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One Sandwich for Every American City

Hello--haven' t posted in several years but am working on a project and hoped I could get some input. If you were visiting a particular American city and could only get ONE (1) sandwich, what would it be, how would it be prepared, and where would you get it?

Note that this is not the same question that is posed in the excellent thread "Your ten best sandwiches". Here, I'm not really looking for your favorite sandwiches or even necessarily the best sandwich on offer, I'm looking for what you'd eat if you could only eat one sandwich in a city. I realize that this may represent an impossibly anxiety-provoking task for many (i.e. the horrifying notion of going to New Orleans or Chicago, for example, and only being able to pick one of the many amazing offferings). Despite the difficulty, I will appreciate any attempts.

I'll start with a few:

1. New York City--for me, it would have to be a classic Hot Corned Beef on Rye (such as that served at Carnegie Deli). It would be annointed with deli mustard and served with a half-sour pickle. It would neither be too lean nor too fatty. It would be machine-sliced (because that is more common/iconic), even though I realize it might be better if it were hand-sliced (ala Katz). The bread would be twice baked and sour. Nothing more, nothing less.

2. New Orleans--for me it would be a Central Grocery muffuletta. Preparation is easy on this one, because there is no choice--it is prepared only one way. I would specify, however, that it should sit for at least an hour prior to consuking to ensure that the oil from the olive salad has adequate time to penetrate/lubricate the bread and meats.

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  1. Boston -- lobster roll on buttered and grilled top split hotdog bun. Mostly lobster meat with a little mayo to hold it together (warm with butter is a CT variant I believe). Maaaaaybe some tiny diced celery. Lots of good ones in town, I'd get mine from Kelly's on Revere beach and sit outside overlooking the Atlantic (and fighting off the seagulls!)

    17 Replies
    1. re: yumyum

      I'm with yumyum for Boston. Although I do love both hot and cold.

      I was just working on a piece about Denver sandwiches and was surprised to discover there is such a thing as a Denver sandwich; however, it's just a Denver omelet on bread.

      Green-chile cheeseburgers (assuming burgers count as sandwiches) are a thing across the Southwest but the point of origin is arguable—probably Santa Fe or Albuquerque. Variants: on sopaipillas or tortillas rather than buns.

      El Reno, OK, has the famous fried-onion burger: http://elrenoburgerday.wordpress.com/

      Below thread, Indy fried-pork tenderloin sandwiches are mentioned—I thought that was an Iowa invention?

      http://www.ruthtobias.com

      1. re: tatamagouche

        I thought the pork tenderloin was an Iowa thang too.

        SLC -- pastrami burger, a la Crown Burger. Look this one up ... Greeks brought this particular delicacy to Salt Lake and it stuck.

        LA -- consider the French Dip

        1. re: yumyum

          > SLC -- pastrami burger, a la Crown Burger. Look this one up ... Greeks brought this particular delicacy to Salt Lake and it stuck.

          I don't quite understand the popularity of this sandwich, but you are right, it is quite ubiquitous

        2. re: tatamagouche

          I'm not sure the pork tenderloin counts as Indianapolis's iconic sandwich. I lived there for 20 years and I only recently found about this through the internet. I think If you started randomly asking Indy residents where to get the best tenderloin a lot of people wouldn't know what you are talking about. It's not asking about the best Italian beef in Chicago, the best mufaletta in NO, etc, where almost everyone would have an opinion.

          I don't know what Indy's iconic sandwich is though. Sadly it is not a great food city.

          1. re: RealMenJulienne

            Whatever they serve at the track?

            Not to be mean, I'm sure there's something. I used to date someone who was from there and the twin pillars of gastronomy as far as he was concerned were White Castle and Steak & Shake, so I never really got to find out what Road Food-esque gems might actually exist.

            1. re: tatamagouche

              Track cuisine: roller grilled Oscar Meyers with a possible side of bullets in the parking lot!

              You might actually be able to make a (weak) case for the Steak n' Shake burger, since S&S is a homegrown chain.and they are inexplicably loved in Indy.

              1. re: tatamagouche

                White Castle is more of a "Mid West thang". Steak & Shake use to be the closet thing we had to a "gourmet fast food burger joint". Neither would be considered the "Indys sandwich'".

              2. re: RealMenJulienne

                I've lived in Indy for over 40 years and the fried tenderloin has been around longer than I have. You do know that fried tenderloins are one of the top selling food items at the Indiana State Fair?

                1. re: lowbass

                  Sure the tenderloin has been around, I just don't think there is a subculture devoted to them like with other cities' iconic sandwiches. When I lived in Indy I was only aware of them as an occasional option on casual restaurant menus, not a beloved classic.

                  1. re: RealMenJulienne

                    And again, I thought it was more associated with Iowa. Could be wrong though.

                    1. re: tatamagouche

                      I dont think you're wrong. When I lived in Des Moines in the mid-80s, the thing I remember that restaurants wanted to be known for having the best of was the pork tenderloin sandwich. That and cinamon rolls.

                      But a more iconic sandwich for Des Moines is probably the loose-meat beefburger a la the Maid-Rite; my recollection is was made mostly in Maid-Rite shops. There were some other places that had a similar sandwich on their menus, but they were pretty much acknowleged to be a copy of a Maid-Rite.

