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America's Best Sandwiches

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Michael Schmelling

Jimmy’s Favorite

Jimmy and Drew’s 28th Street Deli, Boulder, Colorado

Never mind that Jimmy and Drew left Chicago to sell meat in a vegan stronghold: They survive because they make everything in-house. They thrive because Jimmy’s namesake Reuben swaps pedestrian rye (meh, it’s just a meat vessel) for schmaltz-fried latkes the size of your hubcaps. (2855 Twenty-eighth Street; 303-447-3354)

Porchetta

Salumi, Seattle

The daily fresh-pulled mozzarella runs out before the line of customers at Salumi, started by Armandino Batali (Mario’s dad). Don’t let the curing bats of fennel-studded finocchiona dangling from meat hooks distract: You want the porchetta -- braised-until-melting pork shoulder with peppers, carrots, and onions on a stout roll to soak up the profligate juices. (309 Third Avenue South; 206-621-8772)

Cuban Meat Sandwich

Paseo, Seattle

No place in Seattle could care less whether you come in than Paseo. The shoe-box shack has no sign, takes no credit. Has so few seats that devotees eat outside on the trunks of their cars. What keeps them returning? The milagro that is the Cuban meat sandwich: marinated, slow-cooked pork ganged into a baguette slathered with garlicky mayonnaise, then mounded again with cilantro, jalapeños, and fat O’s of caramelized onions. Seattle’s a long way from Cuba, but this sandwich erases every mile. (4225 Fremont Avenue North; 206-545-7440)

Bánh Mì

Saigon Sandwich Shop, San Francisco

A culinary legacy of imperialism: French baguette and Vietnamese barbecued pork, sprinkled with shredded carrots, onions, jalapeños, and cilantro. (560 Larkin Street; 415-474-5698)

Reggie Deluxe

Pine State Biscuits, Portland, Oregon

A hangover cure found only at Portland’s Farmers Market (for now): fried chicken, bacon, cheddar, gravy, and an over-easy egg on a cream-top buttermilk biscuit still hot from the outdoor oven. (South Park Blocks, SW Harrison and Montgomery; Saturdays)


Michael Schmelling

Trailer Park Monte Cristo

Beachland Ballroom, Cleveland

Bobbing in a sea of Blue Ribbon, battered by gale-force amps, you need something solid to hold on to -- and hold down. So: Dip a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich in pancake batter, dunk it in a deep fryer, and dust it with powdered sugar. Voilà: Bar eats supreme. The crisp, cakey crust conceals a molten heart as sweet as Cleveland’s own. (15711 Waterloo Road; 216-383-1124)

Monte Cristo

Canter’s Deli, Los Angeles

Popularized in the ‘60s at the restaurant inside Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride, the Monte Cristo is bread, turkey, ham, and Swiss dipped in batter and grilled like French toast. The Canter’s version is a sweet, meaty sponge sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with strawberry jam. (419 North Fairfax Avenue; 323-651-2030)

Club Sandwich

Restaurant Guy Savoy

Two tiny triangles of toasted country bread and two disks of creamy foie gras transformed by Gallic culinary voodoo into a bite-sized treatise on opposites -- simple versus complex, earthy versus rarefied -- all of it gone too soon, in the melancholy French manner. (3570 Las Vegas Boulevard South; 702-731-7731)

The Tyler

Cheese ‘N Stuff, Phoenix

It began in the days before the belly and the beer that made it, when I was a high school wrestler. My prize for making weight was two hours to ingest as much as I could before getting my ass kicked. I found Cheese ‘n Stuff, which stood out not just because it was old and weathered in new, prefab Phoenix but because it had all these weird foods -- pickled things, things in aluminum tubes, headcheese. A father and son -- Stan Zawatski, middle-aged, and Emil, his father -- were behind the counter. This was my creation: a hoagie roll, split wide and topped with Boar’s Head turkey, Muenster, and lettuce, dressed with ribbons of tomato and hot peppers, deli mustard for zing, avocado for lubrication. I ate it at the gym before my match. Then again before my next. I went the week after that, twice. Then I quit wrestling, and on good weeks had it every other day. I ate it before the first concert I drove to with friends, and on graduation day. After a few months, I didn’t have to order anymore. Just enter and smile, a nod between priest and supplicant. Or call first, get Stan’s daughter on the phone -- ”Tell your dad Tyler’s coming in, okay?” (5042 North Central Avenue; 602-266-3636) --Tyler Cabot

