It’s easy to make a sandwich: Just get some bread, throw something edible between two slices, and voila. But just because making a sandwich is easy doesn’t mean that making a great sandwich is within everyone’s reach. It takes something special to create a truly transcendent sandwich — the kind that people are willing to travel and wait in hour-long lines for. Whatever that magic touch may be, these 35 sandwiches shops have it.
Chaps Charcoal Restaurant came from humble beginnings, but has grown to serve some of the best barbeque-style sandwiches on the East Coast. It opened in 1987 in a 12-by-15 shack with no phones or electricity; fast-forward 25 years and Chaps is still in the same location and thriving (in a slightly larger space). The restaurant was on The City’s Paper “Baltimore’s Best” roundup from 1991 to 2013, and has been featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-in, and Dives and the Cooking Channel’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate.
Their best-known sandwich is without a doubt the Pit Beef sandwich, for which they take an entire bottom round and grill it whole before slicing it to order. It’s then grilled again to the perfect temperature and placed on a roll with your choice of toppings. They provide an assortment of creative sandwich options, such as The Bulldog, which comes with pit beef, sausage, and cheese.
The People’s Pig got its start in 2009, when Illinois native Cliff Allen debuted a food cart in downtown Portland. Allen wasn’t sure about opening a brick-and-mortar shop, but luckily for all of us, he did. After finding the perfect place, Allen wasted no time creating one of the premier smoked meat sandwich shops in the Northwest.
One of the most popular items at the People’s Pig is the fried chicken sandwich, made using a special walnut-brown sourdough created especially for the restaurant. But their barbecue-style favorites, like the smoked pork sandwich, are not to be missed either.
Opened in 1999 by Armandino Batali (who also happens to be the father of Mario), Salumi Artisan Cured Meats quickly grew from a small-town deli in Seattle to well-known player on the Seattle culinary scene. Gina Batali, Armandino’s daughter, who is now the main owner of the store, contends with lines that snake around the block — locals line up hours before it opens for a chance to get one of these sandwiches, made with cured meats made in-house.
The porchetta and salumi salami sandwich are both extremely popular, and it isn’t uncommon for various sandwiches to sell out. They are also known for their grilled lamb and braised oxtail sandwiches. Oxtail isn’t easy to prepare, so this sandwich is only available few times a year and sells out in minutes. It’s nestled between two slices of bread with house-made sauce, then topped off with onions and peppers.
Meat Cheese Bread describes itself as a “sandwich shop that uses fresh, local products of superior quality in a clean and vibrant space,” according to its website. All sandwiches are served on homemade bread.
The sandwiches come in both hot and cold options, and many are unique and delicious. One is the B.L.B., which contains Nueske’s smoked bacon, roasted heirloom beets, lettuce, and aïoli on sourdough. A top seller is The Maple: a breakfast sandwich served on moist, sweet, golden brown bread pudding studded with currants. Hungry customers can also enjoy the Park Kitchen, with fresh strips of flank steak, blue cheese mayonnaise, and pickled onions.
Parkway Bakery opened back in 1911 and quickly become a fixture in the New Orleans area. Henry Timothy Sr. bought Parkway in 1922 and served the city’s legendary po’boys (which they term “poor boys”) to workers at the American Can Company (ACC). In 1993, after the ACC closed and a flood destroyed Parkway’s brick ovens, it was forced to close its doors. Luckily, Jason Nix, a contractor who’d grown up watching Parkway Bakery serve as a cornerstone for the neighborhood, bought the restaurant and reopened it in 2003. It reassumed its role in the area and has been pleasing customers ever since.
The sandwich this store is known for is without a doubt the po’boy. You can choose the meat of your choice (trust us, try the shrimp and roast beef), which they’ll sandwich between their special bread and top with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onions. Parkway offers 25 different variations of the po’boy, highlighted by their fried oyster and golden fried shrimp po’boys.
Located in Virginia’s historic Carver District is Black Sheep. Opened in 2009, this shop mixes Southern and Cajun flavors to create some legendary sandwiches. Perhaps most fabled is their next-level sub sandwich, which they call the Battleship.
