As the pandemic raged on, I found myself eating more sandwiches per week than I had done since taking a PB&J to elementary school every day. Six week ago, I offered a heartfelt “thank you” to 11 sandwiches that I liked best, putting them in ranked order just for the hell of it.
But in the succeeding weeks, I felt a few pangs of regret as I remembered exemplary sandwiches I’d forgotten to mention, and continued eating sandwiches at the same frenetic rate, sometimes running down tips I’d received from readers. Here’s a collection of 11 more sandwiches that are supremely lovable, to which I once again offer my thanks. Once again, I’ve ranked these sandwiches, with number 1 being my top pick.
11. Emiliana Focaccia at Unregular Pizza Few forms of bread make as satisfying a sandwich as the blistered and salted flatbread sometimes known as pizza bianca. In Rome, a split slice is often layered with a modest amount of mortadella, with the fat globs acting as ample lubrication. At Unregular Pizza, which gained notoriety as an apartment kitchen pop-up, recently opened a brick-and-mortar location near Union Square, there are always a couple of choices for focaccia sandwiches. I thoroughly enjoyed the Emiliana ($12), stuffed with prosciutto, cow’s milk mozzarella, long-aged Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a light touch of sundried tomato paste. 135 Fourth Avenue, between 13th and 14th streets, Union Square
10. Chopped Cheese at 1705 Deli Grocery Nearly every deli in East Harlem will make you a chopped cheese at a very reasonable price. And each deli has its own special twist on the celebrated sandwich, which may have first appeared at Haji’s (now called Blue Sky Deli), perhaps inspired by a sandwich favored in Yemen called dagha yamneeya. Assembled on a long baguette, the sandwich is priced at an unbelievable $5.99 and takes 10 minutes to make. A large quantity of fresh ground beef is fried on the flattop alongside onions, which are eventually chopped into the sizzling meat. Several slices of cheese are put on top (there are a few options, and in my case, it was pepper jack), which melts and disappears into the pile of meat and onions. Finally, the steaming heap is put on the bread with lettuce, tomato, and lots of mayo added to make this only-in-New-York sandwich. 1705 Lexington Avenue, at 107th Street, East Harlem
9. Banh Mi Burger at Em Vietnamese Bistro I draw the line when it comes to calling a hamburger a sandwich, as McDonald’s annoyingly began doing so a couple of decades ago. A burger isn’t a sandwich but a thing unto itself. But what about when a hamburger patty is incorporated into a real sandwich? A banh mi burger is particularly apropos because of the historic primacy of beef in the cuisine, from pho to the legendary seven-course beef dinner. Here, an elongated patty of good ground beef is deposited in a demi-baguette with the usual pickled root vegetables, cucumbers, and jalapenos — with a slice of provolone and a slather of mayo to seal the deal. Really, with this treatment ($10), it doesn’t taste like a hamburger at all. 57 Front Street, between Main and Dock streets, Dumbo
8. Lamb Shawarma at Sido Falafel & More There’s nothing tastier than a lamb sandwich, especially if the lamb has been carved off a rotating, pieced-together shawarma cylinder that’s oozing with juice from the meat. While the pita is not distinguished and the bread is a very small part of the package, Sido makes superior shawarma on its home turf of Columbus Avenue on the Upper West Side. Tahini, raucous raw onions, just-ripe tomatoes, and greenery fill out the pita, and the slightly gamy taste of its wonderful lamb shawarma is always front and center in this $10 bargain. 267 Columbus Avenue, between 72nd and 73rd, Upper West Side
7. Pollo milanesa cemita at Plaza Mexico Dona Zita When people visit Coney Island, they want to eat big — foot-long hot dogs, billowing piles of cotton candy, stacked ice cream cones. Dona Zita’s obliges them with overstuffed versions of Mexican antojitos. The cemitas — the iconic sandwiches of Puebla — is a case in point, a seeded roll stuffed with so many ingredients that the bread can hardly contain it all. A layer of shredded Oaxacan cheese seems to burst from the bun, followed in descending order by chipotle chiles, onions, papalo leaves (imparting the sandwich’s distinctive flavor), avocado, and razor-thin, freshly fried chicken cutlets, still hot, providing a resounding crunch as you barely manage to wrap your mouth around this humongous dish ($12). 1221 Bowery Street, between Stillwell Avenue and West 12th Street, Coney Island