                  2. re: lowbass

                    Hi,
                    I live in DSM and was in Indy last weekend for Pole Day at the track. As I understand it, the 'loin was an evolution of a schnitzel from German immigrants. Iowa does have a huge following, tho. Check out http://des-loines.blogspot.com/ for the tour of Iowa. Loins at the track are good, but that might just be the ambiance of the 100th anniversary. BTW, we did dine at St Elmo's Sat night.
                    Hammy

              3. re: yumyum

                Love the lobster roll-I grew up in CT and never saw the butter variation there. Don't much care for it either. Hellman's Mayo and diced celery and a split top grilled hot dog bun are my only requirements.

                1. re: artychokeasana

                  That's interesting, arty. I also grew up in CT, moved to CA 50 years ago, and never heard of mayo until recently on CH.

                  1. re: mucho gordo

                    I too grew up in CT I think the New Haven area does the butter (which is what I grew up on). So delicious, although I've been to Maine and Boston and had the mayo variant and it can be very good too.

                    1. re: melpy

                      With butter is a "lobster roll" and the mayo variant is a "lobster salad roll."

                      I live in CT and enjoy both :-)

                      1. re: DMW

                        DMV -- Your wouldn't order a "lobster salad roll" in Maine..where the best lobster rolls are found. 8>D

              4. I'm going to get a lot of guff for this, but a reuben from Crescent Moon in Omaha, NE. Right down the street where it was (supposedly) invented.

                2 Replies
                1. re: nimeye

                  I would have to say Omaha, (or Lincoln) should be a Runza... they are the true indigenous food to the area, and very unique. Although it has been many years since I have lived In Ne, I still crave them. And the ones I (home) make just are not the same.... I just cannot re create the spice combo no matter how hard I try,

                  1. re: PuniceaRana

                    Interesting marketing choice to give a fast food place a name that evokes 'the runs'.

                2. New Haven area: Make it the lobster roll with the butter for me.
                  New Orleans: Oyster po' boy
                  No specific place for either one.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mucho gordo

                    I DREAM of oyster po'boys from New Orleans....and I'm with you on the buttered lobster roll.

                  2. Philly, PA - Cheese Steak
                    Buffalo, NY - Beef on Weck
                    Houston - Grilled Pork Banh Mi
                    Austin - Sliced Beef Brisket
                    Chicago - Italian Beef
                    Miami - Cuban Sandwich

                    And Absolutely Agree with:

                    New Orleans- Muffaletta
                    New York, NY - Corned Beef on Rye

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: DoobieWah

                      Sliced brisket on a bun is available all over TX. Austin isn't nearly so much of a sandwich town as it is a taco town - the breakfast taco, specifically. Some eggs griddled with chorizo or potatoes in a flour tortilla is a sandwich in a flatbread. (Don't forget the salsa).

                      1. re: agoodbite

                        Yeah, I know Austin pretty well.

                        Proud Longhorn here. And yeah, I know the best cue is found outside of Austin, but it is sort of the hub and I was just trying to give it the props.

                        Luling isn't really a "city" as this discussion goes, I don't think...

                        (And by the way, my best buddy from Austin loves to come visit me in Houston and have breakfast tacos from MY favorite place.)

                        ;-)

                      2. re: DoobieWah

                        Ooh, i'd have to counter your Houston - Banh Mi sandwich with Westminster, CA (Orange County). Back when i was in high school, late 70s, Westminster was the gateway for all the Vietnamese refugees, and our neighborhood became known as Little Saigon, and had the biggest Vietnamese community in the country outside of Vietnam. So, I'd have to say the Bahn Mi in the U.S. originated there. (But maybe that's not even the question, maybe it's just where YOU, (any of us) would eat a particular sandwich in a particular state? If so, i take it all back!)

                        1. re: mariacarmen

                          I certainly don't mean to imply that Houston has an exclusive on the banh mi, but of all of the various sandwiches available here, (and there are literally tens of thousands!), I just nominated it as the signature sandwich.

                          You can get them all over town, in endless permutations and will see them being eaten by constructions workers and lawyers, doctors and babysitters.

                          Grilled pork, chicken, pate, etc. etc. etc.

                          Great crusty bread and crispy pickled veggies.

                          However, Mexico City style Tortas are pretty big here too though, so if you insist on taking my banh mi away, I promise I won't go hungry!

                          (HaHa!)

                          1. re: DoobieWah

                            i would never take them away from you! i'm glad that when i come to visit i will get to enjoy them too! i love that they've become so widespread - here in San Francisco too.

                          2. re: mariacarmen

                            I *think* I read that the first bahn mi shop in the US was in San Jose, CA -- but I may be totally wrong. Anyhow, I agree that it's great that they've become so widespread. The clubs at my son's high school in Oakland regularly sell pizza, tamales, bento boxes and bahn mi for fundraisers. I love that. So far, no tortas, but they should consider that, too!

                            1. re: Glencora

                              I remember getting banh mi sandwiches in San Jose in the early eighties as a child. I remembered that I didn't like the way they smelled and wish we could have sandwiches from TOGO's instead.

                        2. Philly. The obvious answer is the cheesesteak. Pat's? Geno's? Jim's? Steve's? Visit the Philly board and then step away from the fray.

                          The less obvious answer is the Italian hoagie (allegedly named for the workers taking their Italian sandwiches to Hog Island). Again, much debate on what is "authentic" and where it is best.

                          The real answer--a pork sandwich with provolone and rabe from DeNic's or any sandwich from Paesano's.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: gaffk

                            a pork sandwich with provolone and rabe from DeNic's

                            Why haven't I heard of this before? Must get my behind to Philly ASAP.