The two-foot-long Battleship definitely sinks your average sub. This massive sandwich weighs in at two and half pounds and comes in nine different variations. One of the most famous is the U.S.S. Brooklyn, made with jerk barbecued chicken loaded onto a French baguette with shredded cabbage, roasted banana ketchup (!), and peach chutney.
Jim’s Steaks has been a Philadelphia staple since it opened in 1939. With more than 75 years of experience under its belt, Jim’s is regarded as one of the best places to get Philly cheesesteaks in the city that made that them famous. The shop has a wall of fame covered in photos of celebrities who’ve visited, and glass windows into the kitchen so you can watch your sandwich being made.
Their most popular sandwich is, of course, the cheesesteak. They offer two variations: one with Cheese Whiz and another with your choice of American or provolone. The sandwich has won Philadelphia Magazine's “Best of Philly” award five times and was named Zagat’s “must have” sandwich for travelers to Philadelphia.
The owner of Pane Bianco, Chris Bianco, originally opened a small pizzeria in 1988 simply called Pizzeria Bianco. In 2005, following the success of his pizzeria, Bianco opened up this restaurant, which quickly became one of the premier sandwich shops in the Southwest. The shop was originally takeout only, but in 2012 it upgraded to a full-service restaurant.
Pane Bianco is known for their split focaccia sandwiches. The bread, made to order in a wood-fired oven, is thin, crackery, and crispy; their tuna sandwich is particularly popular. It’s been named the best sandwich shop in Phoenix numerous times by the Phoenix News Times.
Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw opened Zingerman’s Delicatessen in 1982, and since then this quintessential Jewish deli and gourmet food shop has become beloved in the city, so much so that even President Barack Obama stopped in to try one of their famous Reubens.
That Reuben, made on an award-winning homemade Jewish rye with Zingerman’s corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut from The Brinery, and Russian dressing, is easily the restaurant’s best-selling sandwich.
Owner Tony Anteliz brought the flavors of the Mexican city of Puebla to the Windy City with this shop. Cemitas Pubela is known, not surprisingly, for its cemitas, which Anteliz calls the cousin of the traditional Mexican sandwich known as the torta. The cemitas are made with a specific type of sesame seed-topped bun, one which the restaurant makes every morning using a recipe directly from Puebla.
There are 10 different cemitas available, including carne enchilada, which Anteliz believes is his best: a grilled pork loin marinated in guajillo chile sauce and grilled on a flattop. Cemitas Pubela’s chipotle adobo sauce, which Anteliz was taught how to make by his grandmother, is legendary.
Yelp / Natalie K
Faicco’s got its start in 1896 in Greenwich Village as a pork store, but after expanding into a deli, it became known for serving some of the best sandwiches in America. Founded by Eduardo Faicco, an Italian immigrant who wanted to bring the meats he loved to America, the store grew quickly and relocated to Bleecker Street, where it still resides.
The sandwiches here are absolutely packed with delicious, thinly sliced meat. The shop allows for customization, with hundreds of different possibilities for customers. One of the most popular sandwiches is the Italian, which is stuffed full of prosciutto, salami, ham, fresh mozzarella, peppers, lettuce, and tomatoes.
Primanti Bros., a chain located throughout Pittsburgh, is one the city’s most iconic franchises. Opened in 1933, Primanti Bros was originally only open from 3 a.m. to 3 p.m. and mainly served truckers. This eventually changed in the mid-‘70s, when the owner decided to turn it into a 24-hour restaurant, and the city took notice.
The Primanti sandwich is a legendary one, with good reason: it's made with French fries stuffed between two thick slices of soft Italian bread, along with meat of your choice, coleslaw, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese. Popular with locals, tourists, and the Pittsburgh Steelers alike, there’s nothing quite like a sandwich from Primanti’s.
Located in downtown Los Angeles is a fantastic sandwich shop called Wexler’s Deli. It stands for three things: tradition, craftsmanship, and quality, according to its website. Wexler’s uses old-school methods to hand-craft their pastrami and salmon: The meat is brined in a special blend of salt and spices before being smoked in-house.
