America's best sandwiches

Travel+Leisure

Photo by James Camp Photography

At its essence, a sandwich is two pieces of bread with something in the middle. It’s a convenient, made-to-carry meal—and can also inspire cultlike devotion.

Some memorable sandwiches win us over by breaking the rules. The lobster roll at L.A.’s Hinoki and the Bird arrives in a jet-black bun made from charcoal-enriched flour and flavored with Vietnamese green curry and garlic aioli to punch up the mayonnaise dressing. Others take a reverential approach. At Brooklyn’s Mile End, the Ruth Wilensky (salami and brown mustard on a pressed onion roll) pays tribute to the matriarch of a Montreal sandwich institution.

Our favorite sandwiches come from all walks of life. They defy cultural boundaries, blur ethnic lines, and run the gamut from traditional to molecular. But they all leave customers satisfied.

Photo courtesy of Neighborhood Restaurant Group

Churchkey, D.C.: The Luther

Imagine the three most soul-satisfying foods in one sandwich, and you have Churchkey’s take on the Luther Vandross–inspired cholesterol bomb. Buttermilk fried chicken and applewood-smoked bacon stand in for the traditional burger, while a house-made, maple chicken jus–glazed brioche donut studded with pecans is a sweet-savory improvement over the called-for Krispy Kreme. Note: the off-menu breakfast sandwich is available only on request, Sundays between noon and 8 p.m.

Photo by Dylan + Jeni

Hinoki and the Bird, Los Angeles: Lobster Roll

This four-bite sandwich is anything but your standard lobster roll. For starters, there’s the striking, jet-black bun, made from charcoal-enriched flour, which imparts a slightly earthy grittiness. Vietnamese green curry and garlic aioli punch up the flavors of the traditional mayonnaise dressing, while Thai basil leaves and flowers are a fresh (and pretty) finishing touch.

Photo by Andrew McCaughen

Xoco, Chicago: Cochinita Pibil

Lunchtime often brings lines out the door of Xoco, Rick Bayless’s paean to Mexican street food. Patience is rewarded with this torta, which combines achiote-rubbed suckling pig—wrapped in banana leaves and slow-cooked in a wood-burning oven for seven hours—with a fiery blend of roasted habaneros, garlic, and salt, plus black beans and pickled red onions. It’s all sandwiched between Labriola Bakery bread, a slightly sour Mexican baguette fermented for 12 hours.

Photo courtesy of Serpico

Serpico, Philadelphia: Deep-Fried Duck Leg

Peter Serpico (the former culinary director of David Chang’s Momofuku empire) has decamped to Philadelphia—and his riff on Peking duck bao is a high note on a menu that has earned rave reviews. There’s some Wylie Dufresne–inspired molecular magic in how it comes together, but all you need to know is that this honey-and-hoisin-glazed, deboned duck leg, deep fried and served with pickled cucumbers on a Martin’s potato roll, is giving the Philly cheesesteak serious competition.

Photo by Katherine Pangaro

No. 7 Sub, New York: Broccoli Sub

This combination of roasted broccoli, salted ricotta, peanuts, and pickled lychees stuffed into a mayonnaise-lubed hoagie is unconventional, but it works. The secret is in the balance—between sweet and salty, creamy and crunchy—and the mostly white bread (with oats, wheat bran, and flaxseeds), baked fresh daily. In addition to the original location at the Ace Hotel, you can find chef Tyler Kord’s inspired creations at the Plaza Hotel and in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Greenpoint and Dumbo. no7sub.com

Click here to see all of America’s best sandwiches

Photo by Daren Le Photography / DarenLe.com

Saigon Sandwich, San Francisco: Roasted Pork Banh Mi

In a rough-and-tumble area of the Tenderloin known as Little Saigon, Saigon Sandwich has been turning out the city’s best made-to-order banh mi since 1981. The only sign of the times: Vietnamese barbecued pork, pickled carrots and onions, and jalapeño and cilantro on a crusty French baguette now costs $3.75 instead of $3.25. Shop the grocery selection for sriracha sauce or ginger candies while you wait.

Photo courtesy of Ted's Butcherblock

Ted’s Butcherblock, Charleston, SC: Bacon of the Month BLT

It’s difficult to improve upon the classic BLT, which may very well be the best sandwich ever invented. But this market-cum-deli has found a way to reinvent the wheel by rotating its artisanal bacon—kurobuta applewood bacon from Iowa’s Eden Farms one month and peppery bacon from Kentucky-based Broadbent’s the next. Garlicky herbed aioli, tomato, mixed greens, and a soft stirato roll make up the supporting cast.

Photo courtesy of Craigie On Main

Craigie on Main, Boston: Grilled Two Cheese and Roast Pork Sandwich

A great sandwich starts with great bread—a fact that’s apparent in this panino, which is part grilled cheese, part cubano. Pain au levain, a sourdough boule from Iggy’s Bread, showcases slow-cooked pork collar, Comte, Shelburne Farms Farmhouse Cheddar, and pickled ramps. The whole thing is pressed and served with a side of thick-cut fries.

Photo by James Camp Photography

Rosebud, Atlanta: The Big Nasty

Your morning egg ’n cheese gets a serious upgrade courtesy of The Big Nasty at chef Ron Eyester’s comfort food café, one of America’s best brunch spots. Crispy, juicy fried chicken is piled high with scrambled eggs, smoked bacon, and Tillamook cheddar for a decadent hangover cure that’s barely contained by its buttery hamburger bun.

Photo courtesy of Sloco

Sloco, Nashville: Slow-Roasted Veggie

This vegan option is hearty enough to satisfy even ardent carnivores. Marinated seasonal vegetables, which might include kohlrabi, butternut squash, asparagus, and zucchini, are the meat of the sandwich. Hearty multigrain bread, baked in house and smeared with whole-grain mustard and vegan mayo, serves as a nutty foundation, while micro herbs, grown on the premises, add brightness. slocolocal.com

Click here to see all of America’s best sandwiches


View Comments