Food

The 15 Best Sandwiches in New York City

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There are countless sandwiches in the world, from basic PB&Js to fancy open-faced fare. But at their core, they’re all pretty much just bread and filling. A dish so simple risks being boring, but when you bite into a sandwich that’s been crafted with the golden ratio of bread, meat (or veggies), and condiments…it’s like the scene in Ratatouille when Remy discovers the firework-inducing magic of combining the right ingredients at the same time. 

In honor of National Sandwich Day, we’ve collected fifteen of the finest sammies in the city for you. But rest assured, these glorious creations are just as tasty any day of the year.

Breakfast Sandwich at Dimes

A good breakfast sandwich is as comforting and messy as any great romance. It’s unique, and it’s not easy. But Dimes (49 Canal Street, 212-925-1300) makes theirs look that way, in Sabrina De Sousa and Alissa Wagner’s afternoon-sunlit room down the east end of Canal Street.

In a kitchen as slight as a whisper, cooks fold plush cashmere-like blankets of scrambled eggs with cheddar and avocado, nubby with pickled jalapeños, stained with a bright bell-pepper hot sauce, and burning sweetly with brown sugar and cayenne, for the sleepwalking beautiful people who press as close together as the tables: elbow to elbow, cheek to cheek. — Adam Robb

The Vegetarian at Meat Hook Sandwich Shop

The folks behind the beloved Meat Hook butcher shop in Williamsburg serve a somewhat ironic vegetarian option ($13) at Meat Hook Sandwich Shop (495 Lorimer Street, Brooklyn; 718-302-4665). But it might even be better than most of the carnivorous selections on the menu. It includes every sandwich ingredient in the kitchen that isn’t meat, some of it pickled, some fried, some fresh. Fried eggplant, pickled cipollini, marinated artichokes, marinated tomatoes, fennel, cabbage, watercress, escarole, frisée, red onion, herbs, hash browns, and fried onions are piled high on an airy kaiser roll. It’s sealed with an earthy and sweet spread made from fried beets, parsnips, and carrots. With so many flavors and elements mixed in, you won’t even notice there’s no meat between the bun — unless, of course, that’s your goal. — Sara Ventiera

Ippudo’s Pork Buns

New Yorkers are serious about food, but they’re currently crazy about ramen. Few other food items would inspire multi-hour lines in the cold. Yet the prospect of hot bowls of flavorful broth garners such strong desires that intrepid diners are more than willing to do so — as long as it’s good. Ippudo (65 Fourth Avenue, 212-388-0088), one of the first Japanese noodle spots on the scene in NYC, still attracts three-hour wait times on a Wednesday night. The bowls here are rich, deeply satisfying, and utterly delicious. It’s hailed as the best of the best.

The secret, however, is that the star of the show isn’t even what the place is known for. The hirata buns ($9) are the best thing on the menu. The freshly steamed rice flour rolls are warm and pillowy; one order comes with two, filled with juicy pork belly slathered in a tangy and slightly spicy special sauce. Each is layered with iceberg lettuce and mayonnaise, which lends a bit of cream and a nice crisp crunch. If you don’t do pork, the chicken ($9) and vegetable ($8) are also topnotch. — Sara Ventiera

Junior’s Something Different

What started out as a mostly kosher restaurant in downtown Brooklyn sixty years ago has transformed into a neighborhood institution serving something for everyone, representing the area’s changing demographics. Now at Junior’s (386 Flatbush Avenue Extension, Brooklyn; 718-852-5257) there’s crab and barbecue pork ribs and Caribbean-style lobster tails, though the Jewish staples still top the list of menu items. There’s excellent brisket. Killer latkes. The “Something Different,” which brings both together in indulgent form: tender brisket sandwiched between two well-seasoned potato pancakes, all of it about the size of a construction worker’s fist. Sour cream, apple sauce, and au jus or mushroom gravy come on the side. It’s hearty, maybe gluttonous, actually, and it most certainly is something different. But, after one go, this decadent dish is something you’ll crave. — Sara Ventiera

Uncle Jesse Bao at Baohaus

What Baohaus (238 East 14th Street, 646-684-3835) lacks in space (the Taiwanese eatery is small and easily crowded) it more than makes up for in its signature bao dishes — snack sandwiches served on mantou bread, a steamed variety native to China. Though baos aren’t usually vegetarian, owners and brothers Eddie and Evan Huang took it upon themselves to create a meat-free bao as a nod to their vegetarian patrons. The Uncle Jesse bao, which features organic fried tofu, crushed peanuts, and Haus sauce, is simultaneously crunchy, soft, sweet, savory, and spicy.

