The Best Thing Between Sliced Bread
To many Americans, nothing says “America” quite like a delicious sandwich, and from New York to Nebraska, you can find dozens of variations on the classic. Here are the 98 most-iconic sandwiches in the United States, and the perfect place to try each one.
Muffuletta: Central Grocery (New Orleans)
Several years ago, Italian immigrant Salvator Lupe stood outside his Central Supermarket and saw his Sicilian farmer customers fumbling with their platters of Italian salami, olive salad, cheese, Italian ham, and bread. He thought he could greatly enhance their lives — or at least their lunches — by merging all of the above into an easily carried meal. The original muffuletta was made with freshly minced garlic and a round loaf of bread dusted with sesame seeds. The archetypal NOLA sandwich is now accessible on practically every restaurant menu in the city, but the right place to appreciate its charm is at the site it was invented, Central Grocery.
Hot Beef Sandwich: The Wheel Inn Cafe (Watertown, South Dakota)
This South Dakota specialty is the ideal sandwich for lovers of meat-and-potatoes meals. The open-faced dish consists of mashed potatoes, large pieces of seasoned roast beef, and white bread, all coated in homemade gravy that, at times, can look like it’s about to run over the side of the plate. The dish is served in cafeterias and diners across the state, however, unfortunately, quick potatoes are frequently substituted. The Wheel Inn Cafe has earned a reputation as a must-visit for locals craving authentic, homemade hot beef for over fifty years.
Benedictine: La Peche Gourmet-To-Go (Louisville, Kentucky)
Louisville native Jennie Benedict created the spread sometime in the late 1800s by mixing together cream cheese, cucumber juice, onion juice, and seasonings. During Derby week, locals often snack on that straightforward mixture as a dip or in between pieces of bread. Contrarily, La Peche Gourmet-To-Go, which is connected to Lilly’s Cafe, serves it throughout the year. There, renowned chef Kathy Cary prepares a variation that is even better than the original thanks to the addition of crunchy cucumbers; it looks great between two slices of crispy bacon and a leaf of crunchy lettuce.
Roast Beef: Cutty’s (Brookline, Massachusetts)
Boston is known for its excellent roast beef sandwiches, and the North Shore is the best place to get one. One of the best in the United States, and perhaps the world, can be found at Cutties in Brookline. Niman Ranch chuck, an all-natural cut that is beefier, juicer, and of higher quality than the rounds most other purveyors get, is featured in the Roast Beef 1,000. It is rubbed with a “secret salt” combination, left to cure overnight, slowly roasted, and allowed to rest at room temperature over a period of roughly 36 hours. It is sliced fresh for each order and served on a black-pepper brioche bun with fried shallots, Vermont sharp cheddar, and Thousand Island dressing laced with horseradish.
Pastrami on Rye: Katz’s Deli (New York City)
With the influx of Eastern European immigrants in the late 1800s, pastrami found its way to New York City, where it quickly became an institution and eventually became a staple of New York’s (and the country’s) cuisine. Beef that has been cured with salt and spices is smoked and steamed until soft, sliced by hand (as is required at a real deli), and served on lightly seeded rye bread spread with spicy brown mayonnaise. That’s how it’s served at Katz’s Deli on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Famously depicted in movies like “When Harry Met Sally,” this cash-only cafeteria-style restaurant has been a local favourite since 1888, drawing customers in droves for its meaty, overstuffed hot pastrami sandwiches.
Cheesesteak: John’s Roast Pork (Philadelphia)
Although Rocky was born in Philadelphia and the city is famous for being the birthplace of American democracy, the Philly cheesesteak remains the city’s most famous culinary export. This satisfying meal consists of thinly sliced, griddled beef topped with your choice of onion and cheese (Cheez Whiz, American, or provolone) between two crusty rolls. Although Pat’s and Geno’s are more well-known, locals often prefer John’s Roast Pork because it is less frequented by visitors. Popular since the 1930s, the family-run sandwich shop is known for its roast pork and cheesesteaks made to order.
Croque Madame: Bouchon Bakery (Yountville, California)
The croque monsieur, the French equivalent of the American ham and cheese, consists of boiling ham sandwiched between two slices of sweet pain de mie, with grated cheese and a generous helping of Bechamel sauce baked, fried, or grilled till golden brown and bubbling. Croque Madame is simply a grilled cheese with an egg on top. Thomas Keller, at his world-famous Bouchon Bakery in Napa, gives his own chef-y take on the latter. Thinly sliced Midrange Jambon de Paris is elevated to a new level of decadence by the addition of thick slices of Brioche (of course made on site), Swiss cheese, and a Mornay sauce laced with nutmeg, clove, pepper, and Comté. This one’s for you, France.
Torta: La Torta Gorda (San Francisco)
A soft rectangular bun stuffed with tasty toppings, the Mexican torta has made its way onto the “must-have” sandwich lists of many U.S. cities. One of the most talked-about variations is La Torta Gorda’s Pierna Enchilada in San Francisco. Many in Puebla prefer these dishes to the city’s more well-known ones, which have burritos the size of infants. After four hours of slow cooking in a marinade of fresh orange juice and basic spices, pork butt is torn apart into chewy chunks and doused in a smoky, sweet, and hot adobo salsa flavored with guajillo peppers. Homemade refried beans, a thick slice of queso fresco, mayo, red onion, and avocado complement the juiciness of the pulled pork on the traditional oblong bun.
Italian Sub: Bunk Sandwiches (Portland, Oregon)
Any American city with a sizable Italian population will have its own take on the Italian sub, hoagie, or muffuletta. Amato’s in Maine, Capriotti’s in Delaware, and Ranelli’s in Birmingham are just a few examples of such legendary establishments. Each has its own set of believers who attest to its merits. But Portland’s Bunk Sandwiches, a relative newcomer, has rapidly become a local favorite. Ham, Olympia Provisions salami cotto and capicola, marinated hot peppers, and provolone picante fill the Italian cured meats sandwich, a two-hander.
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