Whether you call it a hero, a hoagie, a po’boy or a sub, sandwiches are a lunch staple throughout the country. But it’s not just their vocabulary that varies greatly from region to region: their ingredients are inspired by local products and palate peculiarities.
Here are 10 restaurants with sammie-centric ingredients that are worth a pit stop.
Fried Plantains: Borinquen Restaurant
Still sticking to the Atkins diet? Carb-phobes can skip the bread and hold their sandwich with this slightly sweet Puerto Rican delicacy. On the jibarito, the kitchen at Chicago’s Borinquen Restaurant stuffs a twice-fried disk of plantains with sliced steak or roasted pork, onions, tomato, and lettuce.
Lox: Russ & Daughters
Smoked salmon may have originated in Scandinavia, but nowhere does it find more love than New York. Technically, lox is a salty brined salmon, but the term has come to be a catchall phrase for a variety of cured and smoked versions of the fish—the most common of which is nova.
And any corner deli worth its salt bagel will have it on the menu in some form, but Russ & Daughters is probably the most famous “appetizing” shop in New York City. The “Classic” consists of a dense everything bagel loaded with Norwegian smoked salmon, a schmear of cream cheese of your choice, and the works: tomatoes, onions, and capers.
‘Whiz’: Pat’s King of Steaks
Ask a group of Philadelphians where to get the best cheesesteak and you’ll be lucky if you get anything close to a consensus. Everyone’s got their own spot, and their own favorite combination of meat (steak, roast pork), cheese (provolone, American, etc.) and veggies (with or without). Pat’s King of Steaks has the distinction of being the original, and they’ve got the lexicon down to a science: order “with” (pronounced “wit”) for onions, and “Whiz” for the goopy orange cheese topping that many locals prefer.
Weck: Charlie the Butcher
This soft round roll, usually topped with a crust of crystalline salt and caraway seeds, has its origins in Germany, where it is known as a “kummelweck.” It is the roll, not the sliced roast beef and horseradish inside it, that is the star ingredient in Beef on Weck, a sandwich native to the Buffalo area. At Charlie the Butcher, Beef on Weck comes in a red and white paper basket, the better to collect the jus dripping from the roll.
Huckleberry Jam: Triple Creek Ranch
Huckleberry isn’t just a character from literature—it’s a real berry! And the Rocky Mountains are where you’ll find them. In Montana, the sweet tart berries are used in everything from ice cream to pancakes, and lend their name to the delightful sounding dessert, huckleberry buckle. At the luxe Triple Creek Ranch in Montana’s Bitterroot Mountains, sous chef Nick Kormanik’s gourmet menu has a retro-comforting counterpoint in a peanut butter and huckleberry jam sandwich.
Mornay Sauce: Brown Hotel
It may sound fancy and French, but on a Hot Brown, Mornay sauce is basically homemade Cheez Whiz. The Hot Brown originated at Louisville’s Brown Hotel in the 1920s, and is an open-faced turkey and bacon sandwich, smothered in the gooey orange sauce and baked. Further West in Springfield, Ill., the cheese sauce is employed on the Horsehoe sandwich. Here, the sauce is modified to include enhancements like beer and mustard, the turkey is swapped for a hamburger patty, and in between the meat and the cheese is a layer of fries. If that’s too much for your arteries, order a half-portion, also known as a Ponyshoe. At Springfield’s D’Arcy’s Pint, the meat is customizable.
Pimento Cheese: Blackberry Farm
This thick and creamy spread—a mixture of cheese and chopped pimento peppers—is a Southern staple, and can be served as a cracker topping, in a grilled cheese, or slathered on hamburgers. At Blackberry Farm in the Great Smokey Mountains of Tennessee, the spread is made with aged cheddar or a homemade sheep’s cheese, then mixed with mayo, mustard, salt, pepper, and pickle brine for a tangy bite. Their recommendation: serve on white bread with bread-and-butter pickles.
Dutch Crunch: Ike’s Place
Everyone thinks of sourdough as San Francisco’s official bread, but once you look past the Fisherman’s Wharf bread-bowl traps, Frisco sandwich shops have a much more unusual roll in stock: Dutch Crunch. Before baking, the dough is topped with a rice paste that hardens and crackles in the oven. The result, a crispy sweet crust coating a soft and chewy center, is hard to find outside the Bay Area. In the Castro, Ike’s Place is renowned for their Dutch Crunch bread, and their wacky combinations of fillings, like the Kryptonite (roast beef, corned beef, pastrami, salami, turkey, bacon, ham, mozzarella sticks, stuffed jalapeño poppers, beer battered onion rings, avocado, pesto, pepper jack).
Taylor Ham: Tops
East Newark, N.J.
Technically it’s called pork roll, and it’s kind of like fried bologna, but New Jerseyans know it by one name and one name only—Taylor Ham. The name comes from a Trenton-based brand that’s been around since the 1850s. The sliced, Spam-like meat is usually warmed up on the griddle and served on a bagel or soft roll with ketchup, salt, and pepper. Depending on your mood, add a fried egg or sliced American cheese. It’s classic diner food, found at any of New Jersey’s zillions of diners, including the retro Tops in East Newark.
Olive Salad: Central Grocery
While New Orleans is best known for its Creole cuisine, the Italian Muffuletta sandwich is as distinctly New Orleans as jambalaya. The sub consists of sliced cold cuts and cheese, but it’s a tangy olive salad that separates the Mufuletta from your usual Italian hoagie. It’s made of chopped olives, pickled veggies, garlic and olive oil, and rose to prominence at the sandwich counter at Central Grocery.
See more of America's must-eat sandwiches.