Food & Drink

The LA Sandwich Bucket List

Published On 10/06/2015 Published On 10/06/2015
Zach Brooks/Thrillist

Los Angeles For a city that seems to be getting more and more gluten intolerant by the day, we sure do have a lot of great sandwiches. Even if you disqualify burgers (because they're burgers guys, not sandwiches), pita sandwiches (because pita bread ≠ bread bread), and wraps (it’s basically just a burrito, dude), you’re still left with a massive list of sandwiches well worth checking out before you head through the pearly purple and gold gates. (Note: if that last part should happen while you're trying to eat every sandwich on this list, please don’t sue.)

1. The Godmother

Bay Cities (address and info) Santa Monica Let's just get this one out of the way right quick. If you live in LA, you need to have the Godmother at least once. Sure, you may eventually realize that Bay Cities' hot sandwiches are better (chicken Parm FTW) and All About the Bread’s "Godfather" might be even better (see below), but it doesn't change the fact that no LA sandwich bucket list would be complete without this mother on there. Which brings us to...

2. The Godfather

All About the Bread (address and info) Mid-City You might think its bread is better than Bay Cities', sure, and that its cold cuts are better than Boar's Head, totally fine, but you'll only think those things after you try it, which if you haven't, you need to, so you can think those things (or different things!). More Stuff You Will Like

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3. DA Special

Eastside Market Italian Deli (address and info)   Chinatown In some ways, this classic Italian deli on the outskirts of Chinatown is the Bay Cities of the east side -- if Bay Cities only sold sandwiches and had a ton of seating and TVs. Its sausage and meatball sub with peppers and onions is pretty terrific, and its shredded pastrami and hot roast beef isn't too bad either. But the showstopper is the life-risking DA Special, an obscenity featuring all four IN ONE SANDWICH. In other words, if you do plan on making this a real bucket list, you'll want to leave this sandwich for last. Continue Reading

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4. #19 pastrami sandwich

Langer's (address and info)   MacArthur Park Like The Godmother at Bay Cities, you need to have Langer's pastrami sandwich with Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and cole slaw before you're really even allowed to call yourself an Angeleno. It's not just the best pastrami sandwich in LA, it's the best in the country. (Pro tip: it's even better without all the stuff on it. Trust us.)

Zach Brooks/Thrillist

5. French dip

Philippe The Original (address and info)   Downtown Just remember these first two words: Double. Dip. Whether it's beef with mustard. Lamb and blue cheese. Pork. Doesn’t matter which one you’re eating, provided you remember those first two words. Double. Dip.   

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6. Egg salad sandwich

The Apple Pan (address and info)   West LA “WHAT?” you might yell at us when we say egg salad sandwich and The Apple Pan in the same breath, but here’s the thing: have you ever had an egg salad sandwich at The Apple Pan? Because you should. Because if you look up "the best classic egg salad sandwich" in the dictionary, there's a picture of this sandwich. Also we use a really weird dictionary that's probably different than yours.

Zach Brooks/Thrillist

7. Fried chicken sandwich

Son of a Gun (address and info)   Melrose If you're looking for ground zero of LA's fried chicken sandwich craze, here it is. Is there a spicy slaw made from bread & butter pickles? Yes there is. And aoili made from Rooster sauce? That too. But the real secret is the overnight brine, which gives it big flavor (and moistness) all the way through.

8. #2 Cold Cut Special

Banh Mi My-Tho (address and info)   Alhambra The biggest problem with banh mi is deciding between cold cuts and roast pork, but at this Vietnamese sandwich shop in the SGV you don't have to! Its #2 features roasted pork plus all the things you'll find in your favorite đặc biệt (including pate and butter). And the best part is, it's under $4. Yes, we said $4.

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9. Beef on weck

Top Round (address and info)   Mid-Wilshire It's like Arby's! (But good.) With curly fries like Arby's! (But good.)

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10. Fat Jerry

Fat Sal's (address and info)   Hollywood You know what's cheaper than going to Rutgers to eat a sandwich monstrosity at one of their famous grease trucks? Driving to this place and ordering the Fat Jerry, a cheesesteak topped with mozzarella sticks, French fries, bacon, chicken fingers, and fried eggs. You can say you're only going to do it once, but you'll be back. If you can walk afterwards.

