The sandwich: named for John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, because he liked to eat his meat between bread so he could continue playing cribbage. But the sandwich actually dates back much further, to 110 BCE or so, when Jewish sage Hillel the Elder wrapped lamb and herbs in soft matzah. Today in America, we have a National Sandwich month, and that month is August and August begins today. Let's celebrate with a sandwich! Or 31 sandwiches!
That's right, we're bringing you one sandwich for every day of National Sandwich month. These are 31 of our favorites, sandwiches that have achieved legendary status in L.A., or simply sandwiches tucked into corners of the city that we love. Bánh mì, tortas, breakfast sandwiches, Reubens, deli sandwiches and schwarmas. Turn the page.
31. “Sandwich” at Roma Italian Deli and Grocery
Thin sheets of provolone, salami, capicola and mortadella on a crusty Italian roll drizzled with olive oil. If you're used to the cold cuts at Bay Cities or Eastside Market, Roma's might seem a bit stark and simplistic. The harmony is unmistakable though — good, slightly bitter oil, cured pork, soft cheese and a simple roll that allows the quality of the ingredients to shine through. 918 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena; 626-797-7748.
30. Mortadella at Lanza Brothers Market
Lanza's is one of the few remaining Italian delis in Lincoln Heights (it's been around since 1929, where the neighborhood was home to a sizable Italian population) located just over the Main St. bridge east of downtown. For $4.75 you can pick up a rather decent sub, made with Boar's Head meat and a pungent drizzle of Italian dressing. Make a day of it and have them wrap it in butcher paper and walk across the bridge to enjoy the city vistas near L.A. State Historic Park. 1803 N Main St., Lincoln Heights; 323-225-8977.
29. Turkey and Avocado at Sandwich Island
This Trojan-beloved gem is tucked inside a small food court near University Village, but that shouldn't dissuade non-students from dropping by for massive sandwiches made by the Korean husband-and-wife owners. Just under $4 will get you a “regular” sized sandwich — their large is enough to split among two — with a stack of white turkey meat as thick as a deck of playing cards. Add on another dollar, and a whole avocado slipped in, putting you just under five bucks. Cash only. 3333 S. Hoover St., L.A.; 213-748-7650.
28. Double BLT-A Sandwich at The Sycamore Kitchen
The Sycamore Kitchen's BLT, called a Double BLT-A, is a reminder that, in the hands of excellent chefs, a sandwich can be a very hands-on experience, so to speak — both for them and for you. The bread is made in Karen Hatfield's excellent pastry kitchen, not a sourdough exactly but a bread built simply with levain and good flour and technique. There is not only bacon, but pork belly — an ingredient on too many menus in this Era of the Gastropub, but in this case exactly where it should be. There are slices of avocado and perfectly ripe tomatoes — both in season — and supple leaves of butter lettuce. There is also a drizzle of reduced balsamic vinegar, which is what puts this sandwich in a different ontological category. Why vinegar? Because Karen Hatfield loves it. Because balsamic vinegar and tomatoes are a sublime combination. And because the vinegar's acidity keeps the utter richness of the other components from becoming overwhelming.
27. Pastrami Reuben at Art's Delicatessen
A reuben is one of those things that requires more than just the requisite ingredients — it requires a little magic. There are plenty of reubens out there that don't have the right amalgamation of warmth and tang and smoosh. Art's has that magic in spades. You can choose from pastrami, corned beef or turkey (or pay extra for the Super Reuben and get both pastrami and corned beef). I prefer the pastrami. The grilled rye is toasty and warm, the towering mass of pastrami juicy, the sauerkraut tangy, the Russian dressing creamy; it all adds up to an over-the-top, gloriously delicious mess of a sandwich. 12224 Ventura Blvd., Studio City; 818-762-1221.
26. Pork Meatball Sub at Fundamental L.A.
Picking a favorite at Fundamental is a Sophie's choice, but the meatball sandwich is a contender. It's simple, no overworked ingredients or fussy spicing. No meat torpedo that will cause a bypass survivor's heart to flutter. It's a fluffy disc of bread piled with golf ball-sized meatballs of perfectly spiced pork dripping with the funk of taleggio. It's hearty not leaden, leaving you full but wishing that you're stomach was larger. 1303 Westwood Blvd. Los Angeles, Westwood; 310-444-7581.