Don’t miss the classic Reuben, with corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing on rye bread. But if you’re looking for a true classic, go for “The O.G.”: house-made pastrami and mustard on rye.
Located in the historic Old Bank district in Los Angeles, Bäco Mercat provides its customers with a blend of Western- and Eastern-Mediterranean flavors. When owner and chef Josef Centeno opened this restaurant in 2011, its signature was the bäco, originally only available for friends and family as a late night snack. The original bäco (a kind of flatbread sandwich) featured crispy pork belly and beef carnitas with caraway pepper, but they’re now made with pork, beef, poultry, seafood, and yes, vegetables. You may as well go directly to the big one though: The Slayer, which features pork belly, beef carnitas, mozzarella, and tomato, and, if you want to go all the way, a fried egg.
Bäco Mercat grinds their own meat, which they get from farmers who treat their livestock humanely and raise them with no growth hormones or antibiotics.
In 2011, Parm was opened by the now super-hot duo of Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone as an offshoot of their insanely popular Torrisi Italian Specialties, and it quickly became one New York’s most beloved sandwich shops
Parm serves a simple turkey sandwich with turkey that’s been slow roasted in garlic, piled on sweet semolina roll or Italian roll with tomatoes, onions, lettuce, that New Yorkers adore. Their meatball sandwiches come with a meatball patty instead of your standard ball is also a hit. Still, their most popular sandwich is hand down the chicken parm, which many argue is the best in the country.
Salumeria Biellese is known for their commitment to Old World recipes and techniques brought over from Italy. Opened in 1925, Salumeria Biellese makes some of the best traditional-style salumi you’ll find, and they use these cured meats to create some amazing sandwiches. The owner, Mark Buzzio, takes great pride in knowing that his meat is some of the best in town; it’s hard to go wrong with any Italian-syle sandwich here.
One of his most popular sandwiches is the Italian combo, which includes sopressata, Italian ham, and provolone, topped off with a splash of vinegar before it's placed in an Italian roll. People also love the meatball hero, which contains light and tender meatballs made with the same attention as all the other meats in the store. Add some marinara sauce and sprinkle on some grated cheese before placing it in the roll and you have one amazing meatball sandwich.
Opened back in 1938, Nick’s Old Original Roast Beef is a family-run South Philly staple. The current owner, Lili McKinney, granddaughter of the founder, still uses the same recipe her father used; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. They roast beef round for eight hours after it’s seasoned with their traditional rub, and they make their own homemade gravy.
Their signature sandwich, as you might have guessed, is the roast beef. They take slices of roast beef, add provolone cheese, cover it in rich brown gravy, and tuck it all into a Kaiser roll to create a simple yet delicious sandwich. Customers even have a “secret” language they use while ordering: The “overboard” variation on this sandwich has everything soaked in extra gravy, “the operation” hollows out the bread from the Kaiser roll, and the “on the outs” variation contains nothing but the seasoned edges of the roast.
Flour Bakery + Café has become extremely successful, but it hasn’t given up its neighborhood bakery feel. The owner, Joanne Chang, started selling cookies while in college, and when she met with success, she opened this store. Since then, it has become one of the best bakeries and sandwich shops in America.
At Flour Bakery + Café, they believe that the key to making a great sandwich is to find the perfect balance between the bread and the filling. One expertly balanced sandwich is the chicken and avocado, which Chang says is her personal favorite. This starts with house-made focaccia, adds avocado spread (made with lime, red onion, chipotles, and cilantro), and sprinkles salt and pepper on both sides. Then comes thinly sliced chicken that’s been slow-roasted and marinated overnight in achiote sauce. Finally, it’s topped off with jicama that’s been julienned and tossed with lime juice, lime zest, and honey.
There is plenty of amazing food in Brooklyn, but if you’re looking for an old-fashioned sandwich, look no further then Brennan & Carr. The Sheepshead Bay shop hasn’t changed much at all since it first opened in 1938, and neither has its menu.
