Photo Courtesy of Big Bad Breakfast
Making a sandwich is easy. You take a couple slices of bread, slap something in between them and call it lunch. But making one of those life-changing sandwiches, one where the bread, fillings and condiments all work in perfect harmony, is no small feat. Thankfully, we live in a country that’s home to countless great sandwiches, and we tracked down the best sandwich in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
In order to assemble our list, we went state by state, city by city, scrolling through review sites and local news publications to learn which sandwich shops and individual sandwiches are the most beloved. Some are complex creations of chefs that can only be described as mad scientists. Some are world-famous “originals.” Some are flawless interpretations of classic regional specialties. Some are simple and no-frills. And some are so good that they’re among the absolute best things to eat in America, period. No matter the type of sandwich, they’re all delicious. These 51 dishes prove that no matter where you travel in America, a great sandwich isn’t too far away.
Though just about everything on the menu at pitmaster Chris Lilly’s temple of barbecue looks outstanding, the real claim to fame at Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q is the smoked chicken, dunked into tangy mayo-based Alabama white sauce. That’s right — mayo-based white sauce. It’s one of those regional barbecue styles you need to try. When the sauced-up chicken is tucked into a soft bun with bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, spicy pickles and honey mustard, it makes for one of the best chicken sandwiches you’ll find anywhere.
Krazy Moose is located inside a charming old building, and this homey sandwich shop offers a wide variety of classic sandwiches served on top-notch bread. Plenty of cold cuts are on offer (as well as a meatball sub), but the one to order is the Italian, which is packed with salami, pepperoni, capocollo, ham, provolone, lettuce, tomato, banana peppers, pepperoncini, onion, spices, oil and vinegar.
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 (which just so happens to be among the best pizza shops in America), Bianco opened Pane Bianco, which quickly became one of the premier sandwich shops in the Southwest. The bread, made to order in a wood-fired oven, is thin, crackery and crisp but still chewy, and it’s the real star of the show. The best way to enjoy it is with some thinly sliced homemade fresh mozzarella tucked into the split focaccia along with some basil and olive oil.
Michelle Lynn S./Yelp
Pimento cheese is one of the stars of the menu at Matthew McClure’s showstopping Bentonville restaurant The Hive, located in the 21c Museum Hotel. The six-time James Beard Award semifinalist makes his pimento cheese, one of those Southern specialties you really need to try, with shredded cheese, mayo, sriracha, garlic powder, salt, cider vinegar and roasted bell pepper. He serves it with toast, on a burger or griddled with bacon jam between two slices of white bread. The last option (available only during lunch) is the one to try. The toast is soft and crunchy, the cheese is melty and gooey, and the bacon jam (made with bacon, onion, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar and maple syrup) kicks it into the stratosphere.
Countless restaurants serve French dip sandwiches, but the definitive version can still be found at the restaurant that claims to have invented them in 1918: Los Angeles’ Philippe the Original. Yes, this is one of many dishes you might not know was invented in America. In order to make California’s most legendary sandwich, bottom round is seasoned with salt, spices and garlic and slow-roasted with vegetables for about three hours until medium-rare. It’s then sliced and placed onto a fresh French roll that’s been dunked into jus made with homemade stock and the intensely flavored pan drippings.
At Vert Kitchen, organic produce, all-natural meats and dairy from local purveyors are used to turn out some superb soups, salads and sandwiches. The sandwich made with house roast turkey is worth trying, but it’s the L’Entrecote sandwich that takes the cake. It’s made with grilled Colorado wagyu steak, arugula, mayo, tomato and walnut mustard.
Steaming lobsters and other shellfish since 1947, Abbott’s is one of America’s best seafood shacks, turning out stellar lobster rolls in a handful of increasing sizes. Its Famous Hot Lobster Roll comes with a quarter-pound of butter-soaked lobster on a toasted bun. The OMG Hot Lobster Roll boasts almost a half-pound, while the LOL Hot Lobster Roll packs in a full pound of lobster.
