2. Italian-style ham & spicy salami panini
With a combo of lunch meats made infamous by Subway’s Italian BMT, expectations were not high for an item that could have tasted like hot dog burps in sandwich form. Much to our surprise, Starbucks really knocked it out of the park by coating some cold cuts with melty provolone, olive tapenade, and a dose of pickled peppers that are just the right mix of sweet and sour. The pepper mix reminded me of my favorite topping at Portland and Brooklyn’s Bunk, which is a compliment of the highest order for the sandwich savvy. Plus -- and this is big -- it’s a lot tidier and road-friendly than the drippy piles of grease you’d find at Big Sandwich Chain.
1. Chicken artichoke panini
The previous panini left me shrugging, but all is forgiven now that we know this sandwich exists. Rather than leaning on a salty sauce or some melted cheese to do the heavy lifting, the medley of ingredients -- a zesty pesto sauce melted over tender chicken breast and juicy artichoke hearts -- is damn near perfect. If this came in Hot Pocket form, I would invest in an industrial freezer chest just to keep a lifetime supply on hand. Conversely, the idea of a tapas bar selling this sandwich for $15 is totally within reason. Come to think of it, there’s probably a tapas bar in your city that’s nestled between a Starbucks and a yoga studio, and it’s my duty as a journalist to inform you that you needn’t travel any further than your local Starbucks to treat yourself to a fancy-ass sandwich like this one. Hell, you probably don’t even have to get out of your car. God bless America!