Food & Drink

The 19 Iconic Sandwiches Every New Yorker Needs to Eat

Updated On 03/10/2017 at 12:48PM EST Updated On 03/10/2017 at 12:48PM EST
Parm
Cole Saladino/Thrillist
Mamoun's Restaurant

Falafel sandwich

Mamoun's Falafel

Address and Info

Multiple locations

Mamoun’s has been open since the early ‘70s and remains a staple among the late-night NYU crowd and Village lunchers alike for good reason: Both NYC locations are open until 5am on the weekends, and at just $3.50, the warm pita sandwich stuffed with perfectly crispy falafel, vegetables, and just the right amount of hummus or tabbouleh is one of the cheapest and most filling meals you can get in New York.

Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Chairman Bao

Baohaus

Address and Info

East Village

Eddie Huang’s bao-centric restaurant is the prototypical new-school New York sandwich joint: Hip-hop blares over the speakers, the walls are littered with stickers, and the staff is dressed to appear on a street-style blog. There are several different types of “bao” (steamed bun) sandwiches on the menu -- all of which are extremely portable and perfect for on-the-go dining -- but the Chairman Bao is by far the best: an open­-faced bao filled with tender and fatty pork belly, topped with Haus Relish, crushed peanuts, and Taiwanese red sugar.

The Bomb

Sal, Kris & Charlie's Deli

Address and Info

Astoria

The Bomb is iconic simply because of how incredibly massive it is. The foot-long sandwich from this no-frills Astoria deli combines the full spectrum of Italian and American deli meats and cheeses: pepperoni, ham, salami, turkey, mortadella, American, Swiss, and provolone, along with vegetables. You’ll likely have to wait on line to try it, but for a hero the size of the thick part of a baseball bat (for just over $8), it’s worth it.

Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Lobster roll

Luke’s Lobster

Address and Info

Multiple locations

If you’re looking for a moved-to-NYC-and-actually-made-it story, it doesn’t get much better than Luke’s: an investment banker quits his job to start a hole-in-the-wall Maine lobster-roll shack in the East Village that, eight years later, is worth over $8 million and has over two dozen shops around the States and in Japan. While other lobster rolls in the city err on the fancier side (including a hefty price tag), the beauty of Luke’s is in its simplicity: just a split-top hot dog bun, a smidge of mayo, a few spices, and a quarter pound of high-quality Maine lobster claw meat.

Courtesy of Mile End Deli

Smoked meat sandwich

Mile End Delicatessen

Address and Info

Multiple locations

Mile End Deli doesn’t fit into a neat category; it’s non-kosher Jewish French-Canadian comfort food with a hipster twist. The specialty here is the Montreal-style smoked meat (think less-fatty pastrami made from a kind of brisket popularized by Canadian Jews), which gets sandwiched between two slices of rye bread and topped simply with mustard.

Noah Fecks

Pulled Duroc pork

Num Pang

Address and Info

Multiple locations

Num Pang’s affordable Khmer-esque sandwiches have bred six locations in New York City since the very first opened in 2009. The secret is the sandwiches’ all-encompassing flavor, from the savory-sweet taste of the meat to the bitter flavor of the pickled vegetables to the spicy Sriracha topped off with a hint of cilantro. Eastern and Western flavors are combined for the Pulled Duroc Pork sandwich, which features tender, marinated Western-style BBQ pulled pork resting inside a pickled vegetable-laden Eastern bánh mì-style baguette drizzled with Sriracha.

Nicky Special

Defonte’s of Brooklyn

Address and Info

Red Hook

Defonte’s is one of the city’s most hardened Italian delis. The Red Hook sandwich shop was founded in 1922, when the neighborhood was one of the city’s most violent (that same year, 13 residents died from drinking poisonous moonshine, and several people were gunned down on the streets). Despite the tumultuous backdrop, Defonte’s kept serving its famed Nicky Special: an enormous hero piled with a trinity of ham, salami, and capocollo; slabs of super thin, super-crispy fried eggplant; and provolone, topped with Defonte’s signature “house salad” (a mix of hot peppers, oregano, and pickled vegetables).

Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Chicken Parm

Parm

Address and Info

Multiple locations

Parm took a classic Italian-American red sauce dish and turned it into hip, high-end comfort food. Its rendition falls somewhere perfectly between home-style and sophisticated, with a sizable chicken cutlet that’s lightly breaded and fried, then topped with lots of mozzarella, tomato sauce, and a thin layer of basil leaves on a soft semolina roll.

Bastirma with labne

Kalustyan's Deli

Address and Info

Murray Hill

Way before Murray Hill was saturated with post-college lax bros, there was Kalustyan’s Deli. Founded in 1944, this humble Armenian sandwich shop has managed to maintain its integrity for over nearly three-quarters of a century, despite massive changes to the neighborhood since. There are several types of traditional Mediterranean fillings to add to your pita here, but the bastirma with labne is by far the best, combining thin-sliced salt-cured beef and creamy labne inside a warm pocket.

The Meatball Shop

Classic beef sliders

Meatball Shop

Address and Info

Multiple locations

Seven years and seven locations later, the Meatball Shop’s simple conceit still works. Of all the different ways the menu lets you consume meatballs, the classic beef sliders are by far the best. The balls combine traditional beef meatball ingredients with mortadella and carrots and get topped with your choice of sauce (go for the tangy classic tomato) inside small toasted buns.

Everything bagel with Nova lox and scallion cream cheese

Ess-a-Bagel

Address and Info

Multiple locations

This original Gramercy Ess-a-Bagel was the epitome of the New York City bagel shop -- no toasting, no eggs, and an inevitable hour-long line on weekend mornings. While that location is now gone -- and its two others (one in Midtown East and a new one in Gramercy) are a bit more relaxed than their predecessor -- the bagels remain the city’s very best. They're perfectly dense with a crunchy exterior, chewy interior, and just a little bit of saltiness, and are made all the better when smeared with homemade scallion cream cheese and loaded with fresh Nova lox.

Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Burnt ends sandwich

Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque

East Village

Mighty Quinn’s began with a humble booth at the 2012 summer Smorgasburg, asking people if they’d prefer a lean or fatty piece of brisket. Despite such a naïve question (always go fatty), the Carolina/Texas mix found its way into the hearts of New Yorkers and has since expanded into a half-dozen locations throughout the city. Its trademark meat is its burnt ends, which are the crispiest, fattiest, most heavily seasoned parts of the brisket. For the burnt ends sandwich, the meat gets coated in a sweet and vinegary house sauce and topped with coleslaw and pickles inside a dense, fresh-baked bun.

Thanksgiving Sandoo

The Cinnamon Snail

Address and Info

Multiple locations

New Yorkers have little patience for anything, especially waiting in long lines in Midtown during a lunch break. Still, the Cinnamon Snail’s original vegan truck (now supplemented with an outpost inside the Pennsy) constantly produces lines over an hour long, filled with vegans and non-vegans alike. The Thanksgiving Sandoo is the perfect explanation for this phenomenon: While so much vegan food attempts to mimic meat, the Sandoo succeeds at surpassing it. The combination of porcini mushroom-simmered seitan, orange cranberry relish, marinated kale, and rosemary parsnip bread pudding is arguably better than the real post-Turkey Day leftovers.

Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Gaspe Nova smoked salmon, cream cheese, tomatoes, onions, and capers on a bagel

Russ & Daughters

Address and Info

Lower East Side

There’s a reason why tourists and locals alike line up for hours for a bagel with lox from this 100-plus-year-old appetizing shop. While Ess-a-Bagel can claim the city’s best bagel, no bagel shop in the city rivals the quality of the Russ & Daughters’ Gaspe Nova smoked salmon, the height of smoked seafood in New York. The nova has a little extra fat, a little less smoke, and is the perfect complement to R&D’s homemade cream cheese.

