The humble sandwich is truly the great equalizer. All you need is two slices of bread and some meat, cheese, and/or veggies to put in between. No matter your culinary skills, anyone can make a sandwich. But, as any true sandwich connoisseur would know, it takes something special to elevate it to greatness.
Unlike other dishes, great sandwiches don’t require a whole lot of mise en scene to make them special. In fact, some of the best and most-lauded sandwiches are messy, wrapped up in paper, and eaten without a lot of fanfare. It’s the egalitarian ideal in the world of food. And the concept of food within a pocket of bread is universal with a remarkable diversity in sandwich culture across the continents. To celebrate the truly beautiful meal that is a great sandwich, we’ve decided to round up some of the best sandwiches that are worth traveling for.
Now, to set some boundaries, we’ve limited these to a selection of 30 popular and/or iconic sandwiches here in the United States. We’ve also eschewed hamburgers/cheeseburgers, which sometimes end up on the list of sandwiches on certain menus, as well as hot dogs which we firmly believe are categorically not sandwiches. Organized alphabetically below, we have a list of 30 sandwiches with our preferred destination for each. There’s a decent chance that many establishments offer just as good versions of the sandwiches — but these are our picks.
30 Great Sandwiches Worth Traveling For
Bagel & Lox
Rose Foods – Portland, ME
A bagel and lox, the simple yet delicious breakfast of champions, might be a controversial pick on a list of the greatest sandwiches. But, as many will attest to, a great bagel and lox breakfast sandwich is worth traveling for. New York is home to many amazing Jewish delis serving excellent renditions of this classic. Russ & Daughters has deservedly earned widespread acclaim and is well worth a visit. But, my first pick would be Portland, ME’s Rose Foods. This bagel shop keeps things simple yet delicious with nova lox, plain cream cheese, and of course some onions, capers, cucumbers, and dill. Delightful branding and merch along with a very solid coffee program and extensive breakfast menu ties this charming Maine shop altogether. Hit up Vacationland for your new favorite breakfast.
Nhu Lan Sandwich Shop – Falls Church, VA
The classic Vietnamese sandwich has earned widespread popularity in the U.S. — and for good reason. Combine crispy carrots, tender meat, crackly/pillowy baguette, and refreshing herbs, and you’ve got a fantastic sandwich on your hands. While traveling to Vietnam would be the best way to experience this delicacy, that might not be feasible. Any city with a thriving Vietnamese community and culinary scene is a great bet for a delicious bánh mì. The Bay Area of California is a particularly great destination but our top pick is Nhu Lan Sandwich Shop just outside of DC. Nhu Lan Sandwich Shop is tucked away in the Eden Center, a Vietnamese strip mall in Falls Church, VA.
Beef on Weck
Charlie The Butcher – Buffalo, NY
Now we’re getting into some regional specialties. The Beef on Weck is basically just a roast beef sandwich that hails from Western New York — Buffalo to be precise. It might not have risen to the same prominence as Buffalo Wings but locals take just as much pride in this hearty sandwich. The determining quality of a Beef on Weck is in its thin-cut, rare roast beef along with kummelweck roll. Add some horseradish and au jus and you’ve got a Beef on Weck. Once you’re in Buffalo, it’s hard to go wrong with this sandwich but one of the best options is Charlie The Butcher. While there are dozens of restaurants serving up a Beef on Weck, Charlie The Butcher is perhaps the most established destination for this Buffalo delicacy.
Ted’s Butcherblock – Charleston, SC
The BLT is perhaps my favorite sandwich. It’s a simple option made of just three ingredients (plus mayo, of course) but the quality of each of those ingredients is paramount. Fresh tomatoes, crisp lettuce, and perfectly cooked bacon. Plus, the BLT has so many ways to riff and remix with other veggies, meats, sauces, and more. When it comes to picking a truly top-tier BLT destination, the choices are tough. A special shoutout should be reserved for my local Merritt’s Grill which has earned national acclaim for its thick and delicious BLT on sourdough. But, Ted’s Butcherblock is the truly impressive option. The Bacon of the Month BLT results in some extremely unique renditions so every trip will offer something different.
Elle – Washington, DC
As a New Jersey native, it’s worth giving a special shout to the classics: the Taylor Ham, Egg, and Cheese or, of course, the Bacon, Egg, and Cheese. Nothing fancy, greasy, and cheap. In my opinion, this is the Platonic ideal of the breakfast sandwich. Pop into any bagel shop, deli, or bodega in Jersey or NYC and you’ll find a stellar breakfast sandwich. But, if we’re talking destination breakfast sandwiches, I have to pull an audible and recommend Elle in Washington, DC. I have changed course on many long drives along the East Coast to make sure I could stop at this lovely bakery and coffee shop. Their breakfast sandwiches are relatively simple but the sesame seed bun elevates it to something truly special. Plus, while it’s an excellent breakfast destination, Elle has a fantastic bar and a great dinner menu.
