2012: The Year in Sandwiches Slideshow
December 28, 2012
Bobcat Bite’s Green Chile Cheeseburger
A 10-seat diner sitting atop a desolate, dusty dirt hill,Bobcat Bitewas named after the local fauna that would ravage the garbage cans at night looking for tasty leftovers.
Unlike Bert's or Blake's, Bobcat's ginormous 10 oz burgers are cooked to temperature preference the menu carefully distinguishing between rare, medium rare, medium, medium well, and well. The green chile is actually even tamer here than Bert's or Blake's, blanketed under white American cheese. Or it may be that the beef steals the show. No fast food burger here.
If Pat LaFrieda's proprietary Black Label burger blend of meats is the pride of New York City's burgers, I'd like to introduce Pat to his New Mexican counterpart whom I'll name "Chuck." Bobcat Bite freshly grinds its beef daily from 100% whole boneless chuck which delivers the perfect beef to fat ratio in my humble opinion.
Not only is Bobcat Bite the greatest green chile cheeseburger you're likely to ever experience, I think it's fair to say that nobody beats Bobcat's meat. Their unique huge ciabatta-like buns are soft but sturdy enough to sop up the Christmas-colored mix of red blood and green chiles on my perfectly cooked rare burger. If you choose to explore the New Mexican green chile cheeseburger trail, you can be assured of striking gold at Bobcat Bite. GutterGourmet
Shelsky Smoked Fish's Brooklyn Native
Brooklyn, for all its specialty food shops and Jewish roots, was sorely lacking an appetizing shop until Shelsky’s Smoked Fish opened in Carroll Gardens.
Peter Shelsky opened the store because he was tired of schlepping into Manhattan for whitefish, and he is restoring some heritage to the borough in the process. For a brilliant combination of all of the best that Shelsky’s has to offer, the "Brooklyn Native" is the perfect sandwich — Gaspe Nova, smoked Whitefish Salad, pickled herring, and sour pickles are served on a bagel or bialy. I am partial to the bialy, which is every so slightly toasted so as not to sacrifice the fluffy middle. The sandwich begins with a layer of creamy whitefish salad, which, made with chopped cucumber and celery, has just the right amount of crunch. Next comes two layers of Gaspe Nova so fresh it practically melts in your mouth. Not overly smoky, this Nova goes really well with the next layer, a slightly sweet piece of pickled herring that is much meatier than the salmon, offering a unique consistency in addition to the new flavor. Finally, a few sour pickles top off the salty stack, all enveloped, of course, by the bagel or bialy. The distinct texture of each component in the "Brooklyn Native" is an integral part of this sandwich’s character. -Alison Spie
Carne Asada Gordita at La Superior in Durham, N.C.
One of the best places to eat Mexican food in America today is North Carolina, and especially the city of Durham. The first big wave of immigration from Mexico and Central America came to the region in the early 1980s, in response to a shortage of local agricultural workers. Today, it is estimated that 8.7 percent of the state's population is Hispanic — and there are parts of Durham and the surrounding area, especially along Durham's Roxboro Road, where the taquerias outnumber the hamburger joints and pizza parlors.
There's even a massive Hispanic supermarket, La Superior, on Roxboro, and here, in addition to rows upon rows of canned and other packaged goods, a terrific meat market, and a tortilleria selling freshly made corn tortillas for $0.99 a pound, there's a counter dispensing first-rate tacos, tortas, and gorditas, with all manner of fillings.
Gorditas — literally "little fat ones" — are like thick corn tortillas, usually plump enough that they can be cut open and stuffed. They're not technically sandwiches, then. But La Superior makes them sandwiches by enclosing the filling between two separated rounds. The carne asada version (spelled carne azada on the signboard menu) is but one of the many great variations. The corn cakes, if you will, are full of flavor; the meat, marinated with lime juice and salt, is charred on a grill, and then cut into tiny ribbons; it goes between the rounds with chopped onions and cilantro and a generous showering of crumbled queso fresco. There's crema, the fluid Mexican sour cream, on the side, but even better is the tomatillo-based green sauce from the adjacent salsa bar. – Colman Andrews
Grilled Chipotle Pastrami at Sam La Grassa's in Boston
While planning my trip to Boston over President's Day weekend it became clear that rather than work a half day and leave straight from the office, I had to take a full day off. Why? I had to go to Sam La Grassa's, a family-run sandwich spot in Boston’s financial district. "If we leave at 1 o'clock, we'll miss it! They only stay open until 3 o'clock," pleaded my boyfriend, James. I couldn't really argue with him — our last trip to Boston, though a success overall, was a failure in his eyes because we didn't get there on time to try the beloved pastrami sandwich of visitors and famous faces alike. This sandwich would make his trip and give me leverage to make him go ice-skating.
In my defense, what kind of sandwich place opens at 11 a.m. and closes at 3:30 p.m. — oh! — and closes the entire weekend as well? This place, apparently. They’re so popular that that’s the last thing they’re worried about.
Upon arrival at the no-muss-no-fuss spot, it became clear that Sam and sons are pretty serious about their sandwiches. Get in line prepared with a sandwich in mind, because the line moves super-fast and all of a sudden you’re pelted with questions about bread, meat, and fixings.
With this particular sandwich, however, all one has to do is say the name and the rest is history. After the words, "Chipotle Pastrami," left James’ mouth, the gentleman making the sandwich got busy. Ten minutes later, a pressed sandwich appeared, with an aroma that was embraced by our anxious stomachs and a huge smiles.
Between the two sides of a sesame-studded Italian roll sat layers of thinly sliced pastrami topped with Swiss cheese, chipotle mustard, and coleslaw. With closed eyes, we ate our first bites and a simultaneous "mmm" escaped our mouths. The tender meat and the sharpness of the Swiss were practically holding hands with the near-perfect vinegary slaw. The chipotle mustard was the icing on the cake and the bread, which is made in-house, was the out-of-the-park hit that made this sandwich a grand slam, with its classic semolina taste and crunchy exterior.
Neither of us spoke until there were only crumbs left — and that’s no exaggeration. I didn’t even have to bargain about ice-skating after that; it was his idea. -Francesca Borgognone
Al's Deli's Smoked Turkey Sandwich
The thing that sets the sandwiches apart at Al's Deli in Evanston, Ill. is the attention to detail. All of the meats in their signature sandwiches are roasted, smoked, and baked in-house, the dressings and spreads are homemade too, from the bernaise sauce to the garlic aioli, to the blue cheese dressing. But the dedication to quality and authenticity doesn't stop there, as perhaps the most remarkable component of Al's sandwiches is the bread. The story goes that Pottinger came across a boulangerie in Paris that made such exceptional baguettes that he took a few back to the States and convinced the bakers at the local Red Hen Bakery to figure out the recipe — it took the bakers six weeks to recreate the baguette and Al's has been getting their sandwich bread from them ever since.
While there are certainly more than a few outstanding options at Al's, their smoked turkey sandwich with aioli, lettuce, tomato, Swiss cheese, and red onion on a baguette is a true star. The turkey, which is subtly smokey and slightly sweet, is sliced thick and piled onto the chewy, crunchy baguette. The sharpness of the cheese and the creamy freshness of the homemade aioli complete the harmony of every bite. -Molly Aronica
Fast Gourmet’s Chivito
Two blocks north of the U Street Corridor on 14th Street in Washington, D.C., in the shop front of a grubby gas station, sits the neighborhood’s unlikely contender for the best bargain lunch. Fast Gourmet is located inside a gas station; you have to walk past the pumps to enter, and the café shares its space with the station vendor, purveyor of cigarettes and beef jerky from a cloudy Plexiglas booth. The café is scattered with spare black tables and lined by drink machines, and above the counter, in front of the exposed kitchen, hangs a board with the menu scrawled on it in colorful chalk. But Fast Gourmet is anything but generic. It delivers exactly what its name promises: sumptuous food at deli pace.
