25 of America's Best Sandwiches
The United States of Sandwiches
If there's one language everyone in America speaks, it's sandwich -- and these 25 have us saying "yes, please!" Read on to find out which sandwich defines each state!
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California: French Dip
Many credit the french dip to Philippe Mathieu, owner of L.A.'s Philippe the Original. In 1918, Mathieu was making a roast beef sandwich when he accidentally dropped a baguette in his roasting pan. The prep hasn't changed much since then: Rolls get a two-second bath in beefy juices before they're piled with roasted prime rib, smeared with spicy mustard, and plated with a dunking bowl of hot broth ("au jus").
Connecticut: The Grinder
Hero, hoagie, sub -- a grinder by any other name wouldn't be from Connecticut. The word "grinder" was Italian-American slang for dockworkers, with whom these mixed-meat sandwiches were especially popular. So adored is this sammy -- full of capicola, salami, provolone and all the fixings -- that some Connecticuters even attend grinder-themed meet-ups to rave about them.
Florida: The Cuban
The cubano, as it's known in Florida's Latin communities, is hot-pressed and served on lard-rich bread. "The crunch and acidity of the pickles, the salty sweetness of the roast pork and ham, and the cheese -- it's a great balance," says Michelle Bernstein, chef-owner of Miami's Sra. Martinez.
Georgia: Pimiento Cheese
These sandwiches are a staple at Southern church gatherings and one of the signature finger foods served at the Masters golf tournament in Augusta. The light-as-air spread is whipped up using sharp cheddar, mayo, pimientos, salt and cracked black pepper, plus diced jalapeños or cayenne for heat. Top Chef: All-Stars winner -- and self-proclaimed "stubborn Yankee" -- Richard Blais spikes his blend with chopped dill, diced piquillo peppers and lemon juice.
The Hawaiian Islands were once called the "Sandwich Islands," but the state's most popular sammy is missing one key ingredient: bread! In the Aloha State, rice is the preferred starch, and the signature musubi features a block of sticky rice wrapped in seaweed and topped with a slab of grilled or fried spam.
With the state's thriving sheepherder culture, it's no surprise locals enjoy lamb sammies. Dustan Bristol, chef-owner of Brick 29 Bistro in Nampa, smothers his lamb meatloaf sandwich in caramelized onions; Basque Pub Bar Gernika in Boise makes a juicy lamb dip: roasted lamb leg on a French roll, served au jus.
Illinois: Italian Beef
Allegiances aside (folks get serious about restaurants like Al's and Mr. Beef), most Italian beef recipes start the same: beef wet-roasted in garlic and oregano, thinly shaved onto an Italian-style roll, briefly dipped in the drippings, and topped with giardiniera (tangy pickled veggies) or sautéed peppers.
Indiana: Pork Tenderloin
Typically served at diners, pubs and county fairs, the Hoosier comfort grub starts with pork pounded thin, then breaded and fried, sandwiched onto a kaiser roll, and stocked with all the fixins: ketchup, mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomato, pickles and onions. Authenticity check: if the pork doesn't hang over the sides of the bun, it's not a true tenderloin sandwich.
Iowa: Loose Meat
In the sitcom Roseanne, the title character opens the Lanford Lunch Box, a restaurant that serves up loose-meat sandwiches -- but the show was set in Illinois. These sauce-free takes on the sloppy joe have reigned in Iowa since 1926. Butcher Fred Angell invented the finely ground, secretly spiced hamburger blend, and the restaurant Taylor's Maid-Rite, still a state institution, introduced them to the public. When made right, the Maid-Rite is decked out with mustard, pickles and chopped onions.
Kentucky: Hot Brown
The Texas toast turkey sammy is ladled with creamy mornay sauce (béchamel with grated parmesan or gruyère), then oven-broiled and topped with bacon. It's "a glorious embrace of all things fatty, rich and cheesy," says Edward Lee, chef-owner of 610 Magnolia in Louisville.
Louisiana: Po' Boy
Deep-fried shrimp and oysters are the preferred fillings for this sandwich -- named after striking streetcar workers, or "poor boys" -- but some joints pack theirs with catfish, soft-shell crab, ham and even french fries. Lettuce, tomato and Tabasco are generally non-negotiable.
Maine: Lobster Roll
Some like their lobster rolls pure (fresh and tender-sweet); others douse 'em with gobs of mayo, celery, scallion, lettuce, lemon juice and cayenne. But the vehicle stays the same: a butter-grilled hot dog bun, top-loaded for maximum stuffing.