At Brennan & Carr, it’s all about the roast beef sandwich. Sliced-to-order freshly roasted beef is placed inside a soft bun, and then it’s topped with their famous au jus, called simply beef broth. The broth is what takes the sandwich to another level. There is even a code to describe how much broth you want: There’s the “dingle dangle,” which is when only the meat is dipped in the broth; the “double dip,” which has the entire sandwich dipped in broth, and finally, the “K.F.J.,” which stands for “knife and fork job” — meaning that the entire sandwich has the broth poured all over it.
Eisenberg’s takes pride in its authentic lunch-counter vibe. This shop, which opened in 1929, retains its old-school ambiance with a long counter full of regulars and a menu that’s traditional to the max. The owner, Josh Konecky, believes that people simply get it or they don’t.
The menu provides countless options for customization. Eisenberg’s offers 11 different types of bread and five cheeses. They also have over 20 sandwich fillings, ranging from the basics, such as peanut butter and jelly and ham, to more unconventional fillings like lox and chicken cutlet. One of their most popular selections is the large breakfast sandwich, which is loaded with fresh eggs and savory bacon in between slices of the bread of your choice.
Mother’s opened in 1938 and has been serving delicious po’boys to locals and tourists alike ever since. While the place has gone through ownership changes and remodels, the down-to-earth feel that made the restaurant famous is still there. Despite its resounding success in a city known for food, it’s remained true to its working-class roots. As current owner Jerry Amato says: “Everybody gets fed. Everybody comes back.”
The sandwich that Mother’s is best known for is the Ferdi special. This delicious po’boy comes with baked ham, decadent roast beef, freshly shredded cabbage, pickles, mayo, and yellow mustard. It’s all topped off with house gravy and “debris”: shredded beef that’s soaked in the same gravy. The Ralph special, which is the Ferdi special with added cheese, also has many fans.
The Jewish sandwich shop Mile End is strongly influenced by the Montreal roots of founder Noah Bernamoff. Opened in a converted Brooklyn garage in 2010, this shop quickly grew in popularity as their unique (to New York, at least) offerings became more and more popular. Mile End’s Canadian heritage manifests itself throughout the restaurant’s menu — for example, in their unique meat-smoking process. Traditionally, meat-smoking consists of soaking meat in brine, curing it, and then smoking it. But Mile End cuts out the brining process and goes straight to curing and smoking, creating a distinct and delicious taste.
The menu item that’s most influenced by the process is the Montreal-style “smoked meat” sandwich, which accounts for 30 percent of the shop’s sales. The brisket is dry-cured for 12 days, then smoked for 16 hours — a little mustard and rye bread is all that’s needed. Even if you don’t go with the smoked meat, you can’t go wrong with this shop’s Montreal-style poutine.
This unassuming sandwich shop might just be one of the city’s best-kept secrets. Leo’s Latticini, also known as Mama’s, has been one of the best sandwich shops in the area since it opened nearly 80 years ago.
When eating at Leo’s Latticini, there a few must-try options. One of these is the mozzarella and roasted red pepper sandwich, which contains handmade mozzarella that’s as fresh, soft, and buttery as any cheese you’ll ever find. Throw in some red peppers, a handful of mushrooms, and a fresh hero roll and you have a truly magnificent sandwich. You also can’t go wrong with the roast beef sandwich, which comes with their famous mozzarella, loads of delicious roast beef, peppers, and special gravy between two slices of bread.
When John’s Roast Pork opened in 1930 in South Philadelphia, it was surrounded by factories. Time passed and the factories are gone, but John’s remains, and they’re still churning out their world-famous roast pork sandwiches. The sandwich has been awarded the James Beard Foundation Award for Culinary Excellence and was a finalist on the Travel Channel show Best Sandwich in America.
The key to their delicious pork is the family recipe that has been used for over 90 years. It’s a closely guarded secret — only three people currently know how to make it. The pork is deboned in-house and then seasoned with the family’s spices and roasted for four hours. After that, the meat is soaked in its own gravy, sliced, and served. Simple is better with this sandwich; gravy-soaked pork on a torpedo roll with aged provolone and sautéed spinach is the key to lunchtime perfection.
It’s hard to imagine a trip to Atlantic City without a stop by the White House Sub Shop to get one of their legendary submarine sandwiches. The family-owned shop opened in 1946 and quickly became one of the most iconic sandwich purveyors on the East Coast. You’ll see how popular it is when you arrive — the line often extends out to the street.
