August is National Sandwich Month! Whether you have a hankering for a deli-fresh sub, daydream about an upscale gourmet panini, or crave a homemade PB&J, these classic creations make for a perfect back-to-school-ready brown-bag lunch or tasty summer’s end picnic indulgence. Today, we take a look at our top three reasons we salute the sandwich.
The humble sandwich has quite a storied history. You might be familiar with the legend: back in the 18th century, the Earl of Sandwich was on a heater at the gambling table and worried his luck might run out if he stepped away from his card game. His quick-fix solution was to order some meat between two slices of bread. Others followed his lead, and a classic menu item was born.
Fast forward to the great World Wars, and sandwiches exploded in popularity. Practical Americans came up with satisfying varieties like the club, hoagie or hero, BLT, Philly cheesesteak, and others. The Sloppy Joe, in particular, proved a great solution to making food stretch in the lean economic conditions of the Great Depression.
As you might be more familiar with after seeing The Founder, McDonald’s forever changed the role of sandwiches in popular (and foodie) culture. Ray Kroc’s first McDonald’s restaurant (now a museum) was started in Des Plaines, IL. The 1950s ushered in the age of hamburgers. Several fast-casual chains emerged on the scene. White Castle patented their five-hole sliders in 1951. Just a few years later, fast-food royals Burger King and McDonald’s ushered in their all-beef reign.
And of course, we must pay our respects to another iconic king—Elvis—who, along with his soulful rock and roll brought both white polyester jumpsuits and fried peanut-butter-bacon-and-banana sandwiches into the disco-era mainstream.
We foodies are smitten with the sandwich as a template for creativity and personal expression. An artfully crafted sandwich shows the culinary genius of its maker, as well as the distinctive flavors and regional characteristics of wherever it’s made.
The famed restaurant and entertainment guide Zagat compiled a helpful primer on the best sandwiches from each of the 50 states (plus D.C) to try when you’re visiting. Some idiosyncratic offerings include:
- The Oregonian, featuring marionberry jam, Rogue Creamery blue cheese and Oregon hazelnut butter on buttered challah bread.
- Slow-cooked Texas brisket on white toast, frequently made a little Bigger-in-Texas by adding slices of sausage and red cabbage.
- The Vermonter, a turkey or ham (or both, if you prefer) sandwich with sharp Vermont cheddar cheese, thin-sliced green apples and honey mustard. Enjoy with salt-and-vinegar chips on the side.
- Washington’s Salmon Sandwich from Market Grill—conveniently located near the fresh catches available at Pike Place Market.
One of the best features of sandwiches is their portability. These moveable mini-feasts are a satisfying hand-held option for dining anywhere you like. Convenience is king, as evidenced by the success of Subway. The fast-casual sandwich chain has over 37,000 locations worldwide that cater to people’s love of customizing the perfect sandwich to suit their individual tastes. Quick and easy options for sandwiches are thriving across the country. (This foodie was happy when my Chicago favorite Potbelly Sandwich Shop opened a location in Nashville!)
Check out this list from Thrillist of the best sandwich in every state. Do you agree with your home state pick?
Go have a great sandwich today! Happy Foodie Friday!
And, of course, for something a little weird…