bygone era aesthetic to their hearty “supper” options, including marrow bones on toast and their infamous turkey leg sandwich; milk-braised shreds of dark meat piled on thick cuts of Pullman bread, and finished with a pile of crispy fried onions and house-cured, juniper-infused pickles.
329 Henry Street, Brooklyn Heights
The N52 at Paneantico: Made with burnished loaves of bread from their nearby bakery (and ideally, liberally cloaked in house-reduced balsamic from the cruets that line each table), it’s hard to find a clunker amongst Paneantico’s extensive list of sandwiches. So if you’re dead set on turkey (although we can’t help but push the prosciutto), the Neapolitan-style N52 is a legit choice, poultry paired with planks of milky mozzarella and smoky grilled eggplant.
9124 3rd Avenue, Bay Ridge
The Jake La Motta at Lioni’s Italian Heroes: It can be seriously daunting to pick and choose from this menu of 150+ sandwiches, each named after beloved Italian “heroes” like Frank Sinatra, Yogi Berra, Alyssa Milano and Sophia Loren. But if you use turkey as a conduit for whittling down the options, the hulking Jake La Motta stands out above the rest—steaming slabs of bird obscured by a coat of fresh, molten mozzarella and hot rivers of thick gravy.
7803 15th Avenue, Bensonhurst
The T.B.L.T at Boomwich: There are way flashier options on the Boomwich menu (i.e., the “Chili con Carne,” served with Frito gremolata), but this classy little club, made with house-roasted turkey, slow-roasted tomatoes, smoked mayo, avocado, bacon and buttery Bibb lettuce, proves greater than the sum of its parts.
311 Atlantic Avenue, Boerum Hill
The Turkey Banh Mi at Ba Xuyen: Granted, the poultry-like substance in this Vietnamese hoagie would probably be defined as “turkey roll,” but it acts as a buoyant flavor sponge for slatherings of pork pate and butter, offset by traditional toppings like crunchy pickled cucumber, carrots, daikon and cilantro.
4222 8th Avenue, Sunset Park
The Turkey Club at the Meat Hook Sandwich Shop: If you truly dig turkey without all the bells and whistles, you’ll appreciate this classic assemblage of toasted sourdough rye, lettuce, tomato, shaved red onion and mayo paired with cut-above proteins— turkey and turkey bacon, both smoked in house.
495 Lorimer Street, Williamsburg