The meatless fried "chicken" sandwich at Clementine's, a vegan deli...

The meatless fried "chicken" sandwich at Clementine's, a vegan deli in Sayville. Credit: Newsday/Corin Hirsch

By most measures, we've been caught in a downpour of fried chicken sandwiches for months. From national chains to locally-owned independents to ghost kitchens, crispy-chicken cutlets on a bun have become the main currency of pandemic-era takeout. It's also one of its mostly tightly competitive categories.

Which makes it a genuine surprise to be moonstruck by a chicken-less version of the same found at a deli in Sayville — and one that comes on toast, no less, that you can only get on Fridays, and may sell out before lunchtime is over.

I nabbed one of the last crispy buttermilk "chicken" sandwiches at Clementine’s Plant Based Deli & Bakery, a three-week-old spot run by daughter-mother team Chloe and Cira Jones, before it was gone before the end of a busy lunchtime. Two generous slabs of tempeh, fried crispy and layered with vegan Cheddar and pickles make for a two-handed kind of sandwich, one that hums with a bristling tension of fat, acid and crunch. To say it’s a dead ringer for other fried chicken sandwiches would be an insult, as it eclipses several "real" versions.

I wish I knew more about Clementine’s, but I’ve been unable to reach either Jones. An in-person visit made it clear why — there was a long line for lunch and both were busy in the back. it was clear that a lot of plant-based eaters along the South Shore have been waiting for.

This I know: For now, Clementine’s opens at 11 a.m. from Friday to Sunday, with a shortlist of specials released earlier in the week. This past Friday marked the appearance of the fried chicken/tempeh sandwich, plus a pulled jackfruit-and-coleslaw sandwich (jackfruit easily mimics pulled pork), bowls of chili, and cornbread with maple butter. Saturday ushers in empanadas, plus another "chicken" sandwich with mole, corn salsa and lime crema; on Sunday, a breakfast sandwich of faux sausage with cheese on a croissant, and a take on fried-"chicken" with waffles, accented by blueberry compote. All of these larger dishes are $13, and can sell out well before close; there are three tables for eating here in a bare-bones space with a vibrant graffiti-like mural on one wall.

This kitchen is also a bakery, and the case out front was filled with cupcakes such as orange-chocolate and cookies-and-cream; in the last few weeks, Clementine's has also rolled out cookies, snickerdoodle mini-cakes and brown-banana bread. Behind the counter, I think I spy a soft-serve ice cream machine, too.

Clementine’s Plant Based Deli & Bakery, 4836 Sunrise Hwy., Sayville. 631-664-1270.

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