Much like humans and other creatures with opposable thumbs, sandwiches have evolved over the years. Where once they were simple vessels for silverware-free eating, they're now complex works of artistry, from the bread to the meat to the condiments. The list below contains a mix of legends and newcomers that represent the best bread-based delights in the US, culled from our nationwide network of hungry primates. The Earl of Sandwich would approve. So would Darwin… and not just because one of the spots is named after him.
One of the golden children of Portland's food cart-turned-restaurant revolution, Lardo's slogan is "bringing fat back," and holy shit it's not kidding. In-house meats dominate everything from the kimchee-packed Korean pork shoulder to the ham in the Cubano-inspired Don Johnson. Hell, even the dirty fries are loaded with crispy fat. The mainstays are great -- the subtly spicy pork meatball bánh mì is a standout and the lemon-smacked porchetta is a certified classic – though the sandwiches here rotate as often as the beer selection (which is often). Pray for a beefy Pho'rench dip with a side of hoisin-spiked broth or the Bronx Bomber, which ups the ante on Philly's finest with house-cured salami and -- gasp! --mayo. Even better, founder Rick Gencarelli lets a different big-shot chef design a sandwich each month for charity, offering yet another chance to play Russian roulette with your left ventricle in the best possible way.
The original location became a neighborhood hotspot (with a little boost from a certain frosted-tipped, Camaro-driving Food Network host) but sadly shuttered after a rent dispute. But Chicago still gets its fix for these torta-esque (but better!) sandwich sensations at the more recently opened outpost. And thank goodness, because the Cemitas Atomica is a study in sandwich perfection, with three kinds of pork (ham, guajillo-marinated loin, breaded cutlet), a generous helping of shredded Oaxacan cheese, creamy avocado, and just enough heat from the chipotle adobo sauce. Once it's nestled into one of the custom-baked rolls and hit with a squirt or two of the outstanding salsas, you'll understand how this Pueblan creation became a Chicago institution.
While Ann Arbor residents will go on all day about the (legit) greatness of beloved deli Zingerman's, it takes but one bite of a Mudgie's Brooklyn sandwich loaded with roasted brisket, Sriracha beer cheese, and maple-glazed onions to crown the Corktown institution the king of Michigan sandwiches. In a town known for coneys, Mudgie's has been going full artisan, roasting its own corned beef for its take on the Reuben (onion bun > rye bread, though it has both) and getting everything it doesn't make itself from local vendors. This place keeps getting better, too: Mudgie's has even evolved into a legit beer bar and bottle shop with 100+ options in the eight years since opening, making what was once a powerhouse into a monster all its own. Your move, Ann Arbor.
Los Angeles, California
Tucked away from the head shops and tourists of Venice Beach, Travis Lett's Gjusta was originally conceived as a commissary kitchen for the owners' beloved Gjelina (they also love silent G's, apparently). That kind of explains why it's a bakery that also roasts meat, makes charcuterie, smokes fish, and kind of looks like a long, brightly lit culinary museum with glass cases full of tastiness. It'd be a sin if it didn't throw the glorious meats on display (and rotating on a spit) behind the counter into one of those lovely baguettes or between croissants. Luckily, it did, and with that was born some of the best sandwiches on the West Coast. You can build your own masterpiece with house mortadella or thin-shaved roast beef, or opt for a layered bánh mì with brisket. But the real move is the house-smoked and rotisserie butcher sandwiches. When you have prime rib this tender or porchetta that manages to symphonically explode with spices, juice, and a little crunch, all you need is a little olive oil, some horseradish, and salt & pepper to make a sandwich you won't forget. It's gdelicious. (Sorry.)
This charcuterie-centric offshoot of Paul Kahan's game-changing temple to all things pork, beer, and shellfish has become a destination in its own right. And while the gleaming case of finely butchered meats has quite a bit to do with that, the sandwich menu looms as the largest draw. Menu options tend to come and go, but the Parm #2 (with fried sage, nestled into a brioche bun) will make you rethink every chicken Parm you've ever had, with a chicken cutlet so beautifully crisp and juicy you'll wonder why these guys haven't opened a chicken joint yet. The Return of the Gyro's another favorite, turning the Greek (and Chicago) mainstay on its head by way of braised pork belly topped with raita and Calabrian chili vinaigrette. It's also likely they're planning another favorite that isn't on the menu yet -- you'll just have to keep going back. That shouldn't be an issue.
Look, we're not above eating a questionable gas station sandwich. But we never thought we'd find one of America's best sandwiches inside one until we got tipped off to Fast Gourmet. Ambience? Who needs it when you've got the Chivito: beef tenderloin, Black Forest ham, bacon, green olives, melty mozzarella, hard-boiled egg, lettuce, tomato, and a pepper-onion-garlic oil on a doughy roll baked on location. Meatball sandwiches -- which… maybe don't eat in the car -- pack a plate's worth of Angus and marinara into a garlic baguette, while fresh rotisserie chicken is served with apples and greens on brioche and haddock gets a bath in Yuengling batter before resting on a kaiser roll. Gas station fish should give you pause. But when you've got a hidden gem run by an Uruguayan diplomat's kids -- one of whom happened to train as a chef in Italy and France -- you maybe skip the Slim Jims.
