Huevo con Chorizo Torta at Tulcingo del Valle
The main players are eggs scrambled with plenty of mildly spiced chorizo, pickled jalapenos, and a smear of creamy refried pinto beans on the bottom. The remaining ingredients are supporting characters and do more for the sandwich's texture than flavor: crisp lettuce, sliced red onion, sliced tomato, cheese, and a smidge of guacamole. The bread's a little more chewy than you'd expect for a soft torta, but the egg, sausage, and pickled chilies hit all the notes you want. Mexican craving: accomplished.
Roast Pork Club at Dominique Ansel Bakery
The Roast Pork Club is a beast of a sandwich: three slabs of well toasted Pullman bread and a fistful of incredibly tender roast pork shoulder, left in large chunks with meaty edges that splay open and crisp. If that weren't rich enough, pickled egg and chili mayo add a luxurious creaminess to all the meat, along with a welcome heat that highlights the pork's natural sweetness. Both by quality and generous portioning, the pork here ranks among the best of New York's hunks-of-pork-on-bread sandwich set.
Chicken Parm at Faicco's
The Chicken Parm Hero from Faicco's ($10) is a beast of a sandwich. It starts with the classic sesame hoagie and continues with the matrimony of Italian-American culture that lies within. Three to four filets juicy chicken cutlets are stuffed inside, making for a package that easily weighs in over a pound. There's more than enough to share, but that doesn't mean you have to! The fresh mozzarella is laced with a subtle sweetness that really hits its stride alongside the garlicky marinara. Take Robert Sietsema's advice and ask for extra sauce, either on your sandwich or on the side, and you're in for a soul-satisfying lunch.
Eggplant and Smoked Mozzarella at Dominique Ansel Bakery
You may not expect much from a roasted vegetable medley sandwich, and rightly so, but damn does this one ($8.50) deliver. You know a sandwich gets it right when the eggplant within has the weighty satisfaction of well cooked meat, and roasted peppers and zucchini act more as condiments for melted smoked mozzarella than watery show-stealers. That mozz is seriously smoky, but in balance with the sandwich's other components, and a smattering of capers lends some necessary brightness. Why can't all vegetarian sandwiches be this good?
Pulled Pork at Maysville
The pork is smoked and pulled into fine, delicate shreds with crispy edges. Raw kale shredded fine is all the better to drink up a coating of fresh buttermilk dressing. The tang cuts the richness of the pork with ease, but if you need extra help in that department, a handful of sharp vinegary whiskey pickles served on the side will do the trick. The sandwich is all held together on a potato roll from Balthazar, which has a slight crust but an exceedingly tender crumb. Oh, and those house-fried thick-cut potato chips? We're still talking about them.
Suadero Torta from El Tenampa
While the cemitas at El Tenampa come with an addition of stringy Oaxacan cheese, the tortas ($6.50) showcase better bread: a roll that's substantially buttery with a gridled crust to balance the soft fillings. The main ingredient, in this case, is suadero, tender veal flank with as much meatiness as its grownup beefy relatives also on the menu. Though the suadero can't compare to the excellent stuff found at Los Portales, this is a superior sandwich, with substantial lobes of ripe avocado, crema, and shredded lettuce—everything the torta needs and nothing it doesn't. And it's large even by torta standards, as generous as the free guacamole at the salsa bar.
Carnitas Torta at Taqueria Lower East Side
The décor at Taqueria Lower East Side may be '80s hair bands, but the theme for the Carnitas Torta ($6.25) is juicy, meaty fun. Slow roasted pork caramelizes in the oven and gets packed into a dense patty for this sandwich. The firm packing helps keep all the juice trapped in the fibers of finely shredded pork, and when you bite into it, you get that rush of flavor and oil we love in a good torta. A thin Portuguese roll from Santos Bakery will absorb whatever your mouth doesn't.
Paneer Tikka Sandwich at Usha Foods & Sweets
It's white bread, Wonder-esque, stuffed with chili-spiced paneer cut into fine shreds and layered with green chili and tamarind and mint chutneys. It costs $5 and is more than just an idle curiosity—it's a great idea, the Indian grilled cheese. What you see in the photo above isn't grilled, of course; Usha will griddle it for you, but since the diner also bills itself as a fast food/takeout kind of place, you're welcome to take the plastic-wrapped sandwich home and give it the press yourself. Once griddled, the sweet bread becomes crisp like pastry, slightly caramelized to better accentuate the warm spiced cheese and tangy chutneys inside. Paneer doesn't melt, but it does warm through, and this is a multicultural grilled cheese to love.
