You want sandwiches? We got sandwiches. Last year, Endless Simmer’s post on America’s Top 10 New Sandwiches was our most-read story of 2011, and even helped turn The New Luther into a bit of a sell-out phenomenon. But America’s sandwich artisans haven’t stopped innovating, and we haven’t stopped salivating. So here we go, for your drooling-at-work pleasure, this year’s list of America’s top 10 craziest, loveliest, cheesiest, most creative new sandwiches.
10. The Noble Pig — Noble Pig Sandwiches, Austin
Texas may be best known for its beef, but perhaps not for long, if chefs John Bates and Brandon Martinez have anything to say about it. Their year-and-a-half-old Noble Pig serves up a namesake sandwich that somehow combines everything that is beautiful about pork products on one truly outstanding sandwich. Tender pulled pork, spicy slivers of ham, and crispy bits of bacon are all mixed together, topped with provolone cheese, and served on toasted, house-baked bread, for a porky trifecta that hits all of the spots. (Photo: Marshall Wright)
9. Pane et Panelle — Bar Stuzzichini, New York
Chickpeas may get typecast as functioning only in falafel form, but it turns out balls aren’t all they can do. Panelle is actually an old Sicilian street food snack—chickpeas and flour formed into light, airy strips and fried in olive oil. Stuzzichini‘s sandwich revives that classic and perfects it, layering crispy strips of panelle on a sesame-studded bun, in between levels of soft ricotta and caciocavallo cheeses. The result is a light-but-addictive sandwich that will make you curse every overly dense falafel wrap that has crossed your lips.
8. Chicharrones Banh Mi — Ink Sack, Los Angeles
There are a million banh mis in American nowadays, but we were most swept away by this version from Top Chef champ Michael Voltaggio. At his new Ink Sack sandwich shop, tender slices of pork belly and pork butt are topped with pickled vegetables, plus the kicker — crispy chicharróne fried pork rinds, creating one incredible multi-culti pork bomb.
7. Rabbit Cheesesteak — La Fromagerie, Alexandria, VA
We’re big fans of the cheesesteaks gone wild trend, and while we have a feeling Philadelphians won’t approve of this version, ES is all on board. DC-area shop La Fromagerie replaces the tired beefsteak with slices of Parisian braised rabbit; subs smoked mozzarella for the whiz; and tops the whole ciabatta off with carrot puree and caramelized onion.
6. Ebbett’s Cuban — Ebbett’s Good to Go, San Francisco Bay Area
Another classic that is hard to mess with, we’ve had plenty of modern Cubans that don’t live up to the real deal. Not so with the version hawked by roving Bay Area food truck Ebbett’s Good to Go. Slow roasted Niman Ranch pulled pork and artisan ham make the perfect pig-on-pig combination, while gruyere brings the goo, a crusty Acme roll provides the crunch, and the whole thing is finished off with jalapeno relish and chipotle mayo.
5. Garlic Bomb — Jake’s Sandwich Board, Philadelphia
Clearly, Philadelphia is not letting Virginia lay claim to the cheesesteak crown just yet, and Jake’s Sandwich Board has stepped up to the table with perhaps the ultimate garlic-lovers’ creation. A crusty roll is covered in homemade garlic spread, then topped with rib-eye steak and melted provolone, plus more sauteed garlic on top, and the garlicky pièce de résistance: deep-fried, crunchy, battered whole garlic cloves.
4. Grilled Cheese Donut — Tom + Chee, Cincinnati
We’ve seen a lot of crazy grilled cheeses pop up around America recently, but none gets our saliva flowing quite like the simple-but-genius version at Cincinnati’s Tom + Chee. Can you really argue that a grilled cheese wouldn’t be better if put between two slices of grilled donut instead of bread? No, you can’t.
3. DUC — Xe May, New York
OK, fine, we couldn’t resist adding a second banh mi option here, but the one at new East Village sandwich spot Xe May takes the cake by going half Vietnamese, half Italian, for basically the craziest meatball sub we’ve ever seen. Grilled meatballs are covered in housemade tomato sauce and provolone, but finished with the full banh mi treatment: fresh cilantro, pickled carrots, daikons, cucumbers and chili mayo, all served on a crispy baguette.
2. Roasted Cauliflower — No. 7 Sub, Brooklyn
No. 7 Sub chef Tyler Kord can do amazing things with meat, but we’ve been most impressed with his uncanny ability to turn regular old vegetables into exciting sandwich creations (his Brussels sprouts sub made our original best new sandwiches list). When No. 7 expanded to Brooklyn this year, he added this cauliflower creation that yes, sounds like something a stoned nine-year-old might have created, but is most definitely adult-approved. Sauteed cauliflower florets are topped with golden raisins, scallions, potato chips and smoked French dressing, for one seriously fulfilling veggie meal.
1. Irish Breakfast Sandwich — Beachside, San Francisco
When it comes to outrageously meaty meals, it’s hard to beat a full Irish breakfast, which always must include thick-thick slabs of salty bacon, savory Irish sausages, and circular slices of black (blood) pudding and white (oatmeal-pork fat) pudding. But what if you put all of those ingredients on a sandwich? Clearly, it would be unbeatable. Beachside‘s sandwich has all of those porky products, plus a fried egg and slice of grilled tomato, only slightly fancied up with a thin layer of garlic aioli spread on the crispy bread, and a housemade, tarmarind-spiked “brown sauce” on the side for dipping.