Brooklyn, New York
Dressed in clean white tiles and sky-blue accents, the nautically themed Saltie may look like a primo specimen of Brooklyn twee from the outside, and that's because it is. But here's the rub: Chef Caroline Fidanza is a badass who makes some of the biggest, best, and messiest sandwiches in the entire world, and she does it all using mostly -- GASP -- vegetables. Granted, there are a few meaty bites on the menu (mortadella, chicken liver pâté, ham, even sardines), but the real move here is to go with one of the funky vegetarian sandwiches, like the Scuttlebutt, a seemingly unholy amalgam of eggs, feta, capers, olives, pickled veggies, and spicy pimentón aioli on perfectly fluffy focaccia, which -- if it doesn't convert you into a believer -- will at least preach you the gospel.
Atlantic City, New Jersey
With a history that spans 60 years and a line that often spans 60 people, White House is a veritable Atlantic City institution, and has been since 1946. The traditional, tough-guy Italian subs were apparently a favorite of Mr. Sinatra himself, who would send a lucky lackey down from NYC just to pick some up for him. The original sub shop's still standing (it outlived the second location in Taj Mahal when Trump went to a White House with far fewer cold cuts) and is still serving the perfect stacks of capicola, provolone, salami, and chili peppers. Or be a little unorthodox and give the cheesesteak a try. Just go in armed with the knowledge of what you're getting into -- the "half" sandwich is bigger than just about any whole sandwich you've ever eaten. So, you know... get the whole sandwich, then work it off on the boardwalk.
New York City
There perhaps is no shop that embodies the attitude of New York better than Alidoro. The bread is great and the ingredients top-notch, but it's also delightfully stubborn and unapologetic in its refusal to cater to substitutions. You want mayo on your sandwich? Too bad, because it doesn't have it. And there are plenty of slightly aggressive signs on the walls telling you as much. But who cares when you have 40 or so outstanding Italian-leaning sandwich options that keep the lunch crowds lining up. None of them are fussy and most tend to have five ingredients or fewer, among them the Pinocchio sandwich with prosciutto, soppressata, fresh mozzarella, sweet roasted peppers, and olive paste. Boom. Lunch. No questions asked. Or welcome, really.
The next time you're in Philly, don't settle for a cheesesteak. There's a reason DiNic's -- home to a family that's been butchering meat and shaping the city’s culinary landscape for decades -- had its roast pork named the best sandwich in America by the Travel Channel… and it's not for its Sly Stallone impressions. A master of thick cuts of meat in Philly's crowded Reading Terminal Market, DiNic's takes the family’s butchering past and brings it to modern Philly. We're talking about the classic Philly roast pork. Roast beef. Massive homemade meatballs. Thick Italian sausage. Not a lot of frills here -- just some rabe and some provolone and zero bullshit. With a century of preparing meat for the City of Brotherly Love and half a century of putting said meat into fresh bread, DiNic's knows what it has is special and it does its best not to mess with it.
Founded in 2012 by an aspiring lawyer who traded tort reform for torta reform (sorry, we had to), East Hampton has slowly expanded across Dallas-Fort Worth, Southlake, and Plano, spreading the gospel of farm-to-bread sandwich-making. Southern fried chicken is a star here, showing up in cordon bleu form as well as in a sandwich loaded with avocado mash, pepper Jack, greens, and cured bacon with a jalapeño cream sauce. That New England mentality shows up in crabcakes and a lobster grilled cheese loaded with an unholy blend of havarti and American cheese. Also, there are actually no tortas. Sorry we lied. Hopefully you're too full to hold it against us.
To understand the appeal of Chacarero you have to understand the traditional Chilean sandwich and namesake of this Boston staple. Born out of a simple pushcart by Chilean native Juan Hurtado, Chacarero might appear to be some basic chain restaurant from the outside, with its gaudy glowing sign and super-clean aesthetic -- but it is an incredibly legit purveyor of Chilean food, mostly thanks to its eponymous sandwiches. There are many things on the menu at Chacarero (including some wonderful empanadas), but you will NOT order them. You will order the chacarero or forever regret it. It starts with fresh, pillow-soft homemade round bread coupled with tender grilled steak or chicken (get both, obviously). Then it adds fresh tomatoes, steamed green beans, and Muenster cheese before topping it off with avocado and a spicy, peppery secret sauce. The origins may be South American, but this joint is all Beantown. The place delivers a South American classic to a Boston constituency that just eats it up. No easy feat in old-school New England. Thus is the power of the Chilean sandwich.
Making perhaps the best Cubano in Miami means this tiny, cramped Edgewater institution perhaps makes the best version of the sandwich in the US. So this is gonna sound weird: Consider skipping it in favor of the medianoche with ham, pork, cheese, pickles, and mayo on sweet egg dough bread, which will forever make you question other similar sandwiches. Or the Cuban chicken sandwich stacked with lettuce, tomato, shoestring potatoes, and grilled onions. Actually, just maybe grab them all, and do it before the place closes at 4pm (get there early… there will be a line). Don't skimp on the thick batidos milkshakes loaded with fresh fruit. Just because you're near the beach doesn't mean you need to take your shirt off, right?
Millburn, New Jersey
In a state practically drowning in a sea of mom-and-pop delicatessens -- each one claiming to be the sandwich king of New Jersey -- Millburn Deli has crafted a legacy that stretches far beyond the Garden State lines. When you go to Millburn Deli, a tiny storefront on the ground floor of what could easily be your grandma's house, you definitely go for the sandwiches it's been slinging since 1947. And even though the shop changed hands in the early '90s, the Fluke family has upheld the deli's tradition as a place for consistent local cheer and even more consistent(ly delicious) Sloppy Joes. Now, these probably aren't the "Sloppy Joes" that conjure images of lunch lady Doris slapping ground beef and tomato sauce into a kaiser roll. They're triple-decker sandwiches stuffed with various combos of turkey, corned beef, roast beef, Virginia ham, and pretty much every other meat variation known to man... or at least Jersey. But if that's not your style (for some reason?), you can opt for one of the grillers like the aptly named Godfadda, which pairs stereotypical Jersey ingredients (mozzarella cheese, Russian dressing, chicken cutlet) with a stereotypical Jersey accent. Who cares. Fugetaboutit. It's delicious.