Jim’s Steaks – Philadelphia, PA
I’m aware that cheesesteaks exist outside of Philadelphia, but if you want a Philly Cheesesteak, you go to Philly. There are dozens of great establishments serving their own rendition of this classic sandwich — cheese whiz and all — and the eternal debate is Pat’s v. Geno’s. But I am an absolute sucker for a late-night Jim’s Steaks trip. With several locations throughout Philadelphia, Jim’s Steaks attracts a serious crowd thanks to their no-frills, classic take on this delicious sandwich.
Konbi – Los Angeles, CA
Breaded chicken is a pretty universal food item with plenty of cuisines taking a crack at this delicious meal. While some would suggest the schnitzel sandwich as the supreme edition, I’d recommend trying a katsu sando. And, in particular, the katsu sando at LA’s Konbi. Like the best restaurants, Konbi doesn’t do much. But what they do, they do it well. As a caveat, Konbi actually uses pork for their katsu but it doesn’t matter. This simple dish is well worth the trip.
Blue Sky Deli – New York, NY
For those unaware of this glorious sandwich, a chopped cheese is essentially NYC’s response to the Philly Cheesesteak. But it’s a worthy sandwich in its own right. Truthfully you could walk into most bodegas in New York City and get a mean chopped cheese at a fantastically cheap price. Blue Sky a.k.a. Hajji’s in East Harlem is considered the progenitor of this sandwich. My go-to spot was a random deli on the Upper East Side for years. So the moral of the story is get yourself to New York City, find a solid deli/bodega, and get yourself a chopped cheese. Add meunster, peppers, and jalapenos. Enjoy.
Tattooed Moose – Charleston, SC
Like the BLT, a good Club is the perfect canvas to elevate a sandwich experience. Moreover, it’s a good sandwich to judge a restaurant’s quality on. So, if the specialty club from Charleston, SC’s Tattooed Moose is good enough for Guy Fieri, it’s good enough for us. Tattooed Moose featured on Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and showcased its impressive Duck Club. Made with a triple decker of duck confit, hickory-smoked cheddar, garlic aioli, applewood-smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, and red onions, this is a serious sandwich.
Enriqueta’s Sandwich Shop – Miami, FL
If you want a proper Cuban sandwich, you go to Miami. And if you want the best Cubano, you go to Enriqueta’s Sandwich Shop. This classic sandwich counter is a local’s favorite, serving Cubanos through the takeout window for years. Expect long lines but we’d suggest waiting it out. Go early, they close in the early afternoon. You’re sure to find excellent Cubanos throughout Miami, but Enriqueta’s is an institution for a reason.
El Pescador Market – La Jolla, CA
I was tempted to offer a fried fish option here. It’s hard to beat a fish and chips sandwich option or really any fried fish between two slice of bread. But, we decided to suggest a fresh fish sando from the buzzy and high-quality El Pescador Market in La Jolla. We recommend ordering the eponymous El Pescador which features crab, shrimp, and salmon–all fresh caught–between two slices of sourdough.
Cole’s Pacific Electric Buffet or Philippe the Original – Los Angeles, CA
Ah, we love a good restaurant rivalry. Particularly when it involves the creation of regional cuisine. Two competing restaurants in Los Angeles claim to have invited the French Dip, a sandwich made with roast beef on a French baguette. Sometimes cheese, onions, and other fixings are added but they aren’t required. Another component is that the sandwich is served au jus with the drippings from the roast beef in a cup for dipping. And the two restaurants that contend they are the creators are Cole’s Pacific Electric Buffet and Philippe the Original. The two restaurants opened in 1908 and both lay claim to the sandwich’s origin. Regardless of who made it first, both are beloved establishments so try them out and compare the two French Dip versions. Add some spicy mustard and a side of fries, of course.
Fried Bologna Sandwich
Turkey and the Wolf – New Orleans, LA
Turkey and the Wolf has earned some serious acclaim as a destination sandwich shop. Helmed by owner Mason Hereford, Turkey and the Wolf offers a variety of expertly crafted sandwiches that attracts flocks of sandwich lovers. While you can’t really go wrong with any of their offerings, it’s the Fried Bologna Sandwich that really put this award-winning restaurant on the map. This hot sandwich served with bologna, hot mustard, potato chips, mayo shrettuce, tomatoes, and American cheese is mouth-watering goodness.