Gregorio

Alidoro

Multiple locations

Open only for lunch (or until it runs out of bread), Alidoro has spent 30+ years building a reputation for not tolerating picky customers -- that means you get what’s on the menu, no substitutions (add-ons have only recently become available, along with hot heroes). There are over 20 sandwiches available at each of the shop’s three locations, but the Gregorio from the shop’s Midtown location is the one to get. The spicy sandwich (one of the first hot heroes introduced last year) features hot sopressata, hot peppers, and a hot spread, along with fresh mozzarella to balance things out a bit. While you can choose from several types of bread, the Gregorio is best suited for the crunchy whole wheat.

The Pavarotti

Mike’s Deli

Address and Info

Arthur Ave

While Arthur Ave may be a shadow of its former self, with its shrinking Italian population, there are still plenty of old-school gems like Mike’s standing proudly. Family-owned and operated inside the Arthur Avenue Retail Market since the ‘50s, Mike’s is known for its wide selection of imported Italian goods (pastas, cheeses, meats, and sauces), as well as its massive deli menu, featuring everything from fried ravioli to shrimp stuffed bread. The hallmark of Mike’s menu, though, is its enormous heroes, including the Pavarotti, with smoked prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, and Neapolitan-style eggplant.

Chicken Parm

Tino’s Delicatessen

Address and Info

Arthur Ave

While Mike’s lays claim to the perfectly made classic Neapolitan-style eggplant, Tino’s, the other iconic deli of Arthur Ave -- which also has a substantial sandwich roster -- holds the title for essential old-school chicken Parm. Over 50 years of recipe perfecting has yielded a wonderfully messy hero stuffed with tender chicken strips doused in homemade tomato sauce and lots of fresh mozzarella.

Gabriel Estabile

The Koreano

Fuku

East Village

David Chang's fast-casual chicken sandwich shop may be inspired by Chick-fil-A, but the sandwiches here are a far cry from the chain's dried-out chicken patties. For the standard spicy fried chicken sandwich, Chang uses a tender, habanero-spiced fried chicken thigh that’s approximately three sizes too large for its bun. But it’s the Koreano sandwich that really stands out, enhancing the classic chicken sandwich recipe by adding bitter daikon radish and the spicy ssäm sauce, made from gochujang.

Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Pastrami on rye

Katz’s Delicatessen

Address and Info

Lower East Side

Katz’s may be touristy and overpriced, but the deli’s pastrami on rye is about as “old New York” as it gets. Aside holding down its corner of the Lower East Side since 1888 (when it was known as “Iceland Brothers”) and serving the only sandwich ever associated with an orgasm (thank you, When Harry Met Sally), Katz’s can also still claim some of the finest pastrami in the city thanks to a secret combination of spice rub and wood chips used for the smoking process. A 2in-thick stack of that pastrami gets sandwiched between two slices of rye bread with just a touch of Dijon mustard.

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1. Mamoun's Falafel 119 Macdougal St, New York, NY 10012 (Greenwich Village)

Mamoun's is the premier Greenwich Village spot for 3am falafel. On weekends, the place is open as late as 5am, serving rowdy throngs of post-bar millennials, and hungry sleepless locals, alike. Open since 1971, the Manhattan mainstay has become something of a staple, consistently dishing out high quality Middle Eastern food with rapid-fire service. The standout item on the menu is the pita sandwich, stuffed with warm falafel and fresh veggies, and coated in tahini sauce, while the bread pockets can be stuffed with shawarma or chicken kebab, instead. The house-made tabouli and baba ganouj are vegetarian delicacies, the hummus is expertly spiced, and while you await your home-ward bound Uber in the fast-casual, hole-in-the-wall eatery, the baklava is well worth a try.

