I went to Bear Branch Tavern in Vienna for the $20 steak frites. And it is a banger of a deal. An Andrew Jackson buys you an eight-ounce flank steak and a pile of hand-cut truffle fries dusted with Parmesan and parsley. The steak itself is gloriously tender in places, not so much in others, but for an additional $3 or $6, an upgrade to a New York strip or ribeye will help that.
But this Meaty Monday isn’t dedicated to the steak frites. There’s an even more memorable fleshy find waiting on the sandwich section of the menu.
In my experience, taquerias or, even better, torterias, usually serve tortas on bolillo rolls piled with refried beans, avocado, and at least a couple of meats, say ham and milanesa. But Bear Branch goes an extra step with three heartily portioned proteins.
Crispy carnitas cover the bottom of the sturdy roll, with bites that are by turns meaty and meltingly fatty. Saline pit ham is just thick enough so as not to get lost, separating the carnitas from a crunchy fried chicken thigh. A layer of griddled queso Oaxaca is one of the secrets to the sandwich’s success. So are the pickled veggies, both jalapeños and onions, which illuminate the heavier, fattier flavors. Meanwhile, a swipe of honey mustard lends a whisper of sweetness.
It’s a serious sandwich, not to be taken lightly. Not that one ever could at that size. // 133 Maple Ave. East, Vienna
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