Fast Gourmet was founded by two Uruguayan brothers, Juan and Manuel Olivera, the former of whom trained as a chef in Italy and France, including at the prestigious Institut Paul Bocuse. The menu includes wraps, salads, and empanadas, but consists mostly of sandwiches. The first part of the sandwich menu, titled "Urban Taste," features traditional-seeming fare such as roast beef, pork, and tuna. But the real standouts are the sandwiches on the so-called "Flair" menu, including the breaded-tenderloin Milanesa and the succulent Chivito. The Chivito is a traditional Uruguayan sandwich, and upon reading the ingredient list, you might be skeptical. How can a single sandwich meld beef tenderloin, bacon, Black Forest ham, mozzarella, green olives, hard-boiled eggs, lettuce, and tomato without losing its head along the way?
The most remarkable thing about the Chivito is that each ingredient manages to hold its own. Pressed in a soft white roll, it is exceptionally juicy, and each ingredient is so well cooked — when you reach inside to rip off a piece of tenderloin, it will practically fell apart in your hand — that the sandwich achieves a lovely balance, the flavors at once complementing and playing off each other. Each bite has a slightly different combination of ingredients and therefore a slightly different flavor profile. The briny olives pop against the rich meats, and the melted mozzarella lends the whole affair a touch of creaminess. Too often are tomatoes nothing more than a soggy clump at the bottom of a sandwich, but Fast Gourmet’s are firm and flavorful, and add a welcome tang. Perhaps the best compliment I can pay the Chivito is that, despite a potentially problematic addiction to hot sauce, the little bottle of DC Redbone sat untouched by my plate for minutes on end before I remembered it was there. I never so much as uncapped it. -Tia Subramanian
Nuts ‘n Berries’ Turkey Crunch
One of the eternal challenges of Los Angeles dining is sussing out those little places tucked into strip malls and building lobbies. So easy to drive by, the hidden gems aren't always marked by a Pink's-sized line out front nor do many places get the advantage of foot traffic that other urban eateries do. Partly because of its nook-like location and partly because it's in the Valley, Nuts 'n Berries is one of those places that you'd likely not know about unless you frequented that stretch of Ventura Boulevard.
There are maybe two tables inside and a few tables just outside the doors of the office building it's set in, so it's fair to say that the café, which is only open until 5 p.m., is primarily a takeout place. Its focus on fresh, organic ingredients is not unique to the LA food scene, but its creative roster of sandwiches sets it apart.
"Be good to yourself" is the Nuts 'n Berries motto, and there's one particular sandwich that fulfills it perfectly — it's wholesome, light, and satisfying. But it's the curious construction of the Turkey Crunch that creates its appeal: sliced turkey and Provolone with a layer of whole raw cashews, a smattering of dried cranberries, julienned carrots, and a double smear of light, zesty basil pesto.
Best served on multigrain, the Turkey Crunch has a great range of textural elements, from crunchy and dry to tender and moist, as well as that whole savory-sweet combo that can be hard to balance. The cranberries provide the sweet but with tartness, and the basil pesto is so green and fresh tasting, it pulls the whole thing together. I love the idea of adding whole nuts to a sandwich — it reminds of me crushing potato chips into a hoagie when I was kid — but this version is guilt-free and a bit more grown-up.
Amato's Original Real Italian
Amato's "Real Italian" looks like the results of a produce truck and a deli counter crashing into an overgrown lobster-roll bun. In fact, it's a combination of cooked ham and traditional, no-apologies American cheese, enhanced with big slices of green pepper, tomato, and onion, with chopped Greek olives and pickles and an olive oil-based dressing, stuffed into a soft roll cut open from the top. It's a big mouthful (the photo shows the "small" size; you can imagine what the large looks like), crunchy and salty and bright. Locals have adopted it as the "Maine Italian."
The sandwich dates its origins to 1902, when a young Italian immigrant named Giovanni Amato started selling rolls stuffed with meats and cheeses and a garden's worth of raw vegetables from a pushcart to his fellow immigrants working on the docks in Portland, Maine. He was successful enough to open a sandwich shop on Portland's India Street the same year, and today there are a dozen Amato-owned stores and a number of franchise locations throughout Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire (plus one in New York State), a number of them in Maplefield's and Irving Oil/Circle K gas stations.
In 1972, a seven-year veteran of the original location, Dominic Reali, bought the business from the Amato family. He added Greek olives to the sandwich, introduced a more strongly brined pickle, and developed his own dressing. The rolls, however, are made — along with a full range of other bread products available for retail sale — by Amato's bakery, said to be the oldest in Maine, which is run by Giovanni's great-grandsons, John and Anthony.-Colman Andrews
Northstar Café's Northstar Burger
Yelp/ Matthew B
Columbus, Ohio, is typically thought of as a college town. As thehome to Ohio State University, it gives outsiders the idea that it’s a city full of drunken football fans. And while that may be true, there’s also a community of people taking advantage of the Ohio landscape and the crops it provides.
The locavore movement has inspired Ohio restaurateurs and food manufacturers to hit the ground running (you may have heard ofJeni’s Splendid Ice Creams). Northstar Café has hopped on the bandwagon with stunning success. At their three locations around Columbus they serve up local ingredients in the form of salads, burritos, and sandwiches. They also prepare fresh smoothies to order, and you’d be crazy not to try the house-made ginger ale.
Northstar’s signature is the Northstar Burger. This vegetarian patty is made fresh daily with black beans, rice, and beets, seasoned with onions, garlic, apple cider vinegar, and oat flour to bind it all together.
Served simply on a bun with melted white Cheddar, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and onions, and a fresh mixed greens salad on the side, this burger is easily the most popular dish at Northstar. –Jane Bruce
Central Grocery's Muffuletta
Yelp/ Rachelle B
In lieu of New York Italian submarine/torpedo-shaped hero bread, the Muff at New Orleans’ Central Grocery has a UFO saucer-like shape to achieve the perfect bread to meat ratio with the round sliced genoa salami, mortadella, ham, and provolone layers that are lovingly stacked on the olive oil-stroked bottom half of the circular bread. The top half then receives several dollops of the proprietary Central Grocery "olive salad."
Chicagoans of Italian descent enjoy their giardiniera, which is olive oil- and vinegar-pickled celery, cauliflower, carrots, peppers, and oregano. The Louisiana Sicilians did them one better by adding the salinity of green and black olives. Everything gets coarsely chopped and soaked in olive oil, making for the ultimate Italian antipasto condiment to place atop the ultimate Italian sandwich.
There are several purveyors of muffulettas in New Orleans, though most do not stand up to Central Grocery. Several will toast or heat the sandwich, which purists such as myself analogize to putting ketchup on your hot dog or mayo on your pastrami. – Gutter Gourmet
Houston’s Famous French Dip Au Jus
When feeling exceptionally hungry for a sandwich or just in the mood for something that will really hit the spot, Houston’s is the go-to place. Excellent for both lunch and dinner, the Famous French Dip Au Jus is an item that checks all the boxes when searching for that best sandwich in town.
Enjoy this sandwich as you overlook the panoramic view of the North Miami Beach intercostal and observe the boats that cruise by. The hectic yet lively atmosphere of this restaurant is an ideal place to have a casual meal with friends, meet with a business associate, or even have a first date. They don't take reservations and the wait is usually pretty lengthy, but it is definitely compensated for by the outstanding dishes. Spend some time strolling alongside the pathway along the water as you wait for your table, or sit on the benches outside.
The tender-cooked and thinly sliced prime rib is simple yet absolutely made to perfection, and it's generously piled onto a crisp French roll. The meat is smoky and flawlessly spiced, and the salty au jus dip combined with the creamy horseradish sauce is the ideal addition to the otherwise delectable meat.