Chili Mackerel Banh Mi at Bún-Ker
The banh mi to beat so far at Bún-Ker, which opened in January, is the Chili Mackerel ($6.50), in which the dense fish is fried crisp, then paired with a chili mayo, cucumber, and pickled carrot and daikon. That bread may not be much to look at, but there's more crackle and lightness than appearances would suggest. This is a fish sandwich with personality—you know you're eating mackerel, and the chef plays fast and loose with the mayo. But there are enough crunchy veggies to keep it in check, and it's a better overall sandwich than some ones we've tried in Chinatown.
Four P's at Bowery Eats
One of the daily specials at Bowery Eats, the sandwich counter at Bowery Kitchen in Chelsea Market, is the Four P's ($10). Its blend of roast pork, prosciutto, provolone, and roasted peppers eats like an Italian-inspired Cuban. It's a hot sandwich, so we opted for the more durable, crunchy baguette. Using prosciutto in place of ham gives the sandwich a deeper, porkier flavor, and the Italian influence is boosted with slightly sweet roasted peppers. Their juice softens up the crusty bread and works its way through the roast pork, which, although flavorful, spent a bit too long in the oven. It's a bit dry, but provolone melts its way throughout the sandwich and lends its rich salty body to every bite.
Classic Forever at Nish Nush
On the classic forever ($6), falafel are golden brown and crunchy on the outside. Inside they're soft and creamy. Parsley gives them a deep green hue and laces the fritters with a subtle freshness. If you opt for the spicy version you'll get a delicately balanced heat akin to harissa; both versions are worth your time. A light, herb-laced tahini slips alongside diced tomato and cucumber, all of which balance the weight of the creamy hummus. The sandwich comes together on Nish Nush's homemade pita, not quite the best in town but still light and springy—a good base for a great cheap lunch.
Fresh Mozzarella Sandwiches at Joe's Dairy
In memoriam: Joe's Dairy closed its retail operation in May, but their fresh mozzarella sandwiches will not soon be forgotten. In addition to making their own mozzarella, Joe's roasted their own peppers and dried their own tomatoes, and if you visited early enough you'd have found these veggies resting together inside crusty, chewy loaves from Grandaisy Bakery for $7 each. In both sandwiches, the cheese was loaded on the bread in enormous lobes, enough to make the mozz feel as substantial as meat. The roasted red pepper version added sweetness and smoke; the sweet sun-dried tomato version was all about chewy texture and a welcome acidity. Each sandwich got a smattering of dried Italian herbs, and parsley and oregano lent a savory note and bit of depth. Joe's, you'll be dearly missed.
Pastrami at Stage Restaurant
The pastrami sandwich at Stage Restaurant, a slender breakfast and lunch counter that's as old school as they come, costs a mere $8.95. It's generous but not overstuffed, designed as lunch, not a tourist attraction. It's a more aggressively cured pastrami than what we've encountered recently, salty and distinctly hot doggy, but it's quite tender with meltingly soft fat around the edges. The standard order comes with a thin spread of tangy mustard and better rye than Katz's and the other pastrami royalty use. Perhaps Stage's isn't the best pastrami in the city, but it is the kind of affordable, workaday sandwich that we can—and should—depend on.
Shawarma at Homemade Falafel
Homemade Falafel does a rather nice Lebanese-style shawarma ($6). It's a simple thing, and all the better for it: just some beef, sauce, a little vegetable for crunch, and pita that gets out of the way. (Tomatoes do no good here and are best omitted.) But it hits all those notes so well—the cinnamon-spiked beef with delicate crisp edges, the pungent and sour turnips, the squirt of nutty tahini—that it's not hard to wolf the generously stuffed sandwich down. The trick is the sauce that forms when the tahini mixes up with sweet beef juices and the pickle brine, similar in format to a Big Mac's special sauce and about as addictive.
Fish on a Bun at Cup & Saucer
Cup & Saucer isn't a diner to go out of your way for. But it's impressive that it's still there at all, and the time warp of having a meal at the counter is well worth it. One way to do so: Fish, helpfully noted on the menu, on a bun ($6.50). It's just what you expect: crisp breaded fish cake, tartar sauce, iceberg, sesame seed bun. Though it's pricier than a Filet-o-Fish, it's a good deal larger, and easy enough to call lunch on its own. It's better than a Filet-o-Fish as well, more crisp, with generous tartar sauce and a bun that retains some structural integrity. There's an upper bound on how good a fried fishwich like this can be, but given what Cup & Saucer is working with, they're doing a fine job.