The Italian hoagies at Ioannoni’s in New Castle, Delaware, are well-balanced and full of freshly sliced meats, and the Italian roast beef is slow-roasted and juicy. But it’s the Italian Roast Pork Supremo that’s the one to order. It's made with slow-roasted pork dripping with jus topped with tender broccoli rabe and sharp provolone.
The Cuban sandwich is a Miami icon. The definitive version can be found at Versailles in Miami’s Little Havana. House-baked Cuban-style white bread is stacked with glazed ham, pork that has been marinated and slow-roasted for three hours, thick-sliced Swiss, pickles and yellow mustard. If you can’t make it to the original location, you can also pick up a Cubano at Versailles’ outpost in Miami International Airport, which is up there with America’s best airport restaurants.
Texas-born pitmasters (and twin brothers) Justin and Jonathan Fox opened Fox Bros. in 2007, and since then, it’s become one of the top barbecue spots in Georgia with two locations, a catering business and a retail line of rubs and sauces. The sandwiches are things of beauty, especially the “burger.” Forget what you thought you knew about burgers. This is chopped brisket topped with bacon, tomato, red onion, pickles, melted pimento cheese and jalapeno mayo on a buttered and toasted brioche bun. Who needs the best burgers in America when you can have this sandwich?
Paia Fish Market was established in 1989 in Maui’s North Shore, just a stone’s throw from some of the world’s best beaches. As the name might imply, it’s where you’ll find some of the freshest fish in Hawaii. The best way to try the fish there is as a “burger,” which might sound a little counterintuitive. A fillet of fish is placed on a bun, topped with coleslaw, tomato, cold shredded cheese and housemade tartar sauce. Try it with fresh-caught ono or mahi.
Carnivores, take note: The Peruvian at Lemon Tree in Boise is for you. To make this hot sandwich, Genoa salami, ham, thick-cut applewood smoked bacon, crumbled sausage, Monterey Jack, a creamy Peruvian sauce and Fritos are piled onto a baguette. While this place is far from one of the most vegan-friendly spots in America, there are plenty of vegetarian and vegan options on the menu as well.
Al’s #1 Italian Beef got its start in 1939 as a food stand in Chicago's Little Italy, and today it’s an iconic regional chain restaurant that we wish was national. To make this icon, rump roasts are rubbed with salt, pepper, oregano and chile flakes before being roasted for an hour or so, cooled to room temperature and refrigerated overnight. The beef is then sliced and simmered in its own gravy before being piled into a loaf of bread. Next, it’s topped with roasted peppers and a spicy pickled vegetable blend known as giardiniera before being dunked back into the flavorful jus.
Owned and operated by the same family for more than 110 years, Shapiro’s is an Indianapolis legend. The corned beef and pastrami there are certainly praiseworthy, but it’s the housemade peppered beef that’s turned into a must-eat for any gourmand passing through town. It has also helped put Shapiro’s on the map as one of America’s best casual restaurants. To make this Indianapolis specialty, lean beef round is salted and cured before being peppered, smoked and seasoned with a little sugar and paprika. Be sure to get some macaroni and cheese on the side.
Iowa produces more pork than any other state, and it’s best enjoyed as part of the state’s signature sandwich, the pork tenderloin. The sandwich’s thickness varies from place to place, but it generally resembles a wienerschnitzel on a bun. You’ll find it at mom-and-pops all throughout the state, but don’t miss the one at Goldie’s, which is also up there with America’s best ice cream shops. Here, pork is pounded so thin that it’s essentially the size of a dinner plate before being breaded and fried. It comes with the standard accompaniments of pickles and onions on the side. Be sure to kick it up with some homemade ranch dressing.
If you’re looking for a true taste of KC barbecue on the Kansas side of the city, head to Joe’s Kansas City, formerly known as Oklahoma Joe’s. Slow-smoked pulled pork is the house specialty. While it’s delicious on its own, you might as well go for broke and toss it in a sweet-hot barbecue sauce and top it with bacon, pepper jack cheese, barbecue mayo and fried jalapeños. Known as the Rocket Pig, this sandwich is available in “jumbo” size, in case the “regular” sounds a little skimpy. And don’t miss the burnt ends if they’re available.
