Lettuce Create the Ultimate Sandwich Thread

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

According to the BBC, now is approximately the 250th anniversary of the invention of that magnificent and versatile foodstuff, the sandwich.

I would like to celebrate with the ultimate sandwich thread. Please share your favorite sandwich stories, your favorite sandwich recipes, the name and location of the restaurants where you have eaten memorable sandwiches, and—if applicable—a story about the time a sandwich saved your life, or helped deliver one of your children in the back of a taxicab.

I’ll start.

The best variation on a club sandwich I’ve ever eaten is the swordfish club at Rustico in Alexandria, Virginia. The best Cuban sandwich I’ve ever had, oddly enough, was in Louisville, Kentucky, at a place called Havana Rumba. Best Philly cheese steak was at Primanti Bros. in Pittsburgh. My favorite place for a deli sandwich is still the wonderfully-named Dagwood’s in Bloomington, Indiana. My favorite (and much underrated) sandwich cheese is cream Havarti. My favorite specialty sandwich accoutrement is the jalapeno bacon from Nashville’s Loveless Cafe.  The best burger I’ve ever eaten was at The Fatted Calf in Clayton, Missouri. Best meatball sandwich (and best authentic Italian cold cut sandwich) was at The Italian Store in Arlington, Virginia. Favorite somewhat exotic sandwich: the Banh Mi. My favorite national sandwich chain is Cosi. Or possibly Panera. Finally, just to mix things up, last week I was at Noshville Delicatessen in midtown Nashville. They’ve recently added a bold new creation to their menu called “Reuben Soup.” As you might guess, it’s a Reuben sandwich, only in soup form. I can report that it is a smashing success.

Other sandwich tips:

  • Think beyond mayo or mustard. Dress your sandwich with salad dressings, dips (spinach dip is a personal favorite), relishes, and tapenades.
  • How to make any sandwich at least 60 percent more delicious: Brush each side with olive oil, add some rosemary or Italian seasoning mix, then press in your Foreman Grill for about 10 minutes on medium heat.
  •   Caramelized onions. Always caramelized onions. But to the point where they’re a wee bit charred, so they have some crunch.

Lastly, here is my favorite sandwich-related comedy sketch.

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83 Responses to “Lettuce Create the Ultimate Sandwich Thread”

  1. #1 |  Tony Borell | 

    A sandwich has never saved my life, but one nearly killed me once. I was something like four or five years old and my mother served me a classic grilled cheese sandwich (yes, with onions). When I was down to the last bite, my mother left the kitchen to answer the door or something.

    As I had a nascent interest in SCIENCE, I decided to run an empirical test on HEY HOW FAR CAN I PUT THIS PIECE OF SANDWICH UP MY NOSE AND STILL RETRIEVE IT.

    Well, after a couple of attempts I found out. My mother found me choking but didn’t know how to get the sandwich out so she rushed me to the hospital. After the doctors retrieved the piece of sandwich and I could breathe normally again, the physicians all had a good laugh at my expense. Fuckers, I was outraged.

  2. #2 |  Roho | 

    To start with my favorite sandwich in general – the mufuletta. Has to be done right, though – have had some sad, sad examples. Most of the best ones have been acquired in New Orleans, of course (as well as some of the worst).

    As for a specific sandwich joint, there’s a little grocery store in Davis Square, just outside Boston. Dave’s Fresh Pasta. Yes, they do fresh pasta, and it’s really good – but the lines out the door are for the sandwiches. They get most of the ingredients locally, so the menu varies, but have never had something bad there.

  3. #3 |  Bronwyn | 

    One more vote for Dagwood’s in Bton. My favorite was the roast beef with Colby cheese, special sauce, sprouts, lettuce, tomato, s&p, and avocado.

    Another favorite that I make at home, if I have good bread… thin-sliced zucchini tossed with olive oil, s&p, with Colby cheese and Heinz salad creme (it’s British… I buy it at Meier’s).

    I make all my homemade ham and turkey sandwiches sing with Famous Dave’s pickle chips, salad creme, and Havarti and/or Colby.

  4. #4 |  Roho | 

    Oh, and to add in the current favorite sandwich the wife and I have been enjoying (ingredients courtesy of the aforementioned Dave’s):

    Rosemary olive oil focaccia loaf, split.
    Herbed boursin cheese, spread on both halves.
    In between, roasted red peppers, hot peppers, and culatello.
    Toast in the oven briefly, cut in half, devour.