Cochon de Lait Po’Boy

Walker’s Bar-B-Que, New Orleans

For years, this sandwich -- twelve-hour-hickory-roasted suckling pig, topped with creamy Cajun mustard slaw -- was available only at Jazz Fest. Now there’s a shop, where the cult of the cochon can worship year-round. But you can still get it at Jazz Fest. (10828 Hayne Boulevard; 504-241-8227)


Michael Schmelling

 

Torta de Milanesa

Las Nueva, Los Angeles

A neon crown hangs in the doorway of the East L. A. institution that serves the king of the spicy torta, or Mexican sandwich: breaded carne asada, cheese, avocado, and jalapeños on a toasted roll glistening with grease. Dip it in one of the homemade salsas. (3701 East First Street; 323-264-0678)

Italian Beef

Al’s #1 Italian Beef, Chicago

The stockyard special: thinly sliced beef on bread from the 122-year-old Gonella bakery, enhanced by giardiniera, a fermented vegetable relish made with hot peppers and celery. You could buy the ingredients and study the method, but it ain’t gonna taste like Al’s. (1079 West Taylor Street; 312-226-4017)

Jibarito

Borinquen, Chicago

At first it looks like any sandwich: bread, mayo, meat, iceberg lettuce, tomato. But the “bread” is actually twice-fried green plantains (sliced and pressed into rectangles and brushed with garlic and oil), and the meat is traditional Latino (slow-cooked pork; chopped skin-on fried chicken). An American sandwich with Puerto Rican roots. (1720 California Avenue; 773-227-6038)

McRib

McDonald’s, Multiple Locations

The pickles slay me. The other components of the McRib -- sauce, meat, onions, bun -- are straight outta barbecue antiquity. But the pickles are an unexpected wacko touch. Is that how they do it in . . . what, Kansas City? Because I grew up an active citizen of fast-food nation, this is what my palate has been calibrated to want: the overdetermined tang of the sauce, meat that tastes slightly of the mixing vat, the grace note of those pickles. I look forward to its occasional rerelease, because however artificial, it tastes like the real thing to me. --Scott Dickensheets

Grilled Cheese

Café Muse, Royal Oak, Michigan

Grilled cheese: Wonder bread, Velveeta, and a clothes iron. Or: Havarti, for creaminess. Mozzarella for gooeyness. Fontina for bite. Honey to linger on the tongue, paired with the sharp anise nip of fresh basil and the sweet tang of grilled tomato. (317 South Washington Avenue; 248-544-4749)

Lisa C’s Boisterous Brisket

Zingerman’s, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Gold Angus-beef brisket, dry-rubbed with sea salt, pungent Tellicherry black pepper, garlic, and marjoram, is left to sit in a mixture of butter-sautéed onions, caramelly demerara sugar, ketchup, molasses, garlic, and cayenne. Later it’s hand-pulled and layered into a bun that’s basically challah baked in hot-dog-roll form. On the side you get molasses-baked beans with applewood-smoked bacon, best added to the sandwich. (422 Detroit Street; 734-663-3354)


Michael Schmelling

Sweet Coppa with Hot Peppers and Rucola

‘Ino, New York City

‘Ino is short for panino -- in this case, an artful little Italian sandwich pressed flat. The bread comes from a bakery across the street, and the combinations inside come from a wild imagination. Sweet cured ham stands up to the fiery peppers -- pop the sugary roasted garlic cloves on the side to extinguish the flames. (21 Bedford Street; 212-989-5769)

Corned Beef

Slyman’s, Cleveland

Bernie Kosar jerseys outnumber the business suits, but just barely. The corned beef is why you go: a softball-sized lump of lean the color of a Great Lakes sunset, kissed with fat and slow-cooked to succulence, then nestled between clouds of fresh bread. (3106 St. Clair Avenue; 216-621-3760)

Polish Boy

Freddie’s Rib House, Cleveland

Soul on white. A pipe’s length of kielbasa is wrapped in a bun and mounded with french fries, then dressed with coleslaw and barbecue sauce. Ignore any toxic runoff: Locals consider cuff stains a red badge of courage. The genteel can request a fork, because, yo, every circus needs a clown. (1431 St. Clair Avenue; 216-575-1750)

Chicken Sandwich

Chick-Fil-A, Multiple Locations

You can get a chicken sandwich anywhere, which may explain your low expectations. Boneless breast. Bun. Blah. But down south, there lives an eye-opener. A come-to-Jesus sandwich. The Chick-fil-A. Seasoned, breaded breast served on a toasted buttered bun with dill-pickle slices. No mayo. No sauce at all. Deceptively simple, yet transcendent. The hook is the breading: spicy, with an intoxicating crunch. The meat is always juicy, never chewy. The bun is like lingerie -- there, but not, providing delicious support without obscuring the main flavor. The first bite changes everything you think you know about chicken. And about the need for condiments. --Allison Glock