Maryland: Crab Cake
You can't turn around in Maryland without hitting a crab cake sammy. Purists like Bryan Voltaggio, chef and co-owner of Volt in Frederick, say the cake should be shallow-fried in a blend of clarified butter and canola oil, the roll pillow-soft (potato rolls work well), and the tartar dip day-of fresh.
Marshmallow Fluff, the star of this sticky-sweet treat, was invented in Somerville. Though most iterations of the sandwich include only marshmallow creme and peanut butter on white bread, some fans trick theirs out with Nutella, mashed bananas, or crushed potato chips for a salty finish. The sandwich has its own holiday (Oct. 8) and has been name-dropped on The Sopranos and The Office.
Minnesota: Fried Walleye
It's no wonder that the walleye, the state fish, is also the star of the unofficial state sandwich: The Land of 10,000 Lakes is brimming with the freshwater swimmers. The flaky, tender fillets are usually breaded or cracker-crumbed, fried in a cast-iron skillet, and served piping-hot on a hoagie bun with lettuce, tomato and tartar sauce. Naturally, the sandwich tastes best if you've caught the main ingredient yourself.
Montana: Rocky Mountain Oyster
There's no sugar-coating it: The meat here is the testicles of a young bull, pounded flat, rolled in seasoned flour and deep-fried to crispy perfection. "Testicle festivals" are held seasonally throughout Montana, where a frequent midway treat is a snack of family jewels on a hamburger or hot dog bun.
New York: Pastrami on Rye
After the infamous deli scene in When Harry Met Sally and the pastrami foreplay on Seinfeld, this peppery meat bomb is a shoo-in for world's sexiest sandwich. NYC's Katz's Delicatessen is the leader of the pack, servings its version steaming-hot on twice-baked Jewish-style rye.
North Carolina: Pulled Pork
Carolinians have a long history with their favorite smokehouse sandwich. The process of slow-cooking a pig over hardwood coals was first tested by the Spanish in the early 1500s, says Rick McDaniel, author of An Irresistible History of Southern Food. In the Piedmont area, the pork is topped with vinegary red-cabbage slaw, but some purists believe it tastes best on its own. "To tell if a restaurant has a real pulled pork sandwich, drive around to the back of the building," says McDaniel. "If there isn't a stack of wood out back, keep driving."
Ohio: Fried Bologna
Bologna is America's salty, porky, beefy answer to Italy's mortadella, and nowhere is it more revered than in Waldo, home of the 50-year-old G&R Tavern. Here, a nearly inch-thick slab of bologna is fried till its skin blisters and its edges turn brown, then coaxed onto a soft white bun and layered with melty monterey jack, sweet pickles and a solid puck of white onion.
Pennsylvania: Philly Cheesesteak
Competitors' takes on the quintessential sandwich are pretty similar: thinly sliced rib-eye or top round, heated on a griddle, hacked into little pieces, shoveled onto a long amoroso roll, and blanketed with sharp provolone or Cheez Whiz.
Rhode Island: Fried Clam Roll
Pronounced "KO-hog," Quahog clams are harvested in the mud flats of New England and taste mighty good splashed with evaporated milk, dredged in a blend of flours and deep-fried. Many diehards eat 'em straight, but the crunchy, creamy, full-bellied bivalves are also delicious piled on a grilled hot dog bun, doused in tartar sauce and finished with a squeeze of lemon.
South Dakota: Hot Roast Beef
The 80-year-old Wall Drug general store in Wall is responsible for putting this steaming open-face, white-bread sandwich on the map. It's heaped with meat, smothered in velvety brown gravy and served with an ice-cream-size scoop of mashed potatoes.
Tennessee: The Elvis
Though historians believe Elvis the sandwich predates Elvis the King, it was the latter who made it a household name. Traditionalists swear by just two main ingredients -- peanut butter and "'naner" (banana) -- but regional variations also incorporate bacon, honey, raisins, jelly or marshmallow fluff. The dessert-like sandwich is usually griddle-fried in a pool of butter or bacon fat till golden-brown, its sliced bananas caramelized separately.
Texas: Chopped Beef
Brisket sandwiches have been making the rounds in Texas since the earliest cattle drives. The best kind is made to order by tossing freshly chopped beef (mincing is criminal) in bubbly hot barbecue sauce, according to Tim Love, chef-owner of The Lonesome Dove Western Bistro in Fort Worth. The tender, smoky meat is then loaded onto a soft white bun and crowned with diced white onion, half-sour pickle coins and a squirt of mustard.
Wisconsin: Grilled Cheese
Wisconsinites didn't invent the ooey-goey sandwich (ancient Romans earned that badge), but they know how to enjoy it. The "Dairy State" produces more cheese than any other -- 25 percent, to be exact -- and is home to the Grilled Cheese Academy.
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