25. Cemita de Milanesa at Cemitas Poblanos Elviritas #1
A grilled sesame-studded roll, hard-shelled on the exterior but soft as brioche inside, is stacked with oily sheets of breaded fried beef, a heap of stringy quesillo, a smattering of sliced avocado, raw white onion, smoky chipotle peppers or pickled jalapenos, and a few leaves of a pungent herb called papalo, which smells like a mixture of mint, pepper and laundry detergent. For a dollar or two more, they'll even slip in a piece of Poblano head cheese if that's your kind of thing; the aspic dissolves under the heat of the sizzling meat and forms a spreadable, offal-based condiment of sorts that pushes the richness to atmospheric levels. 3010 E. First St., Los Angeles; 323-881-0428.
24. Bánh Mì at The Spice Table
In the evening, The Spice Table is all laksa and marrow bones, a Southeast Asian bistro that also spins a global menu of culinary hits. In the daytime, it's a casual lunch spot with bowls of curry chicken, cheeseburgers and bánh mì ($7-$9). The cold-cut bánh mì is the classic choice. Smeared with a mellow pâté and piled with thin, cool layers of housemade charcuterie (sounds better than “head cheese,” doesn't it?), it's cradled in chewy French bread. It's not the ubiquitous bánh mì of Orange County and the San Gabriel Valley. Lighter and cleaner, it's an ideal lunch. 114 S. Central Ave., Los Angeles; 213-620-1840.
23. Duck Shawarma wrap at Momed
Rolled into a thin whole-wheat flatbread is a layer of succulent shredded duck confit perfumed with heady amounts of cumin and cinnamon. There are a few oven-dried tomatoes, tart and savory, and a dollop of fig confit, a mellow sweetish jam that tempers the wild flavors of the duck. A handful of fresh maché greens adds a slight peppery bite and a bit of house-made garlic spread — not quite the pillowy white stuff you find at those Armenian delis in Glendale, but close enough — completes the ensemble. At $14, this sandwich doesn't quite fit into its street food origins, but in a section of town lined with Tiffany's, Barneys, and Saks, you'd be hard pressed to find a purchase with a better pleasure-to-payment ratio. 233 S. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills; 310-270-4444.
22. Egg Salad Sandwich at Euro Pane
The eggs are boiled just long enough until the yolks are set but still soft — a gooey bright yellow plasma many a Caltech student has no doubt pondered over. The mixture comes out lighter and more delicate than anything made with egg yolks and mayo has any right to be, offset by a thin spread of sun-dried tomato pesto, a handful of arugula, and a sprinkling of cracked pepper and chives. The sandwich arrives open-faced on a slice of fresh rosemary-currant bread — who would ever want to cover up sandwich like this? — forcing you to pick up a fork and knife and acquiesce to Euro Pane's tranquil vibe. 950 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena; 626-577-1828.
21. Short Rib Melt at Joan's on Third
Los Angeles' quintessential gourmet cafe continues to weave its spell with this sandwich: Hearty white country bread lavishly grilled in butter, a discreet heap of short ribs braised in their own juice until they turn impossibly tender, melted jack cheese oozing from both ends and sweet pickled red onions to give it a kick. Is it an amped-up grilled cheese or a restrained barbecue sandwich? It's both comforting and surprising. 8350 W. Third St., Los Angeles; 323-655-2285.
20. The Southern Fry at Plan Check Kitchen + Bar
While the centerpiece of Plan Check Kitchen + Bar on Sawtelle is undoubtedly its dripping, concentrated burgers — head chef Ernesto Uchimura was an ex-corporate chef at Umami Burger, after all — there seems to be a populist swell in favor of the restaurant's smokey fried jidori chicken. Could the fried chicken sandwich could be the new burger?We hope more are like the Southern Fry, a combination of sharp tangy pickles, house-made spicy green pimento cheese, a layer of griddled duck ham and a crunchy mass of heavenly fried chicken. The crunch of the fried chicken crust is loud enough to hear over the restaurant's bumping soundtrack. The pickles add the right amount of acidity, while a thin layer of funky cheese oozes out from the edges of the toasted bun. And duck ham? We don't have to tell you how good that stuff tastes. 1800 Sawtelle Blvd.; Los Angeles; 310-288-6500.
