If you happen to walk past Num Pang Kitchen on 38th Street near Broadway and dip in, you would be forgiven an eye roll. On one wall is a sign of a delicious-seeming sandwich with the words “Real Recognize Real,” and on the opposite wall is a giant graffiti mural celebrating “Times Square South,” which is what real New Yorkers have never, in five centuries, called 38th and Broadway. Let that transgression slide, however, because Num Pang Kitchen has brought hope to 2017. It has brought light to darkness. It has brought a gourmet take on the McRib to Times Square.
As squadron leader of the Time Out Test-Eater Squad here at Time Out New York, I should confess that I have one dietary restriction: the McRib is not always available. In New York, it’s harder to find than the hawthorn/zarour berry jam I've been seeking for years. Here, then, is the verbatim communique I sent to our digital editor when I learned of Num Pang Kitchen's NcRib: “A FAKE McRIB! I PROPOSE WALL-TO-WALL, 24/7 COVERAGE!”
Alas, reader, all I got was this post. And the sandwich, dubbed the NcRib, deserves so much more. First, co-founder Ben Daitz sous-vides baby back ribs in barbecue sauce for about five hours. The bones are pulled while the rack is still hot and then the meat is pressed overnight into a patty (each sandwich has about half a rack of meat). It's then garnished with thin shaved white onion—roughly the width of angels' eyelashes—and house–made pickles with a solid-but-not-overstepping-its-boundaries helping of chili mayo. This is how “less is more” is done! (The NcRib is comprised of 10 ingredients, as opposed to the McRib's 72.)
“I can't really mention the sandwich you might be thinking of,” said Daitz when he served some NcRibs to me and another helper (one who had never eaten a McRib). "But what I can say is that if this makes you think of another sandwich, ours is better." The sandwich is here until December 19, when it will presumably become available exclusively at the North Pole to power the miracle of Christmas—such is its power.
“Whoa,” said our newcomer who had never tried a McRib. “Try pulling out some of the meat and eating it on its own!” (Later that night, in the middle of an eight-course dinner at one of the city’s best restaurants, this newcomer nudged her squadron leader and whispered: “I'm still thinking about that NcRib. Like, if they brought it out as the next course, I wouldn't be mad.”
Ironically, the NcRib’s delight is in its inconsistency. You don't get bored of eating it. Some of the meat is crisp, some is pulled, some is plump, some is fatty, some is supple. All of it is a monument to what meat can be. The NcRib is Margot Robbie to the McRib's Tonya Harding, the Superman to its Clark Kent. The NcRib is flat out the Ryan Gosling or Meryl Streep of McRibs. It can do no wrong.
In the words of Ender De La Rosa, a 29-year-old doorman from Jackson Heights who happened to be enjoying his own NcRib as we tasted ours: “Step aside, McRib. This is a real sandwich. You can taste the quality.” Hours later, he too had a craving for another NcRib.
This next part is just for one Time Out reader in particular, who we'll call Mayor McBlasio to protect his identity: Please give the NcRib a key to the city. It already owns the key to our hearts.