If Tacos Villa Corona were open reasonable hours, this list probably wouldn’t exist — what point would there be in seeking out other cheap and hearty lunch options in a neighborhood already blessed with such spectacular burritos? But thanks to its abbreviated schedule, we have found ourselves on an island, stranded and starving in the middle of Atwater in the early afternoon, far more times than we care to recall. But though it may seem initially like no backup lunch could possibly suffice, Atwater is home to a wealth of great sandwich options — the perfect way to recover from a burrito letdown.
The sandwich shops in Atwater are eclectic but accessible, interesting but not necessarily challenging, and exciting while staying family-friendly, much like the neighborhood itself. There is house-baked bread and slow-roasted pork, garlic and vinegar and meat carved to order. There are sandwiches so big you may not be able to get your mouth around them.
We’ve composed a guide to get you straight to your perfect spot. Below you will find, listed alphabetically, five of our favorite places to get a sandwich in Atwater Village.
See also: 5 Great Sandwiches Worth the Drive to Burbank
In the middle of all the buzzier, better-known places along Glendale Boulevard (Tacos Villa Corona and Canele, Viet and Hugo’s Tacos), Baracoa is incredibly easy to overlook, a tiny, single-room Cuban restaurant right in the middle of the main strip, with a simple sign that seems to blend into the background. The entranceway is dark and almost entirely blocked off with tropical plants, to the point that it can be difficult to know whether it’s even open. If you brave the front-door flora, you will enter into a little room with a few booths lining the walls and a couple of tables down the middle, the walls painted to look like a Cuban beach.
The menu has a lot of larger dishes on offer (ropa vieja, arroz con pollo, steaks, and shrimp al mojo de ajo), and it also has a handful of traditional Cuban sandwich options, from pan con bistec to the ever-wonderful Cubano. The roasted pork that comes on the majority of the sandwiches is outstanding: rich, tender and fatty, dripping with deliciously intense pork grease. The bread is noticeably good as well, pressed but not squished, sturdy enough to absorb that piggy oil without turning to mush, and topped with just the right amount of punchy condiment, whether that’s mustard and pickles on your Cubano or a healthy scoop of garlic sauce on your pan con lechon. 3175 Glendale Blvd., Atwater; (323) 665-9590.
Though its official relationship with the sandwich shop of the same name in Burbank is ambiguous, the Giamela’s in Atwater is clearly in a similar spiritual state. Despite a newish coat of bright orange exterior paint and some new lights, it's a little concrete box on Los Feliz Boulevard not far east of the river, with a well-loved feel. The interior is brightly lit and spare, which may sound trendy though it is distinctly not so. There are a dozen tables with matching chairs, a shelf of chips, a small flat-screen TV in the corner only partially obscured by the rabbit ears sitting directly in front of it, and a little counter for placing and picking up your order.
The format, too, matches the Burbank version – a titanic roll, upon which they pile meat, cheese and a side salad’s worth of vegetables, pickles, onions and fresh tomato. The Italian cold-cut sandwich is a stunner, perfectly salty, doused with mayo, mustard, oil, vinegar, pepper and whatever else you can think to dump on it, a mountain of mixed flavors such that no two bites are quite alike. You will round the corner of the first half of your sandwich with an eye on the whole thing, but no matter your head of steam, no matter how hard you rage against the setting sun of absolute stomach capacity, you will not finish. When you unwrap the final piece hours later, you will prod it suspiciously – it has grown soggy, oil having seeped not only through the bread but through the wrapper and probably the bag, too. But miracle of miracles, it may be even better than before, a lovely pile of vinegar-tinged mush, a reminder of its earlier glory and yet something entirely new, a hulking, ugly butterfly shedding its cocoon. 3178 Los Feliz Blvd., Atwater; (323) 661-9444.
You may know Proof first and foremost for its pastries (they're outstanding). You may also be familiar with the tiny bakery because it houses the excellent Cognoscenti Coffee's relatively long-running pop-up (does it even count as a pop-up anymore?). Or it may just be that you have noticed a gaggle of gently tatted 30-somethings massed next to Out of the Closet on Glendale Boulevard on Saturday mornings, some sitting at tables with their little dogs, some chatting quietly, many standing in line, waiting to get inside the sparsely decorated room and up to the pastry case to snag something sweet.