When you name a sandwich shop Duckfat, you better bring the quack. And don't you worry, the duck is brought inside a cozy, brick-walled 25-seater. James Beard Award-winning chef Rob Evans and his wife Nancy Pugh have been supplying Portland, Maine's finest sandwiches, Belgian fries, and even dessert with a duck bent. Don't you dare start your meal without a melt-in-your-mouth duck confit panini on fresh-baked bread -- depending on the season, it can be piled high with kimchee or pickled apple and shaved kohlrabi. Or go with the BGT with bacon, local goat cheese, and tomato. Pair either of those with hand-cut, crispy-as-hell, duck fat-blasted fries made with Maine potatoes. Dip 'em in the house-made Thai chili mayo for a hint of heat. The only way to finish the meal is with an order of delightfully light donut holes, which are covered in cinnamon sugar and meant to be dipped in -- you guessed it -- a duck fat/caramel sauce.
These days, every other sandwich shop seems to have an upscale take on the bánh mì, loaded with organic this and that and topping out above $10. And while that's great, we're of the mind that a great Vietnamese sandwich should skip the frills and never top out above $5. At this strip-mall classic in the OC -- far from the Mischa Bartons of the world -- ultra-fresh bread is loaded with the classic pink-hued pork, smashed meatballs, and a garden's worth of thin-sliced carrots and greens for $3.25. That bread's flakiness, and the lightness of one of America’s best takes on Viet street food, leave plenty of room for steamed buns and croissants. Because this is the OC, this spot will also convert your pork roll into a wrap. Maybe don’t do that though. Save that for a bougie knockoff joint charging $10. Here, $10 gets you three incredible sandwiches, with a little change for an iced coffee.
Cleveland's in the midst of a restaurant renaissance, with chefs like Jonathon Sawyer and Michael Symon upping the culinary game and locally wrought chains like grilled cheese oasis Melt popping off. But at Slyman's, nothing has changed in five decades. Nothing has needed to. The joint has stood tall among old-school New York-style delis since owner Freddie Slyman's folks opened the doors to the no-frills diner back in 1963. Salt-smacked corned beef is stacked 6in high on two slices of rye on a sandwich that would give the cats at Katz's pause, while hot brisket makes a similar tower, though we'd be lying if we didn't say it somehow becomes better when given the Reuben treatment. And yes, the pastrami would make a New Yorker's knees buckle. Some say Cleveland's changing. We say it's just catching up with what Slyman's has been doing all along.
San Francisco, California
Hidden away in a pint-sized hole-in-the-wall in San Francisco, Darwin's small interior belies the huge sandwiches within. Tender and supremely thin-cut, the legendary roast beef is piled high with the complementary veggie du jour, which in some cases is arugula and tomato jam and in others is caramelized onions, peppers, and mushrooms. This is a favorite place for telecommuters and slackers alike to camp out with a laptop, so don't feel too bad about sticking around to savor lunch. Especially since that might mean your belly settles enough to house a Reuben with house pastrami or the smoked salmon with herb cream cheese and sweet onion. Your stomach will thank you. Your breath, not so much.
Charleston, South Carolina
The original BYOB joint in Charleston has evolved into a full-fledged Southern dining experience, but it still makes the city's finest sandwiches, still served up on a tray, fine-dining traditions be damned! The menu, scrawled on a chalkboard, is constantly changing depending on the region's local offerings, but always features innovative creations such as the chicken shawarma, which transplants an entire platter of Tony Stark's go-to post-battle meal into gyro form, complete with spicy yogurt and Israeli relish. Traditional roast beef gets fancified with smoked onion jam and miso mayo, while the place even gives vegetarians a taste of Carolina BBQ courtesy of a BBQ-loaded pulled squash loaded onto a sourdough hoagie. Even better, B&B now has a Nashville location, meaning one more opportunity to get a fix.
Mario Batali straight-up loves this place, but that's kind of a given because his dad runs it. We'd wager, though, that even if the place were run by his worst enemy, he, like all of us, would be enamored with the church of meat Armandino built. Naturally, the little Pioneer Square shop offers a wide assortment of house-cured meats -- from hot soppressata to a variation kissed with mole – but that's just the basics. In addition to an extra-Italian take on NOLA's muffaletta, there's the explosively messy meatball Parm and the grilled lamb with roasted peppers. But never mind all that. Get the porchetta, a tender and crispy slice of garlic-bathed pork butt stuffed with herbs and a meatball mix that's jammed into a bun. It is perhaps the best in the country, after all, and you can always get some salumi packed to go for future sandwich adventures at home.
Back in 2010, the sandwich shop once called Noble Pig put NW Austin on the food map with its homemade loaves and house-cured meats. But one restaurant could not sustain the city's desire for salty duck pastrami Reubens and crispy oyster po-boys. Now, two locations are packed with folks eager for a taste of Noble's wares, from the signature seared beef tongue layered with smoked green onions and a red pepper zip to the sweet mustard-covered fried bologna and the chorizo-and-egg sandwich whose cumin kick and relative lack of grease have made it the city's top breakfast sandwich. The addition of a new location has certainly reduced the need to drive an hour, as some are wont to do. And that's a great thing, because you're gonna be better off taking a nap than getting behind the wheel after this feast.