Don’t forget the fries. These potatoes are thin and crispy and add just the right crunch to this prime-rib masterpiece. Just one warning: make sure to wear your loosest pants. –Gg Mirvis
Savarino’s Cucina’s Stevie B
Should you ever find yourself in Nashville, Tenn., and have a desire for Italian cuisine, you should go directly to Savarino's Cucina on Belcourt Avenue in Hillsboro Village. Corrado Savarino, who trained as a baker in Manhattan and Brooklyn before coming to Nashville, runs this wonderful little restaurant and bakery with his wife and children. They have a varied selection of pastas and other entrées, namely orecchietti and broccoli rabe, with or without sausage. By special request, his wife makes a Sicilian pizza, which is more like a calzone… spinach, olives, and pine nuts or mozzarella and sausage.
There is also a wide variety of sandwiches, my favorite being the Stevie B. Imagine, if you will, Asiago cheese layered between slices of lightly breaded and sautéed slices of eggplant, topped off with broccoli rabe, bomba calabrese, lettuce, tomatoes, and balsamic vinegar, all piled on to a freshly baked roll. Don't forget to ask for a side of marinara for dipping.
Don't be in a hurry when you order this sandwich... there is a sign by the register that, loosely translated from the Italian, says, "If you're in a hurry, don't waste your time or mine." After you’re done, try any of the baked goods and other desserts — they are all made in-house and each is better than the next. – Frank Friedman
Made Fresh Daily's Deviled Egg Salad Sandwich
Just in case you needed another reason to head down to the South Street Seaport on a Sunday afternoon, between the lovely riverside views, the quaint cobblestone streets, and the New Amsterdam Market (a true haven for food lovers), is a sandwich shop and bakery worth checking out.
Made Fresh Daily stays true to its name — all of the baked goods, sandwiches, salads, and breakfast dishes are made in-house, using ingredients sourced locally and delivered every day.
The deviled egg salad sandwich takes the best of two iconic dishes, egg salad and deviled eggs, and prepares them together in a modern and refreshing sandwich. The salad is made with a combination of olive oil, Dijon mustard, and a touch of mayonnaise for extra creaminess. Then, it's piled onto toasted rye bread (spread with arugula mayo) and topped with roasted grape tomatoes and fresh arugula. The only way to make this sandwich better is to have it on their focaccia, which they'll do if you ask for it. The dish comes with creamy jalapeño slaw and homemade ginger-chile pickles.
If you're heading to Made Fresh Daily for breakfast, you're still in luck because they offer a second version of the egg salad sandwich on their morning menu. For this one they top multigrain toast with the egg salad, crumbled Vermont chipotle bacon, and tomato jam. – Molly Aronica
Nerbone’s Bollito Bagnato
This sandwich from Florence’s Mercato Centrale is arguably the best boiled beef has ever looked, and more importantly, tasted. Sliced thick, the juicy-fatty-tender beef is piled on top of a chewy roll. Your request that the sandwich be "bagnato" means that the top roll gets to take a quick dip in the savory beef boiling liquid, and the "con tutte le salse" bit will ensure your meat is topped with a spoonful of both the green (herb-garlicky) and red (spicy) sauces.
It’s a glorious, utterly satisfying mess of flavors that will no doubt cause an internal tug-of-war, with you alternately wanting to devour it with abandon but also savor every single little bite. For that predicament I have only one piece advice: Get back on line and order another.
If this is the sort of thing that would likely give you heartburn, get over it and order one anyways — I’ve seen people do it, and not regret it for a second.- Maryse Chevriere
Hot Lobster Roll at Abbott's in Noank, Connecticut
Nobody agrees about lobster rolls. Should the lobster meat be bound with mayonnaise? If mayo is involved, should the bun be buttered? Toasted? Do you mix celery or dill or chives or anything else into the lobster? What about seasonings (salt, sure, but black pepper? white pepper? paprika?)? And that bun: hot dog roll (and if so, split top or conventional)? Portuguese roll? What?
At Abbott's Lobster in the Rough, on the water in Noank, Conn., next door to Groton ("The Submarine Capital of the World" — and in this case they're talking real submarines, not sandwiches), the "lobster salad roll" involves a toasted split-top bun, celery, and a mayonnaise-based dressing, plus plenty of lobster.
But the winning sandwich here sidesteps all the disagreement by stripping things down to the basics: "Our Famous Hot Lobster Roll" is not, in fact, a lobster roll as most of the world understands it. Instead, it's nothing more than a quarter-pound of lobster meat (about what you'd get out of one whole small lobster), drenched in butter and heaped on a toasted sesame seed-topped hamburger bun. A bag of firm-textured Abbott's brand potato chips, a little paper cup of pretty good coleslaw, and a couple of pickle slices come on the side, but are sort of beside the point. The point is a nice big serving of really good, moist, tender lobster, cooked in massive 50-year-old cast-iron low-pressure steam ovens.
If you've never been to Abbott's, here are a few things you should know: It opens on weekends only in early May from noon to 7 p.m., then serves seven days a week from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day from noon to 9 p.m., then reverts to the weekend schedule until early October, when it closes for the season. It's self-service — order at one counter, pick up your food at another one when your number is called — and most of the seating is at picnic tables on the grass, looking out on the water. It's BYOB, and people arrive with everything from six-packs of Bud to bottles of Malibu Mango and magnums of Veuve Cliquot. (There is no corkage charge, but ice and plastic cups are provided; and there's a package store up the road apiece if you didn't bring any potables from home.) If you're not in the mood for a lobster roll, hot or cold, the menu also includes all the usual clam/lobster shack items, like excellent little Mystic Whale Rock oysters, clam chowder, fried clams, steamers, and just plain lobsters in sizes up to 10 pounds.- Colman Andrews
Panini Pete’s Fresh Mozzarella and Tomato Panini
Located in the French Quarter of downtown Fairhope, Ala., Panini Pete’s knows how to make the perfect sandwich.
The Fresh Mozzarella and Tomato panini perfectly combines house-made mozzarella with ripe tomatoes. Add fresh torn basil leaves and balsamic vinaigrette, and wrap it all up in a pressed homemade focaccia roll for the perfect caprese sandwich.
It may not sound all that different, but it truly is. The mozzarella comes out at the perfect, melt-in-your-mouth temperature. The fresh basil leaves cut through the acidity of the tomatoes. And the vinaigrette ties it all together with a taste that’s not too tart but not too oily.
Not into tomatoes? Try the Rosemary Chicken panini made with creamy goat cheese on multigrain bread. Or try the Black and Blue burger made with gorgonzola spread.
Shoelace fries or homemade potato chips accompany each sandwich, burger, or dog. Order yourself a sweet tea, and sit and relax in the warm Southern summer heat.
Pete’s tiny indoor seating area and newly renovated outdoor "greenhouse" seating are usually bustling. Round tables with umbrellas circle the front of the restaurant, and be sure to check out the tiny shops located on either side.
Open for breakfast and lunch, Panini Pete’s is the best way to enjoy a lazy morning or afternoon. – Christine Harris
The Body Builder at Market Bar Chicago
Chicago is known for many great culinary works such as deep dish pizza, Italian beef, and hot dogs, but now the city has another fabulous sandwich to add to the mix.
The Body Builder at Market Bar Chicago is a smoked turkey breast sandwich layered with fresh mozzarella cheese, a broiled egg, sun-dried tomatoes, and baby spinach. It is then dressed with homemade basil mayo and wrapped-up in whole wheat flatbread.
This sandwich is a hearty, protein-rich dish that will satisfy your hunger pains and your taste buds. The smoked turkey and mozzarella cheese is highlighted by the robust flavor of the sun-dried tomatoes, while the broiled egg adds variant texture. The basil mayo complements the fillings with a cool freshness, and the whole wheat flatbread is subtle (not overpowering or grainy, like many whole wheat breads tend to be), which balances the whole sandwich.
If the Body Builder is not enough to fill you, it is served with a small arugula salad.