The Hot Brown just might be Kentucky’s most well-known culinary creation, and it can trace its roots back to 1926 at Louisville’s luxurious Brown Hotel, one hotel that’s totally worth the splurge. Visit the hotel today and you’ll still find it there, at all three dining venues as well as on the room-service menu. To make this classic Hot Brown, crustless Texas toast is topped with thick-sliced roast turkey breast, Roma tomato and creamy pecorino-based Mornay sauce before being baked until browned and bubbly. Two slices of crispy bacon and a sprinkling of paprika and parsley complete it.
Going strong since 1918, this neighborhood joint is the best place in New Orleans to sample a beloved hometown sandwich, the po’boy. This beauty starts with a long and crusty French-style roll from bakery Leidenheimer’s and is topped with crispy cornmeal-fried Gulf oysters. Order it “dressed” and it’ll come topped with mayo, pickles, lettuce, ketchup and hot sauce. It’s one of the most iconic dishes in America.
If you’re looking for a lobster roll that’s worth traveling to Maine for, look no further than Lobster Shack, located on the rocky shores of Cape Elizabeth since the 1920s. Take a seat at one of the outdoor picnic tables overlooking the Maine coastline and enjoy fresh, buttery lobster meat tucked into a split-top bun.
Chaps Pit Beef started out as a humble shack serving up pit beef, a food you’ll only find in Maryland. Over the years, its popularity grew (along with its menu), and the size of the building has expanded substantially as well. The crowds still line up to eat here, and it’s one of those restaurants worth waiting in line for. The classic pit beef sandwich is made by rubbing whole bottom round roasts with salt, pepper, paprika, thyme and onion powder before grilling them over a 500-degree charcoal pit. Once a nice crust is developed, the cooked portion is sliced and then put back on the grill, and the chunk that’s sliced off is thin-shaved and grilled some more before being tucked into a kaiser roll. Some mayo-kicked horseradish (known as “tiger sauce”) and raw onions complete the dish.
Tiny sandwich shop Cutty's has achieved astounding levels of renown in Boston since opening in 2010, but that’s what meticulous ingredient sourcing and attention to detail will get you. The slow-roasted beef and roast pork sandwiches are astounding, but the true masterpiece is the Spuckie: ciabatta filled with fennel salami, hot capicola, mortadella, fresh mozzarella and an olive-carrot salad.
Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw opened Zingerman’s Delicatessen in Ann Arbor in 1982. Since then, this quintessential Jewish deli and gourmet food shop and its signature Reuben have become beloved in the city. That Reuben, built on homemade Jewish rye with Zingerman’s corned beef, Swiss, sauerkraut and Russian dressing, is salty, cheesy, beefy and tangy.
Manny’s Tortas is a Minneapolis legend and one of America’s best Mexican restaurants, with hordes of regulars flocking there on a daily basis. A wide variety of traditional Mexican tortas are available, but there’s something exceptional about the super-popular Manny’s Special. This torta features steak, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes and jalapeños, all grilled with melted cheese then topped with ham and even more cheese for good measure. It’s an explosion of flavor.
John Currence is a renowned New Orleans-born chef with a mini-empire of restaurants around Mississippi. One of them is among the best brunch spots in America with the intimidatingly cool name Big Bad Breakfast. But just because it has breakfast in the name, don’t miss out on the opportunity to try the wonderfully named Screamin’ Demon sandwich. Chicken thighs are pickle-brined and fried then topped with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, mayo and comeback sauce, resulting in a big, messy, cheesy masterpiece.
Popular in and around St. Louis, the Gerber is one of those regional dishes you've never heard of. For the uninitiated, it’s an open-faced sandwich made with a long roll that’s topped with garlic butter, ham and local provel cheese, then toasted. Nobody does it better than the place where it was invented in 1973, the family-owned Ruma’s Deli. Here, the cheese and garlic butter melt together until the whole thing gets brown and bubbly. It’s simple and delicious.