Chorizo and Potato Torta at Choza
On the potato and chorizo torta ($9.04), the Portuguese roll is griddled to start things off. The high heat leaves the thin bread buttery, lightly toasted, and soft and chewy. It's the perfect companion for the starchy black beans, creamy guacamole, and spicy chipotle mayo that give the sandwich its deeply satisfying richness. The combination of meat and potatoes is more than practical in this case. Diced potatoes are sponges that soak up the salty, smoky juices that render from the fatty chorizo as it cooks. And the potatoes aren't overcooked, so their firm center gives the sandwich a bit of texture. A sprinkling of grated Oaxaca cheese tops everything off before the other half of the roll is placed on what is one of the better tortas we've had of late.
Potato and Egg on Lard Bread at Parisi Bakery
A potato and egg sandwich at Parisi Bakery costs you $5.50. It is about ten inches long and three inches tall. And it's enormously filling, with tender potatoes and a crisp-edged omelette—if a little light on the salt. To get that extra salty hit we figured some lard bread would be just the thing, and Parisi makes some of the best in New York. While we doubt they're pleased to do it for everyone, we're happy to say that you can get your sandwiches made on an 18-inch loaf of lard bread at the deli counter. Should you go the potato and egg route, it'll cost you $12 to feed three people. Truth be told it's still light on the salt, but the crisp flakes of prosciutto in the loaf do add a salty, meaty edge to an otherwise staid classic. One can only imagine the good it would do for an Italian combo.
Tuna Melt at Classic Coffee Shop
The menu at Classic Coffee Shop hasn't changed much in 37 years of existence, and it's as barebones as it gets: ham and cheese sandwiches, bagels with butter, canned tuna and sardines. But owner Carmine Morales whips out the small burner for a great classic grilled cheese ($4) and an even better Tuna Melt ($5.50), which is appropriately generous with the mayo on thoroughly griddled rye. (You could get white or wheat bread as well, but why?) It's worth noting that the tuna melt is the priciest item on the menu.
The ProZack at Shopsins
When you're eating at Shopsins, money isn't too much of a concern. The food's expensive, more than you'd think for tricked out diner fare, but when it's so gutbusting filling and so damned good it feels hard to mind. Case in point: the ProZack ($17), a sandwich of gravy-soaked brisket, Hatch chilies, and jack cheese on a loaf of garlic bread. It's all about meat, fat, and spice, an easy recipe for success, but the fun's all in the details: brisket so tender you could cut it with a spoon, a gravy that tastes of little more than stock reduced until it's a meaty syrup, chilies that actually burn, and the crunchy-tender bliss of well-toasted garlic bread. The sandwich is crazy filling of course, and excessive, but in a balanced sort of way that keeps you coming back for more.
The Deckle at Delaney Barbecue: SmokeLine
The Deckle ($8), made with thick slices of fatty and peppery smoked brisket served on a toasted buttered roll with crisp homemade pickles and sliced raw onion, is outstanding. In the past, Ed and others have noted that the level of smoke that penetrates the meat has been occasionally inconsistent, with some batches properly mild on smoke flavor, others tasting nearly charred. But this batch was spot-on. Just a hint of smokiness with the flavor of the beef fat and pepper carrying it most of the way through.
Bánh Mì Dac Biet at Sao Mai
The Bánh Mì Dac Biet ($6) is Sao Mai's house special. It's evenly stuffed with a combination of smooth, rich pâté and thinly sliced pork. Pickled carrots and daikon give it a good crunch and a light hint of sweetness, and cucumbers and cilantro were a bright contrast to the mayo, which is applied generously enough to add a subtle, buttery flavor without overwhelming the main ingredients or making the bread soggy.
Arthur Avenue at Il Salumaio
Il Salumaio opened on the Upper East Side in the spring. A small space managed by a more than friendly staff, the sandwich shop is a destination we would gladly visit again for a quick lunch fix. The sandwiches hew close to deli classics, but with some subtle twists. For one there's the Arthur Avenue ($11.98 on a hero, focaccia, or ciabatta; about $9 on a roll), Il Salumaio's take on an Italian combo. The thinly sliced ham, mortadella, salami, and prosciutto are commendable if lightly applied; in place of sliced tomatoes were halved sweet cherry tomatoes dressed in syrupy balsamic. The lettuce is chopped rather than shredded, adding a refreshing crunch.