Meltz Extreme Grilled Cheese – Coeur d’Alene, ID
You can trust an establishment titled Meltz Extreme Grilled Cheese to take the classic grilled cheese quite seriously. Sure you can make a perfectly serviceable grilled cheese at home – but trust the pros at Meltz to give you the proper “extreme” grilled cheese experience. Located in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Meltz lets you fully customize your sandwich with a ridiculous number of add-ons. Or, you can go with one of their insane creations like the Oinker (Cheddar, Bacon, BBQ Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese, Fried Onions) or the Briqueso (Cheddar, Brie Mousse, Artichoke, Red Pepper, Caramelized Onion, Spinach, Grilled Zucchini, and Sundried Tomato Pesto). If you needed an excuse to visit Idaho, get yourself a mind-blowing grilled cheese.
Parthenon Gyros – Madison, WI
The Gyro has long been one of the greatest success stories of cross-cultural cuisine. The Greek sandwich has permeated the American food landscape showing up at authentic Greek establishments and run-of-the-mill diners. When done right, a gyro is a tangy, delicious meal that can be made quickly and cheaply. While there are dozens of excellent Greek restaurants throughout the country, we’re going to send you to a third-generation Greek-owned shop in Madison, WI. Parthenon Gyros has earned acclaim throughout Wisconsin and around the country as one of the OG Greek restaurants and one of the best destinations for a classic gyro.
Brown Hotel – Louisville, KY
While I have a lot of love and patience for the unique and fascinating world of regional sandwiches, the hot brown is…something. While the name isn’t particularly appetizing and sounds like more of an insult to bad coffee. But this is a genuine sandwich that has captured the attention of the entire country, far beyond its roots in Louisville, Kentucky, so it was worth mentioning on this list. The Hot Brown is an open-faced sandwich consisting of turkey, bacon, and ham covered in Mornay sauce and baked. Cheese is often added and various restaurants top it off with fixings like herbs and tomatoes. Considering it was the originator of this sandwich, we’d recommend trying it out at Louisville’s own Brown Hotel.
Hot Chicken Sandwich
Prince’s Hot Chicken – Nashville, TN
Nashville Hot Chicken is high up there among my favorite sandwiches. And while you can find great fried chicken sandwiches throughout the country, no one does it quite like Nashville. Within Nashville, my first choice for a Nashville Hot Chicken would be the home of the fiery sandwich: Prince’s Hot Chicken. Stories differ on the sandwich’s origin, but everyone can agree that the local chain helped popularize the spicy sandwich. While you should expect some pretty long lines, we feel that it’s well worth the wait.
Milburn Deli – Milburn, NJ
Broadly speaking, an Italian sandwich is just a sub loaded up with Italian meats, cheeses, veggies, and dressings. That basic combination has branched out and their are close relatives to the rather generic Italian sandwich construction. If you’re looking for a classic yet fantastic deli to find a good version of this sandwich, head to the suburbia NJ and find the Milburn Deli. This fine establishment is near my hometown and, while I’ll admit a bit of bias, has earned widespread acclaim for its low-frills, high-quality approach to sandwich making. Go for The Grand Salami for an excellent, fully-loaded Italian sub.
Italian Beef Sandwich
Al’s #1 Italian Beef – Chicago, IL
The Italian Beef is a quintessential Chicago creation featuring thin slices of roast beef topped with giardiniera and housed within a French roll. You’ll find this sandwich available throughout the Midwest and really around the country but Chicago is the birthplace of this beast of a sando. Portillo’s, a Chicago staple, is often-sited as a desirable destination for the Italian Beef but we’re going to send you to Al’s which claims to be the home of this iconic sandwich.
The Highroller Lobster Co. – Portland, ME
As the birthplace of the now infamous Lobster Roll, it’s only appropriate to make the trip to Maine for this summer staple. While there are plenty of excellent options for a quality lobster roll throughout the state, we’d implore you to check out Highroller Lobster Co. in Portland, ME. Despite its impressive and delicious menu along with a well-curated drinks menu, Highroller is a place that doesn’t take itself too seriously. What started out as a humble food cart has blossomed into one of Portland’s best restaurants. And the Lobster Roll is a beautiful combination of high-quality and unfussiness. Just a great brioche roll, lettuce, and your choice of sauce. (I’m partial to letting the folks at Highroller choose for me – they know best.) Go for the lobster roll and local craft beer, stay for the incredible merch.
Cochon Butcher – New Orleans, LA
The Muffuletta Sandwich truly originates in Sicily but was brought to the US by way of Italian immigrants in New Orleans. As such, the sandwich has remained a Big Easy staple for decades. Named for the unique thin muffuletta bread used, a Muffuletta sandwich includes olive salad, salami, ham, Swiss cheese, provolone, and mortadella. While many restaurants in New Orleans craft excellent renditions of this sandwich, we’d recommend Cochon Butcher. With house-cured meats adorning this delicious sandwich, Cochon Butcher takes an artisanal approach to the New Orleans classic.