When chef David Mitchell opened his deli in 2008, he completely ran out of food on the first day. East Nashville, it seems, was hungry for all-natural, all-delicious ingredients made into beautiful sandwiches. In the ensuing near-decade, the market/restaurant has become an institution thanks to offerings like the now-legendary Asian flank steak, the clear breakout of the menu that went from a Monday-only special to a daily essential loaded with giardiniera and provolone. The spot also offers favorites like braised turkey & Brie with jalapeño cranberry relish, apples, and mustard on a hoagie and a monster of a smoked BBQ brisket, but it also caters to vegetarians, with options ranging from classic Caprese to barbecue tofu with avocado, sprouts, pickled cucumber, and house-made sesame ginger dressing.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Everyone knows the muffaletta is the king of New Orleans sandwiches (don't tell po-boys we said that). What is up for debate, however, is which place in New Orleans serves the finest specimen of this gargantuan stack of mortadella, salami, mozzarella, ham, olive tapenade, and provolone on a sesame-topped loaf. Well, Central Grocery may be the original, but the debate ends at Beard-winning chef Donald Link's Cochon Butcher, a wine bar/butcher counter combo that's got the city's best sandwich menu, muffaletta or otherwise (bacon melt, anyone?). Nothing can compare to the freshness of CB's house-cured meats, cheese, spicy olives, and soft, gloriously chewy bread. Geaux the minute you get to the city, and geaux often.
Ryan Santwire now runs three versions of his snack shack in Seattle, and after 21 years the lauded Caribbean destination doesn't need big-ass signage to be identified. You'll immediately be drawn to it -- like a less pervy Pepe Le Pew -- by intoxicating smells of caramelized onions and slow-roasted pork wafting out of the building and washing over the inevitable line outside. Sure, you might sit sandwich-less for up to an hour, but something this delicious is absolutely worth it. Try the Caribbean roast with marinated, fall-apart-tender pork shoulder, aioli, cilantro, and romaine lettuce on a sturdy Giuseppe roll that keeps half the meal from spilling onto your lap. Pair it with a Rainier (the Pacific NW's homegrown answer to PBR) and corn on the cob and it’ll be just like you're in the Caribbean. Except, you know, for all the rain and hipsters.
New Orleans, Louisiana
In sandwich-rich New Orleans, the argument over which place claims po-boy superiority can go on for days. But let's be frank here: Domilise's is very likely the best in the city, which places it among the best damn sandwiches in the country. The Uptown spot -- set up in an boxy, inconspicuous building with a bar and a full view of the owners working the fryer -- will very certainly have a line, but for once that line is well-earned, considering each and every shrimp or oyster po-boy is fried to order, and to perfection. The place even helps you avoid a difficult choice by letting you go half shrimp and half oyster on the same bun (you could also get catfish or roast beef, but trust us, it's shrimp/oyster FTW). Don't skimp on spicy house-made ketchup. Some may say it's not traditional. Those people are idiots: This place has been going for a century. At this point, everything here is a tradition.
Justin Brunson, the chef behind Masterpiece Deli, also owns one of Denver's most important restaurants (the acclaimed Old Major), and his culinary talents are equally showcased at this humble deli. One of the major feats of this Mile High shop is its versatility. The menu features a mouthwatering 12-hour-braised beef brisket smothered in a rich Taleggio fondue and served on a baguette. And damn it if Masterpiece's bland-as-hell-sounding roasted vegetable sandwich isn't one of the best sandwiches you'll ever eat, too. The flavors of the fresh zucchini, wild mushrooms, and piquillo peppers mesh gloriously with the hummus, a zesty tomato tapenade, and aged provolone on a baguette. Though the Cubano -- loaded with Black Forest ham and brined mojo pork and glued together with melted Swiss -- might be enough to tempt even the president of PETA over to the dark side.
Is anyone really surprised that one of the country's best pizza makers also serves up next-level sandwich action? At Pane Bianco, James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Bianco makes sandwiches with only one kind of bread, and boy what a bread it is -- a foccacia that's crispy and glistening with olive oil on the outside, pillow soft on the inside. Each sandwich -- only available at lunchtime -- is made on split focaccia, which is baked to order in the restaurant's wood-fired oven. The sandwiches are then topped with ingredients like house-made mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes, and cured meats like soppressata and locally sourced chicken salad (keep an eye on the ever-changing specials board, too). While you can't get the focaccia sandwiches at dinner, the shop does make a range of Chef Bianco's famous pizzas. If you're really in the mood for a sandwich after lunch, you can just kind of fold the pizza in half and pretend.
For 60+ years, Minnesotans have been flocking to this iconic market for meaty European delights like fresh kielbasa and bratwurst. But according to Twin Cities resident/international TV food guy Andrew Zimmern, many people don't know you can go there, order a house-made griddled Polish sausage with peppers and onions, and dine in. Now you know. When you walk in, hang a left and sidle up to the cafeteria-style counter. Pregame with a cabbage roll (holubets if you're nasty), and let the paprika-seasoned combo of rice, beef, and pork mingle with the tomato cream sauce for a savory, delicious bite. After you're done eating every last bit of the sauerkraut on the side, consider a corned beef Reuben or a smoked pulled pork sandwich. But part of the beauty of Kramarczuk's is ordering something you'd be hard-pressed to find elsewhere, like the house-made krakowska, a garlic-spiked ham lunchmeat on Polish rye with lettuce, tomato, onion, and havarti.