Market Bar Chicago has several dining spaces you choose to enjoy your meal in – at the sports bar you can watch game, indulge in a more intimate setting in the dining room, or dine alfresco on the rooftop patio space.
Market Bar Chicago is located 1113 W. Roosevelt in Chicago and is open Sunday- Wednesday 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. Thursday- Friday 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. and on Saturdays 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. - Ellandrea Mckissack
HD1’s Eastbound & Down Hot Dog
Remember Humphrey Bogart’s great old line? No, not, "We’ll always have Paris." We mean the unscripted one, the one about the frankfurter: "A hot dog at the ballpark is better than steak at the Ritz," he once said. And while it’s true that Americans consumed almost 23 million hot dogs in baseball stadiums last year, not a single one of those could have been as quirkily delicious as this pulled pork, slaw, and barbecue sauce-drenched number from Atlanta’s HD1, owned by Top Chef All-Stars winner Richard Blais.- Kelly Alexander
Buffalo Chicken Salad Sandwich at Donna Bell's in New York City
Donna Bell’s is small — there's no sit-down service, and in fact no place to sit down — so the best course of action is to order something and take it out to the courtyard behind Worldwide Plaza, where there is ample public seating. While the place is first and foremost home to a plethora of sweets (muffins, brownies, cookies, cake slices, and more), there are also a handful of savory items — a few casseroles and soups, some flavored biscuits (one with bacon, blue cheese, and parsley!), and most of all, great sandwiches. My sandwich of choice, I quickly decided, was Donna Bell's Buffalo chicken salad, with a lot of chicken, blue cheese, celery, and mild wing sauce shoveled into a huge "French baguette."
Come hungry, because this is a serious sandwich, not for dainty eaters. It's also definitely a messy one: The blue cheese mixes with the sauce and drips down your arm. The mix of large chunks of chicken, crunchy celery, and slightly spicy sauce translates into a perfect lunchtime interpretation of the wings-night experience. –Erin W. Walker
Sardine Sandwich at SandwHich
SandwHich, a gourmet sandwich shop based in downtown Chapel Hill, N.C., is turning out a simple beauty: A crusty baguette is stuffed with arugula, ripe tomato slices, red onion slivers, and a full eight ounces of sardines. This is drizzled with homemade vinaigrette made with olive oil and fresh lemon juice. The result is simultaneously chewy-toothsome, salty, and refreshing, like you might imagine lunch would be at your favorite café in, say… Sardinia. –Kelly Alexander
New Catch Herring at Russ & Daughters in New York City
At Russ & Daughters, located in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, the fresh-caught herring, which unlike the brinier, salted, pickled herring that you see year-round, are mild, soft, and rosy-colored. The maatjes, as this variety of herring is called, are celebrated in the summer in Denmark and Norway as the immature fish are caught and cured for just a few days.
Russ & Daughters is offering this Dutch treat through the summer. They put the fillet on a brioche roll, which I prefer to think of as a challah hot dog bun, complemented by the perfect condiments of raw diced onions and sliced cornichons (that's little pickles to New Yawkers). The fish is absolutely buttery and the relish gives the sandwich crunch on the soft, sweet, egg-y bread.
In deference to the Central Park zoo seals, I request that the zookeepers at R & D leave the herring tail intact and poking out of the bun. I have been politely yet firmly asked to leave the store to eat my sandwich outside, as they tell me my joyful barking and clapping annoys the other customers. – Gutter Gourmet
Pulled Pork Sandwich at Bunk Sandwiches in Portland
The magic of Bunk Sandwiches is in their simple, fresh approach to sandwich-making. And yet the Pulled Pork sandwich is a testament to the complexities that can exist between two slices of poppyseed sourdough bun. The sandwich, which contains just pulled pork, apple cabbage slaw, pickles, and mustard, perfectly straddles the make-or-break dualities that far too many a well-intentioned pulled pork sandwich falls prey to. The pork, soft without feeling soggy or gummy, contrasts perfectly with the crunch of the slaw and the pickles. And while the meat has a tangy kick of its own, its subtlety leaves room for the Dijon to pack a mustardy punch of its own and bring unity of flavor to the whole thing.
Served on a metal tray with a handful of kettle chips and a couple of sliced dills, even the sandwich’s presentation reflects the simple elegance of the place. Maybe that’s just the best part about Bunk: Like so many of its Portland counterparts, it is a testimony to the fact that low-key joints and high-brow food are not mutually exclusive. In fact, at Bunk they coexist in supreme harmony. –Zanny Allport
Rocket Pig’s Rocket Pig Sandwich
Swiss Chef Ralf Kuettel of Trestle on Tenth opened a little brick wall-enclosed one hit wonder sandwich shop around the corner from Trestle, on 24th street in Manhattan called, inexplicably, Rocket Pig.
The space consists of a couple of counters, no seats, and a glass box warming gorgeous hunks of fatty, luxuriant pork shoulder (that enjoys a brine bath before its smoky spa treatment.) The black crusted pork is thickly hand sliced to order, placed gingerly on a fresh ciabatta roll (I'm guessing from Sullivan St. Bakery down the block), and slathered with a deep, rich sweet red onion jam, mustard sauce, and Rocket Pig hot sauce for some added heat – the sandwich comes with a homemade pickle on the side.
The place will inevitably draw comparisons to Sarah Jenkins'Porchetta sandwich shop in the East Village. Although both sandwiches feature same animal, this is an entirely different beast but equally delicious. You could take your sandwich to eat on the nearby High Line, but if you choose to hang around the shop don't miss the oyster/charcuterie/cheese selection.
Start with the daily oyster selection. I had a half dozen of the beau soleils from New Brunswick, made even better when alternating slurps of oyster liquor with a dry white mineral-tasting Zierflander wine from Austria. Being Swiss, Chef Ralf knows his cheeses and meats. I picked some of my favorite hard cow milk Swiss farm cheeses: etivaz, appenzeller and a shaved tete de moine to mix and match with the famous Swiss air-dried beef and ham locally known as bundnerfleisch and speck, respectively, and the Swiss version of beef jerky, a hunter's sausage called landjager.
So launch yourself and lift-off to Rocket Pig. Ralf will take you to the moon, Mars and beyond. – Gutter Gourmet
Crescentina with Whipped Lardo at Hostaria il Castelletto in Peschiera Borromeo
Hosteria il Castelletto is a modest but first-rate restaurant with an artisanal bent and a menu specializing in the cuisine of the Emilian portion of Italy's Emilia-Romagna region, and in particular in the dishes of Modena. What makes it unusual is that it isn't in Emilia-Romagna at all, but in a suburb of Milan, Peschiera Borromeo, best known as the home of Milan's smaller airport, Linate.
Il Castelletto's specialties include excellent beef (including filet glazed in balsamic vinegar, Modena's most famous export), a handful of homemade pastas, and two unusual traditional items often hard to find even in Emilia itself: gnocchi fritti, which are fried hollow pillows of dough traditionally eaten with the varied and superb salumi for which Emilia-Romagna is famous, and crescentine.
Crescentine are small, flat rounds of baked dough somewhere between biscuits and dried-out pancakes in texture. Sometimes also called tigelle, they are an ancient form of bread, related to the testaroli of Liguria, that were originally made by pouring batter into shallow, red-hot stone or terra cotta bowls, then stacking the bowls on top of one another so that the crescentine baked from their radiated heat. Today, they're generally made in aluminum molds, in gas- or electricity-fueled small ovens.
Il Castelletto prepares them the traditional way, then serves them alongside prosciutto and various salumi, or with hard cheeses from Emilia-Romagna (the most famous being parmigiano reggiano, of course), or offers them with a combination of three garnishes: a soft, spreadable, slightly sweet cow's milk cheese with the delightful name of squaquarone; a paste of whipped lardo with garlic and herbs, and, for dessert, Nutella. To eat the crescentine, you separate each one into two halves, easily done with a dinner knife, then spread the condiment of your choice (only one at a time, please) on both cut surfaces and reform them as a sandwich.