In addition to making damn good bao, Baohaus offers much in the way of pleasant atmosphere: The Huangs have created a chic, laid-back space. It’s a perfect spot to hang out and shoot the shit; tables are stacked with stickers, and a far-back wall is plastered with Polaroids, art pieces, and newspaper clippings — a millennial’s dream. — Tara Mahadevan

Shelsky’s Hot Pastrami Sandwich

Shelsky’s of Brooklyn (141 Court Street, Brooklyn; 718-855-8817) started off by bringing smoked fish to the borough. Since then, the shop has branched out from aquatic creatures to smoked and cured meats. Everything from the pastrami and corned beef to the tongue is cured in-house then shipped off to Fletcher’s in Gowanus for a touch of smoke. That’s what makes the hot pastrami sandwich ($18.99) so good. The piles of steamed beef are set between two slices of Orwasher’s plain rye bread (seeded and pumpernickel are also available), one of which is slathered with mustard. The meat is offered lean, moist, or extra moist — go for the extra. The sandwich could throw down with anything you’ll find on the L.E.S., but fortunately, it comes without the crowds. — Sara Ventiera

Hippie Banjo at Pies ‘n’ Thighs

Though simple, there’s something about Pies ‘n’ Thighs’ (166 South 4th Street, 347-529-6090) hippie banjo sandwich ($7.50) that really hits the spot. No ordinary fried egg sandwich, the hippie banjo is a hotbed of textures and flavors: Stacked between two pieces of buttery, crunchy, straight-from-the-grill anadama bread sit an over-easy fried egg, cheddar cheese, avocado, tomato, sprouts, and mayo. The sprouts, in particular, elevate the overall sandwich, acting as a palate-refresher after the cheese and mayo.

Pies ‘n’ Thighs’ homefries ($5) — classic rosemary potatoes cooked to crispy perfection — and cheese grits ($5) complete the meal, if you’re really ravenous. — Tara Mahadevan

Graffiti’s Graffiti Burger

If Superiority Burger’s namesake sandwich is too extreme a trip into vegetarianism, Graffiti Food & Wine Bar (222 East 10th Street, 212-677-0695) chef Jehangir Mehta’s signature sliders are a gateway drug. The acclaimed former pastry chef has spent years hooking regulars on these exquisitely seasoned guilty pleasures, which feature a global trove of produce and spices and trump a gratuitous heft of Pat LaFrieda beef fat. The diners at his stalwart hole-in-the-wall continue to only want more, not different, because Mehta’s menu’s been nearly untouched since he first opened the intimate dining room’s shutters on a quiet stretch in 2007.

Just as they did on day one, Graffiti burgers come by the pair. Divided by a handful of baked garlic fingerlings that absorb the punch of Mehta’s house-made tomato-chipotle mayonnaise, the burgers are in no way overshadowed. At 60% pure Angus, they’re cut with a blend of fresh, diced onions, tomatoes, green chiles, and mushrooms heady with coriander, cumin, ginger, and mint. And — as with any business-minded pusher, knowing that media and finance types want a taste of what downtowners want to keep to themselves — you’ll find the burgers farther south when Mehta opens Graffiti Earth in Tribeca’s Duane Street Hotel this October. — Adam Robb

Herbie’s International at Ivan Ramen

At Ivan Ramen (25 Clinton Street, 646-678-3859), owner Ivan Orkin gets up to all sorts of East-meets-West shenanigans, like coating cubes of fried tofu in Coney Island–style chili and serving Chinese thousand-year deviled eggs. In the same vein, his Herbie’s International sandwich has us wishing Mel Brooks would Kickstarter a Young Frankenstein sequel, because mad genius Orkin has resurrected one hero of a hoagie.

Based on a sandwich first served at Herbie’s restaurant in Loch Sheldrake, New York, and once popular throughout the Catskills, this creation — named for a sibling restaurant that once operated in Canarsie — stuffs heaps of thinly sliced Chinese-style barbecued pork onto a miso-garlic toasted hero roll. Available during lunch and brunch, it’s served with a shiso-spiked citrus slaw, a slick of sinus-searing Chinese-style mustard, and a ramekin of syrupy roasted-garlic duck sauce. Its flavors are unsubtle in a seriously satisfying way, with sumptuous fluctuation between sweet, meaty, and spicy tastes from bite to bite. Like everyone else, we love ramen, but Orkin’s cultural experiments always grab our attention. — Zachary Feldman

Emily’s Emmy Burger

Breakout Clinton Hill pizzeria Emily (919 Fulton Street, Brooklyn; 347-844-9588), run by Brooklyn-raised Matthew Hyland and his wife (the restaurant’s namesake), takes inspiration from Naples as the jumping-off point for its quirky pies, which are categorized according to sauce color (red, pink, green, or white/sauceless).