The name appropriately translates to "Super Bread," but this isn't a list of the best bread-makers in America. Luckily, what's inside that delectable bread's also, well, super. The shop -- technically a "sandwich bar" from ATL darling chef Hector Santiago -- is a packed 20-seat destination within Atlanta's popular Ponce City Market, where it serves a steady stream of pan-Latin sandwiches all made on house-baked breads. The standout here is an extra-meaty riff on a classic Cubano. The sandwich comes piled high with roasted pork, ham, and salami and is pressed like a panini until super-hot and melty. There's also a sub roll packed with crispy chicharrones, clove-roasted ham, and adobo pork. But it's not all Wilbur's nightmare. The place does a wonderful vegetarian riff on that Cubano with adobo-roasted veggies. And don't skip on the desserts like steamed coconut buns and cookies, made with pork belly and bacon fat, respectively. So, um, yeah, maybe leave Wilbur at home.
What began as a porchetta-slinging cart in a sea of trailers recently transformed into an unorthodox BBQ joint in a wonderfully divey brick-and-mortar. While the place is blowing up as one of PDX's favorite BBQ shacks, it's remained committed to sandwiches, placing those beautiful meat oddities between house-made sourdough buns. The smoked pork shoulder -- pink-ringed like brisket, minus the burnt ends and fat -- comes either hit with slaw and BBQ or spiced up with vinegar-kissed greens. Beef belly holds its own tender court alongside pickle chips. But the greatest mutant BBQ concoction of all is the smoked fried chicken, which tastes like bacon and fried chicken had a lovechild, then gave it a bath in spicy mayo and jalapeño jelly. Pro tip: Go at happy hour and pair your sandwich with two ribs for $4 and add a tiny Mason jar whiskey sour.
St. Louis, Missouri
Not gonna lie. The temptation to put a fried brain sandwich from Schottzie's was strong (try it before you die!), but that's but one sandwich worth trying. Chalkboard-lined café Nora’s -- which looks like a coffee shop tucked amid the brick-faced buildings of the Dogtown neighborhood -- offers up about 20 bread-based arguments for its sandwich dominance. The best of the batch is the ultra-Midwesternly named For Pete's Sake, which pairs house-roasted applewood pork loin with bacon, applesauce, and a blanket of goopy Brie on a hoagie roll. There's also the Hangover Club, which counteracts a night in one of America's great drinking cities with smoked turkey, provolone, and salami. And lest you think this is but a carnivore's delight, there's a cheesesteak that ditches rib-eye for portobellos and a Reuben that subs pastrami for tomatoes yet somehow still tastes fantastic. So yeah, nothing here's as adventurous as fried brains, but you can save that for the night before, then work it off with a hot cup of soup and a hangover-busting taste of St. Louis comfort.
Brooklyn, New York
Longshoremen once frequented this Redhook sandwich shack -- opened by Italian immigrant Nicky Defonte in 1922 -- long before the waterside 'hood turned from windy no man's land to hipster playground. And the hulking sandwiches are still big enough to satisfy a gruff man o' the sea, even if the clientele is now cops and construction workers. The joint still opens at 6am when the move is its signature calorie bomb, the potatoes and egg sandwich, an intimidatingly thick mound of fluffy eggs and slips of starchy spuds. When lunch rolls around look to the Sinatra Special, which heaps rosy slices of roast beef with fried eggplant and mozz on a chewy sesame seed-studded hero. Or the Nicky Special -- named after the joint’s late, great patriarch -- which also deploys fried eggplant, along with thinly sliced salami, ham, capocollo, provolone, marinated mushrooms, and the signature "hot salad," a zippy mix of hot cherry peppers and pickled veg. Ahoy!
La Jolla, California
What was once a tiny fish shack founded and managed by teenage surfers -- seriously -- in Del Mar has over the course of 32 years evolved into one of the best markets in the seafood-crazed region. Now located on La Jolla's bustling Pearl St, Pescador's an upscale seafood market with communal tables lined up in full view of the fish you will soon be inhaling. And while San Diego's famous fish tacos are on offer, the move at this sunny joint is decidedly breadier: the seafood torta. As at taco trucks, shrimp reigns supreme, but you're best going big in the form of the namesake El Pescador, which loads half of Nemo's besties -- two kinds of shrimp, house-smoked salmon, and buttery Dungeness crab – into the place's signature sourdough bun. And yeah, the tacos are great too (so are entrees like grilled swordfish). But let's be real. You can get a great shrimp taco on every corner of SoCal. Dungeness crab tortas? Good luck, brah.