11. Porchetta melt

Gjusta (address and info)   Venice You know how you can tell this is the one of the best sandwiches in all of LA? Because after struggling to find parking, and navigating its crazy counter (you can order from anyone... but no one will look at you!!), and shelling out $15 for a small sandwich that doesn't even come with anything, and probably not finding somewhere to sit *breath* you STILL want to eat this sandwich. Every. Single. Day.

12. The Burger

Father's Office (address and info)   Santa Monica/Culver City OK, so maybe we'll allow one burger. Because the burger at Father's Office isn't a burger, it's a sandwich -- it's served on an oblong roll instead of a bun, and most of what you taste is blue cheese, onion jam, and arugula. If it were a burger, you'd be allowed to put ketchup on it. It's a sandwich. A supremely delicious sandwich you need to eat before you die, but still a sandwich. Call us trolls if you want. Sandwich.

Zach Brooks/Thrillist

13. Tortilla Espanola

ink.sack (address and info)   Melrose So maybe you can't afford ink., but you know what you can afford? Top Chef Michael Voltaggio's little sandwich place... right next to ink. You can't go wrong with any of the little $5-$7 sandwiches, but the Tortilla Espanola is topped with chips, so...

14. Tongue sandwch

Attari Sandwich Shop (address and info)   Westwood You didn't know Perisan sandwiches were a thing? Persian sandwiches are a thing. And Attari in Westwood is the place to have one. Warm slices of tender tongue, lettuce, tomato, and pickles on soft French bread. And if you’re freaked out by tongue, you’re missing out. Way out.

15. Surf & turf po-boy

The Little Jewel of New Orleans (address and info)   Downtown Why just have a fried shrimp po-boy when you can have a fried shrimp po-boy with roast beef and “debris” (jus! meat bits! insanity!!)?

16. Lamb sandwich

Papa Cristo's (address and info)   Koreatown There is not a lot of great Greek food in LA, which explains why a giant just-OK barn like Papa Cristo's can be so popular. But there's no denying it's an LA classic, and at some point you really do need to go eat its next-level roasted lamb sandwich with feta on French bread.

Zach Brooks/Thrillist

17. LA pastrami

The Hat (address and info)
Multiple locations
So you've had classic deli pastrami from Langer's, but people forget about the equally classic LA-style pastrami, and that’s a shame. Unlike the thick-cut deli-style, this version’s shredded super thin and usually comes in a dipped roll or on top of a hamburger with chili. Johnnie's Pastrami in Culver City is pretty great, but if you want your pastrami to feel more like bacon than pastrami (why wouldn't you??) you'll need to go to The Hat.

Zach Brooks/Thrillist

18. Chicken sandwich

Night + Market Song (address and info)   Echo Park What started as an off-the-menu item at dinner is now an on-the-menu lunch item at this great Silverlake Thai spot. Yes it's another fried chicken sandwich, but it’s not “just another fried chicken sandwich,” because this one has papaya salad on it. And ranch.

19. Cemita

Los Poblanos (address and info) or Cemitas Tepeaca Puebla (address and info)
Boyle Heights
Whittier Blvd in Boyle Heights has not just one of the best cemita trucks in the city, but TWO of the best cemita trucks in the city. Los Poblanos is beloved by many, and serves up an epic version of beef cutlet on a freshly baked seeded bun, topped with string cheese, avocado, papalo, and chipotles in adobo. Its neighbor, Cemitas Tepeaca Puebla, serves practically the identical sandwich -- with a crazy delicious walnut milk drink to boot.

Zach Brooks/Thrillist

20. The Fairfax

Eggslut (address and info)   Downtown If you're going to get dirty with just one egg sandwich in town, it should definitely be from this ultra-popular, award-winning Grand Central Market stand. You can't go wrong with any of the sandwiches, or asking them to replace the too-soft brioche with one of their biscuits (!!!!), but in the end you should probably order the Fairfax w/ soft scrambled eggs w/ chives, cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, and a Sriracha mayo.