The Farmer’s Daughters/Yelp
With the right ingredients, even the simplest of sandwiches can be elevated to new heights. Case in point? The hot roast beef sandwich at The Farmer’s Daughters in Bozeman, which prides itself on making most of its menu from scratch and supporting local farmers, ranchers and purveyors. This masterpiece of a sandwich starts with housemade sourdough bread, then just the right amount of all-natural roast beef is stacked on top alongside pickled onions, horseradish mayo and a blanket of melted provolone.
“Real food made from scratch using the best local ingredients we can find” is the mission statement at Omaha’s Kitchen Table, and locals have taken notice. The sandwiches are super creative, making it tricky to pick just one. The meatloaf sandwich and a grilled cheese with roasted butternut squash are especially beloved, but it’s hard to top The Whole Bird. These folks have somehow figured out how to incorporate basically a whole chicken into a sandwich. The breast is marinated and the thigh and leg are confited and shredded, and they’re all topped with a runny fried egg and crispy fried skin.
Located off the Las Vegas strip inside the tiny Eureka Casino, Fat Choy is fusing Asian and American comfort foods with some astonishing results and has a seriously cultish devotion in Sin City among those in the know. The menu’s ultimate indulgence is the Shortrib Grilled Cheese, which features melted provolone and cheddar kicked up with shredded short rib and onion jam, all fused between two thick slices of buttery toasted bread. It’s late-night eating at its finest.
Photo courtesy Nadeau's Subs
Nadeau’s has been serving high-quality subs to Manchester, New Hampshire, locals since 1969. The Philly cheesesteak, barbecue beef and fried haddock sandwiches are all top-notch, but if you go, get the famous steak tip sub. This sub is made with USDA choice sliced sirloin that’s been seasoned with a secret spice blend and seared on the grill with sliced peppers and onions. You might as well go all the way and get it with a few slices of American cheese.
No trip to Atlantic City, New Jersey, is complete without a visit to White House Subs, which has locations on Arctic Avenue (the original) as well as in the new Hard Rock Hotel Casino. It’s been going strong since 1946. Today, it’s a little touristy, but White House Subs is among the tourist trap restaurants worth visiting. While the cheesesteak and chicken parmesan are tempting, there’s only one sandwich you need to order: the Italian. Genoa salami, provolone, ham and capicola are piled onto a soft and chewy Italian loaf, then topped with lettuce, tomato, sliced onion, chopped roasted peppers, Italian seasonings, oil and vinegar. A full-length sandwich runs about a foot and a half, so you’ll probably want to share it. Or maybe not. It’s addictively good.
Photo courtesy of Relish
Relish is an Albuquerque sandwich shop that crafts gourmet sandwiches to order with high-quality ingredients like organic greens, housemade mozzarella and bread from a nearby bakery. Stop by for lunch and try the hot Albuquerque Turkey, made with Boar’s Head honey roast turkey, havarti, tomatoes, chipotle mayo and green chile on toasted sourdough. This should honestly be the New Mexico state sandwich.
Katz’s Deli on New York City’s Lower East Side is a New York institution, and one of the restaurants you need to visit in America. It’s famous for its housemade corned beef and pastrami, but if you only order one thing, get the pastrami sandwich. To make the pastrami, beef navel (a fattier and more traditional cut than the more common brisket) is rubbed with a proprietary seasoning blend, cured for up to four weeks, smoked for up to three days, boiled until tender and steamed for about half an hour before being hand-sliced to order and piled onto rye bread. A little smear of deli mustard completes the dish.
It’s all about the pork when it comes to “Lexington-style” barbecue, which is one of the foods you need to try in every state. While countless restaurants serve their take on smoked pork shoulder sandwiches, none quite compare to Lexington Barbecue, going strong since 1962. The pork here is smoked over oak and hickory coals, and you can order yours sliced or chopped, but make sure you don’t skimp on the tangy, cabbage-based slaw.