  5. #5 |  A Critic | 

    Try this before judging it: Gingersnaps (best if homemade) + blue cheese (best if the best, I like Roquefort) + pomegranate kernels.

  6. #6 |  KristenS | 

    Sutton Place Gourmet, which is now called Balducci’s. They had a sandwich called a Napoleon, and if you’re lucky and get a long-time employee at the deli, they might remember how to make it (Balducci’s doesn’t have it on their menu).

    Anyway. Chewy, crusty baguette. Sliced turkey breast. Brie. Lettuce. Tomato. Sweet-hot mustard (the kind that gives you a horseradish kick in your nose). Voila. One sandwich would last me for two meals, which was good since I was a poor college student when Sutton Place existed.

  7. #7 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    Learn to make bearnaise sauce in a blender. When cooled, it makes an ambrosial sandwich spread … although you do tend to hear your arteries hardening.

    I got my recipe from The Vincent Price TREASURY OF GREAT RECIPES, but secondhand copies start off at $40+. The internet has no shortage of recipe sites, though. Just don’t skimp on the shallots.

  8. #8 |  Salvo | 

    Slow’s BBQ in Detroit, Michigan: Triple Threat Pork Sandwich. Pulled pork, ham, and bacon on a kaiser roll. Add one (or more than one, if you want) of several barbecue sauces. If I could have one of these every day, it would be a wonderful, if not very short, life.

  9. #9 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    After about 10 years of BBQ pit “mastering” and catering and a couple thousand sandwiches, my favorite is the following:
    1. Sliced “Bottom” beef brisket and hot pork sausage (equal amounts of each).

    2. Coleslaw on top.

    3. Barely any BBQ sauce.

    4. Bun: Buttered and grilled Texas toast.

    Why? The bottom of the brisket is a lean cut (fatty top section is fatty) and holds the most smoke flavor. But, you need some heat, fat and juice, which is where the sausage comes in. In Texas, get some Elgin sausage and you’re done. Coleslaw on BBQ is as old-timey as hanging an onion off your belt. I don’t believe in BBQ sauce–it covers up for bad BBQ. It’s like soaking $15 salmon sushi in soy sauce so saturated with wasabi that you can’t taste the delicate buttery-taste of the salmon. But just a dash bridges the gap between the meat and the slaw. If I have to eat a BBQ samitch, THIS is the only one worth eating.

    All brisket or all sausage sandwiches just miss (IMHO) on the complex flavor profile. I tried to get the guys at KC Rib Shack in Manchester to make this and they couldn’t figure it out. Sometimes you get people who can do a special order and sometimes you get people who hate their job.

    Hall of Fame Sandwiches (not in order):
    1. Muffaletta
    2. Cuban
    3. Beef/Sausage/Slaw BBQ

  10. #10 |  Wrongway1965 | 

    I’ve eaten many a extraordinary sandwich in my travels.. El Paso, Sante Fe, Roach Coach in L.A. @ 3:30am.. but the Most Epic Sandwich Ever Made Is in my near Future.. Cuz when I get off of here.. I don’t know whats in that Frig, but its fair game.. Huzzah!! Unleash the Hounds!!.. with mustard..

  11. #11 |  Eric | 

    Oh, man. I love sandwiches so much that I am not sure where to start.

    Best Fast Food Sandwich Ever Ever Ever Ever Ever: Zinger Tower Burger at KFCs in England. Bun, chicken, lettuce, zinger sauce, tomato, mayo, and a bun-sized hash brown patty. The absolute number 1 best food after a night of drinking. I still dream of it sometimes.

    Best variation on a club: the smoked salmon club at Park Grill in Millennium Park, Chicago. Smoked salmon, red onion, capers, and fancy mayo on pumpernickel bread.

    Best regional WTF sandwich: the Horseshoe in mid/downstate Illinois. Available in the finest dive bars. Toasted white bread with a hamburger patty on top. Covered with french fries and then drowned in homemade thick nacho cheese-esque sauce to cover the whole plate. Served open faced because really who could pick something like that up?

    Most surprising place for a good Cuban: TaTa Cuban Cafe in downtown Indianapolis. Right across from the statehouse, and reliably good. Served with fried plantains.

    Best I-Found-It-On-The-Web sandwich: the Marlboro Man sandwich from Pioneer Woman, with cube steak, veggies and cheese baked on a toasted hoagie. Make one today: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2007/06/marlboro_mans_f/

    Best Sandwich Invented by my Wife: smoked salmon, cucumber slices, roasted red peppers, and cream cheese on a sliced baguette. Simple and delicious.