19. Bánh Mì at Buu Dien
For such a seemingly humble sandwich, the Vietnamese bánh mì stirs up a surprisingly high level of debate. Our favorite — if you happen to catch us on a particular day — is the tiny sandwich shop Buu Dien, hidden in Chinatown mini-mall. The bread is fluffy and crisp, the daikon and carrot well-pickled, a just-right smear of creamy French-style mayo. But the cornerstone of the entire experience here is probably the chicken liver pâté, a funky, musty, offal-centric spread that elevates your lunchtime snack into a higher plane of sustenance. The secret is to order the peppery roast pork and then ask them to sneak a bit of pâté inside. Is there a more elegant way to stretch $2.50? 642 N. Broadway, Los Angeles; 213-617-8355.
18. Brisket Bánh Mì at Gjelina Take Away
In its purest form, the bánh mì is a humble lunch: a thin layer of meat, a smear of pate or mayo, a handful of flash-pickled daikon and carrot, some sprigs of cilantro, all wedged into a long, airy baguette split lengthwise. The brisket bánh mì at Gjelina Take Away, the quicker, less-exclusive, take-out version of it's Abbot Kinney scenester spot Gjelina, is another creature entirely. For starters, it's stacked with the amount of tender bay-leaf hinted braised brisket you'd expect from a sandwich made with Passover leftovers. The bread is a kind of ruddy ciabatta, and there is little but a thin layer of vegetables doused with jalapeño vinaigrette and a dab of chili-spiked aioli. Yet this is a sandwich that can hold its own with the best in town, simple and succulent with the kind of earthy comforting flavors that long-roasted meats often evoke. If there is a Kosher deli somewhere in Saigon, and we're willing to bet there is, you would imagine the kitchen would kill for a recipe like this. 1425 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice; 310-392-7575.
17. Al Pastor Torta at King Torta
If you only eat one al pastor torta in Los Angeles, make it King Torta's. At this sandwich shop on the border of Lincoln Heights and El Sereno, the tortas are big and messy, the Sloppy Joe of tortas. The bread is soft and doughy, almost undercooked, layered with chunks of juicy, not too fatty al pastor, shredded lettuce, avocado slivers and tiny chopped onions. The hot sauce is bitter and red; one taste of it and it became essential. What really makes the sandwich is the meat: King Torta's al pastor is tender and rich with a hint of sweetness, bathed in its own juices and flecked with copious chili seeds. At only $5, it's a hell of a deal. 4507 Valley Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-222-7006.
16. Ham and Cheese at Vince's Market
Located across the street from a elementary school in a historic Glassell Park suburb, Vince's has been open since 1939, which you might not guess expected for the old-timey mural painted on its exterior. Prices haven't changed much since then, though: Vince's is famous for its incredibly priced $1.50 ham and cheese sandwich. That's right, cheaper than the parking meter at most places. It's a staple of about every downtown blue-collar worker wise enough to know the secret. A buck-fifty will get you about a six-inch hoagie roll, stuffed with ham, waxy American cheese, shredded lettuce, pickles, and a wave of mayo and mustard. Tomato and onion are 15 cents extra. Big spenders can upgrade to sandwiches made with carnitas or Italian cold cuts for a few dollars more (the Mortadella is terrific). 3250 Silver Lake Blvd., Glassell Park; 323-664-4798.
15. The Godmother at Bay Cities Deli
Bay Cities Deli makes two dozen sandwiches, but the one for which it's most famous is The Godmother. Stacked with no less than five kinds of cold cuts — Genoa salami, mortadella, coppacola, ham and prosciutto — and a slice of Provolone, the sandwich sits on chewy Italian bread. Should you get mustard and mayo on your sub? Purists will tell you — and we agree — NO! This sandwich needs only a dash of oil and vinegar. Order it with the works and ask them to leave off the “mayostard.” You can get it small ($6.25) or large ($8.15), but even the “small” Godmother is a mother. It's cool and salty, dense and filling, and definitely the Italian sub to beat. 1517 Lincoln Blvd.; Santa Monica; 310-395-8279.
14. Vegan Po Boy Sandwich at Simplethings
We like the general idea of a Po' Boy Sandwich; typically interpreted as fried seafood on a French roll. But we crave an egalitarian, L.A.-ified version — one with more antioxidants and less calories that's still top-notch delicious. The Vegan Po' Boy at Simplethings sandwich & pie shop is just that. The $8.50 sandwich stars cornmeal coated tofu, so it has a texture reminiscent of a fried oyster, without the oh-dear-I'm-chewing-a-bi-valve factor. (Should that be an issue for you.) The warm tofu is served on a cibatta bun with electric-pink pickled onions, arugula and a light handed spread of vegan remoulade – effectively doubling the piquancy. It's startlingly good, and you should try it. There is no one firm definition of a po'boy — it has to have shrimp! Roast beef! Gravy! Pickles! — so why not this brilliant contemporary variation? It's certainly a version that all Angelenos, vegan or not, can love. 8310 W. 3rd St.; Los Angeles; 323-592-3390.