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1. Lardo1212 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland
2. Gjusta320 Sunset Ave, Venice
3. Mudgie's1300 Porter, Detroit
4. Publican Quality Meats825 W Fulton Market, Chicago
5. Fast Gourmet1400 W St NW, Washington
6. Saltie378 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn
7. Alidoro105 Sullivan St, New York
8. White House Sub Shop2301 Arctic Ave, Atlantic City
9. DiNic's1136 Arch St, Philadelphia
10. East Hampton Sandwich Co.6912 Snider Plaza, Dallas
11. Chacarero101 Arch St, Boston
12. Cemitas Puebla1321 E 57th St, Chicago
13. Enriqueta's Sandwich Shop186 NE 29th St, Miami
14. Millburn Deli328 Millburn Ave, Millburn
15. Saigon Bakery8940 Westminster Blvd, Westminster
16. Duckfat39 Middle St, Portland
17. Slyman's Restaurant3106 Saint Clair Ave NE, Cleveland
18. Darwin Cafe212 Ritch St, San Francisco
19. Salumi309 3rd Ave S, Seattle
20. Butcher & Bee654 King St, Charleston
21. Noble Sandwich Co.12233 620 N, Austin
22. Mitchell Delicatessen1306 Mcgavock Pike, Nashville
23. Pane Bianco4404 N Central Ave, Phoenix
24. Domilise's Po-Boys5240 Annunciation St, New Orleans
25. Cochon Restaurant930 Tchoupitoulas St, New Orleans
26. Masterpiece Kitchen84 Rampart Way, Denver
27. Kramarczuk's215 E Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis
28. Nora's1136 Tamm Ave, St. Louis
29. El Super Pan675 Ponce De Leon Ave, Atlanta
30. Paseo Caribbean Restaurant4225 Fremont Ave N, Seattle
31. The People's Pig3217 N. Williams Ave, Portland
32. El Pescador Fish Market634 Pearl St, La Jolla
With a motto like "Bringing Fat Back," Lardo promises some of Portland's most indulgently carnivorous sandwiches. The term "lardo" actually refers to a specific cut of fatback pork salami that's typically cured with rosemary and other herbs. In the spirit of artisanal salami-curing, this narrow red sandwich joint is all about repurposing traditional meat cuts and charcuterie in more contemporary iterations, as evidenced by the double burger topped with pork pastrami or the spicy meatball banh mi. Even the fries here are loaded with crispy fat and Parmesan. And because no plate of fatback is complete without a beer, Lardo has a rotating selection of craft beers on tap.
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.
This artisanal deli is a source of pride for Detroit natives, and it should be: nearly all the meats are roasted in-house and everything from soups, salad dressings, and ketchup is made from scratch. What isn't homemade is sourced from local vendors, and the result is hearty sandwiches like a Reuben on onion bread and the multi-meat Gutty packed with salami, pastrami, corned beef, bacon, and beef brisket. A formidable selection of craft beer, including local and imported bottles, makes Mudgie's a veritable Corktown hot spot for locals on the lunch prowl.
Publican Quality Meats is something of a triple threat: equal parts butcher shop, café, and speciality grocery store, it features an awe-inspiring selection of sausages and cured charcuterie meats, served individually from the butcher case or in sandwiches made with house-baked bread. The lunch menu is often changing, but the Parm #2 features a beautifully crisp chicken cutlet nestled into a brioche bun, while the sausage plate lets you sample three of the house-made specialities with sauerkraut and breadcrumbs. A breakfast menu includes ham and egg biscuit sandwiches and a pork belly breakfast burrito, though if you're in the mood for something less savory, there are pastries and coffee, too.
Sometimes lunchtime glory can be found in the most unexpected of places, and in Fast Gourmet's case, that's alongside a grungy gas station. Instead of cigarettes and lottery tickets, you'll find a counter serving Latin-influenced "urban street food," which means sandwiches like the Milanesa with New York strip, golden empanadas, and pulled pork with pineapple and lemongrass slaw. All the sandwiches come with a side of fries, and the only thing you have to pump is your ketchup.
You can get a sandwich at almost any bodega, but it’s hard to come by complex creations like the ones at Caroline Fidanza's nautical-themed hole-in-the-wall. Saltie's speciality is salt-dusted focaccia sandwiches filled with briny meats and pickled vegetables, but the all-day menu also includes house-made sweets like caraway and pumpkin seed oatmeal cookies and fruit galettes. Sandwich-wise, go for the Balmy, which tastes ethereal in any weather and is filled with a vinegary symphony of chicken liver pate, ham, jalapeños, pickled vegetables, and mayonnaise.
Originally founded in 1986 by sandwich boss Alessandro Gualandi, this Soho deli makes legendary Italian sandwiches. There are some 40 varieties on the menu, each named after Italian cultural icons from Mona Lisa to Valentino. Alidoro's greatness starts with the bread, which is soft and crunchy at the same time, then continues with a variety of cured, smoked, and roasted fillings. The staff is notorious for refusing substitutions, but we like to think the uncompromising attitude comes from a good place -- as in, they know what your tastebuds will like best. Just order the Pinocchio (prosciutto, soppressata, fresh mozzarella, sweet roasted peppers, olive paste) and you'll be fine.
There's no mistaking this Atlantic City deli's raison d'être: a giant sign above the 1940s corner diner displays a neon-lit sandwich above the words, "home of submarines." You're not just here for a legendary foot-long though, you're here for the Italian Sub. Layers of peppered salami, ham, and thick-sliced provolone join the requisite toppings of lettuce, tomato, onion, and hot pepper relish before the whole shebang is drizzled with oil and dusted with oregano. A half-sandwich could easily constitute a meal at White House, but get the whole one anyway.
This tourist lunch mecca in Reading Terminal Market is known for its butchered meat and lavish sandwiches that are worth the wait and the impending food coma. Hand-carved beef brisket, homemade Italian sausage, and giant meatballs all make DiNic's a haven for carnivores, but it's the massive roast pork and broccoli rabe sandwich served on a foot-long, warm Italian loaf that's won accolades (the Travel Channel once named it the best in America). The space is casual and unassuming in contrast to the food, which certainly makes a big deal of itself.
East Hampton Sandwich Co. has found a way to provide quality, hand-crafted food with the speed and efficiency of fast-food. The Dallas spot serves gourmet sandwiches, many of which are centered around the standout Southern fried chicken. An East Coast sensibility is seen in chowder and whoopie pies, plus sandwiches with appropriate fillings like crabcakes and lobster (the lobster grilled cheese with havarti and American cheese is probably the best grilled cheese you'll ever have). Every order comes with a pile of house-baked potato chips, but the menu offers a battery of sides as well. Don't sleep on the sweet potato fries.
