By Steve Mosco
The power and majesty of a great sandwich is undeniable. Loaded with fresh ingredients and handled with care, a truly remarkable sandwich melds together tastes from across the flavor palate into one cohesive mouthful.
And few establishments have mastered the art of the sandwich better than Press 195 in Bayside. The eatery, at 40-11 Bell Blvd., serves lunch, dinner and late night snacks in a comfortable and friendly environment — an atmosphere painstakingly created by chef and owner Brian Karp.
“I’m a bit of a control freak,” said Karp, who owns the restaurant’s two locations in Bayside and Rockville Centre, L.I., along with partners Chris Evans and Jimmy Volz. “And I wanted to be set apart from other restaurants by offering a unique product at reasonable prices in a laid-back setting.”
Karp opened the original Press 195 in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood in 2002 after a decade rattling around in the corporate world. He was part of the Internet’s early days in the mid-1990s, playing an integral role with a few major companies, including Yahoo!, his last major corporate venture.
He “left for sanity’s sake,” returning to his first love: cooking. Karp recalls being a child and lifting himself up over the countertop to reach the toaster oven and experiment with different variations of the grilled cheese sandwich. It was the harbinger of a career to come.
“Everybody loves sandwiches. They are not for the rich and they are not for the poor — they are for everyone,” said Karp. “And the sandwich itself leaves so much room to play with different ingredients.”
One glance at the Press 195 menu and Karp’s affinity for experimentation is clearly evident. The restaurant offers both hot and cold pressed sandwiches featuring savory meats, fresh vegetables and the finest cheeses. Karp’s current favorite creation is the Jack’s Special, loaded with grilled spicy chicken, fresh mozzarella, barbecue sauce, onions and pickles.
Other standouts include the No. 35, with prosciutto di parma, sliced pears, fontina cheese, baby arugula and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil; and the No. 26, with turkey, smoked Canadian bacon, smoked gouda, fresh tomato and roasted garlic spread.
Press 195 also offers a sandwich creation that just might be the greatest gift to mouths everywhere: a pressed knish sandwich. With six variations, the crunch of the outer knish shell gives way to molten potato filling and eventually inner contents, which include meatloaf, steak, pastrami and veggie, among others.
More offerings include Belgian-style fries with an array of dipping sauces, as well as loads of fresh vegetables, including an asparagus appetizer that is the perfect way to get one’s greens.
But Press 195 is more than just a place to eat. A small bar with a beer selection unmatched on the boulevard greets customers. It features seasonal brews and some usual favorites, as well as incredibly tasty choices that are hard to find anywhere else during a typical lunch hour, happy hour or suppertime.
“A beer and a sandwich is a classic combination, but we aren’t just going to serve any beer,” said Karp. “I have a real love of craft beers and that is something I want to spread to others.”
Karp’s love of quality food and drinks is evident throughout Press 195, as is his welcoming and friendly demeanor — characteristics shared by the rest of the restaurant’s staff.
While many years have passed since his early days elevating the flavor profile of a simple grilled cheese sandwich in his childhood kitchen, Karp still holds true to his culinary mantra: comfort coupled with originality adds up to happiness.
“When you have quality food with a relaxed atmosphere, it works out for everyone,” he said. “Unlike the corporate world, the restaurant business provides a direct connection to the customer. And producing something that makes others happy is really the only business I want to be in.”
Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.