Chopped Pork

Allen & Son Barbeque, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Famous among the vinegar-based smoke pits of North Carolina for its tart, smoky sandwiches. The owner, Keith Allen, still splits his own hickory in the backyard, fueling the fires that cook your meat. (6203 Millhouse Road; 919-942-7576)


Michael Schmelling

Ferdi’s Special

Mother’s Restaurant, New Orleans

At Mother’s, a downtown refuge for the workingman (and tourists), they’ve been serving all kinds of meat since 1938. The Ferdi, a kind of compilation po’boy, has the greatest hits: tender baked ham, roast beef, and “debris,” the gorgeous, grease-darkened bits of meat that fall into the pan during roasting. Shredded cabbage and Creole mustard mix with the juices to create an alchemy from above. (401 Poydras Street; 504-523-9656)

Cubano

Latin America Cafeteria, Miami

Little Havana’s specialty, an eight-inch roll wet with butter, plus sugar-cured bolo ham, lechÛn asado (slow-roasted marinated pork), Swiss cheese, and pickle, toasted in a plancha (press). The later the hour, the better it tastes. (9796 Coral Way; 305-663-2600)

Seafood Salad

La Sandwicherie, Miami Beach

Go with the French bread, not the croissant -- it’s appropriately crusty and soft in the middle. And get it to stay -- the seating is outdoors, and the seafood salad (jumbo lump crab, shrimp) goes well with the salty air. (229 Fourteenth Street; 305-532-8934)

Roast Pork with Provolone

John’s Roast Pork, Philadelphia

Although the area looks like a good place to dump a body, when John’s opened in 1930 the shipyards were bustling, and the place still keeps day-laborer’s hours: 6:45 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The cheesesteak is the best in town, but your first time, get Philadelphia’s sleeper signature sandwich, the roast pork with shards of provolone. Only the large size comes on a seeded roll from Carangi Bakery, the perfect texture to absorb the juices without falling apart. The meat and cheese meld together while retaining flavor and texture -- molecular gastronomy at its finest. (14 East Snyder Avenue; 215-463-1951) --Francine Maroukian

Chicken Cutlet

Shank’s & Evelyn’s Luncheonette, South Philadelphia

You don’t need a hangover to appreciate the chicken cutlet with broccoli rabe and provolone at Shank’s & Evelyn’s. But with a little planning, you can acquire one and come to know the best morning-after sandwich in the world. And no matter how many times I tell myself that I’m too damn old for this kind of excess, the side of head-clearing long hots -- peppers eaten straight (vodka hangover) or jammed into the sandwich (bourbon) -- remind me that there’s no satisfaction in playing it safe. (932 South Tenth Street; 215-629-1093) --F. M.


Michael Schmelling

Ham and Cheese

Primanti Bros., Pittsburgh

A relic of Pittsburgh’s steel days, this sandwich was made for steelworkers who had to eat fast. Everything that typically comes with a sandwich comes on it: meat cooked hot, bacon, tomato, provolone, pickles, slaw, an egg for fifty cents extra, even fries. Shove it in your lunch box. (46 Eighteenth Street; 412-263-2142)

Pork Roll, Egg, and Cheese

Brennan’s Deli, Rumson, New Jersey

Fancier places around the Garden State call it Taylor ham, but to the hungry, hungover Jersey masses, the salamilike breakfast meat is pork roll. Fry it up in bacon fat and serve it on a kaiser roll with a fried egg and a slice of American cheese, or ask the good men of Brennan’s to do it for you. It’s the only way to start a bad day. (44 West River Road; 732-530-0302)

Tuna Niçoise

Bouchon Bakery, New York City

Looks like a regular tuna sandwich, except the bread is crusty and minutes old. The tuna comes with capers instead of celery, aioli on top of mayo, and cornichons instead of a pickle. Plus tarragon and sliced soft-cooked egg. It’s mundane. It’s exhilarating. It’s the best tuna sandwich we’ve ever eaten. (10 Columbus Circle; 212-823-9366)

Pastrami on Rye

Katz’s, New York City

You know Katz’s. You know the scene in When Harry Met Sally. The orgasm. And if you’ve been there, you know she wasn’t faking it -- the fatty, thick-cut pastrami on rye is that good. Better with a smear of mustard. (205 East Houston Street; 212-254-2246)

