clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
A pair of hands with black fingernails holds half of the hero sandwich described in the article.
The epic roast beef, mozzarella, and gravy hero from John’s Deli in Gravesend.

Filed under:

Robert Sietsema’s 11 Best Sandwiches of 2019

Saucy heroes, melty grilled cheese, and tons of meat dominated the best sandwiches Eater critic Robert Sietsema ate this year

This past year, the Sandwich of the Week column reviewed 42 sandwiches, all of them excellent in one way or another, and worth trying not only for their taste, but also for their fascinating histories and quirky combinations of ingredients. In the preamble we promised to periodically highlight the best, so here goes: the 11 best sandwiches from one year of columns, with links to the original pieces if you crave further information.

The cross hatched sandwich at USHA

Cheese and tomato sandwich at USHA Foods: This cross-hatched beauty comes from an Indian restaurant in Eastern Queens that specializes in crunchy snacks, sweets, and inexpensive fast food meals, all vegetarian. The third category includes a sandwich with melty white Amul cheese, sliced tomatoes, and mint chutney that turns what might otherwise be a normal toasted cheese into a miracle of pleasing pungency. 255-03 Hillside Avenue, between 255th and 256th streets, Floral Park

Mama’s special hero, cut in two so the cold cuts, cheese, and red peppers are visible

Mama’s Special at Leo’s Latticini: Where would you go to get a cold hero with the freshest mozzarella? An ancient Italian latticini, of course, where cheese is its original mission. And this sandwich deploys cheese so fresh it still squeaks, along with boiled ham, salami, and pickled red peppers. 46-02 104th Street, at the corner of 46th Avenue, Corona

Floridita’s Cubano gets divided into three, shown here is a skewed stack and brown on the outside.

Cuban sandwich at Floridita: Go uptown to Washington Heights for the city’s best Cuban sandwiches. A cousin of the panini, it presses boiled ham, pork roast, cheese, and a small number of dill pickle chips between two halves of a Cuban demi baguette. Oh! The oozy, creamy, salty, sour beauty of it all! 4162 Broadway, between 176th and 177th streets, Washington Heights

Broccoli rabe hero at Leo’s Casa Calamaria, bright green filling in a baguette.

Broccoli rabe hero at Leo’s Casa Calamari: No, you don’t need meat or even cheese to make a great hero, as this sandwich demonstrates. Heavily garlicked broccoli rabe, a vegetable with an amazingly full taste and slightly bitter edge, makes a spectacular hero, particularly when sluiced with lots of olive oil and served salty and warm. 8602 Third Avenue, at 86th Street, Bay Ridge

The brisket chola at Bolivian Llama Party, with wisps of pickled carrot sticking out of the roll and brown meat.

The brisket chola at Bolivian Llama Party: Named after the indigenous and historically marginalized women of Bolivia, this compact sandwich packs incredible flavor into a small package. On a roll are piled crusty and peppery brisket, tart carrot escabeche, purple onions and a squirt of aioli, making sandwich bliss. Gotham Market at the Ashland, 590 Fulton Street, between Ashland Place and Hudson Avenue, Fort Greene

Smor’s lovely potato sandwich, open face with little round potatoes on top.

Potato sandwich at Smør: No cavalcade of sandwiches would be complete without one of the open faced Scandinavian sandwiches known as smørrebrød. This beauty features dainty boiled potatoes with skin intact, tarragon mayo, fresh chives for flavor, and jagged rye crumbs for crunch. 441 East 12th Street, between First and Second avenues, East Village

The epic Italian roast beef hero. Luckily, you’re still wearing your bathing suit.

Johnny Roastbeef at John’s Deli: Yes, the historic Brooklyn gravy-drenched roast beef and fresh mozzarella sandwich is still with us, despite all odds. Find its incredible opulence at this Gravesend deli, perfectly poised to grab customers on the way to and from Coney Island beaches. 2033 Stillwell Avenue, at 86th Street, Gravesend

A quarter wedge of round sesame bread piled with cold cuts

Muffuletta at Ends Meat: Among New Orleans sandwiches, yes there are plenty of great po’ boys, but nothing is quite like the muffuletta. This gift of Sicilian immigrants invented at Central Grocery starts with a seeded round loaf cut into quarters, propelled to greatness by a piquant green olive relish, with some giardinera thrown in for good measure. This version inside the new Lower East Side food hall Market Line is further elevated by a housemade mortadella. Market Line, 115 Delancey St, at Essex Street, Lower East Side

A roast beef and coleslaw sandwich on rye, cut in the middle to show the layered interior

Roast beef on rye at Ready to Eat: This is the sandwich I ate most often last year, with a frequency of one every month or so. It dresses a classic roast beef on rye with coleslaw instead of Russian dressing. This value-added feature puts crunch (and healthful salad!) into the assemblage without detracting from the beefy savor. 525 Hudson St, between West 10th and Charles streets, West Village

Yup, that’s a purple vegan sandwich filled with pureed sweet potato.

Ube sandwich at Spring Café: Certainly the most colorful sandwich I tried was made with the purple yam beloved of Filipinos, among others, from this strictly vegan cafe. The seasoned yam is slathered between two layers of the healthy, whole grain bread that’s been the bane of many sandwiches. Here the bread and yam are a marriage made in heaven, but wear sunglasses. 153 Centre St., between Walker and Canal streets, Lower Manhattan

Cemita de cecina, a giant round sandwich featuring dried beef, avocado, lettuce, and tomato, and lots else.

Cecina cemita at Coatzingo: Originating in the streets of the city of Puebla, the cemita is a round sandwich on a seeded roll, layered with divergent ingredients to make it a giant gutbomb. In this case, there’s dried and grilled beef, cheese, avocado, lettuce, tomato, pickled jalapeños, cilantro, and perhaps most important of all, dark papalo leaves, which impart a flavor that some have described as like burning rubber — in a good way, of course. 79-11 Roosevelt Avenue, between 79th and 80th streets, Jackson Heights

Check out my 15 best dishes of 2019.

Leo's Casa Calamari

8602 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11209 (718) 921-1900 Visit Website

Leo's Latticini

46-02 104th St, Corona, NY 11368 (718) 898-6069

Bolivian Llama Party

44-14 48th Avenue, Queens, NY 11377 (347) 370-9102 Visit Website


4162 Broadway, New York, NY 10003

The Original John's Deli

2033 Stillwell Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11223 +1 718-372-7481 Visit Website

Usha Foods & Usha Sweets

255-03 Hillside Ave, Floral Park, NY 11004 (718) 343-1500 Visit Website

Ready to Eat

525 Hudson Street, Manhattan, NY 10014 (212) 229-1013 Visit Website

Coatzingo Restaurant

79-11 Roosevelt Ave, Jackson Heights, NY 11372 (718) 424-7272

Ends Meat

115 Delancey Street, Manhattan, NY 10002 (718) 801-8895 Visit Website


441 E 12th St, New York, NY 10009 Visit Website

Whole Foods Is Rolling Out Smaller Convenience Stores Around NYC


Two Buzzy New Bagel Shops Have Opened in Lower Manhattan

NYC Restaurant News

A Well-Reviewed Greenwich Village Wine Bar Calls It Quits