Zach Brooks/Thrillist

21. Milanesa torta

Torta Co. (address and info)   Downtown Since our Mexican population’s so huge, you can’t have LA sandwich bragging rights without a next-level torta, and you may as well get one from possibly the most underrated sandwich shop in LA; this mall food court stand from the owners of Loteria makes one of the best tortas in LA -- specifically the breakfast torta with milanesa (pounded and deep fried chicken cutlet), topped with green chile chilaquiles. Sign up here for our daily LA email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun Los Angeles has to offer. Zach Brooks is the founder of MidtownLunch.com and FoodIsTheNewRock.com. Argue with him on Instagram at @FoodIsTheNewRock or Twitter at @FoodIsNewRock.

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1. Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery 1517 Lincoln Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401 (Santa Monica)

Slinging sandwiches in Santa Monica since the 1920s, Bay Cities is responsible for masterpieces like The Godmother, a sub made with basically every Italian cured meat, Provolone cheese, and the works (mustard, mayo, Italian dressing, onions, pickles, tomato, and lettuce). More than just a sandwich specialist, the shop also serves prepared pastas like lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, and stuffed shells. While the counter crew assembles your order, browse through the grocery section that's stocked with imported Italian specialities.

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2. All About The Bread 7111 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90048

Spicy capocollo, mortadella, prosciutto di Parma, ham, Genoa salami, and provolone... that's right, it's a recreation of Santa Monica's fav sandwich: The Godfather. Even though it's a copycat, it saves you the long drive you'd otherwise be making for one of these babies.

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3. Eastside Market Italian Deli 1013 Alpine St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

A true and authentic Italian deli, Eastside is a landmark eatery for their outstanding sammies (both hot and cold), pasta dishes, and salads.

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4. Langer's Delicatessen 704 S Alvarado St, Los Angeles, CA 90057

Langer's has been a go-to spot for their classic hot pastrami sammy (which has been touted as the best in the WORLD) since 1947.

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5. Philippe the Original 1001 N Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Open since 1908, Philippe the Original is an iconic deli in LA that claims to have invented the French dip sandwich. That said, it's not your typical sandwich shop where you wait for your ticket number to be called. Here's how things go down at Philippe's: if you're getting a sandwich, get in the specified line and watch as one of the "Carvers" works his magic, then order any sides (like a bowl of chili). If you decide post-French dip bliss that you want a slice of cheesecake, line up at the non-sandwich counter instead.

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6. The Apple Pan 10801 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064 (West La)

This West LA diner has been serving burgers, pie, and classic American sandwiches at its U-shaped counter since 1947. Not much has changed about The Apple Pan since it opened: the registers are mechanical, the cooks wear soda jerk paper hats, and the red counter stools are still intact. Thankfully, the menu is pretty much the same too, and the signature Hickoryburger, Steakburger, and banana cream pie are as popular as ever. Fun fact: Diner chain Johnny Rockets is modeled after The Apple Pan.

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7. Son Of A Gun 8730 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048 (Mid Wilshire)

The menu at this nautical Melrose spot from chef superstars Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo (Animal and Jon & Vinny's) is seafood heaven with a fried chicken sandwich thrown in to remind you just how great turf can be, too. It's a hulking masterpiece with a spicy bread & butter pickle slaw and Sriracha aioli. If you're in the mood for surf, go for the trout or the octopus salad.

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8. Banh Mi My Tho 304 W Valley Blvd, Alhambra, CA 91803

This cash-only Vietnamese sandwich shop in Alhambra serves up hefty banh mi filled with everything from grilled pork and veggies to fried eggs and pate, as well as tasty summer rolls made with vermicelli noodles and generous helpings of shredded pork. Banh Mi My-Tho is a tiny operation, and you'll likely have to eat your sandwich on a bench outside the shop, but the sub-$5 prices are too good to pass up.

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9. Top Round 1000 S. La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90019

This classic window-serve stand serves up classic roast beef sandwiches, curly fries, and frozen custards at the corner of LaBrea and Olympic Avenues in Los Angeles. Like Arby's, but good. In fact, you should stop going to Arby's and let Top Round fulfill all of your burger needs.