13. Meltitude of Tuna at Bread Lounge
Ah, the tuna melt, a sandwich form that probably deserves more recognition. It shouldn't work — fish should not go so fabulously well with hot cheese. And yet there's something magic about the tuna melt, and Bread Lounge's Meltitude, despite the very silly name, is most magical indeed. Albacore tuna salad is served with Emmentaler and kalamata olives, but what gives it its extra special quality is its preserved lemon and dill aioli, which is lemony in the extreme, making this sandwich a hot gooey puckery mess of goodness. As with all sandwiches at Bread Lounge, you pick your bread — we prefer this one on the crusty, crackly ciabatta roll. 700 S. Santa Fe Ave.; Los Angeles; 213-327-0782.
12. Bacon & egg sandwich from the Eggslut truck
Despite its filthy sounding name and white, barely distinguishable truck, the Eggslut truck (@eggslutla) makes a mean version of McDonald's breakfast classic. Eggslut, which often parks on Fairfax Ave. in front of Commissary and Lindy & Grundy on weekday mornings, makes two iterations of their basic breakfast sandwich, one with bacon ($5) and the other with sausage ($6). In both cases, it's served on a small but sturdy brioche bun with an egg cooked over-easy. In both cases, the meat is generously portioned, whether it's an herbacious sausage patty or slices of thick-cut bacon. The mustard-daubed sausage sandwich hits the spot, but it's the bacon sandwich that drives us wild with desire. It's probably thanks in part to the chipotle ketchup, which adds just the right sweet-tart kick to pull together the soft bread and smoky meat, dripping with rich, custardy egg yolk. Eggslut generally only serves this sandwich in the a.m., but it's good enough for a meal any time of day. Location varies.
11. Gravlax sandwich at Ink.sack
It's a little counter-intuitive that one of the city's best nods to New York-style bagel and lox doesn't come on a bagel at all, but rather a soft, chewy ciabatta roll. And yet, the gravlax sandwich at Michael Voltaggio's ink.sack manages to channel the spirit of NY's most venerated breakfast in a thoroughly modern way, piling cured salmon, pickled onions, cucumber and tomatoes onto that ciabatta roll. The bagel comes in the form of “everything bagel” spread, a creamy ode to the original bread vehicle of this sandwich. 8360 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood; 323-655-7225.
10. Pulled pork sandwich at The Oinkster
Oinkster is known for their pastrami, but the better sandwich here is the BBQ pulled pork. It's smokey shredded pork under a bed of pickled red cabbage with a vinegary sauce that should be poured liberally over the meat. Not that the pork needs any moistening, but the tart zing of the sauce perfectly offsets the meat. 2005 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock; 323-255-6465.
9. Bacalao Torta from Cook's Tortas
Monterey Park may seem an unlikely locale for a top-notch torta shop, but Cook's Tortas, with its diverse and clever roster of sandwiches, has made itself a home amid the dim sum houses and dumpling shops of the San Gabriel Valley. Located in what was once the site of Aloha Cafe (now situated in Little Tokyo), Cook's Tortas boasts extraordinary variety. Favorites include the Bacalao wherein the titular ingredient, dried and intensely salted cod, is reconstituted as a pungent stew of peppers, olives and potatoes. 1944 S. Atlantic Blvd., Monterey Park; 323-278-3536.
8. Black Pastrami Reuben at Brent's Deli
There are dozens of sandwiches on Brent's massive menu, but the iconic sandwich is the Black Pastrami Reuben. It features the same crust rye bread (not as crusty as Langer's rye; is anything?) and the same soft, floppy, thinly-sliced, moderately peppered meat that's on the regular pastrami sandwich, only here, it's heaped with warm sauerkraut, melted Swiss cheese and sweet creamy Russian dressing. Sure, it's Brent's most famous sandwich, prominently highlighted on the menu, but we prefer it straight. Brent's pastrami needs no adornment, though a dab of the vinegary house mustard is a matter if personal choice. 19565 Parthenia St., Northridge; 818-886-5679.