White House Sub Shop has over 25 different sandwiches, but one reigns supreme.
That's the White House Special. It starts with a soft, chewy sub roll from Formica Bros. Bakery, which is absolutely loaded with Genoa salami, ham, and provolone. They also add lettuce, tomatoes, onions, red peppers, oil, vinegar, dried oregano, and salt and pepper. When they’re done, you have a large and truly magnificent sandwich to enjoy. And if you can’t make it to the original location, there’s a far less-crowded (but just as good) outpost inside the Trump Taj Mahal.
Yelp / Lamar M
If you’re looking for a sandwich shop that truly captures the taste of Chicago, you can’t go wrong with Mr. Beef on Orleans. Italian beef is a staple of this city, and Mr. Beef has been serving some of the best for over 30 years. The simple décor adds to Mr. Beef’s charm, complete with walls lined with photos of celebrities, such as Jay Leno, who’ve sworn loyalty to the sandwich shop.
Mr. Beef’s most popular sandwich is its traditional Italian beef. The thinly sliced seasoned roast beef is marinated in its own juices and placed inside a long soft Italian-style roll. The sandwich is topped with giardiniera, a spicy, vinegar-kicked pickled topping. Finished off with a dunk in au jus, it’s one of the best sandwiches Chicago has to offer.
Defonte’s opened back in 1922, and has been happily serving New Yorkers ever since. Family owned, it is the oldest eatery in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood. The original owner, Nick Defonte, bought the shop for $100 and began serving the hungry workers in the area. Defonte’s is still churning out sandwiches, and it’s easy to see why people are still lining up to eat them.
One of the shop’s signature sandwiches is the Nikki Special. This gargantuan sandwich is stuffed with ham, provolone, hot salad (a play on giardiniera), marinated mushrooms, salami, tomatoes, lettuce, salt, pepper, oil, capicola, and their signature fried eggplant, without which no Defonte’s sandwich is complete. Their roast beef sandwich is also one of the best you’ll find. They take thin-sliced, pink, juicy roast beef, add provolone, stuff it inside a soft Italian roll, and soak it in au jus.
Don’t let Domilise’s unassuming exterior fool you: inside this small yellow shop you’ll find some of the best po’boys you’ll ever encounter. Opened in 1929, Domilise’s is family owned and committed to giving people the very best. Even though the beloved long-time owner Dot Domilise passed away in 2013, the menu, recipes, and friendliness of the people behind the counter remain the same.
Every po’boy here is delicious, but one of the best is their fried shrimp variation. They take freshly fried Gulf shrimp and place it in inside the signature Leidenheimer bread, which has been used at Domilise’s since day one. They then add lettuce, mayonnaise, hot sauce, and their own secret sauce to make this delicious sandwich. Another big seller is the roast beef po’boy, which is topped with homemade gravy.
Since opening back in 1947, Langer’s Delicatessen has grown to become one of the premier sandwich shops on the West Coast. Many of their fans refer to Langer’s as the best deli west of the Hudson River, and if you’ve tried their sandwiches, it’d be hard to disagree. In 2001, the James Beard Foundation gave Langer’s the Bertolli America’s Classics Award, which “is presented each year to a select few restaurants noted for timeless appeal, beloved for quality food that reflects the history and character of their communities.”
There is no doubt which sandwich is their signature. The hot pastrami, affectionately referred to as No. 19 (referring to its spot on the menu), is their crowning achievement. They take hand-cut pastrami, which is smoked and steamed for hours, add creamy coleslaw and zesty Russian dressing, and place it between two slices of double-baked rye bread. The result is a delectable pastrami sandwich that’s been enjoyed for generations.
DiNic’s is one of the most beloved sandwich shops in the city of brotherly love. The store began in 1918 as a family-owned butcher shop called Nicolosi’s in the city’s renowned Reading Terminal Market. Gaetano Nicolosi, the original owner, passed the store onto his sons, who in 1954 began offering sandwiches. This new option quickly became a hit, and in 1977, Benny Nicolosi and Franky DiClaudio (Benny’s cousin) joined together to open DiNic’s.