Looking closely at that pastry case reveals a series of little delicacies, beautiful baked goods piled on plates with practiced negligence. If you didn’t know what they were, you might almost mistake the sandwiches for some obscure type of pastry — they're a long and delicate little torpedo of bread lightly tattooed with thin layers of meat and cheese. In fact, they resemble nothing so much as the people who eat them, lean and willowy and beautiful, delicately assembled with an artful flourish, an unexpected piercing of salt here and there. The flavors are carefully constructed and always interesting, from the salami, manchego and chive butter sandwich to the rotating vegetarian option, lately featuring beets, pesto and goat cheese. You should be forewarned, though, that unless you are practically one of those breatharians, it may not be enough to make a full lunch on its own. Though really, that may be for the best – more room for a chocolate croissant. 3156 Glendale Blvd., Atwater; (323) 664-8633.
The Tam O’Shanter
You may not have meant to end up in Scotland on your Atwater Village sandwich run, but walking into the Tam O’Shanter is almost enough to make you think you've been transported across the Atlantic. The best way to describe the Tam O’Shanter’s interior is to say that it has a special kind of Old World charm – it’s old and kind of beat-up, with dark wood fixtures, minimal natural light and uniquely fragrant carpet; the walls are decorated with pictures and newspaper clippings dating back decades; and bottles of liquor sit soberly in several display cases. It is the kind of place where it feels like midnight in November even at noon in May, as the regulars at the bar slugging beers or sitting low in cushy armchairs with decaying felt covers will surely attest.
If that sounds like a less-than-ringing endorsement of the Tam O’Shanter’s ambience, it isn’t meant that way – the environment is actually perfectly suited to their sandwiches, giant mounds of meat carved at warp speed right in front of your eyes from giant roasted slabs, piled high on your choice of roll or bun (the onion roll is a great option), moistened with a healthy splash of jus. Want a vegetable? You can serve yourself some potato salad and cole slaw from a separate station. Want sauce? Ask for some jus on the side or help yourself to a spoonful of mustard. What matters here is not the accoutrements but those amazing meats, incredibly tender and flavorful, whether you get the brisket or the roast beef, the turkey or the prime rib. Dip your sandwich in salty jus, eat heartily and, what the hell, have a drink or two, linger as long as you can – when you leave, you will be full, buzzed and happy, the perfect suit of armor for your return to the harsh light of L.A. sun. 2980 Los Feliz Blvd., Atwater; (323) 664-0228.
If you were to imagine for yourself a combination bakery/coffee shop/lunch and brunch spot in a quiet post-hipster neighborhood, a place where there are several open laptops at any given time but even more strollers and high chairs, the kind of place where the soup of the day is almost always vegan, you would have in your head a near-perfect representation of the Village.
The space is open and friendly, with lots of natural light and plenty of tables. The first thing that greets you when you walk in the door is a long bakery case full of outstanding and relatively unusual pastries — notably the cinnamon-dusted challah knots and the Village’s version of the holy cronut. Above the case are loaves of excellent bread, and just above that is the Village’s expansive menu, split about evenly between breakfast items and sandwiches.
If it’s early in the morning, we won’t begrudge you your egg dishes — in fact, breakfast at the Village is quite good — but if you’re here around lunchtime, your best course of action is to dive into a sandwich. There are about eight options, supplemented by the occasional special, which should be enough to guarantee that you’ll find something to your liking without inducing the dreaded angst of sandwich indecision. There are several vegetarian choices, a vegan BLTA, a Portobello mushroom, and a grilled cheese, but our favorite of late has been the chipotle chicken sandwich.
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It may sound suspiciously like something you’d find on a fast food menu, but the Village’s chicken is grilled and free-range, its chipotle sauce has just the right balance of cream and kick, and the bun is outstanding — baked in-house to the perfect consistency, substantial but not tough, soft without being mushy. The bread, as it should be, is a highlight on every sandwich, from the sourdough on the BLT to the 12-grain on the chicken salad, and if you can hang around long enough to make some room in your stomach, one of those challah knots is the perfect way to cap off a lunch. 3119 Los Feliz Blvd., Atwater; (323) 662-8600.