The squaquarone is tasty but a little bland. The Nutella is, well, Nutella. The lardo, however, is extraordinary, somewhere between rillettes and butter; we spread ours thickly and luxuriated in its richness, offset by the crisp exterior and faintly, pleasantly doughy flavor of the crescentine. – Colman Andrews
The King Rib at Pride and Joy
Barbecue wizard Myron Mixon marinates a rack of baby backs in a beef-stock-rich marinade, rubs them with a savory mixture of chili powder, garlic, dry mustard, and some other ingredients, spritzing them with apple juice every 15 to 20 minutes during the smoking process, and then glazes them with homemade vinegar-based sauce. Then he lops off the top layer and lays that boneless slab between a soft bun along with pickles and diced onions. And that’s the King Rib, which will be available at Mixon's new hip Pride and Joy barbecue restaurant in Miami. – Kelly Alexander
Porchetta at SD26
One of the few New York City restaurants that makes porchetta is SD26 on the north side of Madison Square Park. SD26, run by venerable Italian restaurateur Tony May and his daughter Marisa, is an upscale place with food that is sometimes pretty sophisticated, and it is not the kind of place you'd expect to find this rustic specialty. Nonetheless, porchetta is produced here daily, to be served in the casual front-of-the-restaurant café (though you can probably talk them into bringing it to you in the dining room if you ask nicely). Here, the boneless pork roast is seasoned with fennel seeds, garlic, rosemary, kosher salt, and black peppercorns and roasted over high heat in a convection oven, then rested and sliced.
The meat is very good, even if it lacks that outdoor open-fire character. More to the point, though, is what it's served on. No generic panino here; SD26's porchetta is heaped inside a rosetta. The typical Roman roll, in breadbaskets all over the Eternal City, is the rosetta, shaped like a flower (or rosette), crisp on the outside, and mostly air within. It's not a form of bread found very often in the U.S., and most examples here are just dry and boring. When the Mays decided to serve rosette at SD26, they wanted to do it right. They invited a well-known baker from Rome named Vittorio Corinaldesi, whose three Compagnia del Pane bakeries around the city began as a family business in 1927. Corinaldesi spent three weeks at the restaurant, training its own bakers to properly use the special equipment required to make rosette. -Colman Andrews
Ray’s Pizzeria’s Cheesesteak
What’s the best cheesesteak in Philadelphia? It’s a debate that has raged for decades. We haven’t stepped into the conversation on22nd & Philly mostly because we do not have a strong opinion, plus enough other locals have opined ad nauseam.
However, I can tell you the best cheesesteak in the Lansdale, Pa., area — the one that I’ll plan an entire day around getting — is the cheesesteak at Ray's Pizzeria & Restaurant.
My mouth waters just thinking about making the trip to my hometown to get one. Ray’s delivers on all the key attributes of a great cheesesteak, including a good roll, quality steak, and being made fresh to order.
The amount of meat stuffed into the roll compared to other good cheesesteaks is what I love most about Ray’s, though. Nothing disappoints me more than when a cheesesteak is not filled with enough meat. This happens more often than you think. And yes, that can even include the likes of Pat’s, Geno’s, Jim’s, etc.
I order my cheesesteak with sauce and onions — it's how my family has ordered at Ray’s for as long as I can remember and I stick with tradition. The sweetness of the red sauce is a perfect complement to the American cheese. Ray's also uses a healthy dose of onions, cut thick instead of chopped thin.
If you go to Ray's, order a large so you have some leftovers. A cold, leftover Ray’s cheesesteak is like discovering a $20 bill in your back pocket. You forget about it, but the next day you do a little victory dance when you find it.
The cheesesteak in these photos was crushed in about three minutes. I had planned to share some with my parents, but it was gone before I knew it. Or so I told them... Better hurry up to Ray's before I crush yours, too. -22nd and Philly
Spitzer's Fried White Catfish Sandwich
Yelp/ Sheri S.
Manhattan's Lower East Side is a hotbed of unique and refreshing dining establishments, Spitzer's Corner just one of those neighborhood gems. The communal seating and rustic wooden decor lend particularly well to the hopping bar scene, which is fuled by Spitzer's outstanding and widely varied beer selection. However, just because the basic clientele comes for the suds doesn't mean the restaurant is skimping where the food menu is concerned.
The fried white catfish sandwich is Spitzer's standby, available during brunch, lunch, and dinner service. Generous portions of flaky catfish are lightly battered and fried until golden and crunchy, then piled onto freshly toasted ciabatta bread slathered with house-made tartar sauce and topped with fresh cucumbers, parsnip, and arugula.
The crunchy bread and the soft, flavorful fish are expertly balanced, and the crisp vegetables add a delightful texture to every bite. The portion is hefty, but the varied and refreshing flavors make it easy to devour without a blink. – Molly Aronica
Pink’s LAX International Dog
It has only been a few months since the latest installment of Pink's started serving hot dogs in Los Angeles at the Tom Bradley International Terminal of LAX. So you're excused if you haven't yet heard of the special hot dog that's only available at this location.
This, the eighth Pink's stand (and the first at an airport) serves up the LAX International Dog ($5.70). "It was designed by an airport employee in a hot dog creation contest held amongst all LAX employees," co-owner Richard Pink noted. "It is the most popular hot dog at Pink’s at LAX. It is a 9-inch all beef, hot dog, topped with three slices of bacon, sauerkraut, shredded cheese and chopped tomatoes."
The chili is classic Pink's (small ground), the dog is surrounded by fine shredded kraut and melted cheese that clings to it and pulls away in sticky threads. The soft bun gets squishy, there's a slight snap of the link, and a satisfying feeling that you've eaten one of the best things you can find while waiting at a terminal. – Arthur Bovino
Grill 'Em All's Behemoth Burger
A burger called Behemoth just begs to be taken on. So you may have already taken notice of this burger while watching the Grill 'Em Allguys battle their way to the top of the Flatiron Building where they were eventually crowned the winner of The Food Network's The Great Food Trucks Race. But unless you live in Los Angeles, or caught a burger during one of the challenges the guys faced as they raced across the country, it's likely you haven't been able to sample the burger yourself yet.
You're familiar with the concept-- a burger whose buns are two grilled cheese sandwiches. That's right, four pieces of bread. Friendly's has been doing Grilled Cheese BurgerMelts for a while now, or you may have also seen Adam Kuban's Hamburger Fatty Melt, which cites the "Chubby Melt" at the Mossy Creek Cafe in Fisherville, Virginia, as one precursor.
In this case, Chef Ryan Harkins and Matthew Chernus of Grill 'Em All sidestep a potential problem that could arise from using so much bread, a dry burger. Besides the gooey smoked Cheddar between the slices, there's more shredded cheese atop the burger and apple wood smoked bacon. But what really makes all the meat and bread work are the very wet beer-soaked onions. –Arthur Bovino
New York's Best Bauru
Casa only serves their rendition of the Brazilian Bauru on the weekends for brunch. Two small rolls with airy insides, and a thin, flaky crust. The melted cheese is spread over Applegate Farm's ham, tomato, and pickle. It’s served with a lightly-dressed side salad with hearts of palm, and a ramekin of a jalapeño hot sauce. The kind of bread, the amount of cheese, the ratio of bread to cheese, it’s New York’s best version, no contest. –Arthur Bovino
Beach Street Sandwiches' Smoked Ham and Cheese
A ham and cheese sandwich? Oh, yum. Flaccid pale pink mystery meat and plastic Swiss on soggy bread slathered with cheap mustard. Be still, my palate.
