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A pink roast beef sandwich cut to show cross section.
The roast beef hero at Defonte’s is high up on my list.

Eater Critic Robert Sietsema’s 11 Favorite Winter Sandwiches

Lamb torta, eggplant parm heros, and more warm sandwiches to get New Yorkers through the coldest months of the year

Ever since the start of the pandemic, we’ve been celebrating sandwiches for their economy, versatility, and deliciousness at intervals of every three months or so. What’s easier to eat than a sandwich when COVID prevents you from lingering in a dining room, and what’s more portable if it needs to be carried home, or gobbled on the go?

So far, we’ve been extolling mainly cold or lukewarm sandwiches, but the recent snow and frigid weather suggests it’s time to switch over to hot sandwiches. Not only do they warm you up when you eat them, but they also act as portable handwarmers as you carry them out into the cold. Here are 11 new favorites, ranked in order of increasing excellence.


11. Arugula, sun-dried tomato and grilled-artichoke panino at Villa Della Scrofa

Located in the East Village but named after a Roman street, VDS is the kind of small, quirky store one might find in the Eternal City. It sells groceries imported from Italy, including some small-production meats made by friends of the owner and small-batch pastas, tiny cups of espresso to be knocked back in one gulp, and sandwiches made at a cramped counter in the rear. Of the 10 offered, this one is the best: slippery grilled artichokes sweetened with sun-dried tomatoes and embittered with arugula, all of it warmed on a roll (it takes 10 minutes or so, and costs only $9). “We keep the prices cheap,” owner Giovanni Bartocci says. 60 East Fourth Street, between Third and Second avenues, East Village

A sandwich with red, yellow, and green filling held in a hand.
Panino at Villa Della Scrofa

10. Lamb torta at Migrant Kitchen Dumbo

Chefs Dan Dorado and Nasser Jaber set about exploring the fusion of Middle Eastern and Mexican ingredients and cooking styles that brought them to Williamsburg and eventually the Financial District near the end of 2020. They have since parlayed the concept into a mini-empire. This hot sandwich ($19) is the perfect example of their efforts: a Mexican torta whose main ingredient is a Middle Eastern lamb roast rubbed with sumac and Aleppo peppers for a tart hotness, then incorporated into a telera roll with the addition of black beans, avocado, Oaxacan cheese, and pickled jalapenos. This sandwich pulls in two directions at once, which is a tremendous advantage, taste wise. 55 Water Street, between Dock and Main streets, Dumbo

A sandwich on French bread with a thick slice of lamb inside.
Lamb torta at Migrant Kitchen.

9. Uova funghi at Via Porta

This new sandwich shop and coffee and dessert bar from the L’Artusi team offers a series of warm sandwiches, presented as scaled-down panini. They are so unspeakably rich that a larger sandwich would be nearly impossible to consume in one sitting. My favorite so far, presented on a square roll that develops a crunchy exterior with crevices from its pass through the sandwich press, is uova funghi ($14.75). The filling is brimming with moist and creamy scrambled eggs forming a matrix for various sauteed mushrooms with gouda and lemon aioli. There’s also a surprise dotting of pancetta that’s been transformed into a species of croutons. 522 Hudson Street, between Charles and West 11th streets, West Village

A square compressed sandwich of eggs and mushrooms.
Uova funghi at Via Porta.

8. Pork sando at Evil Katsu

One of the best food trends to hit the city in recent years was the Japanese sando. Usually, it’s a fried cutlet smeared with mayo and deposited on two slices of fluffy white bread with the crusts cut off. In keeping with the katsu-serving tradition, shredded cabbage and carrot is the only other garnish.T he East Village’s Evil Katsu makes good-hearted fun of the tradition, while turning out an exemplary hot pork katsu sando ($16) with a crunch that resounds like a firecracker in the tiny dining area. 435 East Ninth Street, between First Avenue and Avenue A, East Village

A square sandwich of white bread with crusts cut off and a brown cutlet inside.
Pork sando at Evil Katsu.

7. Roast pork and broccoli rabe sandwich at Federoff’s

You might as well be in Philly at this North Side sandwich shop in Williamsburg, with its white subway-tile interior and antique signboard. Yes, the cheesesteak sandwich is up to snuff, but why not go for the hoagie Philadelphians love even more? The roast pork and broccoli rabe sandwich combines the unctuous porkiness of a fatty roast with the bitterness of broccoli rabe, a vegetable many Americans are still learning to appreciate but but one that’s close to the soul of southern Italian cooking. The addition of sharp aged provolone ensures the sandwich ($14) is a Phillies home run. 178 North 10th Street, between Bedford and Driggs avenues, Williamsburg

A hero with greens and sliced meat.
Roast pork and broccoli rabe sandwich at Federoff’s.

