Anyone can make a good sandwich. But think about what's changed since the 18th century's 4th Earl of Sandwich put meat between bread, reputedly so that he could eat while gambling on cards (or working – it's still a matter of contention). Sandwiches have since traveled the world, bringing us treasures like Vietnamese bánh mì sandwiches, made with grilled pork, pâté, and pickled veggies on a baguette, and Puerto Rican-style jibarito sandwiches of garlic mayonnaise, meat, cheese, and veggies between slabs of flattened, fried green plantains. Sandwich technology took off beyond the earl's imagination – who could have believed the first grilled cheese was anything other than a gift from heaven or space?
At the center of lunchtime innovation are the savants of sandwichery, the deli masters and nerds who obsess over optimum condiment ratios and ingredient-layering strategies. We called a few of our favorites from sandwich shops around the country – Tommy Habetz of Bunk Sandwiches in Portland, Oregon; Michael Voltaggio of Ink.Sack in Los Angeles; Chuck Kelsey of Cutty's in Brookline, Massachusetts; and Tyler Kord of New York City's No. 7 Sub – to get their secrets for taking any sandwich to the next level. Put their wisdom to use, and your lunch (or brunch) today can be good enough to make old nobility jealous.
Sub veggie spread for mayo.
Tyler Kord of No. 7 Sub is a mayonnaise fiend, but not just because of the taste: "It's that creamy, coat-your-tongue texture people love" – something he also achieves, brilliantly, with spreadable vegetables. Kord suggests cooking onions and garlic in a generous knuckle of butter over low heat until they're very soft, then pureeing them into a silky, savory sauce. Try the same with carrots, cauliflower, or pretty much any vegetable you like. (With heartier veggies, add a little water to help them steam, and cook until the water's all gone.) Season with enough salt to make the flavors pop, and start slathering.
Credit: Photograph by Nick Ferrari