But then, on the other hand, there's the "smoked ham and cheese" sold out of Beach Street Sandwiches' big yellow truck on the streets of Madison, Guilford, and New Haven in central shorefront Connecticut. I put quotation marks around the name because this iteration of the thing is both less and a whole lot more than what you'd expect. It's less because it isn't made with actual ham, but with uncured pork butt.
That pork butt, happily, is slow-smoked over chile-infused woodchips from old Tabasco barrels, then roasted with pickled green apples and pulled into savory shreds. Next it's piled on a six-inch hero roll that's been slathered with garlic butter and quickly grilled, then topped with slabs of provolone and presented for your delectation. And delectate it you will, unless you actually like mystery meat. It's a little salty, a little spicy, a little garlicky, and very meaty — the kind of sandwich that deserves to be eaten with two hands.
Beach Street is run by Gregory McCarty, formerly a Manhattan-based chef (his résumé includes stints at Nobu and Jean Georges), and freelance food writer Sara Pepitone. McCarty got tired of the serious-food grind, he says, and realized that what he really liked to eat was a good sandwich. Beach Street offers three or more varieties every day, with the smoked ham-and-cheese almost always available.
Other possibilities include an Asian vegetarian edition (shredded carrot and cabbage kimchi with herb salad), a lobster salad roll, and a present-seasonally-appropriate roast turkey with cranberry sauce and homemade stuffing on cranberry multigrain bread. There's also always a pot of soup going; zucchini with apple and mint, corn and crab bisque, seafood gazpacho, or the like. McCarty and Pepitonebuy from local producers and purveyors whenever possible, and chat about food-related happenings on the Beach Street Sandwiches website.
The smoked ham and cheese sandwich costs $8, including a small bag of Fritos on the side. "My grandmother used to make me ham and cheese sandwiches when I was growing up," says McCarty, "and she always gave me a Fritos with it. This is my tribute to her."
For Beach Street Sandwiches locations, check their website or follow them on Twitter. – Colman Andrews
Num Pang's Ginger Barbecue Brisket
It has been several years since Chef Ratha Chau opened Num Pang, his Cambodian sandwich shop in New York City, just off Union Square. It's a tiny storefront next to a parking garage. If you weren't paying attention, you might just pass by.
That would be a mistake. But it's not one many people seem to be making since the chef moved beyond Kampuchea, his full-service kitchen on the Lower East Side. "These are our people," he explained. "There's a huge difference in neighborhoods. Here you can have business from morning to nighttime. Lunch business on the Lower East Side is tough to come by."
Num Pang's menu features six "classic" sandwiches and five seasonal specialties, but in honor of Cambodian Independence Day(November 9) Chef Chau highlighted one of his favorites, Ginger Barbecue Brisket. As with all the others, it's served on bread made by Parisi according to the chef's own recipe. In addition to the white flour typically used in baguettes, it calls for semolina. "Typically, the baguette used in banh mi kills the roof of your mouth," he explained. "I didn't want that to happen."
Toppings on the Ginger Barbecue Brisket include: pickled carrots, pickled red cabbage, Sriracha mayonnaise, a thin, wide piece of pickled cucumber sliced on a bias, and a nice thick piece of brisket that has cooked for 12 hours. Its inspiration? Barbecue and home-cooking. "I love barbecue," Chef Chau said. "It's one of my favorite things to make and eat. There's nothing I would make here that I wouldn't make at home."
This is a messy, messy sandwich ($7.75). Juices drip down your fingers, there's mayo on your palms, you can't really put it down once you start, and you need at least three napkins once you're done. But you just don't care. Tang, sour, sweet, creamy plus deep earthy meat on slightly toasted bread. It's a Sunday sandwich-- something to eat when you don't have to be anywhere.
"This isn't typical of what you'll see anywhere else," Chef Chau noted.
He's right. So be wise. Take note of the recipe. –Arthur Bovino
Red's Lobster Roll
Any discussion about the best—or at least, most famous—lobster roll in Maine would be incomplete without mention of Red’s Eats in Wiscasset. And there’s a line of customers to prove it. A long one. As a Times article documented, the wait begins in your car on the one-lane lead-up to Red’s and the bridge.
It hasn’t endeared tourists to locals. Indeed, someone shouted out their window “Red’s Eats sucks” during the hour-long wait on a recent visit. But there’s a short-cut to take in your car that will bypass a chunk of traffic. Follow Gardiner Road (as you have to) until you reach Churchill Street. Take Churchill and hang a left on Lee. Left on Middle. Boom. You’re there.
After you’ve done your time in line, stake out a seat on the deck for a view of the bridge— but really, you’ll be too busy with the roll for it to matter. Heaping, fresh wet lobster. So much it falls off and all over. It tastes like it was just cooked and picked, plus it’s agreat deal. No dressing. Ask for both butter (kept warm in a tea kettle on the stove) and mayo. Sometimes there’s a reason why number one is number one. – Arthur Bovino
Mel’s Widowmaker Burger
Having a bad day? Mel’s Burger Bar knows what to do.
This classic burger bar is furnished with a black and white checkered floor, red vinyl booths, and its name in shining lights (not that you’d ever forget it) to make you feel right at home. The menu is stacked with a wide variety of burgers — both traditional and adventurous, but all drool-worthy. Located in Morningside Heights in New York City, local residents and nearby Columbia University students know that nothing cures a bad mood like a Widowmaker.
With the personal philosophy of "you can never have too much of a good thing," the magicians at Mel’s take freshly ground 100 percent Black Angus beef, cook it to perfection, and serve it on a potato bun with some of its best friends: gooey macaroni and cheese and crispy bacon.
The patty itself is so juicy and well-seasoned that I’ve often found myself more than satisfied with a plain cheeseburger on a regular day. Fortunately for my taste buds, things like finals and writing deadlines mean I’m bringing out the big guns. (Let’s be honest, I also pull them out for things like, "It’s Tuesday!" or "I passed a Starbucks and didn’t walk in!")
Regardless of the occasion, sandwiching a patty with oozing macaroni and cheese and sizzling bacon guarantees you’ll be flying in a comfort-food high for hours. – Marilyn He
The Chicken Shack’s Chicken Sandwich
Let’s just say that, like us, you’re a little tired of the discriminatory politics that come along with your favorite fried chicken sandwich. How can you find a less controversial way to scratch the powerful, powerful itch for chicken-and-bread-and-pickles? Two words: Road trip.
Here’s the tricky part: You’re going to have to quest. You’re going to have to make your way through rural Alabama on Highway 331 to a spot about 50 miles south of Birmingham, almost to the so-called "Flor-Ala" border. There you will find The Chicken Shack, a cheerfully agreeable dive with an enormous billboard, a very popular takeout window, and the best fried chicken sandwich this side of the gay marriage debate.
Here in the town of Luverne, nicknamed the "Friendliest City in the South" (and by "city," they mean a Pepsi plant and less than 3,000 people), where the "World’s Largest Peanut Boil" is held annually on Labor Day, folks are very, very serious about fried chicken. A number of joints around town claim to serve the best. None of them can claim to have a sandwich as good as The Chicken Shack’s, though.
We’re not talking rocket science: This is a freshly fried breast, moist and tender and seasoned properly with salt and pepper, on a cottony white bun with dressed with lettuce, tomato, and pickle. It’s almost exactly like some fast-food versions we know, except that it’s homemade, it’s slightly larger, and it’s much more fun to consume since it’s at a real live thriving truck stop instead of a depressing food court in a mall in Anytown, USA. Get going already. –Kelly Alexander
Friedman's Lunch's B.E.L.T.
Yelp/ Jonathan C
Located within Manhattan’s Chelsea Market, Friedman’s Lunch is a rare location where both quality and economy work in tandem. Amid the buzz of shoppers in the market, Friedman’s Lunch offers a brief respite from the chaos, creating a relaxed home feel through its rustic, wood-paneling features and chalkboard menu. Named for its lunch, it’s surprising to find that one its most mouthwatering items comes from the brunch menu: the B.E.L.T.
