News & Politics

Sandwich Hall of Fame

Elvis practically lived on peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches. President Bush is a sucker for Kraft singles on white. French Laundry chef Thomas Keller can’t get enough of a BLT topped with a fried egg. After searching coffee shops and delis, takeouts an

Eggs on Toast at Mocha Hut (1301 U St., NW, 202-667-0616; 4706 14th St., NW, 202-829-6200). Breakfast sandwiches may put you in mind of the Golden Arches, but the Hut’s open-faced version ($5.25) puts McMuffins to shame. This three-egg scramble with bacon bits, melted cheddar, and long strands of red onion is layered across four buttered, toasted brioche triangles. The scramble’s flavors used to rotate daily, and customers can still swap in sausage and other cheeses, but this combo is called “the usual.”

Pollo Milanesa Torta at Taqueria Distrito Federal (3463 14th St. NW; 202-276-7331). This Mexican sandwich ($6.60) has no beans or tortilla. A soft teleras roll—some taquerias use French bread—bookends “Milanesa”-style chicken. The chicken breast is flattened, dredged in Mexican spices, and breaded, then fried and briefly grilled. It’s crunchy like fried chicken but refreshing with lettuce, tomato, and a squeeze of lime. When avocado is out of season, the shop substitutes grilled cactus “steaks”—an Aztec tradition.

Turkish-Style Grilled Ham-and-Cheese (Yengen Soujouk) at the Lemon Tree (1701 Rockville Pike., Suite B1, Rockville; 301-984-0880). This cross-cultural sandwich ($7.99) takes Turkish ingredients—rounds of the spicy sausage know as soujouk and luxurious kasseri cheese—and presses them in an Italian panini iron. Ciabatta has just the right heft and approximates the everyday bread found in Istanbul. The warm, crispy result tastes something like a gooey ham-and-cheese.

Egg-Salad Sandwich at Breadline (1751 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-822-8900). There’s egg salad and there’s egg salad. Breadline’s version ($7.25) turns this dainty ladies-who-lunch classic into a lusty sandwich with chunks of hard-cooked egg, house-made mayo, scallions, and sun-dried tomatoes on rustic slices of the house olive bread.

Big Fat Gyro at the Athens Grill (9124 Rothbury Dr., Gaithersburg; 301-975-0757). This aptly named pita sandwich ($6.99) is a gyro with a difference. Besides the usual pileup of shaved veal and lamb, tomatoes, onions, and tzatziki, the Grill tucks a handful of French fries inside. It’s one of those try-it-you’ll-love-it creations that leave you wondering why someone didn’t think of it before.

Lamb Shawarma at Lebanese Butcher and Restaurant (109 E. Annandale Rd., Falls Church; 703-241-2012). What makes the lamb shawarma ($8.95) so melt-in-your-mouth good? In addition to this small, well-kept cafe and adjoining butcher shop, owner Kheder Rababeh owns a slaughterhouse in nearby Warrenton. That means good, fresh, cheap lamb—slices of which, juicy and thick and smeared with a creamy yogurt sauce, show up in this marvelous overstuffed handful.

Falafel at Max’s Kosher Restaurant (2319 University Blvd. W., Wheaton; 301-949-6297). Good falafel is hard to find, which is why the falafel ($5.95) here is such a revelation—tender inside, lightly crusted outside, and so well spiced that it makes you forget all the jawbreaker patties that have gone before. Toppings go miles beyond the usual tahini and tomato—think pickled cauliflower and beets, shredded cabbage, and tomato-cucumber salad, all of which add a vinegary jolt to the crunchy wonderfulness.

Pork Souvlaki at Zorba’s Café (1612 20th St., NW; 202-387-8555). Pork is the star player in Zorba’s overstuffed pita sandwich ($6.95). Charbroiling gives the chunks a smoky depth that plays well with the tomatoes, onion, feta, and tzatziki. The overall effect when you take a bite is a salty, creamy, chewy mouthful.

Sopressata Sandwich at Cornucopia (8102 Norfolk Ave., Bethesda; 301-652-1625). Italian-American purists might scoff at this gourmet shop’s dainty, up-market rendition of the Italian sub ($7.99): The lettuce is green leaf, not shredded iceberg; oil-and-vinegar is replaced by a brushstroke of straight balsamic; and the portions of shaved sopressata—cured pork sausage—and provolone are restrained. But the result is a beautiful balance. With a Pellegrino limonata and a filled-to-order cannoli for dessert, this just might be the perfect lunch.

Muffuletta at the Italian Store (3123 Lee Hwy., Arlington; 703-528-6266). Faced with 45-minute waits for a sandwich and ten-deep crowds circling the deli counter, you might be tempted to head elsewhere for your mortadella fix. But then you’d miss the terrific Sicily-by-way-of-New-Orleans sandwich known as the muffuletta ($6.69). True to tradition, the sesame-flecked round of crusty bread is cut crosswise and piled with high-quality, thinly sliced cold cuts—Italian bologna, prosciutto, and Genoa salami—plus provolone. What really sets it apart is the thick layer of condite, a tangy-spicy-sweet mix of chopped olives and marinated artichokes.

Italian-Sausage Sandwich at A. Litteri (517–519 Morse St., NE; 202-544-0184). From the streets of the Bronx to the ballparks of Pittsburgh, the Italian-sausage sandwich is king. DC’s best version ($4.50) can be found at this 79-year-old Italian grocery in the warehouse district. A soft torpedo roll is top-slit and packed with two hefty links of the deli’s house-made Italian sausage, slightly sweet marinara sauce, simmered bell peppers and onions, and melted provolone.

Thanksgiving Sandwich at Jetties (1609 Foxhall Rd., NW; 202-965-3663). At this Nantucket-inspired sandwich shop, the mess of freshly carved turkey, aromatic bread stuffing, and chunky cranberry sauce is known as the Nobadeer ($7.25). The name derives from a Massachusetts beach, but the flavors take us straight to late November, when post-Thanksgiving hunger leads to one of the most satisfying midnight fridge raids of the year.

Bleu Bayou Burger at Urban Burger (5566 Norbeck Rd., Rockville; 301-460-0050). As the name suggests, this Navy-themed joint is all about America’s favorite comfort food. And of its many renditions, our favorite is the thick Angus patty ($6.34) topped with crumbles of sharp bleu cheese and a spicy, thick bourbon sauce that’s like a kicked-up A1.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.