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10. Fat Sal's 950 Gayley Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90024 (Westwood)

When all of the sandwiches at an establishment begin with the word “Fat,” you know you're in for some truly flavorful, gut-busting creations. Take the classic “Fat Sal,” for example, which is loaded with roast beef, mozzarella sticks, onion rings, and brown gravy -- all served on an extra-wide garlic hero roll. One in a mini-chain of counter-serve spots, this Fat Sal's outpost is a favorite cheap-eats joint among UCLA students, who fill up the tiny, hip space quickly, itching to get their hands on the stacked lineup of hot dogs, heroes, and burgers, like the Fat Bruin: a cheeseburger-, chili-, and bacon-stuffed sandwich that reps the school's mascot.

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11. Gjusta 320 Sunset Ave, Venice, CA 90291 (Venice)

An artisanal bakery-deli hybrid, Gjusta is a takeaway-centric spot from the Gjelina owners that mixes up American, European, and Middle Eastern flavors. It’s a mecca for all your breakfast and lunch cravings -- think everything from baklava croissants and lox to porchetta melts and tuna conserva. While the interior is industrial and sprawling, the counter-serve interior is standing room-only, but there is a sprawling back patio.

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12. Father's Office 3229 Helms Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90034 (Culver City)

Chef Sang Yoon is the brains behind this nationally-acclaimed Los Angeles gastropub. Father's Office is especially famous for its Office Burger: a 100% chuck, dry-aged beef patty topped with blue cheese, arugula, and onion jam, and served on a toasted oval bun with garlic butter. Chef Yoon has a strict no modifications allowed policy on his burger, so either you like it or you don't -- but chances are you probably will.

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13. ink.sack 8360 Melrose, Los Angeles, CA 90048 (Mid Wilshire)

Ink's a hole-in-the-wall gourmet sandwich stand lined w/ graffitied blackboards and not much else, opening from Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio, who managed to pull off a somehow under-the-radar build-out despite obsessive scrutiny from media, food blogs, and Val Kilmer's stomach.

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14. Attari Sandwich Shop 1388 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024 (Westwood)

The sandwiches at Attari in Westwood will make you rethink the lunch staple. Each features a main ingredient like chicken cutlet, tongue (the bestseller), or the omelet-like kuku layered between crusty slices of French bread and topped with tomatoes, pickles, and spiced Iranian pickles. The menu also includes Iranian stew specials and classic kabobs. The sunny courtyard patio will make your lunch taste that much better.

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15. The Little Jewel of New Orleans 207 Ord St, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (Downtown)

Head to this Downtown spot where you'll find straight-up recreations of New Orleans' finest food, including crawfish mac & cheese and outstanding po' boys, which are crispy and chewy at the same time.

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16. Papa Cristo's 2771 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006

Papa Cristo's in West Adams is a Greek food destination. The massive blue-and-white space takes up more than half a block on West Pico Blvd, and includes a market, bakery, and sit-down restaurant that extends onto an enclosed patio. The traditional menu runs the gamut from pita pizzas and gyro platters to spanakopita and full racks of lamb, but everything you order is guaranteed to be a) good, b) cheap. The "Big Fat Greek Family-Style Dinner," a weekly five-course meal that includes a wine tasting and baklava, is a must for groups.

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17. Night + Market Song 3322 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026

The second location of Chef Kris Yenbamroong's Night + Market, the cool and casual Song (which means two) continues the original restaurant's ode to Thai street food. The Silverlake spot serves all of Yenbamroong's cult classics, like the sweet and salty party wings, plus a revolving door of dishes exclusive to the location. The far-from-ordinary Northern Thai plates certainly aren't the Americanized cuisine you're used to in LA, so trust your gut and order whatever looks good. FYI: the fried chicken sandwich is a lunchtime hit.

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18. Eggslut 317 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90013 (Downtown)

Eggslut found a permanent home in Grand Central Market after carting around their in-demand goods for years. Building a bacon, egg, & cheese may not seem difficult, but building one as exceptional as Eggslut does is pure art. But really, nothing on this menu will let you down -- the line is worth it.

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19. Torta Company 735 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90017 (Downtown)

Brought to you by the Shaw Brothers, this Downtown spot specializes in Mexican sammies, with a number of options like the Papa Con Rajas (roasted poblano peppers, panela and Oaxaca cheese, pinto beans) and the Tinga de Setas (mushrooms, tomato-chipotle sauce, pinto beans, avocado, Oaxaca string cheese).

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