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2. BaoHaus 238 E 14th St, New York, NY 10003 (East Village)

The incomparable Eddie Huang's shaking things up at the EVill follow-up to his smash hit BaoHaus, not only adding to the menu, but also upping the kitchen equipment (Actual gas! A real fryer!), going large enough to accommodate dining tables in addition to counter seating by the open kitchen, and throwing up a "Great Wall of Chinamen" mural featuring everyone from Confucius, to Connie Chung, to Gizmo, to a Dance Dance Revolution machine.

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3. Sal, Kris & Charlie's Deli 33-12 23rd Ave, Astoria, NY 11105 (Astoria)

Dubbed the "Sandwich King of Astoria," this old-school deli is known for their stacked Italian subs, which may or may not strain your jaw. Worth it.

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4. Luke's Lobster 93 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009 (East Village)

Long before Luke's Lobster became a national chain, it was a tiny seafood shack in the East Village. The original location serves the chilled lobster rolls that made the New England-inspired counter-serve so damn popular -- as well as crab rolls, shrimp rolls, and sides. If you really want a taste of Luke's, order the Taste of Maine combo, which includes half-portions of the aforementioned rolls (all served on buttered and toasted split-top buns), crab claws, chips or slaw, a pickle, and a (non-alcoholic) drink. The shop's small size makes it conducive to take out, but there are a few stools.

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5. Num Pang Sandwich Shop 28 E 12th St, New York, NY 10003 (Union Square)

"Num pang" is the Cambodian version of a sandwich like a bahn mi, and this location of the local chain is serving 'wiches loaded with five spice glazed pork belly, coconut tiger shrimp, or hoisin meatballs. This dependable lunch spot is not only affordable, but a great deal more flavorful than most other sandwich spots on the block.

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6. Defonte's Sandwich Shop 379 Columbia St, Brooklyn, NY 11231 (Gramercy)

This family-owned sandwich shop has been in the biz since 1922 and serves up beautifully breaded creations like the Valentino with fried eggplant, provolone & roasted peppers, and their version of the Cuban, with roast pork, Virginia ham, swiss, and pickles, served up on garlic bread.

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7. Parm 248 Mulberry St, New York, NY 10012 (Nolita)

This Italian-American restaurant from the Torrisi crew serves rich but simple veal, chicken, and eggplant parm, in sandwich or platter form. Parm's menu reads like a "best of" list of red sauce classics, featuring clams casino, mozzarella sticks, penne pomodoro, and of course, giant meatballs. The Nolita spot is small and cozy with a long bar in front and small tables in the back, but take-out is available if you'd rather eat your sauce-drenched hero in the privacy of your own living room...or cubicle.

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8. Kalustyan's Deli 123 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016 (Murray Hill)

Located above a furiously authentic grocery/spice-market, Kalustyan’s seems almost out of place in the frat party of Murray Hill. Doesn't stop it from being a magical deli, though, where many a Westerner consumes his or her first (and often not last) combination of bastirma and labne.

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9. The Meatball Shop 84 Stanton St, New York, NY 10002 (Lower East Side)

This Lower East Side location has all the same bells and whistles as the other locations. Make sure everyone orders different types of meatballs so you can all try the beef, chicken, and even the vegetarian meatballs. You can also opt for your own. In that case we recommend the beef meatball smash with spicy meat sauce.

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10. Ess-a-Bagel 831 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10022 (Midtown)

Ess-a-Bagel is known for its deliciously dense, hand-rolled bagels and classic spreads, as well as a great mix of meat and fish add-ons. While not the original, this Midtown location is still doing God's bagel work and often has lines out the door.

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11. Mighty Quinn's BBQ 103 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003 (East Village)

This fast-casual BBQ joint has multiple outposts in the city, but the original holds strong at its 6th Street East Village location, bringing the sweet smell of smoked meat to 2nd Avenue. There's a real authentic flavor here, whereas many BBQ spots in the city have an artificial smokiness to their meat. The fall-apart brisket at Mighty Quinns doesn't even require sauce, but you might want to add one of the local drafts on tap to your order.

