Having owned a failed sub shop in Santa Monica, I would say I know my way around a good sandwich. The most important thing I’ve learned about the art of shoving protein between two slices of carbohydrates is that less is more. You don’t need reductions, foams, endangered lettuce varietals or trendy entrails to make the perfect sandwich, and I’m always elated when I don’t have to do an online search to find out what an ingredient on a menu is.
After 12 years of enthusiastic exploration, here are my 10 favorite sandwiches (not in any particular order):
Bay Cities Italian Deli – Godmother
Probably the most popular sandwich in all of LA, and yet this is the last place I ever have a desire to visit. Waiting an hour in a super crowded hotbox to pick up lunch can (almost) kill an appetite, but luckily the gratuitous Italian sub with your choice of hot or sweet peppers on homemade bread makes it all worth it. Best to call in your order ahead of time and don’t let your sammie sit too long. The Italian dressing has a tendency to turn this into a knife-and-fork meal.
Capriotti’s – Bobbie
I love this sandwich so much, I can’t bring myself to order anything else when I visit. It’s Thanksgiving encompassed, and they don’t skimp on everyone’s favorite part (the stuffing). The turkey is freshly shaved and not slimy, flavorless lunchmeat. Topped off with cranberry sauce and mayo, the Bobbie is a great way to celebrate gluttony any time of the year.
All About the Bread – Meatball
The owner used to be part of the Bay Cities tribe but escaped to do his own thing with magnificent results. Take everything you like about Bay Cities but without the crowds and with slightly more manageable bread. These light, crusty (yet doesn’t rip your veneers out) rolls graciously support the girth of expertly seasoned and sauced meatballs that you don’t have to wait an hour to consume. They also do a stand-up version of a Godmother.
Fat Sal’s – Fat Mona
While any sandwich at this UCLA haunt will be worth your while, their breakfast one really knocked it out of the park for me. It’s fried eggs and every type of morning meat imaginable surrounded by simple hoagie rolls. They’re known for their over-the-top creations (the “Fat Cookout” contains hot dogs, hamburgers and potato salad!) which the hard studying/hard partying students nearby seem to appreciate. Hangover food at its finest.
Langer’s – #19
Langer’s famous Pastrami sandwiches have been keeping Angelenos fat and happy since 1947. With consistent lines out the door, the wait is worth the reward of what I believe to be the best pastrami sandwich I’ve ever had. Forget Johnnie’s, the meat here is thicker with less fat and goes perfectly with the cole slaw and Swiss cheese. I’ve tried other sandwiches here but no need to go beyond the perfection that is #19.
Nong La – Banh Mi
I love a good Vietnamese sandwich but have little desire to journey to the San Gabriel Valley to appease my need for the unique and distinctive combo of lemongrass beef, pickled carrots and daikon, cilantro, jalapeno on crusty French bread. What sets Nong La apart (besides the high quality ingredients) is the necessary option of adding a fried egg.
Cole’s – Lamb French Dip
There are two LA institutions (both opened in 1908) that claim to be the originator of the French Dip. I don’t care who beat whom to the punch; Cole’s sandwich definitely outshines the more casual Philippe The Original. You’re going to spend more at Cole’s, but you’re also paying for vintage ambiance and slightly higher quality meat. Plus there’s a trendy speakeasy attached to the back of Cole’s, which makes the place more of a scene during the later hours.
Boo’s – Philly Cheesesteak
I made sure to take two Philly natives to Boo’s in order to give an accurate review on how good/authentic it really is. “Best in LA!” they both proclaimed, mouths chock full of freshly grilled, thinly sliced beef topped with fast-melting “Wiz.” They offer American and Provolone but I think the Cheez Whiz (“How they do it in Philly”) is the way to go. The only thing I’m informed that they’re missing is Tastykakes and Water Ice, whatever those things are.
Plan Check – Southern Fry
The only upscale joint on my list, this trendy West LA hotspot is always bustling with foodies gorging themselves on either one of my favorite burgers in town or the absolutely mouth-watering fried chicken sandwich. Nothing is amiss here, the chicken is high quality Jidori (both white and dark meat) covered in just the right amount of crispy batter as to not overwhelm. The scant addition of pickles and slices of duck breast ham only accentuate the wonderment. The pillowy soft bun is a nice change from the dried out brioche that seem to be everywhere.
Joan’s on Third – Short Rib Grilled Cheese
No sandwich list is complete without a grilled cheese! Decadent, buttery and cheesy, this artery-clogging delight helps take away some of Joan’s pretentious yet completely warranted vibe. Chow down on your grilled cheese while the D-Lister with the reality show and yipping Puggle picks at her sophisticated salad and watches in horror.
Have comments on this list? Sound off below!
Bun Boy has been obsessed with the LA restaurant scene since he moved here 12 years ago. He visits about 4 restaurants a week, mostly never repeating any. Even in these wavering economic times, he absolutely refuses to give up one of his favorite pastimes.