Chacarero, a one-time food truck turned Downtown fast-casual counter, specializes in the eponymous traditional Chilean sandwich. The signature chacarero starts with house-made round bread and your choice of grilled steak or chicken (or both). The sandwich is then filled with Muenster cheese, tomatoes, steamed green beans (not a typo), hot sauce, and an avocado. Do as Bostonians do and get in line for the namesake sandwich... and order some empanadas on the side for good measure.
The Hyde Park outpost of Cemitas Puebla is the third Chicago installment of this family-owned Mexican spot that specializes in Poblano foods. Owner Tony Anteliz frequently visits Oaxaca for authentic Mexican cheese and other goods, and he crafts the signature Cemita sandwich with Krakus ham, guajillo-rubbed pork loin, and breaded pork milanesa, all topped with avocado, smoky chipotles, and Oaxacan string cheese. The joint's salsas and chipotles (made in-house) are not to be missed.
This Wynwood hole-in-the-wall has a well-deserved reputation for affordable and authentic Cuban sandwiches, most notably, the Cubano. The Miami (or Tampa, depending who you're talking to) -born sandwich is classically made with ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, and in a not-so-classic but welcome twist, croquettas. Other sandwiches are just as tempting, especially the medianoche, which replaces the Cubano's crusty bread with a challah-like sweet egg dough. Plastic seats and formica tabletops crowd the dining room, but if you're here solo, opt for a stool at the counter.
Millburn Deli has been holding down the fort as the best mom-and-pop delicatessen in Central Jersey since 1947. The tiny downtown storefront is packed at peak lunch hours with local families, and you can bet that one in every two orders is for a Sloppy Joe. Far from the soggy cafeteria classic, Millburn Deli's Sloppy Joe is a triple-decker sandwich stuffed with various combos of turkey, corned beef, roast beef, Virginia ham, and more meat variations. If you're looking for something (physically) lighter, the Turkey Trot, made with turkey, bacon, Russian dressing, and Swiss cheese on rye is a grilled delight.
Tucked into a bare-bones strip mall in Westminster, Saigon Bakery sits at a distance from the flurry of Asian restaurants in the OC, but gives most of them a run for their money with its beloved banh mi. Served on crusty baguettes (or fluffy round rolls) that are handmade fresh daily, these Vietnamese sandwiches are the stuff of legend here, drawing cars upon cars into the parking lot out front, full of eager customers who defend the succulent grilled pork as the area's best. What makes the banh mi even more revered are the cheap prices and Saigon's buy-two-get-one-free deal. There's Vietnamese iced coffee, Thai iced tea, and shakes (strawberry, avocado, and mocha) on the menu, too.
Helmed by James Beard Award-winning Chef Rob Evans, this cozy sandwich shop is known for its hand-cut, duck fat-fried fries, served either in a paper cone with house-made mayo, or as the base of artery-clogging, plate-licking poutine. You're not just here for the fries: Duckfat's sandwiches are just as crave-worthy. They change with the seasons but always feature locally sourced meats and vegetables. The duck confit sandwich, made with pickled apple, kohlrabi, and herb mayo is top-billing, as is the Cubano. Whatever bread-and-meat combo you choose, be sure to order a side of those fries.
Open since 1963, Slyman's is living proof that old-school New York-style delis exist -- and are doing more than fine -- beyond the confines of the Eastern seaboard. Salt-smacked corned beef is stacked 6in high on two slices of rye on a sandwich that would give the cats at Katz's pause, while hot brisket makes a similar tower, though we'd be lying if we didn't say it somehow becomes better when given the Reuben treatment. And yes, the pastrami would make a New Yorker's knees buckle.
This pint-sized SoMa hideaway doubles as one of San Francisco's best places to camp out with a laptop if you're lucky enough to score some real estate, and also as one of the best damn sandwich shops you'll find anywhere. Get the legendary roast beef, sliced impossibly thin and layered between buttery slices of bread with whatever the fresh veggie du jour may be, and you won't be disappointed.
Helmed by Marilyn and Armandino Batali (yes, as in Mario's parents), this contemporary incarnation of a traditional Italian salumeria prepares gourmet cured meats. Once a small neighborhood deli, Salumi has become a major contender in Seattle's culinary scene, selling individual orders of its artfully prepared products en masse in addition to filling wholesale orders for local restaurants. A partial open kitchen allows customers to watch the Batali family roll chorizo and prep specials like hand-pulled gnocchi. Hot and cold sandwiches, stuffed with the likes of sopressata and meatballs, are available to-go at the counter.
The Cannonborough/Elliotborough outpost of Butcher & Bee was the answer to locals' prayers when they could barely find the hidden Upper King original. Now, there's no wild goose chase necessary to settle into this expanded, country-chic spot that's considered the master of sandwiches in Charleston. The chalkboard menu is constantly changing based on farm-fresh regional offerings, but you'll always find inventive options with global and local influences. Chicken shawarma is served in gyro form with spicy yogurt and Israeli relish, while squash gets the barbecue treatment and is loaded onto a sourdough hoagie. The classic cheeseburger is a fan-favorite, too, made with two patties, American cheese, and secret sauce.
Noble Sandwich Co.'s commitment to "real food" means you'll never find anything on the menu made with boxed, canned, or pre-sliced ingredients. Sandwiches here are made purely with hand-crafted ingredients: bacon, chorizo, pickles, and bread are smoked, rolled, brined, and baked in-house, respectively. The shop opens in the morning to serve its fresh-baked biscuit sandwiches, then continues service throughout the day with savory options like the Noble Pig, a spicy ham, pulled pork, and bacon sandwich with provolone and mustard on thick-cut bread. If that triple-meat combo sounds too heavy, swap the yeasted book-ends for a lettuce wrap.