The Red Pepper/Yelp
In Grand Forks, North Dakota, Red Pepper is a legend. A local landmark since 1961, this late-night staple serves a simple menu including excellent beef tacos, enchiladas, tostadas and burgers. The signature menu item, however, is the grinder. You can customize yours with ham, salami, turkey or any combination, but why stop there? Go all the way and get an Everything Grinder, made with just about everything in the kitchen: ham, salami, turkey, taco meat, shredded colby, slices of Swiss, a white sauce and lettuce.
Old-school deli Slyman's is a Cleveland institution, going strong and serving gargantuan sandwiches since 1963. Open for breakfast and lunch on weekdays only, it’s most renowned for its massive corned beef sandwich, heaped with a mound of tender corned beef. For deli aficionados (or just lovers of a great sandwich), this is a can’t-miss. And when you’re done, visit the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the state’s most iconic landmark.
“Hot melts and cold beer” is the name of the game at Oklahoma City’s The Mule, and as that might imply, the star of the menu is the selection of 12 “sandies.” The very first one on the menu is the one you should order: the Macaroni Pony. This beast features chipotle barbecue pulled pork, three-cheese mac and cheese and pickles on two thick slices of toasted jalapeño cornbread.
The Maple, from Portland’s Meat Cheese Bread, is certainly up there with the best breakfast dishes in America. This sandwich starts with a homemade sausage patty, crisped to a golden brown on the flat-top. That gets topped with melty, spicy cheddar and browned in the broiler. Then the whole thing is placed atop some crunchy shaved fennel, which helps cut through the heaviness. But then it's served between two slices of bread pudding.
DiNic’s, which is located inside Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market, serves a handful of classic hot Italian sandwiches such as slow-roasted brisket and Italian-style pulled pork. The must-order, however, is DiNic’s roast pork sandwich. To make this beauty, which blows cheesesteaks out of the water, a mound of juicy, thin-sliced, falling-apart pork is pulled from a tub of its own juices and added to thick slices of sharp aged provolone on a semolina roll. It’s then topped with slightly bitter, garlicky, tender, chopped broccoli rabe. The hot pork melts the cheese below it, and the rabe ties it all together. Order two: one for now and one for later.
The tiny, no-frills Dee's is a lunchtime favorite in Cranston, Rhode Island. It’s most famous for its Italian grinder, which is loaded with salami, capicola, turkey, hot peppers, lettuce, tomato and oil and vinegar. A word to the wise: Get there early, because when the bread is gone, Dee’s closes.
Tattooed Moose has two locations in Charleston, and they’re both essentially the perfect dive bar. They’re laid-back, funky, inexpensive and boast some of the most outrageous sandwiches you’ll find in town. It can be tough to decide what to order, but go right for the iconic Duck Club. This triple-decker masterpiece starts with three slices of King’s Hawaiian bread, which are layered with housemade duck confit, applewood-smoked bacon, hickory-smoked cheddar, lettuce, tomato, red onion and a lime-kicked aioli. On the side? Duck fat fries — just in case there wasn’t enough decadence for you.
You might not expect to be able to find Philly-quality cheesesteaks in the Black Hills of South Dakota, but thanks to Philadelphia native Ted English, who opened Philly Ted’s in 2001, you can. English starts with a fresh-baked loaf and loads it with thin-sliced griddled steak, onions and your choice of five kinds of cheese. In total, 30 toppings are available, ranging from fries to sauerkraut to wing sauce.
When in Nashville, you owe it to yourself to try some of the town’s signature hot chicken. And if you prefer this classic picnic food in sandwich form, make a beeline to Hattie B’s, which has three locations in town. The team spent months making sure this sandwich was perfect before releasing it, and it basically is. A 5-ounce hand-breaded chicken breast is fried and dunked in the spicy oil-based sauce that’s a Nashville signature. Next, it’s tucked into a locally baked bun and topped with coleslaw, pickles and “Nashville comeback sauce,” which contains mayo, honey and Hattie B’s signature spicy seasoning.