Hyland’s burger, a two-handed affair, has gained a following of its own by design, thanks to its limited availability. Just 25 of the dry-aged patties are prepared each night (they’re “unlimited” during Sunday lunch), and they sell out quickly. Majorly beefy, the coarsely ground meat hides beneath a veil of melted Grafton cheddar, sautéed onions, and “EMMY” sauce — a garlic-butter-laced Korean gochujang mayonnaise with a funky tang. Its pretzel bun, made by the venerable Tom Cat bakery, manages to be both soft and resilient, containing the whole juicy affair without giving way. The sandwich has proven so popular that Hyland even combined his two specialties into a dastardly “burger pizza” special that sounds like an edible regression therapy session. — Zachary Feldman

Lobster Roll at Fairway Market

Eating a lobster roll by the water is a tradition that just about every sane person enjoys. And while a supermarket isn’t usually the best place for lobster rolls, Fairway Market (480-500 Van Brunt Street, 718-254-0923) in Red Hook has one of the best (and cheapest).

Located directly on the water, this Fairway has a large and comfortable outdoor seating area — you could enjoy the prodigious passing shipping vessels while scarfing down the two pounds of trail mix you just bought, but a far better option is getting a lobster roll, made fresh to order and simply prepared on a toasted roll with lightly mayo-tossed lobster meat. At $10, it’s just as tasty as at any of those $17 lobster roll chains found in the city, with its no-fail combination of sweet crustacean and sapid starch. — Kevin Kessler

Eisenberg’s Patty Melt

Eating at Eisenberg’s (174 Fifth Avenue, 212-675-5096), which has one of the longest deli counters found anywhere, is a throwback to the New York days of old, when spots just like this dotted the entire city. The ultimate in no-frills, Eisenberg’s is a reliable diner in an area now clogged with chain restaurants and overpriced Italian markets. From egg creams to pastrami and fried bologna sandwiches, Eisenberg’s serves all the classic diner hits, including this delicious patty melt. Served on heavenly toasted rye bread with gooey swiss cheese and sautéed onions along with the burger patty, it qualifies as a two-meal sandwich. Rich and perfectly textured, it’s best enjoyed with a side of pickles and some Russian dressing for dipping. — Kevin Kessler

Trini Gyul’s Doubles

After relocating to Queens, Ro Ramcharan added late-night hours to her charming and communal Trini Gyul (112-16 Liberty Avenue, Queens; 718-659-1020) restaurant in order to fully utilize its new space, outfitted with a J-shaped bar opposite the steam-tray table in back. At night, her intensely flavored cassareep chicken and other Trinidadian snacks rule, but the doubles she sells every morning usually disappear before lunch, and for good reason.

In her new neighborhood, she’s tripled her orders of the breakfast favorite, a sandwich of fried bread and channa, or curried chickpeas. Vendors in Trinidad and Tobago are as common as slice joints here, and each puts his or her own spin on the specialty. Ramcharan’s start with sunset-hued fried turmeric buns, flaky and soft on the inside. She layers cool and tart mango and mint chutneys over the chunky chickpea stew, already brimming with herbal notes of culantro and Cuban oregano. The vegetarian sandwich beats the pants off most wan bacon-egg-and-cheeses, with a delicate crunch that holds up nicely under the stew and condiments. — Zachary Feldman

Meat Hook Sandwich’s Hot Chicken Sandwich

It’s been a great year for fried-chicken sandwiches. And at Meat Hook Sandwich (495 Lorimer Street, Brooklyn), the bready offshoot of cult Brooklyn butcher shop the Meat Hook, Gil Calderon puts together a crow-worthy crown jewel to top his cast of quirky, mammoth creations. His hot chicken sandwich pays tribute to Nashville’s tongue-searing delicacy of the same name, with a disk of shredded thigh meat that’s been brined in hot sauce, poached, and then fried. With potent poultry flavor and a slathering of peppery schmaltz, this sandwich practically squawks back at you with a relentless, steady heat. Calderon cuts through the chicken’s richness and spice by adding pickled vegetables and a tart, sweet Polynesian barbecue-style sauce into the mix. Both a mainline tap into the zeitgeist and a captivating take on a regional specialty, the sandwich proves its worth on first mouth-tingling taste. Suggestion: The puck of bird meat dwarfs its soft wheat roll, so give the whole thing a squeeze before digging in to allow for manageable bites. — Village Voice staff

Emily’s Pork Store’s Sandwiches

In a city now chockablock with green-juice emporiums and chopped-salad bodegas, it’s actually become quite challenging to find a truly great sandwich. But for over forty years, in the once predominantly Italian neighborhood surrounding the Graham L stop, Emily’s Pork Store (426 Graham Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-383-7216) has been making some of the finest sandwiches anywhere (to go along with its reputation as the finest butcher shop in Williamsburg). Consisting of four or five options, Emily’s sandwich menu is short, and its salami-and-mozzarella concoction reigns supreme. Served on a crunchy baguette, the sandwich is composed of house-made salami, fresh dark-roasted red peppers, and thick mozzarella slices. Served with a little olive oil and vinegar, it’s essentially the world’s greatest antipasto served between bread, which is made just down the street at Napoli Bakery. The combination is sweet and salty and achieves what so many other sandwiches lack: texture. — Village Voice staff