5. Fried Chicken Sandwich — Bakesale Betty, Oakland
Perpetually purple-wigged owner Alison Barakat started out as a pastry chef at the ultimate farm-to-table temple: Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse in neighboring Berkeley. Fooling around on her lunch breaks, she whipped up these extra-crispy buttermilk fried chicken patties for her co-workers, topping them with a savory slaw of sliced jalapenos, pickled red onions, and high-quality olive oil. Her McChickens-for-foodies grew so in demand that she soon opened her own lunch counter spot, which runs through 1,000 chicken sandwiches daily. Get there early — they almost always sell out.
4. The Maple – Meat Cheese Bread, Portland (Oregon)
Put down that Egg McGriddle and behold a breakfast sandwich that does right by the maple tree. Three-year-old Meat Cheese Bread may be simply named, but Portlanders known their creations are anything but. And it’s breakfast time that draws the most loyal following for this outrageous creation — two hot-from-the-oven slices of maple-currant bread pudding loaded with savory sausage, chipotle cheddar cheese and tangy shavings of fresh fennel.
3. Lasagna Bolognese — Paesano’s Philly Style, Philadelphia
If the thought of a Philly-style lasagna sandwich has you expecting an overstuffed, over-cheesed hot mess, think again. Chef Peter McAndrews’ Italian-inspired lasagna sandwich is surprisingly refined. Thin layers of pasta are delicately brushed with a bacon-y bolognese sauce, lightly breaded and fried, then slipped between a doughy roll and joined by sweet peppers, smoked mozzarella and sharp provolone. The optional runny fried egg on top is an obvious yes for us. Read about Paesano’s other award-worthy sandwiches at unbreaded. (Photo: unbreaded)
2. Brussels Sprouts Sandwich — No. 7 Sub, New York
We know that “vegetables so good, you don’t even need the meat” is already a cliche, but still, it’s pretty notable when one of our very favorite new sandwiches has not a drop of flesh on it. At this new midtown Manhattan shop, mad scientist chef Tyler Kord dreams up sandwiches with inventive ingredients like fried broccoli, pine nuts, pickled blueberries and potato chips. His menu changes frequently, but the best thing we’ve tasted so far is this one. How he thought to bring together brussels sprouts, granny smith apples, and crushed peanuts on a sandwich roll we’ll never know, but we’re sure glad he did. (Photo: Katherine Pangaro / No. 7 Sub)
1. The New Luther — ChurchKey, Washington, D.C.
It takes some chutzpa to reinvent what Endless Simmer has already called the best drunk food in America, but chef Kyle Bailey is not afraid. Named for its alleged creator, Luther Vandross, the original Luther sandwich consists of a bacon cheeseburger wedged between two halves of a Krispy Kreme donut, but that now seems rather simple in comparison. At ChurchKey, a house-made brioche donut is glazed in savory maple-chicken jus and topped with warm pieces of oven-baked pecans. While that sounds like a meal already, the brioche is cut in half and stuffed with a hunk of buttermilk fried chicken and wedges of applewood smoked bacon. Perhaps realizing that serving these daily would be a public health hazard, ChurchKey’s Luther is somewhat of a speakeasy sandwich; unlisted on the menu, it’s available only by request on Sundays, from noon to 8 p.m.