7. Cubano at El Rincon Criollo
At El Rincon Criollo, the pressed bread is toasty warm, the melted cheese is creamy, the slice of ham and slice of pork salty, the pickle sour. The individual parts melding into a greater, comforting whole. What more could one want from a Cuban sandwich? Oh, yeah, and it's big, too. Enjoy it in this popular hole in the wall with a mango shake or Cuban coffee while admiring the original Cuban artwork of Old Havana on the walls. 4361 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City; 310-391-4478.
6. The fried chicken sandwich at Son of a Gun
Son of a Gun's fried chicken sandwich is crisp and tender, a worthy exemplar for Chick-fil-A and its legion of fast-food imitators. It's a hearty sandwich, spilling out its guts of peppery slaw and sweet pickle slivers, all of it accented by a tarted up mayo-and-hot-sauce combo. 8370 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles; 323-782-9033.
5. Lamb Dip at Philippe the Original
After over a century of business, Philippe's has hardly altered anything except it's prices, and even then not by much. It's a simple lunch-counter: sawdust on the floors, Oh Henry! bars at the newsstand, and squeeze bottles of nostril-scorching mustard at every table. Wander in, order a lamb dip with Swiss — double-dipped is always the way to go –supplemented by a pickled egg or bowl of coleslaw, and a 75-cent glass of lemonade. It's as much a bucket-list item as any you'll find in this town. 1001 N. Alameda St., Los Angeles; 213-628-3781.
4. Tongue Sandwich at Attari Sandwich Shop
If you've never tried braised beef tongue, this casual Persian deli might be the best place in town to take the plunge. Here, the luscious cut tastes almost identical to a thick slice of tender (but lean) pot roast, layered with diced tomato, shredded lettuce and tart Persian pickles, served on a cottony French bread roll. 1388 Westwood Blvd., Westwood; 310-441-5488.
T3. Porcetto at Sotto
Porchetta, or porcetto as they call it at Sotto, is magic in the form of slow-roasted pork. Seasoned with salted herbs. Blasted in a 525-degree oven (as high as Sotto's goes) until the skin puffs. Then alchemized via four hours at 300 until it eventually comes to rest, between some truly excellent house-made bread, on your table. Steve Samson and Zack Pollack only serve their porcetto (singular, although you could happily order a dozen of them and change the vowel) at lunchtime, which is a good enough reason to haunt that stretch of Pico-Robertson. Theirs is kind of like the Platonic ideal of a sandwich, a perfect rendering of both meat and bread, presented with very little to distract you from the confluence of the two. There is a bit of arugula — in consideration of us here, as according to the chefs there would be no greens added to the dish were we in Italy — and a deft, minimalist side of pickled fennel, cauliflower and carrots. But those are just margin notes, a bit of color and acid to further demonstrate the genius of the dish itself. 9575 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles; 310-277-0210.
2. #19 at Langer's Delicatessen
Want to look like a dyed-in-the-wool Angeleno? Next time you visit Langer's, order the #19 without glancing at the menu. It's the most popular sandwich here: pastrami on rye with coleslaw, Russian dressing and Swiss cheese. The coleslaw adds crunch; the cheese, texture; and the dressing, a sweet, pickly tang. Langer's pastrami is sliced thickly, more like a slab of brisket than the thin, curling pastrami at most sandwich shops. The meat is tender and warm, modestly seasoned but intensely meaty, peppery without the overpowering sense of spice. It comes on rye bread so crusty, it makes Andy Rooney look like Pollyanna. Yet the bread, a true miracle of nature, is somehow exceptionally soft and chewy. The best pastrami in Los Angeles, perhaps the country. 704 S. Alvarado St., Los Angeles; 213-483-8050.
1. Toron at Bäco Mercat
Of all the gentrified, non-deli sandwiches in this town, Josef Centeno's bäcos are the most original and most compelling. A sandwich that Centeno has offered, in various iterations, at many of his restaurants, bäcos are wrapped in soft, pita-like bread and filled with intriguing flavor combinations. A few bäcos appear at dinner, but they drive the menu at lunch. The Original, with crunchy yet tender chunks of fried pork belly and a garlicky, almondy salbitxada (a Catalan sauce), is the restaurant's namesake. But the best bäco is the Toron. A generous scoop of oxtail hash rests on a pancake of shredded potato that would make bubbe proud, topped with melted cheddar and a mess of tartly dressed sprouts and greens. It's the sandwich ne plus ultra: meaty, bready, melty and brilliant. 408 S. Main St., Los Angeles; 213-687-8808.
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