It was your mom's fallback - for good or for bad - and the bottom of the food chain for years, at least until trendy restaurants, looking to get back into comfort foods as an ironic commentary or reaction against haute cuisine, began featuring it on their menus. Bang!, on West 32nd Avenue, has made a legendary one for a decade.
Today, there are entire restaurants (Steubens stands out) dedicated to new twists on old standards: Mac n cheese, fried chicken, turkey pot pies.
But meatloaf may be the king of comfort foods. Which means that the meatloaf sandwich is the king's less ambitious, but more personable brother. Meatloaf gets the fame and the burden of the crown. Meatloaf sandwich gets the chicks and the trust fund.
Which is good for the meatloaf sandwich at Delaney's Deli because, while the loaf itself was solid if unspectacular, the flourish of the sandwich made it downright royal.
Located in a fake neighborhood street on the seemingly forgotten southeast edge of the new urbanist enclave of Belmar, Delaney's is owned by two New England natives and specializes in "Slow cooked roast beef or slower cooked pulled pork." But it also has a full sandwich menu with everything from a BLT on Texas Toast to hot pastrami.
But I'd heard the meatloaf was good, and it was, sort of. It was thick and held together without crumbling, but eaten by itself, it lacked much flavor and wouldn't have stood up well for itself. On the sandwich, however, it served as a nuanced slate on which to add the flavors of Delaney's excellent BBQ sauce, the grilled onions and cheese.
The sourdough toast, meanwhile, was crisp and buttery, strong enough to hold in the loaf, but delicate, almost melt-in-your mouth good.
If the meatloaf king ever vacates his comfort-food crown, his brother will have to step up. He's got all the fixings. All he needs to work on is his royal bearing.