6. Eggplant parm hero at Salumeria Biellese

One of the world’s greatest vegetarian dishes, eggplant parm, was invented by southern Italian immigrants who brought their love of the purple vegetable here. It first served as a sort of meat substitute — breaded and fried in thin slices and layered with mozzarella and tomato sauce, the eggplant is every bit as good and often more flavorful than veal or chicken. And there’s no better eggplant parm hero ($10.25) in town than the lightly breaded one at venerable Chelsea institution Salumeria Biellese. 378 Eighth Avenue, at West 29th Street, Chelsea

A long seeded sandwich on a red checked tablecloth.
Eggplant parm hero at Salumeria Biellese.

5. Croque madame at Pastis

Admittedly, Pastis’s croque-monsieur isn’t the kind of sandwich extolled in the introduction to this map that you can eat while bopping down the street. It’s more of a knife-and-fork type sandwich, and becomes even more so when a runny egg is added in the croque-madame ($20), which ramps up the richness of the salty ham and oozing gruyere of the sandwich’s counterpart. The vinaigrette salad on the side is another asset, helping to cut the grease. 52 Gansevoort Street, between Greenwich and Washington streets, Meatpacking District

A melted ham and cheese sandwich with a runny egg on top.
Croque madame at Pastis,

4. Double fried chicken banh mi at 5ive Spice

The merging of today’s fried chicken sandwich with the classic banh mi has been a common enough experience lately, but few places do it as well as Park Slope’s 5ive Spice. The pair of thin cutlets, crisply fried and piping hot, are not allowed to dominate the sandwich, as many way-too-thick cutlets are prone to do. This is one hell of a sandwich ($10) and the fact that it doesn’t stray far from the banh mi formula, where the pickles and herbs are permitted to equally shine, is an added bonus when it comes to enjoying it. 52 Fifth Avenue, at Bergen Street, Park Slope

A Vietnamese baguette sandwich with chicken cutlets and vegetables inside cut to show interior.
Double fried chicken banh mi at 5ive Spice.

3. Hot roast beef at Defonte’s

Deep in the heart of maritime Brooklyn in Red Hook, Defonte’s Sandwich Shop is on the eve of its 100th anniversary. Its take on the classic hot Italian roast beef hero boasts a difference: In addition to warm rare roast beef, there’s fresh mozzarella; meat juices that don’t quite achieve the status of brown gravy; and a slice of fried eggplant is thrown in for added texture. A medium-sized sandwich is big enough for two and will set you back $9.90, while the humongous large size is $11.50. Either way, the roast beef itself is some of the best in Brooklyn, not to mention the fresh mutz. 379 Columbus Street, at Commerce Street, Red Hook

Seen in cross section, two halves of a pink roast beef hero with cheese.
Hot roast beef sandwich at Defonte’s.

2. Leg of lamb sandwich at El Toum

Lebanese newcomer El Toum has livened up the lunchtime scene in Jackson Heights with its sharp homemade pickles and generous application of its namesake condiment: toum, which is a white garlic sauce so powerful it will leave your lips burning. From the special lunch menu, the sliced leg of lamb sandwich ($8.99) is served hot, the warm meat bolstered with salad, beet-colored turnip pickles, and plenty of toum. Every bite is a pleasure. 35-62 76th Street, between 37th and 35th avenues, Jackson Heights

A pita sandwich with meat, salad, and tahini visible.
Leg of lamb sandwich at El Toum.

1. Grilled steak and mozzarella hero at Paneantico

Bensonhurst and Hoboken are famous for their roast beef heroes with brown gravy and mozzarella, a magnificent mess of a sandwich dripping gravy. But this sandwich ($14.75) from a Bay Ridge Italian bakery, deli, and daytime hangout is a different animal. The ribeye steak is grilled to perfection, the fresh semolina demi-baguette warmed to a golden color, the room temp mozzarella sliced and freshly applied. The result is a warm and beefy sandwich, and this may really be the best way to enjoy an aged ribeye with no condiments necessary and the meat never dries out with juices covering each slice. 9124 Third Avenue, at 92nd Street, Bay Ridge

A hand opens up a hero roll to reveal steak with black stripes from the grill and a plank of fresh mozzarella.
Grilled steak and mozzarella hero at Paneantico.

Pastis

15 Eerste Constantijn Huygensstraat, Amsterdam-West, NH 1054 BP 020 616 6166 Visit Website

Via Porta

522 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014

El Toum

35-62 76th Street, Queens, NY 11372 (718) 440-9970

The Migrant Kitchen

1433 1st Avenue, Manhattan, NY 10021 (917) 409-1417 Visit Website

Defonte's Sandwich Shop

379 Columbia Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231 (718) 625-8052

Salumeria Biellese Delicatessen

378 8th Avenue, Manhattan, NY 10001 (212) 736-7376 Visit Website

Paneantico

9124 3rd Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11209 (718) 680-2347 Visit Website

Via Della Scrofa

60 E 4th St, New York, NY 10003

Federoff's Roast Pork

178 N 10th Street, New York, NY 11211

Evil Katsu

435 East 9th Street, Manhattan, NY 10009 (646) 370-3435 Visit Website

5ive Spice Tacos & Banh Mi

52 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217 (718) 857-3483 Visit Website
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