Some might call it a crime to choose the crunchiest po'boy in New Orleans, the butteriest lobster roll in Maine and the meatiest roast pork in Philadelphia, but we look at this challenge as a great honor. Sure, it isn't easy to weed out the absolute best from the very, very good, but when it comes to sandwiches, we're up for the task.
The editors at Tasting Table talk about sandwiches pretty much all day long, whether it's debating over who makes the best BEC (bacon, egg and cheese, for the uninitiated) in NYC or narrowing in on what actually defines the term sandwich. (Does a hot dog count?)
So when it came to pooling together a list of our absolute favorites from coast to coast, we were ready. Check out our list of 23 of the best sandwiches in the country.
Let us know what you think belongs on this list in the comments!
Arizona: The Sopressata at Pane Bianco
Chris Bianco, the mastermind behind the famous Pizzeria Bianco, also makes focaccia with house-milled flour for some epic sandwiches. Good luck eating focaccia anywhere else after eating here. Whether you're picking up a sandwich to go or sitting down for a full meal, get the Sopressata, topped with aged provolone and homemade relish.
California: The Godmother at Bay Cities Italian Deli
Every sandwich shop has its own version of the Italian sub, but none compares to the paradigm that is the Godmother at Bay Cities. Since 1925, the old-school deli has been stacking all manner of cured meats including prosciutto, ham, capicola, mortadella and salami with the works (a mix of veggies and condiments, as well as a lively chopped pepper mix) onto a crusty stretch of Italian bread bursting at the seams. And like every esteemed family matriarch, this one sees a regular line of hungry Angelenos, waiting to pay their respects. It's a sandwich worth braving five o'clock traffic on the 405 freeway for, and trust us, that's saying a lot.
Colorado: The Dahlia at Denver Biscuit Co.
At this beloved biscuit den, this over-the-top breakfast sandwich starts with a giant house-made sausage patty that is then topped with apple butter, a fried egg and maple syrup. If that's not enough, there's always the option to amp it up and build your sandwich on biscuit French toast. Ask for extra napkins.
Connecticut: The Wenzel at Alpha Delta Pizza
Sure, the pizza here is fine and all, but let's be real: If you're getting pizza in New Haven, you have your sights set elsewhere (ahem, Pepe's). At Alpha Delta, however, the phone rings off the hook until 3 a.m. or 4 a.m for this chicken cutlet, hot sauce, cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo combo. You could call it Buffalo chicken, but that just doesn't encompass its singularity. Named after a former student who would eat the sandwich twice a day, the Wenzel even inspired Yale students to create a One Button Wenzel app that, yes, orders you a sandwich with a single tap on your screen.
Florida: The Medianoche at El Palacio de Los Jugos
Don't get mad: We love a classic Cuban sandwich as much as you do. And El Palacio makes a damn fine one, with the perfect ratio of meat to cheese to pickles. But those in the know find their way to this Miami chain for the Cuban's sweeter cousin, made on pressed challah-like eggy bread. Grab a fresh pineapple juice on your way out.
Illinois: Mr. G at J.P. Graziano Grocery Co.
The Windy City may be famous for its hot dogs and Italian beef, but there's another beloved sandwich joint worth adding to your Chicago to-do list: J.P. Graziano Grocery Co., a favorite among locals who line up to order the famous Italian subs. The house specialty is the Mr. G, which comes stuffed with provolone, soppressata, prosciutto, salami, truffle mustard, balsamic vinaigrette, hot oil, marinated artichokes, basil, lettuce, and red wine vinegar and oregano.
Kansas: The Wagon Wheel at K & M Bar-B-Q
For more than 20 years, this beloved BBQ joint has been serving up saucy classics, including the beloved Wagon Wheel: a beef brisket sandwich topped with white Swiss-American cheese and two onion rings. Still hungry? Check out the fried catfish dinner, burnt ends or the gluttonous BBQ Bowl, filled with smoked meat, warm potato casserole, cheese and baked beans. Just be sure to pencil in a nap afterward.