Sandwiches made with all-natural ingredients reign at this East Nashville deli, which sold out the first day it opened in 2008. The Asian flank steak -- a one-time special turned menu stalwart -- is a must-order stacked with giardiniera and provolone, while other favorites include a braised turkey & Brie hoagie with cranberry relish, apples, and mustard, and a smoked BBQ brisket number. Not to be forgotten about, vegetarians will find comfort in the classic Caprese or the barbecue tofu sandwich with house-made sesame ginger dressing.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that one of the best pizza-makers in the country -- James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Bianco -- also makes stand-out sandwiches with crispy, olive-oil-glistened focaccia, house-made mozzarella, and salty soppressata. Pane Bianco's sandwiches are only served during lunch; at dinner, they give way to red-sauce Italian entrées like lasagne, eggplant parmesan, and most importantly, Bianco's famed wood-fired pizzas.
Under the same family ownership for over 100 years, Domilise's is something of a New Orleans po-boy haven. Inside a boxy pale-yellow building and distinguished only by a hand-painted sign, Domilise's would be easy to miss if it weren't for the line that typically stretches out the door. The catfish and fried oyster po-boys are among the most popular items on the menu, but guests have the option to split their sandwiches half-and-half with other toppers like shrimp and roast beef. Half-shrimp and half-oyster on the same bun is the move, if you ask us.
Cochon is French for "oinker," meaning you should pig out on all things pork at this rustic-chic warehouse, such as an oyster bacon sandwich and fried boudin with pickled peppers. Situated on the corner of Tchoupitoulas and Andrew Higgins, Cochon has James Beard Award-winner Donald Link at the helm, who serves up traditional Cajun dishes from his childhood with an upscale twist using fresh local pork, produce, and seafood. Though pig is the name of the game here, some plates do stray from the pork-centricity, like rabbit livers with pepper jelly.
From Chef Justin Brunson of Masterpiece Deli, Old Major, and Royal Rooster comes Masterpiece Kitchen, a neighborhood restaurant in Lowry devoted to comfort. Local Colorado ingredient are sourced for his menu, which is chock-full of culinary creature comforts like kale and artichoke dip, a classic burger with McDonald’s-esque fries, and Key lime pie. Brunson also includes favorites from other endeavors, like Royal Rooster’s fried chicken sandwich served on the same squishy bun.
This Northeast mainstay has been cooking up Eastern European specialties for decades. It's both a Polish deli where you can pick up homemade sausages and imported goods, and a cafeteria-style restaurant serving traditional plates like hot bratwurst sandwiches with sauerkraut and pierogi-like varenyky dumplings. Don't overlook the beef, pork, and rice cabbage rolls.
This small, unassuming spot in Dogtown is home to some of St. Louis' best under-the-radar sandwiches. House-smoked meats serve as the base of popular sandwiches like For Pete's Sake, a sweet and savory layering of apple wood-smoked pork loin, caramelized onions, Brie, bacon, and cinnamon applesauce. Other sandwiches are named after various St. Louis neighborhoods, like The Hillsider, a salami, ham, and provolone sandwich that nods to The Hill's Italian legacy.
People were distraught when Chef Hector Santiago’s original Super Pan in Poncey-Highland closed, but fortunately, the sandwich shop was resurrected in Ponce City Market, where you can order Santiago's exceptional Cubano and similar Latin-inspired sandwiches that made the original so beloved. In addition to sandwiches and breads, the buzzy counter-serve offers beer, wine, and cocktails, plus baked-in-house desserts like chipotle chocolate chip cookies, Piggie Cookies (bacon fat shortbread with guava jelly), and flan with burnt sugar caramel.
A cash-only counter-serve in Fremont, Paseo has garnered a mass following thanks to authentic Caribbean food that's as vibrant as the salmon-and-teal shack itself. There are plenty of sandwiches and platters of roast chicken, grilled pork, and seared scallops to choose from, but without question, the thing to order is the Caribbean Roast, a tender sandwich overflowing with slow-roasted pork shoulder coated in a garlicky aioli and topped with cilantro, pickled jalapeños, and caramelized onions. The lightly toasted baguette soaks up only so much of all the rich juices, so prepare to get a little messy. There aren't many tables, so eat quickly and relinquish your seat to the next crazed customer.
Housed inside a weathered shack in Eliot, The People's Pig serves near-sinful barbecue, including a next-level smoked fried chicken sandwich that requires you wear anything but white. The crispy-skinned chicken thighs are smoked to perfection and coated in a house-made jalapeño jelly that you'll want to lick every last dollop of and jar for yourself. While this hefty creation is the star (did we mention it's served on charred sourdough?), there are plenty of pig-centric options too, like baby back ribs and pork shoulder. Meat isn't everything here though, considering the cast-iron cornbread trickled with honey will visit your dreams for nights to come.
Dress in your finest beach-casual attire and head to El Pescador Fish Market, a local La Jolla seafood market and restaurant that's been around since 1974. El Pescador is known for its fish sandwiches, made with your choice of fresh seafood (options include local swordfish, calamari, and sea bass) and served on a toasted torta roll. Its seafood "burros" -- aka burritos -- are also noteworthy, especially when filled with yellowtail & squid. Whole fish is also available to-go, as are seafood cocktails, oyster platters, and sashimi plates.