Hoffman's Houston
Drive-thru Gourmet

Ken Hoffman discovers perhaps the best chicken parm sandwich in the U.S.

Hoffman discovers perhaps the best chicken parm sandwich in the U.S.

Drive-Thru Gourmet - Parm Chicken Parm
Could this be the best chicken parmigiana sandwich in America? Photo courtesy of Parm Restaurants

This week, I reached out for an all-time favorite, the Chicken Parm Sandwich at the eponymously named Parm restaurant in New York City. You know that show on the Food Network, Best Thing I Ever Ate? This would be my best — at least in my Top 5. An entire restaurant built in honor of the love of my life: chicken parmigiana. My only question to the owners: have you been reading my diary?

There are four Parm restaurants in New York: Little Italy, Brooklyn, Battery Park City, and the one I visited at 235 Columbus Ave., between 70th and 71st Streets on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. That's Seinfeld territory, and a few blocks from Strawberry Fields, the John Lennon memorial in Central Park. For tourist straphangers, take either the 1, 2, 3, B, or C subway to 72nd Street and Parm is a short waddle away. 

Here's what I ate: the upsized Chicken Parm Sandwich ($15) on a sesame hoagie roll and Rosemary Potatoes ($8).  They have a smaller sandwich on a hard roll, but when I step up to the plate, I swing for the fences. I go large, then I go home.

I don't have the usual calorie and fat counts because Parm is a real restaurant and doesn't have to reveal its dark secrets. Rest assured, this isn't a wheat grass juice bar. (I don't even know what wheat grass is, but rest is what you'll need after one of these chicken parm sandwiches.) This is ultimate Italian comfort food and the portions are big. Parm also has a full menu of apps, salads, dinners and desserts, but I always try to stick with what's on the sign outside.

The chicken breast pieces are lightly breaded and fried, but not at all greasy. The red sauce is sweet and the mozzarella is melty and gooey, just perfect, just like the 10,000 parm sandwiches I ate growing up back east. Confession: I ate veal parm then, but I'm smarter and kinder now. No more veal ever. Plus they don't have veal on the menu at Parm.

I read one review of Parm where they described it as a hip diner-style restaurant. I don't know how hip it is, but this isn't a diner like we have in Houston, like say the Avalon Diner (my go-to is the Big Breakfast for $10.45). Reservations are suggested at Parm and they only take credit/debit cards.

I don't usually fuss about side dishes, but these Rosemary Potatoes knocked me for a loop. They were all different sizes, from large cottage fries to small tots. They were crunchy outside and soft inside, like KFC promises with its wedges but doesn't deliver. Parm's potatoes have a loud garlic punch and not oily one bit. They give you a huge serving and I could have done a double order. I said to the waiter, "I'm going to tell you how you make these," hoping he'd tell me the real recipe. I said, "You roast small potatoes, then slice them in odd shapes, deep fry them and toss them in garlic and salt and other spices."

He said, "exactly!"

This was my only problem with Parm: I didn't eat there until the last night of a recent trip to New York. Had I gone the first night, I would have switched hotels so I could walk there every night the rest of my stay.