The Fried Shrimp Po'boy at Parkway Bakery and Tavern | Photo: Brian Jarreau
Louisiana: The Fried Shrimp Po'boy at Parkway Bakery and Tavern
The Big Easy is filled with po'boys worth traveling for, but if we have to choose one, it's the fried shrimp at this legendary family-run spot, open since 1911. It's the quintessential example of everything you want in this classic sandwich: golden shrimp topped with the works (lettuce, tomatoes, mayo, pickles) piled onto a hero. But if you're feeling adventurous, the surf-and-turf po'boy, which contains Parkway's beloved roast beef, is also a good choice.
Maine: The Lobster Roll at Bite into Maine
Bite into Maine's owners, husband-and-wife duo Karl and Sarah Sutton, know how to please locals and tourists alike with their perfect lobster rolls, served fresh from their food truck at Fort Williams Park. Piled high with big chunks of fresh lobster meat, served in a lightly grilled bun, it's everything "the way life should be." And when you've OD'd on the simple version, you can expand your horizons with wasabi or curry mayo.
The Lobster Roll at Bite into Maine | Photo: Bite into Maine
Massachusetts: Roast Beef 1000 at Cutty's
This Brookline favorite does everything right, but it's the brioche filled with a pile of roast beef, crispy shallots, Thousand Island dressing and cheddar that locals love. It's just the right size to leave you with enough room for a brownie, made with local Taza chocolate. (Runner-up for MA goes to the deviled egg sandwich at P-Town's Pop + Dutch: If you find yourself nearby this summer, this awesome sandwich shop is a must-visit.)
Michigan: The Reuben at Zingerman's Deli
Of all the meaty choices at this iconic Ann Arbor deli, only one was the sandwich that Obama ordered when he visited: the famous Reuben. It's one of the best combinations of corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing and buttery rye in the country. Trust us, it's worth the inevitable line.
The Reuben at Zingerman's Deli | Photo: Zingerman's Deli
Missouri: St. Paul from Old St. Louis Chop Suey
This regional specialty is little known outside of the area, but ask any Saint Louis native, and they'll quickly rattle off their favorite places to grab a St. Paul. This sandwich, birthed out of Chinese restaurants, features egg foo young between two slices of white bread with lettuce, pickles and mayo. It blends classic Americana and Chinese takeout, and the best part is that even the most expensive version from Old St. Louis Chop Suey is still less than $4.
New Hampshire: Moe's Original Italian at Moe's Italian Sandwiches
Since 1959 when Phil "Moe" Pagano quit his job as a cheese salesman to open a sandwich shop in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Moe's Italian Sandwiches has been serving local favorites like cheesy meatball subs and salami-stuffed Sicilians. The shop may have expanded to multiple locations around New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts, but the original recipe passed down to Moe from his mother endures. It's mild cooked salami, creamy provolone, sliced onions, bell peppers, dill pickles, tomatoes, black olives and olive oil. Add mayo or special spicy oil if you're feeling adventurous, or eat it just as Mama intended.
New Jersey: The Chicken Parm from Milano's Deli
Think of a stereotypical East Coast Italian deli, and you've got Milano's Deli. Expect a number of pastas and Italian specialties, but don't stray far from the sandwiches. There is a variety of options to choose from, and you can invent your own creations, but it's hard to beat the chicken Parm. Just be warned: You'll find a sizable wait around lunchtime from all of the office buildings in the area.
New York: Scuttlebutt from Saltie
Though we, too, are big fans of just about everything from Katz's, we want to let you in on another one of our favorites in NYC. Both fun to say and satisfying to eat, the Scuttlebutt from Saltie in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, comes on some of the best house-made focaccia we've ever tasted. It's heavenly on its own and serves as the perfect vehicle for a hard-boiled egg, feta, capers, black olives, pickles and pimenton aioli. It's the perfect mix of briny, vinegary and salty. Bonus: There's a Milk Bar next door if you've left room for dessert.
North Carolina: Grilled Pimento Cheese at Parker and Otis
The title of "best sandwich" doesn't always have to mean over the top. Take this flawless specimen from Downtown Durham lunchtime favorite Parker and Otis, for example. You might accidentally skip over the line that reads "grilled pimento cheese on sourdough" on this unfussy menu, but that would be a mistake. In between those two crosshatched slices of bread lies the pimento cheese all other Southern spreads aspire to be: gooey, melted cheddar and red pepper held together by just the right amount of mayo. And, yes, you should add bacon.