    Best Italian Beef in Chicago: Portillo’s. Everybody wants to tell you about this hole in the wall joint that they know where the REAL best Italian Beef may be found. But there’s a reason every Portillo’s is gigantic and perpetually full. They have it mastered.

    Best oven grinder: Garibaldi’s in suburban Chicago (Arlington Heights or Hoffman Estates). Get a beef grinder with sweet peppers and cheese. Order a slice of pizza and a frozen Italian lemonade while you are at it. After our nearest one of these closed, we have made the 45 minute trek to the next closest one at least a few times a year. We are never disappointed.

    Best not-technically-a-sandwich sandwich: Gyro. From any place that has the big meat thingee slowly turning on its spit, but NOT from any place that buys it pre-sliced. Get it fully dressed with the sliced onion and tomato and tzatziki. I always enjoy eating it, and I always feel the pain afterwards for the rest of the day and swear it is my last time being fooled by that sweet sweet gyro meat.

    Best sandwich in St. Louis MO: the Philly Beef at Seamus McDaniel’s in Dogtown. Soft bun, sliced beef, green peppers and onions, too much cream cheese to fit on the bun, and gravy. Order it with gravy rather than au jus (this is imperative). And ask for extra napkins (this is too).

    Best regional specialty: the Po-boy, either with catfish or shrimp. Narrowly edging out the philly cheesesteak, the lobster roll, and Primanti Brothers, you just can’t beat a good po-boy.

    Sandwiches are the best.

  12. #12 |  ClubMedSux | 

    As a Chicagoan, I don’t think it gets any better than an Italian beef. I love my Chicago-style pizza and my Chicago hot dogs, but when I was living out in Colorado during grad school, the first thing I got when I would come home to Chicago was a beef sandwich. How the rest of the country (the world?) gets by without giardiniera (the greatest condiment known to man) is beyond my comprehension.

    Outside of my beloved Italian beef, the greatest sandwich I ever had was purchased in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, and I’m still not sure exactly what it was. It was a maybe-two-inch-thick hunk of meat that was long like bacon but a little meatier like a porkchop. I would guess pork belly but it wasn’t nearly as fatty as the pork belly I’ve had. Whatever it was, I found it at a little deli and got it with some mustard on a fresh roll and it was heaven on earth.

  13. #13 |  Tommy | 

    The best was the Torpedo from Gene’s in Westhampton Beach, NY on Montauk Highway (closed in the 1980’s). Can’t remember the exact fillings but it was a heated Italian sub with melted mozzarella.

  14. #14 |  Carl | 

    My favorite is the Lonestar BLT from “Hey, You Gonna Eat Or What?” in Austin Texas. It’s a BLT with thick applewood smoked bacon and fried green tomatoes with a poblano pepper aioli on a ciabatta baguette. He also makes a mean Shiner Bock beer battered Monte Cristo with cherry-fig jelly.

    This is a food truck at South Congress & Gibson. My mouth is now watering… I need to back to Austin!

  15. #15 |  The Mossy Spaniard | 

    @41, GAC:
    I just got that semi-giddy feeling of “Hey, somebody on the interwebs from my neck of the woods!” Good choice on the BBQ sandwich; Wink’s has the best one that I know of (and I include the whole Lexington barbecue juggernaut in that assessment).

  16. #16 |  Charlie O | 

    Radley, you have obviously never visited White House subs in Atlantic City, NJ. BEST ITALIAN SUB ever. Try a Roast Pork with sharp provolone at Tony Luke’s in South Philly as well. Cheese steaks are over rated.

  17. #17 |  pierre | 

    Fatty pastrami on Rye. No other ingredients necessary but spicy brown mustard.


    Otherwise, my favorite sub is pretty boring I guess,

    (on good french bread) Roast beef, lettuce, onion, black olives, mayo, Japanese rice vineager and olive oil.

  18. #18 |  pierre | 

    Oh snap, I just thought of Banh Mi…

    Baguette, bbq pork or beef, Do Chau (pickled dikon and carrot), fresh jalapenos, and liver pate mayo.

  19. #19 |  A.G. Pym | 

    The long-unavailable ostrich burger at the late, lamented “Baron’s Beef and Brew” in Richland, WA. *sigh*

    At the time, we had a couple of certificated ostrich and emu slaughterhouses to serve the burgeoning population of big bird farmers hereabouts, but sadly, they both were forced out of business from increasing regulation and oversignt actions once the markets became profitable.