Tony Cheeks at DiSO's Italian Sandwich Society
The vegetarian Tony Cheeks (Hero: $9, Half: $6.50) was our runaway favorite. We didn't miss the meat at all in this flavorful sandwich, which is packed with an amply salted pairing of two oft-screwed up vegetables: eggplant and broccoli rabe. The fried (but not breaded) eggplant was silky, sweet, and devoid of bitterness, leaving the broccoli rabe to add a sight bitter kick. That kick was amplified by a layer of vinegary and hot pickled cherry peppers, and calmed down by a few thin slices of fresh, buttery provolone.
Egg and Cheese on Challah at B & H Dairy
You can opt for one or two eggs on your egg and cheese at B & H, but there's only one choice for bread: their thick-cut fluffy homemade challah, and that's all the choice you need. The filling here is pretty standard: eggs ($2.25 for one, $3.25 for two) and American cheese, crisped up will on the griddle with runny yolks. The slabs of challah are cooked gently on the griddle, not enough to toast up, but just so they pick up some hard-won griddle fat that makes the bread's slight sweetness come through more clearly.
Chicken Parm at Zito's
Zito's Sandwich Shoppe is one of those places that melds the old and new of Brooklyn, serving decidedly classic sandwiches in a hip and refined space, all with an emphasis on local and seasonal ingredients. Just like their pork braciole, their Chicken Parm ($10.50) is a shining example of just how well that approach works. The ingredients could all stand on their own—the bread is wonderfully crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, the tomato sauce is fresh and made in-house, the chicken is moist, crisp and lightly seasoned, and the mozzarella is mellow and not even remotely rubbery—and they all work together in sandwich harmony to create a truly beautiful thing.
Mushroom Gravy-Smothered Chicken at Jacob's Pickles
The Mushroom Gravy-Smothered Chicken ($14) is one filling entrée, lightly resembling potpie, served with creamy cheese grits on the side. A slice of buttermilk-fried chicken is laid on top of a biscuit and is covered in a creamy mushroom sauce, then topped with another biscuit. Their biscuits are made in-house; they are soft, fluffy, a little sweet, and a little tangy. Both the chicken and gravy are well-seasoned, as were the grits, which have an intense cheesy punch. Consider splitting this sandwich with a friend.
Hellfire at Sorriso Pork Store
"I'm calling this sandwich the Hellfire. The next time you come in here, you tell me you want the Hellfire and I'll make it again for you." So said the woman behind the counter at Sorriso Pork Store—an Italian deli in Astoria with a reputation for good sandwiches, great deli products, and some of the friendliest counter staff you'll find anywhere—who made our custom hero and christened it with a name. It deserves that rep on all fronts. If you want to order the Hellfire, it's a 50/50 mix of that spicy sopressata and peppery, fatty Genoa salami along with fresh mozz, pickled hot peppers, and a dash of red wine vinegar on a hero. Doing so will run you about eight bucks, and we recommend it with gusto.
Mr. Cays at Court Street Grocers Hero Shop
Why can't all roast beef sandwiches be as good as this one? Beautifully rare roast beef comes with mild arugula, a Worcestershire vinaigrette, sliced red onions, and a French onion jus for dipping on the side. Not that this beef needs anything, even the funky vinaigrette, to stand out—it has a mineral twang on its own. We've paid 50% more for roast beef with less meaty umph. Get on this.
Smoked Turkey at Spreads Sandwich Shop
The "smoked" turkey isn't tremendously smoky, but it is flavorful and juicy, and Aleppo-pickled roasted peppers and spicy chipotle mayo add a mild but pleasant heat, tempered by the monterey jack. The inclusion of avocado and crumbled tortilla chips effectively adds a layer of chips and guac into the mix, but manages to do it in a way that seems neither excessive nor gimmicky. It's unusual, but not for the sake of being unusual, and we approve. This is a mighty solid turkey sandwich.
Lobster Roll at Cull & Pistol
This Maine Lobster Roll ($25) is as fine a rendition of the dish as you could hope for. It's done in true New England style with just enough mayonnaise to barely bind it together, a sprinkle of scallions, and a buttery toasted top-split hot dog roll. The roll might be a little small for the price tag, but a big pile of perfect fries will fill you up nicely.