Oregon: Braised Oxtail French Dip at Stacked Sandwich Shop
Between Olympia Provisions, Lardo and Bunk, Portland might be one of the best sandwich cities in the country, making it very hard to narrow our top pick down to just one. But ever since we tried the decadent braised oxtail French dip from Stacked, which opened this February, we haven't stopped thinking about it. Chef Gabriel Pascuzzi brings his fine dining background to this meaty mess, complete with roast beef drippings and beef-bone stock, and the results have never been better.
Pennsylvania: Roast Pork Sandwich at John's
Everyone knows Philadelphia for the Philly cheesesteak, and while we're big fans of this staple, our loyalty lies with the sandwich known better to locals than tourists: the roast pork, which comes with thinly sliced pork, broccoli rabe and provolone. DiNic's at Reading Terminal Market is a great place to try this under-the-radar gem. But our favorite spot to dig into this sandwich is at a picnic table outside John's, a Philly favorite since 1930. Note that John's version comes with garlic-laden spinach, not broccoli rabe. And don't shy away from ordering the bigger size—that's where you'll get the best bread.
Tennessee: Hot Chicken Sandwich at Hattie B’s Chicken
You can't go to Nashville without hitting up Hattie B's Chicken for the hot chicken sandwich, a perfect piece of fried chicken topped with Nashville Comeback Sauce (mayo, honey and spice), coleslaw and a kosher pickle, all served on a freshly baked bun. You can choose your desired heat level from options that range from mild or medium to Shut the Cluck Up. Don't leave without some sides like the pimento mac and cheese or crinkle-cut fries.
Hot Chicken Sandwich at Hattie B’s Chicken | Photo: Joseph Woodley
Vermont: Veggie Wrap at Putney Food Co-op
Whether it tastes better for being a beacon of a pit stop off I-91 is up for debate, but this expertly made wrap tucked in a health food haven is truly a gem. It contains house-made hummus with six types of vegetables and dressing of your choice (go Russian or go home), and instantly takes the edge off that road-trip sloth feeling. The wrap also pairs best with a trip to Basketville, a giant retail store that's exactly what it sounds like.
Washington: Roast Pork Sandwich at Paseo Caribbean Food
Conventional wisdom might say that a trip to Seattle isn't complete unless you catch a flying salmon at Pike Place or order an espresso from the original Starbucks. But true sandwich lovers know the real requirement is getting your hands on a drippy Paseo pork sandwich. Come rain or shine more rain, dedicated Seattleites won't hesitate to stand in line for a sturdy baguette layered with a slap of aioli, hills of slow-roasted pork shoulder, mounds of pickled jalapeños and a blanket of darkly griddled onions. Skip the napkins: They're all but useless when downing this savory, succulent brute.
Texas: The Tipsy Texan at Franklin Barbecue
When it comes to Franklin Barbecue, casual meat lovers need not apply. This place is the real deal, often boasting long lines before each daily opening and selling out of barbecue by the early afternoon. Skeptics of the hours-long wait haven't tried the Tipsy Texan sandwich: a pile of tender, chopped brisket; sliced sausage; coleslaw; and pickles for only $8. If you can survive the inevitable meat coma that follows, this might be one of the best sandwiches you ever have.
Virginia: The Capri at Italian Store
This deli tucked in a shopping center off the highway in Northern Virginia may seem unassuming—but looks can be deceiving. The Italian Store is so popular with Northern Virginia resident that there are long lines nearly every day of the week—but these Italian subs are worth the wait. The classic sandwich to order here is the Capri, filled with prosciutto, capicola, salami, and provolone on an Italian roll.
Washington, D.C.: The 9th at Taylor Gourmet
Every Washingtonian knows the name Taylor Gourmet, and with good reason: Its sandwiches are a favorite among the working lunchtime crowd in D.C. The sandwich chain, which started nine years ago with one location on H Street Northeast, has become so popular it has expanded into a chain throughout the city and surrounding suburbs. The menu has changed over the years, but the classic sandwich to order at any Taylor Gourmet location is still the 9th: an Italian sub filled with salami, capicola, prosciutto, lettuce, tomato, onion and provolone.
The 9th at Taylor Gourmet | Photo: Joe Cereghino