DiNic’s serves a lineup of classic Italian sandwiches such as slow-roasted brisket of beef and Italian-style pulled pork. Their best-known sandwich, though, is DiNic’s roast pork sandwich, which is thin-sliced and topped with broccoli rabe and aged provolone. It’s been named Travel Channel’s “best sandwich in America” and was featured on Man v. Food.
Sometimes referred to as simply PQM, this market-style eatery is a beloved fixture in Chicago. Publican Quality Meats is the creation of four accomplished Chicago restaurateurs: chef Paul Kahan (who also runs the city’s acclaimed Avec, Blackbird, and The Publican), Donnie Madia, Terry Alexander, and Eduard Seitan. They had the goal of creating a restaurant that captured the feeling of an old-fashioned market, and succeeded with flying colors.
Not surprisingly, this place is known for its meats. Their pulled pork sandwich draws rave reviews and their gyros are superb. They’ll also make large sandwich platters — with advance notice, of course — if you’re trying to be the life of the party.
Located in the French Quarter, Central Grocery is a family-owned store credited with creating one of the most famous sandwiches in the country. It was opened back in 1906 by a Sicilian immigrant named Salvatore Lupo, and while it’s definitely a major tourist attraction, it still makes one hell of a sandwich.
Their claim to fame? The muffuletta, which was invented here and is today served around the country. A round loaf of bread is stuffed full of various cold cuts, such as ham, mortadella, salami, pepperoni, and capicola, plus Swiss and provolone cheeses and a spicy olive salad. You can decide how much of the gargantuan sandwich to buy, with your options being a quarter, half, or full. They are some hearty sandwiches; start with a quarter and then go from there.
Established in 1888 and still going strong today at the corner of Houston and Ludlow Street, Katz’s Delicatessen is a New York City legend. The sprawling, no-frills, cash-only deli has been family-owned since its inception. Their most popular sandwich meat choice is, without a doubt, the pastrami, which is still sliced by hand.
According to their website, their pastrami and equally legendary corned beef are cured for up to 30 days, compared to those at many other places, where the pastrami is pressure-injected and finished in only 36 hours. The current third-generation owner of Katz’s, Jake Dell, thinks that makes all the difference (and he’s right). The pastrami is smoked and then steamed, leading to a rich, tender, juicy product unlike anything else you’ll ever have. No New York experience is truly complete without a sandwich at Katz’s.
This place describes itself as “a butcher shop, sandwich shop, and wine bar,” but such a meek description of their sandwich shop is selling it short, as it’s one of the best in the county. The Donald Link-owned Cochon Butcher opened on Tchoupitoulas Street in New Orleans in 2006 (around the corner from his insanely popular restaurant Cochon), so while it isn’t as old as some of the other shops on our list, it can hang with the best of them.
Using meats they cure in the store, Cochon Butcher is known for quite a few sandwiches. The muffuletta is spectacular (compare it to Central Grocery’s), as is the buckboard bacon melt, which takes thick-cut lean shoulder bacon with smoky stewards collards, a pepper aioli, and melted Swiss cheese between two golden-browned pieces of bread that makes this sandwich look like a grilled cheese taken to the next level.
Way back in 1939, Al’s #1 Italian Beef started as a small food stand, later morphing into the iconic Chicago franchise, with 11 different locations in Chicago and shops in Las Vegas, California, and Texas. it is now. During the Depression, when food was scarce, owner Al Ferrari and his family began slicing meat very thin and placing it on small fresh loaves of Italian bread, accidentally creating a now-legendary style of sandwich.
The essential choice here is the Italian beef sandwich. The beef sirloin is dry-roasted in a secret recipe blend, thinly sliced, put inside its loaf, and then dunked in Al's signature “gravy” (commonly reffered to as au jus). Customers can choose how much or little broth to add, but Al’s encourages customers to get their sandwiches wet and enjoy the savory sauce. When topped with their signature giardiniera, a tart and spicy vegetable blend, Al's Italian beef is quite possibly the greatest sandwich you’ll ever eat