6. Eggplant Sabich at Taim Many sandwiches seem to vie for the coveted title of World’s Messiest Sandwich, and Taim’s eggplant sabich is a contender. I love this sandwich, but halfway through I have to finish it with a fork. The excellent house-made pita, split to receive its juicy contents, soon disintegrates, and then down tumble the fried eggplant slices, boiled egg, tahini, Israeli salad, pickled cabbage, chopped parsley, and amba — the tangy, Iraqi-Jewish pickled mango sauce, which drives the distinct flavor of the $9.25 sandwich. 28-17 Jackson Avenue, between 42nd Road and Queens Boulevard, Long Island City, and other locations
5. Francesinha at Leitao Messy as Taim’s sabich is, it can’t hold a candle to a sandwich called francesinha at the West Village’s Portuguese gem, Leitao. So messy is this sandwich that it is listed among entrees rather than sandwiches, and not because of its price ($22). The name means “Frenchie” in Portuguese, and it originated in the port city of Porto. At Leitao, it features wagyu picanha steak, Portuguese sausage, salami, mozzarella, and a gravy composed of tomatoes and beer. Rather cryptically, at the bottom of the menu description, it reads “contains shellfish,” so I guess there are further flavors you can’t see. No matter the case, the result is divine — salty, meaty, beery, and cheesy — but I dare you to try to eat it with your hands. 547 Hudson Street, between Charles and Perry streets, West Village
4. Super Crunch Fried Chicken Sandwich at Maison Yaki One of the features of the fried chicken sandwiches currently blanketing the landscape is an assertive crunchiness. Well, what would happen if you ramped up the crunchiness tenfold? You’d have this newcomer in the chicken sandwich sweepstakes from Maison Yaki, the overshadowed younger sibling of Olmsted in Park Slope. The sandwich ($14) is my current favorite of the genre, with a creamy white sauce dubbed Japanese barbecue sauce, shredded cabbage, and some very sharp cucumber pickles. 626 Vanderbilt Avenue, between Park and Prospect places, Prospect Heights
3. Roast Beef at Brennan & Carr We may look with envy at the French dip sandwich, invented in Los Angeles over a century ago, but in New York City, we have something just as good and nearly as old. Founded in 1938 in Sheepshead Bay, Brennan & Carr makes a similar sandwich of roast beef (really more like steamed beef) on a round roll, dipped in the beef broth that is a byproduct of the cooking process. This produces a toned-down beefy taste to be sure, but one also steeped in the city’s history. And with the popularity of bone broth today, this roast beef sandwich ($8.25) is surprisingly modern in outlook. 2432 Nostrand Avenue, at Gravesend Neck Road, Sheepshead Bay
2. Fried Whiting Sandwich at Legends House of Sea Foods A fried whiting sandwich, and not fried chicken, is the signature dish of Harlem, and there must be 30 cafes and seafood markets that serve this delicacy. Often, the filets are comically heaped up in the sandwich, causing the bread to shrink in appearance and importance. At this new seafood restaurant, which also serves pricier steamed crab and lobster, three giant filets are included in the $6 sandwich, and it’s up to you to slather the bread (whole wheat, please) with quantities of tartar sauce, adding squirts of tabasco here and there. 2509 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard, between 135th and 136th streets, Harlem
1. Potato Croquette Sando at Curry Mania Sandwich fans know that a sandwich is often as much about the starch as it is about the meat. In this case, there is no meat, so in some ways the potato sando here is the perfect sandwich, an arrow of raw carb energy shot straight to the musculature. The delightful mashed-potato croquette is crunchy inside its bed of crumbs and is nestled between crustless white bread. This salty and greasy sandwich ($13.99), still available as a pop-up at Kitakata Ramen Ban Nai, is pure pleasure, and you’ll get up and run a mile after you eat it. 267 Amsterdam Avenue, between 72nd and 73rd streets, Upper West Side