La Torta Gorda – San Francisco, CA
It’s a bit reductive to pick out just a “generic torta” for this list. Tortas are a category all of their own and can be served hot or cold and with a variety of meats, cheeses, veggies, and fixings. In the simplest term, a Torta is a Mexican sandwich or perhaps more specifically a Mexican version of a sub. The defining feature is the bread of choice: a bolillo roll. And if you’re looking for the best example of a torta, go to Mexico. But, here in the states, you’ll find plenty of amazing tortas at authentic Mexican establishments. We’d recommend the unassuming yet extremely impressive La Torta Gorda in SF’s Mission District. You really can’t go wrong but the Pierna Enchilada or the Rajas con Queso are great picks.
Pastrami on Rye
Katz’s Delicatessen – New York, NY
There are few sandwiches so unequivocally tied to single restaurants like the classic Pastrami on Rye at Katz’s. Katz’s Delicatessen in the Lower East Side didn’t create the staple of Jewish delis but it did popularize this sandwich and bring it to the mainstream. Sure you’ll have to wait in a long line and yeah it’s a bit of a cliche at this point. But, if you need a real destination for a pastrami on rye we’d highly recommend taking a trip to Katz’s Delicatessen.
Domilise’s Po-Boy & Bar – New Orleans, LA
You may be noticing a theme that New Orleans is the de-facto sandwich capital of the country. And the Po’Boy is very possibly the city’s most famous contribution to the sandwich landscape. Packed with either roast beef or fried fish (usually shrimp) within a fluffy French bread, this sandwich has earned cult status within New Orleans and beyond. There are plenty of excellent destinations but we’re picking the unassuming yet stellar Domilise’s Po-Boy & Bar, which has been dishing out po’boys since ’24.
ZZQ – Richmond, VA
You might not consider the mid-Atlantic city of Richmond, VA a barbecue destination. But I will go out of my way to visit ZZQ. This un-pretentious Texas-style barbecue joint does it right. Order as much meat and sides as you want and then enjoy. If you’re looking for a pure Pulled Pork Sandwich, this is an excellent spot. The bun is soft, the slaw is crispy and tangy, and the pork is sumptuously juicy.
Mudgie’s Deli – Detroit, MI
A classic Reuben is a staple of just about any deli. As such, you’ll find fine renditions of this sandwich anywhere you go. But, for a high-quality, travel-worthy option, head to Detroit and stop by Mudgie’s Deli. Corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and 1000 island dressing create their iconic Corned Beef Reuben. They even have vegan alternatives featuring tempeh or seitan renditions of corned beef. But, if we’re being honest, we’re heading to Mudgie’s for the original Reuben.
Roast Beef Sandwich
Kelly’s Roast Beef – Revere, MA
The beachside sandwich shop Kelly’s is the self-proclaimed progenitor of the classic Roast Beef Sandwich. If you’re in the market for a delicious sandwich with thinly-sliced roast beef, American Cheese, mayo, and James River BBQ Sauce, then Kelly’s is the destination for you. The Roast Beef has been a staple around Boston and particularly on the North Shore for years. And Revere’s Kelly’s Roast Beef is considered one of the standout sandwich spots.
Chula Seafood – Scottsdale, AZ
If you want a proper fish sandwich, you got to a fish market. That would be pretty common sense. So, if you’re looking for an incredible tuna melt, head to Scottsdale, AZ’s Chula Seafood. This charming, intimate fish shop makes a mean tuna melt that is well worth a visit. The Green Chili Tuna Melt features albacore along with hatch chile, Oaxaca cheese, and chimichurri. If you can handle the heat, we’d highly recommend checking out this sandwich.
Mitchell Delicatessen – Nashville, TN
Mitchell’s in Nashville, TN is an unfussy deli with a seriously impressive lineup of delicious sandwiches. And, like the best delis, it’s an unassuming destination that prioritizes quality. Perhaps most impressive is that in its vast sandwich offerings, the turkey sandwiches stand out. Turkey sandwiches are plain, boring, middle school lunchbox sandwiches. Well, you might’ve thought that until you’ve tried Mitchell’s Turkey Brie with jalapeño cranberry relish, honey mustard, and apples.
Middle Child Clubhouse – Philadelphia, PA
And last but certainly not least we have a veggie sandwich. While most sandwiches on this list features some form of meat, there’s a real artistry to a delicious veggie sandwich. And few do it better than Philly’s Middle Child. The buzzy, fun sandwich shop offers a highly curated menu of excellent offerings. Chief among them are both the Bye Felicia!, with roasted and pickled seasonal veggies, artichoke relish, balsamic mayo, arugula, and raw onion, and the Phoagie, a vegan riff on the classic Philadelphia hoagie. Make a trip to the City of Brotherly Love just for these veggie sandwiches.