Truly great sandwiches -- where bread, meat, and toppings come together in perfect harmony -- are undeniably one of the greatest pleasures in eating, yet they’re generally cheap (enough) to be accessible to the everyman. That said, not every man (or lady!) has the refined palate of a chef, so to help you track down some of the best sandwiches San Diego has to offer, we tapped 11 big time local kitchen runners to give us their go-to.
“I just love Brie cheese. Anything with Brie sounds attractive to me,” says Leyla. “Also the ingredients in this sandwich remind me of Thanksgiving, which brings to mind memories of family gatherings and happiness.”
Brad Hightow of Florent
This enormous sandwich (see it up top?!) earns a special place in Brad’s heart/stomach for two main reasons: “juicy and tender” corned beef and “toasted to perfection” rye bread that he says is “the perfect vessel to keep all the components together.” While Brad goes for the classic construction (corned beef, swiss cheese, and sauerkraut), you can always swap in pastrami or turkey instead.
Matt is a “huge fan” of this “very simple but really delicious” panini with smoked turkey, pesto, Grana Padano cheese, tomato, artichoke hearts, onion, and crushed pistachios on focaccia. Since it would be wrong to not order a coffee here, you’ll also need a Cafe Viennese (espresso, milk, honey, and cinnamon).
Giovanni Novella of Stella Public House and Halcyon
Giovanni says the “amazing combination of meat” in this surf and turf sandwich packed with smoked fish, spicy shrimp, and skirt steak is the “perfect lunch” when paired with a cold beer.
Kristianna Zabala of Nomad Donuts
Kristianna loves this pork belly sandwich because it has “so many different flavors that are perfectly balanced.” Tasty elements like Chinese BBQ seasoning, chili aioli, and pickled vegetables bring a lot to the table, but it’s the crispy bits of char (achieved by cooking the fatty meat in a wood-fired oven) that make it totally addictive.
Meredith Manee of 1500 OCEAN at Hotel del Coronado
Mission Beach and Mission Hills
Meredith says Rubicon’s Dapper Dipper (an “updated take on a French dip") takes her back to childhood, when she’d order a French dip sandwich whenever possible. “The Dapper Dipper is perfection, with the bread as important as the inside ingredients: garlicky cheese bread incases thinly sliced tri tip beef, melty swiss cheese, crispy onions, and creamy horseradish with a good kick,” she says. She’s especially fond of the au jus served on the side, because it “adds extra beefiness and salt to each bite.”
Mario Cassineri of BiCE
“To make a nice sandwich, the most important thing is the bread,” says Mario Cassineri of BiCE, so it’s no big surprise that his favorite sandwich comes from a bakery that specializes in producing over 20 artisanal varieties. His go-to sandwich is the Almost Grilled Cheese, a triple cream French Brie and crumbled gorgonzola creation that also happens to be one of the must-try grilled cheese sandwiches in San Diego.
Kyle Kovar of Tom Ham’s Lighthouse
"My family and I love this spot,” says Kyle. “It's been family owned and operated for over 20 years, it feels great to support the small business scene in our neighborhood. The passion put into this shop is a direct reflection of their success so far, and the sandwiches are killer, too." Kyle’s top pick, the Wild Turkey, combines sliced turkey with melted Swiss cheese, avocado, and two strips of bacon.
“Big Front Door keeps getting better and better. This hearty sandwich is full of flavor with tender meat and the house BBQ sauce,” says Joe Magnanelli. Other accoutrements on the super-savory sandwich, served on a torpedo roll, include oven-roasted onion, shredded cabbage, and a dash of oil & vinegar.
Executive Chef Sara Polczynski of The Blind Burro
Sara is all about food with bold flavors and textures, and says this budget-friendly bánh mì sandwich “has it all.” Bonus: the small, family-run Vietnamese bakery also bakes their baguettes on site, so you can count on good quality bread.
Chef-Owner Kurt Metzger of Kitchen 4140
Kurt deems this Korean steak and shrimp melt “the ultimate sandwich,” noting the bread is “a great blend of crunchy and chewy,” and the combination of steak, shrimp, molten cheese, and the perfect portion of kimchi amount to a “melt-in-your-mouth experience.”
