By Jesse Zanger – It’s almost impossible to compile a list of the 10 best sandwiches in America. That said, the editors of Gear Patrol put me out to do just that. Honestly, it’s like asking for a definitive list of the 10 most beautiful women ever with 50 of them standing there in front of you. For one thing, it’s probably going to keep changing, and the fact that you’re never going to reach agreement in the ranks. So, for your drool-laden consideration, I present you the 10 Best Sandwiches in America (including burgers).
First things first, lets settle on the definition of a sandwich. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary a sandwich is defined as:
Main Entry: (noun) Two or more slices of bread or a split roll having a filling in between.
Etymology: John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich died 1792 English diplomat.
With that out of the way, let’s proceed.
9. PMP at the Hot Truck
Hot Truck – Ithaca, New York – Ithaca is known for many things: Home of Cornell. College town. Natural gorges. Reisling. But food? Not so much. At least not while I was studying there. However, for a young, broke student (or not), there is, mercifully, the Poor Man’s Pizza, or PMP. Moored near the Cornell campus, the Hot Truck which serves it is the food equivalent of a life boat for Titanic survivors. All those who can, swim and clammor towards it – and no wonder: The PMP is a delicious (and cheap) concoction of crunchy French bread, a drizzling of garlic and oil, with pizza fixings slapped on top. The sandwich has variations, like the Full Sui (short for ‘Full Suicide’), which has mushrooms, sausage, and pepperoni. There’s also the MBC – essentially a meatball hero. All in all, the Hot Truck’s fare rates as a sentimental favorite.
8. Fried Oyster & Shrimp Po Boy at Acme
Acme – 724 Iberville Street, New Orleans, Louisiana – Once, during a drunken bachelor party in New Orleans, my friends and I made a point of reeling to the much-lauded Acme Oyster House. There I ordered a Fried Oyster and Shrimp Po Boy, although it may have been all oysters. Truth be told, I’m a bit fuzzy about the whole event. Whatever it was, I was in the midst of the onset of alcohol poisoning and turning an interesting shade of undead green when we sat down. When the Po Boy arrived, the fat, golden-battered, glistening oysters at first looked to me like deep fried testicles and I thought for certain I was going to hurl. It is testimony to the overwhelming delicious excellence of the sandwich that not only did I devour it with the intensity of a zombie attacking a brain, but it somehow set me right and settled my stomach. It is, just, terrific.
7. Jim’s Steaks Cheesesteak with Provolone
Jim’s Steaks – 400 South Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Between Acme Po Boys and Cheesesteak at Jim’s, purists out there are going to accuse me of picking tourist spots. But there is a reason these places endure: they are excellent, and capture the ousia of the sandwiches which made them famous. I am partial to provolone on a cheese steak, perhaps with onion, peppers, mayo and ketchup. What I just described may sound wrong to some, but you can’t really go wrong at Jim’s. Be prepared for a line and don’t be thrown if you see some celebs or (as was apparently the case on my most recent excursion there) a pimp treating his various top girls to a special lunch.
6. Shawarma at Bereket
Shawarma at Bereket – 187 Orchard Street, New York, New York – There are a million lousy places to eat shawarma. There are just as many overrated places to eat shawarma. But there is only one Midnight Shawarma, and that’s at Bereket. I call it the “midnight shawarma” because that is usually the time of night it is eaten – perhaps later – by stumbling inebriates after a night partying downtown. The loaded pita comes overstuffed with tender slivers of lamb, some sauce, lettuce and tomato. It does an excellent job of turning one from intoxicated and incoherent to functioning and fed, sometimes all four. Many kinds of food can do that, as we saw in New Orleans, but few are as savory and delicious. The glaring, packed confines of Bereket’s resemble a typical fast-food joint, but it is nonetheless an excellent capstone to a booze-fueled evening. Highly recommended.
5. Cheeseburger at the Burger Joint in Le Parker Meridien Hotel
Burger Joint in Le Parker Meridien Hotel – 118 W. 57th Street, New York, New York – At last we can move away from places you arrive drunk to places where you can get drunk. Such can be the case at the Burger Joint in the Parker Meridien hotel. Got to give it up to the hoteliers – they’ve recreated your college bar in the middle of their otherwise upscale hotel. The layout is cramped, the walls scrawled on, the line tedious – but the burgers are just about perfect. They’re not too big and are cooked properly (as in a medium-rare order comes out medium-rare). They make for a great lunch, a bit of burger decadence, that leaves you with enough room to maneuver later. The Burger Joint serves pitchers of your choice between Samuel Adams and Samuel Adams (natch), although a reasonable person might also try (and favor) the shake there too. Good luck getting a table, though.
4. Double Double at In-N-Out Burger
In-N-Out Burger – Anywhere, California & Las Vegas, Nevada – This is not meant to turn into a ‘best burger’ list, nor will it, but I can’t in good conscience leave the perfection of the Double Double off a list of great things that exist between two pieces of bread. What makes the In N Out burger so special? Beyond their “Never Frozen” policy ensuring fresh beef and potatoes, beyond the way they grill the bun to just the right level of crunch, beyond their consistently delivering an excellent product regardless of which branch you walk into, it is this: The product you see advertised in ANY fast food ad – a dripping, juicy burger with fresh lettuce and tomato – is actually what you get at In-N-Out. In too many fast food ads, what they show looks nothing like the helpless, wilted, brownish slab that’s slid across the counter to you like a battered hockey puck. Not so at In-N-Out. Consistently great. I don’t, by the way, advocate “Animal Style,” which comes with a sauce, since to me that diminishes the crunch of the bun (my editor vehemently disagrees). But if you want it that way, go for it.