  20. #20 |  B | 

    The Torta Cubana (=/= “Cuban sandwich”) at the Super Taqueria on Roxboro Road in Durham, NC, is transcendent.

    Beyond Bread in Tucson, AZ, is the best sandwich microchain you’ve probably never heard of.

    The greatest sandwich idea I’ve come across in the last few years is the addition of kimchi and garlic mayonnaise to a grilled cheese sandwich. Best accomplished with sharp cheddar and marble rye. Washed down with copious amounts of beer.

  21. #21 |  Greg Beaman | 

    While on a research assignment in the Netherlands, my friend Richard Dijkgraaff and I took a day-trip to the city of Delft to visit the tomb of William the Silent, Prince of Orange and to drink reasonable quantities of local beer. Once we arrived in Delft, we stopped for a sandwich while waiting for the Sunday church service to conclude. After satisfying our historical interest in the tomb, we continued with the beer portion of our journey. We then hopped the train to Den Haag. As we arrived in Den Haag, the effects of the beer on my memory became apparent when I proposed we stop for lunch. Richard informed me that we had already had lunch. With mock outrage, I screamed, “Let’s have a sandwich!” We both rolled with laughter. Throughout the day and night, from city to city, from train to train, and finally back to Leiden, our home base, we insisted on having sandwich after sandwich. To this day, Richard & I will share transatlantic messages of “Let’s have a sandwich!” just to keep the memory alive.

  22. #22 |  Richard dijkgraaff | 


  23. #23 |  jb | 

    • Only one time have I been in Vail, Colorado; passing through on the drive between Denver and LA. We stopped for a short break to stretch our legs and during the walk realized we were pretty hungry. We didn’t have much time so we stopped into a deli for sandwiches to go. I ordered the Hot Pastrami. We didn’t open our lunch until back in the car. Once back on the highway I was finally able to bite into my sandwich. With the first bite I realized I had one of those memorable meals that will stay with me for the rest of my life. The Hot pastrami was tender and moist, the sandwich almost squired juices, and yet the roll was still crunchy and toasty. The sandwich was laced with a terrific horseradish based sauce that I’ve copied for many of my own pastrami creations. Regretfully I was already far enough down the highway to make turning around for another sandwich impractical. I hope someday to get back to that Deli. I think the name was Joe’s famous Deli and Homemade Ice Cream. If I recall correctly it was down a flight of stairs into a basement.
    • In Fullerton (and Tustin, and Orange) Ca. there is a restaurant named Rutabegorz. They serve a Cream Cheese and Black Olive sandwich on Squaw bread. Sounds disgusting, but absolutely satisfying, and though simple, it is rich with flavor. Rutabegorz is a quasi-health food almost vegetarian restaurant. The Cream Cheese and Black olive sandwich is as rich and satisfying as any sandwich I’ve ever tasted.
    • Slater’s 50/50 is a restaurant in Anaheim Hills (and Huntington Beach) Ca. that serves up a peanut butter and jelly hamburger. Their burgers are fat, juicy and generally come standard with bacon. They are famous for the peanut butter and jelly variation. Who knew!?! They serve the burger with a modest amount of peanut butter and jelly so as to not overwhelm the integrity of the burger itself. The peanut butter adds a perfect nutty unctuousness to the burger and the jelly acts to sweetly balance the heaviness of the butter. Very tasty.
    • At home, when I want to whip up a very quick, easy and tasty sandwich I start with a tablespoon of coconut oil in a hot pan. I crack two eggs into the pan and let sit for about one minute, long enough for the whites to begin cooking. Then I scramble the eggs in the pan and continue stirring and cooking until the eggs are just not runny; that is, pretty underdone by most standards. I pile the scramble onto a slice of lightly toasted sour dough that has been liberally spread with mayonnaise, sprinkle on about one table spoon of finely chopped green onion, salt and pepper and top with another slice of toasted sour dough. Eggs cooked with coconut oil are very tasty. The coconut oil imparts a round nutty flavor to the eggs that is not unlike truffle oil, only better. The green onion brings some zing into what would otherwise be a simple scrambled egg sandwich and the mayonnaise; well, what can one say, mayonnaise is semi-liquid bacon. I can make this sandwich in a matter of four minutes, cold pan to plate.
    • At home, when I want to whip up a more involved sandwich I go for the open faced Croque Madame. My Croque Madame is a variation on the French. I start with a slice of sour dough spread liberally with mayonnaise, next is piled multiple undulated layers of thinly sliced black forest ham. The ham is topped with slices of gruyere cheese so as to completely cover the sliced ham. The whole thing is placed under a hot broiler until the cheese is literally bubbling. While the sandwich is in the broiler I pan fry two over-easy eggs. The hot sandwich is removed from the broiler, plated and the two over-easy eggs are placed on top. Salt and pepper to taste. I think this sandwich has about 3,000 calories. It is as rich as cake and ice cream and is the most decadent sandwich I have ever known.
    • I’m a sucker for a Monte-Cristo and will always try where ever one is served.

