Lamb sloppy joe at Chez Mike

Chez Mike lamb sloppy joe

By Deanna Fox

Sloppy joes were a mainstay in my culinary repertoire growing up -- mainly because you can't burn them.

See, my mother (bless her) went through a period of time when she confused the smoke alarm with the kitchen timer. About the same time, my dad was the volunteer fire chief of our small town, and as a way to live-up to the job, installed 16 smoke alarms in our modestly-sized home that were all connected. When one went off, they all went off. And unless you completely forget that there's meat on the stove (like, go to the grocery store 30 minutes away while dinner is cooking), it's pretty hard to set off that many smoke alarms with sloppy joes.

So when I hear of someone "upgrading" the humble sloppy joe with lamb-sted-beef, I'm all in.

Chez Mike seems all-too-perfect to bring an upscale spin on sloppy joes: Located in a concrete strip mall in the center of suburban East Greenbush, the restaurant is a metaphor for the dish itself in that it takes a bold stand in the middle of the ubiquity of average American life. The strip mall is the Manwich; Chez Mike is the lamb.

Chez Mike exterior 2017-June

Typically made with beef, sloppy joes are a classic loose meat sandwiches that are quick and filling and generally simple to make. Most homemade recipes called for ketchup, tomato paste, and maybe a few aromatics and spices to liven up browned ground beef. For households like mine, the readymade Manwich sauce with its orange and brown label in the metal can was an even more expedient way to get dinner on the table. We served it on potato buns with crinkle-cut fries and some form of canned vegetable. No one complained.

The lamb sloppy joe at Chez Mike ($15) does not deviate far from the classic Manwich-style taste that is familiar to many. Warm spices like cumin and paprika shine through deep tomato and brown sugar flavors in a sauce that suspends and coats each finely-crumbled piece of lamb meat.

That lamb is the real star. So often with lamb, a gamey, musky taste turns people off to it, which is usually an indication that the meat isn't actually lamb, it's mutton, which is an adult sheep. And the older the sheep at slaughter, the stronger that off-putting taste can be. A chef could choose to use inferior lamb meat in a dish like a sloppy joe, as the pungent sauce can overpower the taste of the meat, but at Chez Mike, the sauce is balanced against the fatty, earthy lamb to complement, not downplay, the taste of the meat.

A chef could choose to use inferior lamb meat in a dish like a sloppy joe, as the pungent sauce can overpower the taste of the meat, but at Chez Mike, the sauce is balanced against the fatty, earthy lamb to complement, not downplay, the taste of the meat.
Cubes of feta are sprinkled over the meat and sauce, which provide a subtle hint of salt and creaminess, but are few and far between. Pickled jalapeno offers just enough acid and heat to cut through the heavier components of the sandwich. It's all served on a brioche-style bun, which, in the version I tried, was lopsidedly toasted -- burnt on one half, underdone on the other -- but works as a fine base.

All in all, it seemed a little skimpy for the price, and slapped together like an afterthought, but I guess that is par the course for something with the word "sloppy" in its name.

A side of springtime potato salad utilized red bliss potatoes with spring vegetables like peas, which was a great take on the classic deli side, but the potatoes were haphazardly cut in a way that required me to use a knife to fit them into my mouth. Maybe I'm persnickety, but a cold picnic salad shouldn't call for a knife.

Make sloppy joes tonight. Why not? They are simple to make (serve with a big green salad) and if you are mindful about ingredients, could prove to suit healthy eating recommendations. And if you don't feel like making it yourself, Chez Mike has a version for you.

Deanna Fox writes about many things, mostly about food. More can be found on her website, Twitter, or Instagram.

More Eat This
+ Pizza at Anna's Wood Fired Pizza
+ Dining around at Troy Kitchen
+ Sopes at Viva Cinco de Mayo

Find It

Chez Mike
596 Columbia Turnpike
East Greenbush, NY 12061

Comments

Good article, i like your writing!
Have wanted to go to this place since i first heard about it.
Thought it was French food?

@mg -- Boy that's nice, thanks! Yes, it does learn French there with a little Italian flair peppered in.

Chez Mike's...one of the hidden gems in an odd location.

Chez Mike's is our consistent go to restaurant. I would not describe their food as French in the traditional sense of lots of sauces, although it does have a bistro type fare. Great seafood chowder, fun salad combinations and the menu changes seasonally.

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