Much tastier than its menswear accessory namesake, the B.E.L.T. combines the best of homestyle breakfast with the light flavor of an expedient market lunch. The crunchy, applewood-smoked bacon complements the toasted sourdough bread and is completed with two organic, over-easy eggs. Topped off with lettuce and tomato, the securing feature of the sandwich lies in the delicious herb aioli, bringing a refreshing note of lightness to an otherwise hearty meal.
The freedom of the sandwich is its ability to be tailored to every diner’s tastes: without tomato, with slices of avocado, or with extra, extra bacon. However it’s enjoyed, the B.E.L.T. is a go-to choice for Chelsea Market shoppers looking to kick-start their morning. And the ingredient you can never go wrong with? A large cup of pre-shopping coffee. –Hannah Allaman
Zabar's Bagel and Lox
There may be no more "New York" a breakfast sandwich than a bagel and lox, and Upper West Side specialty shop Zabar's has been the place to go for the iconic sandwich for more than 70 years. Forget the city that never sleeps, this store is made for the city that's just woken up. A Zabar's bagel and lox is a New York rite of passage — as long as you assemble the ingredients yourself.
Thanks to the sandwich's popularity, they've resorted to only offering a premade version at their adjacent café, so your best bet is to head to the appetizing section in the grocery proper. For what it's worth, we're also not talking about actual belly lox, which is cured in an intense salt brine and never even touches smoke. Over time, the original product was replaced by milder Nova lox. With its slightly smoky tinge, it perfectly complements its counterparts.
One of those counterparts ought to be Zabar’s scallion cream cheese, displayed in a case that you're forced to pass on the way to the preserved marine life. The creamy, onion-packed spread eats Philadelphia's brunch with its allium tang. Finally, snag a toasty sesame bagel; the big, yeasty round sports plenty of nutty flavor thanks to those seeds. It's a pinnacle of New York baking, nearly impossible to improve.
Yes, this sandwich requires a bit more effort than most, but it also allows you to have a connection with your meal on a deeper level. Part of the fun of traditional Jewish appetizing is the interactivity; a little of this, a little of that. And if you can't wait to build the final product at home, you can always take your bounty next door to the café and show all those poor saps who bought the plastic-wrapped version what they're missing. Even better, you'll still have leftovers for dinner. – Marilyn He
Black n' Bleu Tuna at Mr. Fish in Myrtle Beach, SC
Mr. Fish, a funky, modern seafood shack run by seafood-business and restaurant veteran Ted Hammerman and his daughter, Sheina, is brimming with personality. The bright space — complete with vibrant sunshine-golden orange walls and handwritten giant chalkboards listing specials — shines like a beacon within what is otherwise a nondescript strip mall. (The establishment's motto: "You can't live on wishes… but you CAN live on fishes!")
The menu spans a wide range of tastes, from sushi to crab macaroni and cheese to "boom boom shrimp" (fried and topped with spicy mayonnaise), and the sandwich selection includes crabcake and soft-shell crab entries. But easily, one of the best sandwiches in Myrtle Beach is Mr. Fish's Black n' Bleu Tuna. This hunk of beautiful, fresh fish comes properly spiced, quickly seared, topped with broiling blue cheese and served on a hamburger bun with top notch hand-cut fries. As iif that weren't enough, each plate features some golden, crunchy hushpuppies on the side.
True to their slogan, you certainly can live on fishes. We're just not sure why you'd want to live on any besides this. –Kelly Alexander
Since the early 1990s, Chicago's Borinquen restaurant has been home to the jibarito (pronounced hee-bah-reeto), a sandwich that takes some of Puerto Rico's best ingredients and reimagines them into a handheld wonder. It's an Americanized version of the emparedado de plátano sandwich commonly found in Puerto Rican cuisine, traditionally consisting of steak and smashed, fried green plantains called tostones.
Were it not for those tostones, this would be just another run-of-the-mill steak sandwich (albeit a very good one), and therein lies its genius. The well-seasoned plantains remain shatter-crisp thanks to a double-dip in the fryer even when supporting rosy, heavily-spiced sirloin steak, a slice of tomato, lettuce and garlicky mayonnaise. For the beef-averse, Borinquen graciously offers a vegetarian version, as well as jibaritos with roast pork, ham, fried chicken or grilled chicken breast.
Juan Figueroa, founder of Borinquen, named the sandwich after the rural folk in the mountains of Jayuya where he grew up, known as jibos (roughly translated to "yokels"). As his nephew Jaime puts it, imagine “the picture of the old guy in the straw hat with the guitar”, an archetype that's quintessentially Jayuya.
Even Borinquen is aware of the subtle differences between a jibarito and a traditional "Earl of Sandwich" sandwich – per their website: “Please know the difference between a sandwich and a jibarito. A jibarito is better!” – Marilyn He
The Gorbals' GLT
After winning season 2 of Bravo's Top Chef (then but a shadow of its current juggernaut self), Ilan Hall left his station at Casa Mono, did some traveling and wound up across the country in sunny California with plans of opening his first restaurant. That establishment, The Gorbals, is located in trendy downtown Los Angeles, and it's the home of this week’s Sandwich of the Week, the GLT.
Everyone’s familiar with the classic BLT — bacon, lettuce, and tomato slathered in mayonnaise. But chef Hall has one-upped every version out there, channeling his roots and challenging pork fiends with his GLT — gribenes, lettuce, and tomato. The inspired filling is nothing more than chicken skin, simply fried to savory, crisp perfection. As the saying goes, "bacon makes everything better", but gribenes might just be the exception to the rule.
Today.com asked chef Hall about the inspiration for the sandwich. His reply? "I don’t know, it just made sense!" And really, why look a gift horse in the mouth? Especially when that mouth is filled with fried chicken skins. As an added bonus, Hall and his team realized that in using gribenes instead of bacon, the sandwich is kosher. – Marilyn He
Grant’s Stack at Home Grown
With organizations like the Southern Foodways Alliance entering their 14th year, white-hot restaurants like Sean Brock's Husk, and the widespread consumption of fried chicken, barbecued meats, and mashed potatoes, it's clear that this country loves Southern food. If you happen to fall into the category of people who regularly crave cornbread, biscuits with gravy, or any sort of cobbler, it’s probably time to plan a trip to Home Grown in Atlanta for their Grant’s Stack sandwich.
Home Grown exudes a classic diner feel with cherry-red vinyl seats and chrome bar stools. It’s a thriving daytime hangout for locals and hungry travelers alike, and the Grant's Stack has become a signature, not-so-hidden gem. In fact, it was a customer who first created the sandwich, ordering the combination as a special request from the kitchen. The guy sitting next to him saw it come out, ordered the same, and the rest is history.
Grant’s Stack is Southern comfort food's Sunday best jammed between two pieces of thick-cut, golden Texas toast, stuffed with panko-breaded fried green tomatoes, homemade pimiento cheese, and that patron saint of piggy parts — bacon. Perhaps saintliest of all, this giant sandwich can be yours for only 10 bucks. –Marilyn He
Meander's Kitchen's Full Monte
Should you be a bruncher sitting down to a meal around brunchtime, flipping back and forth between the French toast and French dip, the pancakes and the pan-fried halibut, forever faced with that eternal dilemma of breakfast or lunch — flip no more; Meander’s Kitchen in Seattle has the answer.
Being a lover of brunch, you’ve no doubt heard of the Monte Cristo, a riff on the croque monsieur, its ham and cheese fried golden. Meander's Kitchen's Full Monte is the doped-up bicycling cousin of that tamer beast. “Chief Hash Slinger” Miranda Krone has taken the Monte Cristo and bulked it up, layering generous slices of ham, turkey, Swiss and cheddar between sliced bread and then dunking the hedonistic creation in vanilla bourbon French toast batter, lending the whole affair a richly sweet overtone
Lucky for everyone in Seattle, Krone doesn’t cut corners – or calories – when it comes to Meander’s. Krone just shuttered her original West Seattle location and now operates out of a larger space in White Center. This is greasy diner food at its best, with the casual, well-worn-but-still-loved feeling of a local dive bar (except at 10 a.m. instead of 10 p.m.).
