Ambitious chefs are taking the once-humble sandwich into new heights of tastiness. Here are 10 sandwiches across America we love the most.
1. Spicy Korean Pork Sandwich
Heirloom Market BBQ, Atlanta, GA
What’s in it: Pork butt is rubbed down with a spicy mix of gochugaru, gochujang, chili sauce, and sriracha, smoked slowly over hickory and oak, then cubed and packed into a soft potato bun and dressed with kimchi slaw and kimchi pickles.
Why we love it: Heirloom’s owners, married couple Cody Taylor and Jiyeon Lee, meld different barbecue traditions (his: American; hers: Korean) into a spicy, smoky sandwich that’s greater than the sum of its parts. The pickles and slaw add the refreshing texture and crunch familiar to anyone who’s had a Southern pulled-pork sandwich, while the Asian elements bring unexpected layers of heat and funk.
2. Wednesday Special Green Chile Tuna Melt
Chula Seafood, Scottsdale, AZ
What’s in it: Olive oil confit of albacore tuna, Oaxaca cheese, charred Hatch green chiles, and a highly herbaceous chimichurri on thick-cut, panini-pressed bread from Phoenix’s beloved Noble Bread bakery.
Why we love it: The Anywhere, USA diner staple gets a smoky, spicy Southwestern makeover with the the addition of local green chiles and Mexican cheese. More important: Because Chula’s owners also run a commercial fishing operation, the tuna is fresh-caught, never canned—with a texture that seems to melt into the cheese, providing a pillowy counterpoint for the toasted bread.
3. The PFD
Angelo’s Pizzeria, Philadelphia, PA
What’s in it: Crispy from-scratch chicken cutlets, flash-fried artichokes, prosciutto, arugula pesto, mozzarella, and balsamic on house-baked sesame-seeded Italian bread so crunchy you can hear it.
Why we love it: South Philly gets plenty of attention for its cheesesteaks and roast pork, but 2020 is the year of the cutlet sandwich, and nobody in town does them better than Danny DiGiampietro, who named this flavor juggernaut for local food blogger Philly Food Dude, one of his earliest supporters. Talk about Brotherly Love.
4. Nasty Chicken Biscuit
Miller’s Downtown, Charlottesville, VA
What’s in it: Fried chicken tenders that are actually juicy inside, sharp white cheddar, and a mess of peppery sausage gravy poorly contained by a crumbly buttermilk cathead biscuit.
Why we love it: Inspired by another beloved chicken biscuit (the Big Nasty of dearly departed Hominy Grill in Charleston, S.C.), Miller’s tribute improves upon the OG. Credit the use of chicken tenders, rather than a single breast, which provides surface area for breading, as well as a shattering crunch that holds up under the gravy.
5. Smoked Brisket Banh Mi
Gjusta, Los Angeles, CA
What’s in it: Smoked brisket, pickled daikon, carrot, and cucumber, fresh cilantro, chili sauce, and garlic aioli on a crusty house-baked baguette.
Why we love it: The banh mi is one of the world’s great sandwiches and Gjusta is one of the world’s great bakeries. While brisket is an unusual protein for the Vietnamese hoagie, the meat’s smoky richness of the usual sweet pickled vegetables and cilantro. And then there is the bread—sturdy and crusty with a sourdough tang that elevates the ingredients inside.
Balkan Treat Box, St. Louis, MO
What’s in it: Chewy house-baked somun, a Bosnian flatbread, is folded around nearly a dozen grilled skinny beef sausages nestled in onions and dressed with a healthy smear of kajmak, a rich, Eastern European dairy product sort of like sour cream.
Why we love it: St. Louis is home to a large Bosnian community, but locals of all backgrounds swear by this Balkan staple. The spiced meat, sharp onions, and tangy kajmak offer a dynamic flavor contrast, but the somun is the star, with a chewy-crispy texture that’s hard to resist.
7. Cauliflower Shawarma Batbout
Saffron De Twah, Detroit, MI
What’s in it: Spice-rubbed, battered, and fried cauliflower herb-greened tahini, cucumber-tomato salad, and sumac onions are stuffed inside a pan-fried (not baked) Moroccan pita.
Why we love it: This overflowing pita pocket is a textural powerhouse—with boldly spiced cauliflower that manages to be crispy on the outside and tender inside, the crunch of fresh vegetables, and the smooth and nutty tahini all jostling against lightly crisped, chewy bread. Trust us: You’ve never bit into a shawarma quite like this.
8. Papas y Masa Torta
Güero, Portland, OR
What’s in it: A seared-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside puck of mashed potatoes and masa; caramelized tomatoes with a sweet-and-sour tamarind lacquer; avocado; red onion; cilantro; queso botanero; and chile-lime mayo on a toasted talera roll.
Why we love it: In a world of lab-grown bean burgers, it’s refreshing to find a veggie patty that’s legit delicious. The masa-and-potato pillow is a vehicle for the parade of crunchy, fatty textures and sweet, sour, and umami flavors that make the torta a fascinating spin on the Mexican street staple.
9. Pork & Peppers
Turkey and the Wolf, New Orleans, LA
What’s in it: Pork shoulder slowly cooked with habaneros and oranges, crispy fried and shredded pig ear, “shrettuce” (chef-owner Mason Hereford’s nickname for shredded iceberg), and onions piled on warm roti bread smeared with citrus mayo. Side of habanero vinegar for extra kick.
Why we love it: Yeah, we know: It looks like a tostada. But in our view, an open-face sandwich is still a sandwich. And while you debate amongst yourselves, we’ll be happy to dig into Hereford’s Indo-Caribbean ode to the pig, which is unlike any other pork sandwich out there.
10. Overnight Duck Confit Panini
Duckfat, Portland, ME
What’s in it: Duck legs, slowly cooked overnight in their own fat, are shredded, piled with a tangy grilled Napa cabbage slaw, pickled jalapeños, and spicy mayo, and then panini pressed on Sorella’s Bakehouse bread.
Why we love it: In a word: texture. We’re talking crunchy bread, crispy cabbage, slick mayo, soft and succulent duck. Duckfat’s been doing a version of the sandwich—the accoutrements change seasonally—since 2005, and the attention to construction shows. Take a bite and the crackle of the bread yields to the impossibly rich meat.
For access to exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews, and more, subscribe on YouTube!