  24. #24 |  jb | 

    The sweetest words my wife says to me are, “Would you like a sandwich?” Then I know she loves me.

  25. #25 |  how | 

    If anyone is ever in NYC, and you can make it out to Brooklyn and you love sandwiches, then you MUST GO HERE: http://www.lioniheroes.com/hero_menu.html

    Lioni supplies many restaurants in NYC with their housemade fresh mozzerella, and they make the SICKEST SANDWICHES.

  26. #26 |  drewby | 

    Rueben sandwich at obsessions cafe in Waimea (Kauai) Hawaii.
    About an inch of shredded brisket cooked to perfection.
    Tell the owner Dennis that Drew sent you!

    Teddy’s bigger burger Pearle city Hawaii.

  27. #27 |  KBCraiKBCraiggKBCraig | 

    I forgot to mention one of my favorite hangover cures, which I discovered at the Fussgangerplatz in Fulda: a pickled herring sandwich on a Kaiser-style bun with crisp red onion slices. It’s more a northern coast of Germany speciality, but I discovered at that little walk-up window in Hessen, right when I desperately needed it.

    My wife thinks I’m both disgusting and crazy for liking bagels with cream cheese and herring in white wine sauce with onions. That’s as close as I can come to that delicacy I found in Fulda.

  28. #28 |  Greg Beaman | 

    Also, the hot sausage poboy, dressed, at the Louisiana Discount Center on Louisiana Avenue in New Orleans.

  29. #29 |  Pete | 

    On my deathbed, or my last meal should I end up unlucky and in Texas, I will request a banh mi from Saigon Banh Mi in Chinatown (NYC). It is heavenly, the perfectly savory, chewy pork, crisp veggies, etc. Exclusive balance, tremendous flavor.

    One of my recent creations is peanut butter, green apple (sliced thin) and sriracha on wheat. If you like all of those things separately, they’re dynamite together.

    I hope no one will begrudge me a bit of shilling. I blog about sandwiches, and only sandwiches, at http://onsandwiches.wordpress.com . We endeavor to be enthusiasts, not critics, and it is my hope that fellow enthusiasts will enjoy the discourse.

  30. #30 |  yonemoto | 

    Radley – next time you’re in the DC area, try Crisp And Juicy’s in north arlington. But really my super-secret favorite is a place called the Lennox Deli, about 2 miles from the pentagon. They make an amazing sandwich called the “washingtonian” which is a roast beef sandwich with melted brie.

  31. #31 |  bacchys | 

    I had the perfect sandwich about ten years ago at a place called the Tiber River Tavern in Ellicott City, MD. It was a “Black and Blue” sandwich: Angus roast beef with caramelized onions and blue cheese crumbles on their homemade bread.

    It was incredible.

    Unfortunately, the place closed up before I could have a second one…

  32. #32 |  Kathleen | 

    I’m a southern girl so I have to do a shout out to a few places in the South:

    Best club sandwich was oddly enough at a BBQ joint called Burnt Fork BBQ in Decatur, GA. Homemade bread, bacon is cured in-house, with turkey smoked in-house, homemade mayo and all the trimmings. If you like Cajun, the best crawfish po’boy is at PoBoy Factory in Huntsville, AL.
    Leon’s Full Service in Decatur makes a mean softshell crab sandwich, too.

    But, my favorite all-time sandwich is a homemade BLT made by yours truly. Berkshire pork bacon, heirloom tomatoes from the garden, and some arugula, on a homemade onion cheddar roll. Toast the bread in the oven, add some homemade remoulade to that bad boy, and you’re set. Mmmm…sandwiches.

  33. #33 |  Daniel | 

    Darrell’s in Lake Charles Louisiana. Great bread, Jalapeno mayonnaise, and appropriate dive bar setting.