Momofuku Ssäm

You’d never stand at a Plexiglas counter and tell the guy to top your crusty bread with chicken liver, ham terrine, and you know what, throw on some scraps of veal face. Just order this sickly delicious bánh mì and, without thinking too much, enjoy the crisp, earthy texture of...that delicious stuff between the bread. (207 Second Avenue; 212-254-3500)


Michael Schmelling

Fried Cod

Cove Fish Market, Stonington, Connecticut

When a fish starts its morning in the ocean and ends up in a deep-fryer that afternoon, the result is reliably tasty. The Cove has been proving this for four decades, turning out some of the best no-frills fish sandwiches on the Eastern Seaboard. (20 Old Stonington Road; 860-536-0061)

The Bomb

Sal, Kris, and Charlie Deli, Queens, New York

The Sandwich Kings of Astoria stick to a simple formula: Use great ingredients and a lot of them. Know what you want to order when it’s your turn and you’ll have a great experience -- that’ll be the Bomb, an Italian with nine kinds of meat. (33-12 Twenty-third Avenue; 718-278-9240)

Hot Lobster Roll

Abbot’s Lobster in the Rough, Noank, Connecticut

The best way to get to Abbott’s is by boat -- float in, tie up, and order the classic, made with a quarter pound of meat, melted butter, and not a drop of mayo. Get a table out on the dock. (117 Pearl Street; 860-536-7719)

Maple-Barbecue Pulled Pork

Vermont Country Deli, Brattleboro, Vermont

Bunch of northerners making pulled pork? Damn straight. Two words: Maple. Syrup. (436 Western Avenue; 802-257-9254)

Grilled Lobster and Cheese

Restaurant Bricco, West Hartford, Connecticut

Generous clumps of fresh lobster tossed in a net of stringy, buttery Havarti and gently pressed between grilled white toast. Wash it down with a glass of prosecco. You’ll feel like you’re celebrating. (78 LaSalle Road; 860-233-0220)

Gyro

East Side Pocket, Providence

The sliced lamb gets a quick char while you pick out your toppings -- any or all from a list of ten: hot sauce, hummus, tabouleh, tahini, yogurt-cucumber sauce, various veggies. Thirty seconds and six bucks later, you’re eating the best Syrian street food outside Damascus. (278 Thayer Street; 401-453-1100)

Lamb Sirloin

Matt Murphy’s Brookline, Massachusetts

In a land teeming with trite Irish pubs, Matt Murphy’s stands alone: no Gaelic street signs, no U2 poster, no “Molly Bloom Mozzarella Stix.” But this hits you like a Joycean epiphany: sirloin, cooked until it dissolves on the crusty potato bread, and pickles, daubed with sweet relish and a sauce bearing the faintest rumor of mint. (14 Harvard Street; 617-232-0188)

Prosciutto and Asiago

Little Notch Café, Southwest Harbor, Maine

Let the others scarf lobster rolls. Up near Acadia National Park, where the crowds thin out, sharp Asiago and sweet prosciutto offer a different sort of local comfort. Grab one and catch the mail boat out to breathtaking Cranberry Island, where the crowds disappear into nothing. (340 Main Street; 207-244-3357)

Now none of the following made the favourite list, but wow!  How can it get better?  These are favourites of the NYC Food Guy

http://nycfoodguy.com/

katz's brisket and pastrami sandwiches

NYC

 

This is from Kensington Kosher Deli in Great Neck, NY. It's awesome and it's on a toasted club roll with a little russian. Talk about delicious.

Chicken Cutlet, Grilled Pastrami, L/T/Dill Pickles, Russian on a hero all from Lenny's sandwiches in New York. Money Sandwich.

George Keeley's Burger... it's a monster

Lure sauce, dill pickles, lettuce, tomato, american cheese, burger...

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3 Comments

Bxredman's picture
My vote goes to Katz's !!!
Ganesh.Dutta's picture
Wonderful blog! Tuna Nicoise is the my favorite. Really, A great collection of American Sandwiches. Thanks for sharing this type great info.
shantihhh's picture
I am not much in to sandwiches. However, I use to buy a pastrami on ryeat Katz's and they are so large I ate it for two lunches or split with a friend. One time brought a couple of their garlick salamisome in my sutcase. LOL the case smelled like garlic salami for a long time and so did my clothes even after washing and drycleaning them, but the kids loved those salamis.