When you ask a chef what makes a truly excellent sandwich, you typically get some deep thoughts on the importance of bread: “A sandwich is bread with stuff inside,” Eli Sussman of Mile End in Brooklyn says definitively. “The fresher the better, artisanal baked preferred,” says Chef Michael Lomonaco from Porter House New York. Brian Mercury, the pastry chef at Harvest in Boston, agrees: “You need something that can handle all the components and tastes great on its own. It’s not just the way to hold everything, it’s the foundation.” And what about the rest? What gets built on that foundation? For Chef Michael Psilakis, “condiments bring a sandwich to life.” Diversity of texture is important, as is the balance of flavors, and condiments can bring out the best in the protein or vegetables you’ve chosen for your filling. Spicy mustard, garlic aioli, relishes, slaws: they’re all just as important as the meat, the cheese, or the sprouts.
To choose the top sandwiches in America, we recruited a dozen chefs and food writer, and took all the parts into account: The bread, filling, toppings, and how it all comes together in that first bite. The only caveats: Burgers aren’t sandwiches (they’re burgers), and likewise wraps, burritos, and hot dogs are out. Otherwise, if it was between two pieces of bread, it was fair game. Here, a few hundred slices later, are the sandwiches that are worth making room for.