What is the mark of a good restaurant? As a food blogger for many moons, I’d say consistency in the food from start to finish, the service, and the overall experience is the mark of a good restaurant. Press 195 in Bayside, Queens raises the bar on these factors in every way, and sometimes you just wanna go where everybody knows your name (insert laugh track here). Press 195 is that place for me – it’s in my hometown, they know my best friend and my mom, and they sometimes pretend to not know me when I make bad jokes. Like most of my friends do. Regardless, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Brian Karp, owner and sandwich genius, to chat about Press and why it’s such a great neighborhood staple. And why those fries are SO DAMN GOOD.
Dara: Are you a professionally trained chef?
Brian: Nope. Self taught.
D: When you started out, what was the menu like? You have so many sandwiches now I can’t even keep up!
B: When we started, we had 12 sandwiches. That’s it. Now we have 47.
D: What was the inspiration behind Press?
B: I was in Italy with a friend and all those panini stands they have there got me thinking. We realized there weren’t many places at the time that focused on just sandwiches.
D: And what’s your favorite menu item?
B: The Bell BBQ Classic on a whole wheat wrap and I add jalapeños. It’s grilled chicken, avocado, Vermont cheddar, cilantro, red onion, and sour pickle chips.
D: Now about those fries. You double fry them, right? You have to.
B: Absolutely. We soak them and get a little starch out, and then double fry. They’re the best.
D: SERIOUSLY. You also make a great burger.
B: Yea I can’t say who it’s from, but we use one of the best meat distributors in town. They deliver to some of the best places in Manhattan too.
D: Why did you close the location in Park Slope?
B: The space was really tiny. Like half the size of this one, maybe a third. It just wasn’t ideal and we wanted to focus on this one and the Rockville Centre location.
D: Got it. Well I’m glad and can’t wait to eat everything!
So I may not have gotten ALL the secrets, but I got to chat with the man who started it all, and they’re seriously killing it over there in Queens. My mom lives a few blocks away and whenever I go home to visit, I’m usually making a pitstop at Press 195 for wings and fries. Or my favorite, the #14 with grilled chicken. It’s a veggie wrap (I know, but trust me) with grilled zucchini, yellow squash, red pepper, fresh spinach, black olive spread, provolone, and roasted garlic spread. It’s so damn good. The cheese melts perfectly and the roasted garlic spread will convert any garlic hater into a garlic lover – it’s just such a flavorful sandwich.
Most recently I tried out their new items, like the brisket and gouda sandwich ON A KNISH (?!?!) and the pineapple sesame sriracha dipping sauce for the fries (and for bathing, probably). I can’t stress enough how good that brisket was, and putting it on a halved knish is just such a bold move. Mad respect.
Grilled/marinated sliced steak, provolone, pan fried sweet peppers and mushrooms, fresh baby arugula and pineapple sesame sriracha sauce (there it is again)! So delicious though. May not replace my favorite, but it was solid. They do a good job with steak. In fact, if I ever feel inclined to get a salad, I go with the steak salad from Press: it’s got fresh mozzarella, corn, red pepper, tomato, red onion, and this tangy and creamy red pepper dressing. It’s a great combo and super filling for a salad.
Grilled lemon chicken, fontina cheese, baby spinach, tomato olive bruschetta, pure maple syrup basil pesto. This was a new one for me, and might be in rotation in my sandwich repertoire. The tomato-olive bruschetta and sweet maple pesto really make this sandwich pop, as well as making it very unique. Maple syrup pesto is not something I would think makes sense, but it absolutely does, and you should try it.
You need it. That’s all I’m going to say. Ok this is a review, so I’ll say a little more. It was cooked perfectly, and it had great flavor. In two things, primarily steak and burgers, I am a true believer in the meat being the star of the show more so than the toppings. If the meat is quality and has enough marbling (aka fat) to give it good flavor, you really only need salt & pepper; and in the case of a burger, a little bit of cheese and I’m set. Press crushes the meat game, from burgers to steak to wings.
THE WINGS AND FRIES:
I don’t even know what to say about them. They make me want to be a better person. Or they make me want to eat them. The fries are double fried and served with a PLETHORA of dipping sauces. Chipotle mayo and pineapple sesame sriracha are my faves. The wings are also fried and tossed in a classic buffalo sauce. Nothing fancy here. And fun fact: Brian went to school in Buffalo! So maybe that’s where he gets his wing inspiration from…
The rest of my day at Press was spent eating and drinking twice my weight in sandwiches, a burger, bruschetta, fries and beer. I suggest you get out to Queens and do the same one of these days!
40-11 Bell Blvd, Bayside Queens
1 block from the Bayside LIRR stop (Port Washington line and 22 mins from Penn Station, yes I timed it I used to live there)
Thanks for the kind words, they are much appreciated!
-Chef Brian Karp, Press 195