Point your appetite's compass to Seattle and pop into Meander’s for a Full Monte – it’s edible therapy, served up every day of the week. –Marilyn He
Schwartz’s Smoked Meat Sandwich
The Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen, or Schwartz’s as it’s popularly known, is a landmark restaurant in Montreal, known far and wide for its proprietary smoked meat, a formula which has now come to be known as "Montreal-style." The restaurant was founded in 1928 by Reuben Schwartz, and stepping into Schwartz’s today is like stepping 80 years in the past. From the time-worn location (which has never changed and never been franchised) to classic recipes (still using Reuben Schwartz’s blend of herbs and spices, cured for 10 days), diners are sure to get an authentic experience.
So go ahead, step into Schwartz’s trademark white-tiled room with long narrow tables. Order their signature smoked meat sandwich — beautifully spiced, well-marbled brisket, piled high on crusty rye bread and served with tangy yellow mustard. Choose between lean, medium, medium-fat, or fat meat — but let’s be honest, it’s brisket so go for the medium-fat. Pay your $6.30 (in Canadian dollars, of course), and have a seat in front of your new best friend.
No offense to the human you walked in with, but this sandwich is out of their league. –Marilyn He
Big-Ass Sandwiches’ Pork Hammer
Have you ever had trouble deciding between breakfast meats? First bacon catches your eye, then sausage, then back to the bacon, and from afar, you hear ham calling your name. Now, you don’t have to choose. From Portland’s food cart sensation Big-Ass Sandwiches comes the Pork Hammer, featuring a triple-whammy of sizzling bacon, steaming ham, and sausage, stuffed into a soft sandwich roll along with homemade coleslaw and hand-cut fries. It packs a punch (or should we say, hammer) powerful enough to knock you into a food coma for hours.
Make no mistake — this is no pinnacle of culinary finesse packaged into some sort of stunning presentation. Big-Ass Sandwiches is unapologetically tongue-in-cheek about their business, founded on the principle of "squashing big hunger in its tracks." And don’t think the fries on the Pork Hammer were an anomaly — each and every sandwich, from the Big-Ass Breakfast Sandwich to the Big-Ass French Dip and even the Big-Ass Vegetarian, is packed with fresh hand-cut fries.
In addition to their regular menu, Big-Ass Sandwiches also offers creatively named specials like the Loose Susan (a riff on sloppy Joes), the Big-Ass Pop and Lock Con Puerco, the Meatloaf Smeatloaf Double Beatloaf, and the Big-Ass Cordon Bleu Myself. If you’re ever in Portland, head over to Big-Ass Sandwiches for oversized sandwiches with a hearty helping of profanity on the side. –Marilyn He
Crave Real Burgers’ Luther
This week’s feature comes from Crave Real Burgers, in Castle Rock, Colorado, with a second location in Colorado Springs. They’re dedicated to serving juicy burgers, crispy fries, and old-fashioned shakes made with quality ingredients, and with a menu chock-full of mouthwatering items, you’ll never leave hungry.
Despite a delectable lineup of burgers, sandwiches, and sides, Crave’s Luther steals the spotlight with its superstar combination of sizzling bacon, onion, and a fried egg, all smothered in melty Cheddar. The best part? It’s sandwiched between two glazed donuts as the bun, and it’s yours for just $10.50.
If you’re looking for an even bigger challenge, Crave runs The Big Bad Wolf eating contest. A Wolf Challenger has 45 minutes to eat three loaded 3 Little Pigs Burgers — pulled pork, ham, bacon, and cheese, piled high with onion straws. If he or she manages to huff and puff the whole meal down, it’s on the house and their face is forever immortalized on the Wall of Winners. Otherwise, the burgers are $25 and you go on the Wall of Losers.
I don’t know about you, but this little writer’s heading straight for Colorado at the first opportunity. –Marilyn He
Beef Frankfurter at Metzgerei Schreiber, Frankfurt
The frankfurter has of course become the little snack that could, a true cheap thrill known around the world for being quick to eat and easy to love. In 1987, the city of Frankfurt celebrated the 500th anniversary of the frankfurter. So you missed it by 20-odd years. The good news about Frankfurt is that its food culture is rooted in tradition. The single best place to get a frankfurter in Frankfurt is at Die Kleinmarkthalle, a two-story indoor farmers' market-butcher-fishmonger-florist in the grand European food hall tradition. This one is smaller and more intimate than most, a sweet place with an oyster bar and a tapas bar and vendors selling fresh wild strawberries in December (how’d they do that?), as well as a fairly mind-blowing assortment of pig parts from tongues to tails. The market was erected in the 1890s, and then rebuilt after a firestorm bombing (by the British) in March of 1944. When it reopened, the business occupying Stand 8, toward the back of the building, in an unassuming storefront staffed by just two hardworking fraus, was Metzgerei (Butcher Shop) Schreiber, a family-owned business offering nothing but six kinds of frankfurters: pork; pork with garlic, beef, beef with garlic, Gelbwurst (a Frankfurt special of pale blonde, very mildly flavored sausage that’s a favorite with kids), and Krakow sausage (think kielbasa — smoked pork with lots of garlic). –Kelly Alexander
A&A Coffee Shop’s Bacon Cheeseburger
There’s something to be said for simplicity.
Recently, burgers have become monstrosities, packing more than half a pound of meat and thousands of calories into artisanally produced buns, selling for more than 10 bucks, and leaving the diner overstuffed and overweight.
It sometimes seems as if we’ve lost our way when it comes to burgers, which were once an exercise in simplicity and balance.
Which is why it was such a relief to stumble upon A&A Coffee Shop, a hole-in-the wall lunch counter nestled into a tiny storefront midblock on 20th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues in New York City. It’s been there since 1980, and hasn’t changed at all in the intervening years, which brought drastic change to the very fiber of the city’s being.
Taking a seat on a stool, we decided to order a bacon cheeseburger, the litmus test of a great burger. A fresh patty was placed onto the flattop, flipped after getting a nice sear, and topped with a slice of American cheese and a few strips of bacon. A soft, squishy sesame seed-topped bun soon joined it on the flattop, and was removed right as it started to brown. When assembled with some lettuce and fresh-sliced tomato and placed in front of us on a Styrofoam plate, it reminded us of what a burger used to be. A moderately-sized, perfectly balanced sandwich. –Dan Myers
Phil’s BBQ’s El Toro Tri-Tip
Phil’s is a barbecue joint in San Diego, but it’s a lot more than just that. It was rated one of the top ten restaurants in the city by Trip Advisor, and San Diego Magazine deemed its barbecue the city’s best. Its ribs, chicken, and pulled pork are all worth writing home about, but their El Toro Tri-Tip Sandwich is what’s put it on the map.
Tri-tip is a cut of beef that doesn’t get the respect it deserves, but here owner Phil Pace treats it like a king. He soaks it in a secret marinade, cooks it to medium-rare on a mesquite grill, and then lets it cool. When ordered, the meat gets sliced super-thin, then is placed back into the grill, where the magic happens. A large ladle of Phil’s secret barbecue sauce (there are a lot of secrets here) is poured over the mound of sliced meat and allowed to caramelize. The resulting pile of smoky, tender sliced beef is then loaded onto a fresh-baked Kaiser-style roll, topped with another ladle of sauce, and presented to a grateful customer.
Phil’s first opened inside a small space back in 1998, and it had folks lining up to get in. Thankfully a couple years ago a second, much larger location was opened, but this is still a sandwich that we wouldn’t mind waiting in line for. –Dan Myers