Sign up here for our daily San Diego email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.
Erin Jackson is San Diego-based food writer and photographer who loves sharing her latest finds. Follow her on Twitter if you enjoy food content, random thoughts, and cat photos.
1. Caffe Calabria Coffee Roasting Company3933 30th St, San Diego
2. Hanna’s Gourmet2864 Adams Ave, San Diego
3. DZ Akins6930 Alvarado Rd, San Diego
4. Tiger!Tiger!3025 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego
5. Oscar's Mexican Seafood746 Emerald St, San Diego
6. Rubicon Deli3715 India St, San Diego
7. Con Pane Rustic Breads & Cafe2750 Dewey Rd #105, San Diego
8. Hungry Hank's Deli866 3rd Ave, Chula Vista
9. BFD4135 Park Blvd, University Heights
10. Paris Bakery4616 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego
11. Supernatural Sea To Sandwich7094 Miramar Rd #105, San Diego
Caffe Calabria's roasting process is extremely hands-on so that they can be sure to reach the peak of flavor. If you want to get your hands on Caffe Calabria's beans you can stop by the café on 30th, order from the website, or pick up a bag at Whole Foods (Hillcrest and La Jolla), Specialty Produce, and at Ballast Point in Little Italy.
This multi-national kitchen in University Heights features dishes from France, Morocco, India, and beyond. Hanna's started as a catering company, but due to high demand a brick and mortar space was created to serve dinner and brunch five days a week. The menu is constantly changing to highlight different regions, and family-style dinners are offered periodically for a fixed price.
This Jewish-style deli brings the stacked sandwiches and homemade pickles of the Big Apple to San Diego.
Tiger!Tiger! Tavern, Blind Lady Ale House’s sister venue, purveys draught beer and bar fare in North Park, dishing out clam chowder, curry fries, hamburgers, and other hearty soups, salads, sandwiches, and sides in a rustic yet industrial environment. Peel your eyes away from the gravity-defying, how-are-they-hanging-upside-down-I-don’t-get-it bicycles affixed to the ceiling, take a seat at a communal mahogany picnic table or barstool, and embark upon the journey of choosing a beer from Tiger!Tiger!’s varied beverage list. Take advantage of the Sunday brunch menu, which offers both sweet and savory dishes like house-made doughnuts and a fried chicken biscuit sandwich.
What began as just one small storefront on Turquoise St. is now a San Diego marisco fixture and mini chain known for its variety of Latin-flavored dishes. Expect an ample selection of market seafood served in salad, tacos, burritos, or tortas, plus non-surf fare like breakfast burritos, steak tacos, and chorizo tortas. Oscar's is a quick counter-serve, but don't judge the fish by how it's served: the ceviche may come in plastic cups, but it's flavorful and most importantly, fresh.
When a place makes its own bread in-house, you can bet its sandwich game is on point. In Rubicon's case, you would be correct. They offer several must-have varieties, but the Belly Up rocks just as hard as its namesake and is full of slow-roasted pork belly, sweet & spicy coleslaw, lettuce, and miso-ginger mayo. If you prefer to forge your own path, they have an encyclopedic array of build-your-own ingredient options. No matter what route you go, a cookie is a must.
This Point Loma bakery/cafe offers delicious baked goods and sandwiches. It's also one of the few places where you can order a half or whole sandwich. Go for the half and get a cookie (or get a whole sandwich and a cookie... the point is... get a cookie).
Hank's is a family-owned and operated deli offering speciality sandwiches (think Mexican cheese melt and oriental beef) and rice bowls.
BFD stands for Big Front Door, which is the name of this local deli that serves up an array of freshly prepared dishes that can include soups, salads and sandwiches made-to-order. There's also an in-house specialty wine and craft beer shop that specializes in smaller-scale producers, so you can get your drink on while you wait for your grub.
This Vietnamese cafe and French bakery combo offers the best of both worlds: pastries, teas, and an assortment of báhn mì sandwiches.
Not to be confused with the most popular activity at Santana-themed swingers conventions, Supernatural Sandwiches are the tucked-away creation of four 'wich aficionados with hyper-local leanings and the humble dream of making “sea-to-sandwich”... sandwiches.