If you want to eat like a Texan, go big or go home. Pecan Lodge serves some of the best barbecue in the country, and this sandwich delivers it straight to your face. Texas barbecue is all about the brisket, so you know there’s some of that on here, but The Pitmaster also piles on pulled pork, smoked sausage, slaw, barbecue sauce and some sliced jalapeños for good measure. It’s the Lonestar State on a bun.
Caputo’s is a super-popular Italian deli with four locations in Salt Lake City. It was founded by Tony Caputo in 1997 and is now run by his son, Matt, who imports high-quality foods from Italy and the rest of Southern Europe. Over the years, it’s become one of the best specialty food stores in all of America. Lines stretch out the door on a daily basis for Caputo’s selection of sandwiches and pastas. Those in the know order The Meatball, which is made with housemade meatballs, marinara sauce, Parmigiano-Reggiano and provolone on a fresh Italian loaf. It’s a perfect way to warm up after hitting the slopes.
Opened in 1964 by Ned and Veda Gilligan and still family-owned, Gill’s is a beloved Rutland, Vermont, institution that’s turning out some truly spectacular grinders. This shop's quality is best experienced via the Hot Italian Meats grinder. Spiced ham, peppered ham and Italian salami are tucked into a loaf and topped with cheese, shredded cabbage, tomatoes, pickles, onions, hot peppers and mayo or seasoned oil.
In business since 1952 and still run by the Chiocca family, Chiocca’s is a small, homey Richmond, Virginia, institution that’s turning out some legendary sandwiches. There’s a wide variety of hot and cold options available, but the one to order is The Dagwood: turkey, roast beef, pastrami, provolone, Swiss, Thousand Island, Dijon and pickles on rye. The massive gas-fired toaster/griddle has been in use since the restaurant’s earliest days, and locals swear that it imparts the sandwiches with a flavor that’s impossible to replicate at home.
In Seattle, Paseo has become a household name thanks to its Caribbean-inspired sandwiches. Just about everything on the menu looks ridiculously delicious, making repeat visits necessary. If it’s your first time, order the Caribbean roast: pork shoulder that’s marinated and slow-roasted, pulled and tucked into a toasted baguette and topped (like all of Paseo’s sandwiches) with aioli, cilantro, pickled jalapenos, romaine lettuce and caramelized onions. Hungry yet?
Want to experience the tastes of traveling abroad without actually leaving the States? Head to SUNdeVICH. At this globally inspired sandwich shop, each sandwich is inspired by the cuisine of a country or region, and they’re all made with fresh ingredients delivered daily and served on locally baked demi-baguettes. The Buenos Aires contains steak, sauteed onions and chimichurri. The Seoul has bulgogi beef, kimchi and Asian slaw. But go with the Kingston. This Jamaican-inspired sandwich is made with spicy shredded jerk chicken, spicy slaw, pineapple salsa and garlic mayo, and it’s absolutely bursting with flavor.
Besides being a great name for a restaurant, Cam’s Ham is a Huntington, West Virginia, staple that’s been serving legendary ham sandwiches since the 1950s. To make these beauties, a toasted bun is topped with lean ham that’s been sliced super thin (“flaked”), and covered in shredded lettuce and secret sauce. Be sure to get some onion rings on the side.
One of the country’s finest purveyors of artisan cheese, Fromagination in Madison specializes in local cheeses that are very difficult to find out of state, while also turning out some spectacular sandwiches. Go for the Great Wisconsin sandwich, a three-cheese sourdough bread loaded with Genoa salami, Italian prosciutto, Tuscan salami from Madison’s Underground Meats and mozzarella and provolone from Monroe-based Roth Cheese. It’s the best of Italy and Wisconsin, all in one sandwich.
The Bread Basket is Cheyenne’s most popular bakery, baking fresh bread, rolls and muffins early every morning. The folks here know to keep it simple and let the bread speak for itself, so only a handful of sandwiches are available, but they’re nothing short of ideal versions of classic lunchtime fare. The egg salad sandwich, for example, is fresh and simple. It’s a perfect representation of one of the many satisfying ways to use an egg.
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