3. Nova & Scallion Cream Cheese On A Bialy at Murray’s Sturgeon Shop
Murray’s Sturgeon Shop – 2429 Broadway, New York, New York – Murray’s is a bastion of the kind of specialty store that makes New York City great. A hole-in-the-wall place where they happen to serve the best of a specific kind of stuff. The Nova, scallion cream cheese and bialy I’m referring to here is do-it-yourself. You can purchase the ingredients at Murray’s, take it home, and introduce your taste buds to a Sunday brunch they’ll thank you for. While you’re there, you might consider getting a half pound of their tuna fish, which is the best in town easily (sorry Eisenger’s), and for the more adventurous (or experienced) of you, there’s also pickled herring. Excellent fresser food, and Oscar or Trinidad behind the counter will serve you a little taste of the Nova as they’re cutting it to order. Truly amazing. For those of you who do not know what a bialy is: First of all, shame on you. Second of all, it is most easily described as a variation on a bagel with just the right amount of onion flavor.
2. Pastrami on Rye at Carnegie Deli
Carnegie Deli – 854 7th Ave, New York, New York – You knew it was going to come down to this, didn’t you? Few would argue whether one of the all time great sandwiches in the world is a pastrami on rye with mustard. The only question is: where do you get the best one? That’s the kind of question which prompts an intensity of debate rivaled (or perhaps outmatched) by “Where do you get the best burger,” or (again) “Who is the most beautiful woman?” Suffice it to say, there are a few places in NYC which, by and large, you will not go wrong in. These days I’m enjoying the monstrous pastrami on rye from Carnegie Deli, which has seen a surprising resurgence in quality over the last few years. The pastrami is juicy and delicious, not too dry (as it had fallen into a while ago). However, if you want to make the case for Katz’s Delicatessen, or the Stage, or 2nd Avenue Deli, I’m certainly open. One thing I miss, though, is handcut pastrami. That’s a dying art, though Katz’s still does it, which gives them a leg up. When pastrami is machine-cut, it loses some of its natural chunky character. All in all, you won’t go far wrong at virtually any one of these: Carnegie Deli, 2nd Avenue Deli, Katz’s, Sarge’s, Fine & Schapiro.
1. Hot Lob at Abbott’s
Abbott’s – 117 Pearl Street, Noank, Connecticut – The premise of “Deep Throat” is that Linda Lovelace’s G-Spot is in her throat. You’re right if you think that the very idea is ludicrous and it was all just an excuse to film some hardcore porn. My view on this – or whether anyone could have a G-Spot in their throat – changed when I had the Hot Lob. This sandwich is so amazingly good as to keep a foodie up at night dreaming about it in pretty much the same way I am sure many teenaged boys today think about Rihanna. This is paradise on a bun. The sandwich is simple: shucked lobster meat, cooked, piled high onto a hamburger bun, served with drawn butter. You eat it outside, overlooking a harbor, watching yachts and boats tweedle by as the sun shines down. Far and way, it is the best sandwich I’ve ever had, bar none. I’d go on about it, but what’s the point? Simply go eat it if you have the means.
Wondering about number 10? Well, it’s dessert of course. And a sandwich at that.
10. Good Humor Ice Cream Sandwich
Simple and classic. Served at the correct temperature (not too cold, warm enough to provide a good amount of give without running all over the place), it’s a wonderful thing.
Mama’s Special at Leo’s Latticini
Leo’s Latticini – 46-02 104th Street, Queens, New York – Ah, Mama’s. That’s what everyone calls Leo’s Latticini, a tiny holdout of Murray’s-type quality. Except a latticini makes dairy products – cheese – and the fresh mozzarella which adorns their generous sandwich is a total winner. But beyond the sandwich itself, is the sweet caring of the women who work behind the counter: Nancy, Marie and Carmela, who dote on you as if you were their own son. If you go often enough to Mama’s you’ll walk in for a sandwich and they’ll send you out piled high with enough food for a week.
Papaya King Hot Dog
Papaya King – 179 East 86th Street, NYC – It bills itself as the Filet Mignon of hot dogs. It’s pretty fantastic, and for certain a cut above all the other Papaya dog imitators and franchises around town. It’s all-beef, no filler, and griddled. Get the “Home Run,” with mustard, sauerkraut and onions, and you’ll scratch your hot dog itch well, particularly when chased by a delicious Papaya drink.
Drooling? Disagree? Got recommendations of your own? Wondering why things are so New York centric? We’re open to suggestions and complaints. Leave a comment below and we’ll try and debate why it is you’re wrong.
Image Credits: PMP At The Hot Truck (Serious Eats), Fried Oyster & Shrimp Po Boy at Acme (Flickr), Jim’s Steak Cheesesteak (Sand Point), Schawarma at Bereket (Serious Eats), Cheeseburger at Buger Joint (Hotelchatter.com), Double Double at In-N-Out Burger (Onokinegrindz.typepad.com), Nova Lox & Scallion Cream Cheese On A Bialy at Murray’s Sturgeon Shop (Jesse Zanger), Pastrami on Rye at Carnegie Deli (Biggestmenu.com), Hot Lob at Abbott’s (Courant), Good Humor Ice Cream Sandwich (wikipedia.org)
Like this kind of article and want to see more? Check out another GP Roundup on Five Foreign Films Every Man Must Watch
Update: The Gear Burger!
Thought you faithful readers would appreciate a taste of the latest Gear Patrol creation (and possible a contender to go on the Top 10 Sandwiches in America Article (Part II) we’re working on. Introducing The Gear Burger, a creation commissioned by the editors of Gear Patrol from classically trained Executive Chef, Richard Parente of Sentrista Grill.