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12. The Cinnamon Snail 93 10005, 85 Wall St, New York, NY 10005 (Financial District)

This food truck is well known for it's vegan and organic selections. With the menu rotating with the seasons, expect to eat fig pancakes late summer and tofu subs year round. For a sweet treat, try their apple cider donuts that everyone can't get enough of.

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13. Russ & Daughters 179 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002 (Lower East Side)

Open since 1914, Russ & Daughters is the NYC standard for cured fish, spreads, and other “appetizers,” which are the traditional Jewish food eaten with bagels. This piece of New York history (which, in 2014, opened a more formal cafe that is also located in the Lower East Side) is still the place to grab a bagel and schmear or one of its near-perfect deli counter sandwiches, like the Super Heebster, a mammoth bagel sandwich with Whitefish & baked salmon salad, horseradish-dill cream cheese, and wasabi flying fish roe.

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14. Alidoro 105 Sullivan St, New York, NY 10012 (Soho)

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.

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15. Morris Grilled Cheese , New York, NY

This food truck offers gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches that are greasy and simply perfect. The maple glazed ham and roasted Brussel sprouts in between layers of various cheeses is just what you should expect from these folks.

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16. Mike's Deli 2344 Arthur Ave, New York, NY 10458 (Bronx)

You don’t get more old-school Italian than the Arthur Ave Market Place in Belmont and the Big Mike's Combo Italian sub at Mike’s Deli. It might be a mere stand tucked in the back of the marketplace, but this joint's acquired legend status over years of serving New York sandwiches bursting with fresh meats and cheeses like Hillary Clinton's Favorite, the Paula Deen panini, and The Monster, all piled high with mozzarella, salami, ham, peppers, and sun-dried tomatoes.

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17. Tino's Delicatessen 2410 Arthur Ave, Bronx, NY 10458 (Bronx)

Don’t let the signed photos of politicians and the dim lights dissuade you. This deli is a favorite among Fordham students for its belly-hugging heroes, but that's not what you’re here for. Skip the meat-head case and head straight for the shelves. Owner Gianluca Paciullo stocks his store with real deal balsamic vinegar, Nettuno anchovies imported by the Bronx’s Gustiamo, and pastas you won’t find at Eataly. Yes, the prices are more expensive than Teitel’s (where you’ll find good quality pine nuts and very low prices), but no one else stocks as many products like this up here.

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18. Fuku 163 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003 (East Village)

David Chang’s fast-casual chicken sandwich shop features one of the county's best fried bird numbers, featuring chicken thighs brined and marinated in a habanero puree that’s later coated in buttermilk and spices, then fried crispy, and finally, served in a Martin’s potato roll with pickles and house-made butter.

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19. Katz's Delicatessen 205 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002 (Lower East Side)

Open since 1888 on the corner of East Houston and Ludlow Street, Katz's is synonymous with iconic New York City food, specifically, slow-cured pastrami and corned beef. There's usually a line filled with a mix of tourists, die-hard New Yorkers, and everyone in between, and the wait is nothing but proof of the stacked sandwiches' pure goodness. You receive a paper ticket when you walk in, order at the counter (be ready!), and wait while the servers sling layers of pink meat onto cafeteria trays. If pastrami on rye (or better yet, a hot reuben) is your kind of late-night food, then you're in luck -- Katz's is open all night on Fridays and Saturdays. Words to the wise: stock up on napkins, order a generous side of pickles, and whatever you do, don't lose your ticket.

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20. Mile End Delicatessen 53 Bond St, New York, NY 10012 (Noho)

Mile End Deli doesn’t fit neatly into a single category, serving non-kosher Jewish French-Canadian comfort food with a hipster twist. And yet, ironically but un-ironically, this has solidified it in the hearts of New Yorkers. Well, that and the absurdly succulent smoked meat. The meat masterminds here have crafted a true tour de force de fries -- poutine with cheese curds, chicken gravy, and the option to add smoked brisket (do it).

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