The 10 Most Famous Sandwiches in America (and Where to Try Them)

Justina Huddleston

Photo by erik forsberg / Flickr

There’s a reason why everyone loves sandwiches. They’re easy to eat on the go, and pack a wallop of flavors and textures in each bite. But some sandwiches are better than others, and these 10 are famous for a reason.

1. Philly cheesesteak

Allegedly invented by Pat and Harry Olivieri in 1930s Philadelphia, the cheesesteak consists of chopped, thinly sliced or shaved beefsteak on a long, soft roll. It’s topped with American cheese, Cheez Whiz, or provolone. Sometimes, grilled onions, peppers, or mushrooms are added. To get a taste of the real thing, head to Pat’s King of Steaks, Dalessandro’s, Tony Luke’s or Geno’s Steaks, all in Philadelphia.

2. Chicago Italian beef

This Chicago favorite is a juicy sandwich made by stuffing a long Italian bread roll with roast beef and sautéed sweet bell peppers or hot pickled giardiniera. The bread is usually dipped once or twice in the meat juice, leading to a super succulent sandwich you may or may not need to eat while wearing a poncho (or at least have some paper towels handy). The sandwich was supposedly invented in the early 1900s by Italian immigrants looking for a way to make cheap, tough cuts of beef palatable. These days, you can try an authentic Italian beef sandwich at Al’s Beef, Mr. Beef on Orleans, and other locations throughout Chicago.

3. Reuben

There’s a debate over where the Reuben got its start: it was either invented by Reuben Kulakofsky of Omaha, Neb., and served at the Blackstone Hotel, or invented by Arnold Reuben, owner of Reuben’s Delicatessen in New York City. Regardless of its origins, the Reuben is a tasty sandwich made with corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing, grilled between two slices of rye bread. You can get it at delis and diners around the country, but don’t miss the famous versions at Katz’s Delicatessen in New York City or Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, Mich.

4. Club sandwich

The club sandwich has been served up at restaurants in the U.S. at least since the turn of the 20th century. It’s a sandwich usually made with three layers of toasted white bread filled with sliced turkey (sometimes chicken), lettuce, tomato, bacon, and mayonnaise, then cut into quarters held together with toothpicks. This nearly ubiquitous sandwich is a favorite of diners, delis, and hotel room service around the country.

5. Chow mein sandwich

Fall River, Massachusetts’s chow mein sandwich may only be famous in southeastern Mass. and northern Rhode Island, but it deserves a wider audience. It features a hamburger bun stuffed with chow mein – crispy noodles coated in savory brown gravy. It can be served strained (sauce only) or unstrained (with meat or veggies). Try it at Mee Sum Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge in Fall River (or try making your own).

6. Cuban sandwich

Rising to popularity in the late 19th or early 20th century in Key West, Fla. and Ybor City in Tampa, Fla., the Cuban sandwich was most likely brought to Florida by Cuban workers and their families, eventually evolving into the sandwich we know today. Cuban bread is buttered or oiled, spread with mustard, then filled with roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, and sliced dill pickles (in Tampa, Genoa salami is also included). The sandwich is then pressed and grilled until crispy on the outside and melty within. Try one at The Columbia Restaurant in Tampa or Versailles restaurant in Miami.

7. Fluffernutter

The Fluffernutter is a New England favorite that tastes more like dessert than anything else, though it’s a popular lunch for school kids in the region. It’s a simple sandwich made by spreading marshmallow fluff and peanut butter on white bread. Legend has it that the Fluffernutter was first created in Massachusetts after the invention of marshmallow crème, and though you can find it at casual restaurants throughout Massachusetts, it’s the type of easy sandwich that’s best enjoyed at home with a cold glass of milk.

8. Hot brown

The famous Kentucky Hot Brown, invented at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Ky., is based off of the classic Welsh rarebit. It’s an open-faced turkey and bacon sandwich that’s topped with cheesy Mornay sauce, then broiled until hot and bubbly. It’s sometimes topped with parmesan, pimento, or tomatoes. Get a taste of this dreamy sandwich at the English Grill inside the Brown Hotel.

9. Po’ Boy

A Louisiana favorite, the po’ boy is a sandwich consisting of French bread stuffed with roast beef or fried seafood (like shrimp or oysters). It can be served hot or cold, though the roast beef and french fry versions are usually served hot with brown gravy. The roast beef gravy is known for its “debris,” or bits of tender roast beef that have fallen off the larger chunks of meat into the cooking liquid. Try the shrimp po’ boy at Herby K’s in Shreveport, La.

10. Monte Cristo

An Americanized version of the Monte Cristo, this ham and cheese sandwich is stuffed with ham and emmental or gruyère cheese, then dipped in an egg batter and pan- or deep-fried. It’s sometimes served sprinkled with powdered sugar, or served with raspberry or strawberry jam for dipping. It’s the perfect combination of a crispy exterior and cheesy, melted interior. Try the deep-fried version at Cafe 50’s in Los Angeles, which features turkey, ham, and Swiss cheese.

Did your favorite sandwich make the list? Or are there some hidden gems we missed?

"The 10 Most Famous Sandwiches in America (and Where to Try Them)" originally published on The Menuism Dining Blog.