City Paper is not for tourists
Sandwiches are a small source of joy during the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re built for devouring outdoors in parks, on stoops, and around fire pits, rarely cost more than $15, are comforting and familiar, and, when cut in half, can be shared easily with a friend or a date.
Work your way through these 12 sandwiches we’ve fallen for this fall. Many are new contenders jockeying for a place in the D.C. sandwich hall of fame, and a few come from old standbys that still deserve your attention. Bun appétit.
Ham & Mustard at Fight Club ($12)
623 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, (202) 733-1384, fightclubdc.com
Beuchert’s Saloon let its hair down over the summer, transforming into a more casual restaurant specializing in sandwiches and punch cocktails. Chef and co-owner Andrew Markert says most customers order the namesake Fight Club sandwich stuffed with roasted club steak. But Ham & Mustard—with Benton’s smoked ham, braised mustard greens, onion fondue, and aged cheddar on rye—is a sleeper pick.
Markert uses Benton’s smoked ham, which chef types love for of its texture and salty flavor. “It comes across like prosciutto, but it’s not as expensive and has a smoky aspect,” he says. “And it has the salty country quality you look for in Virginia hams.”
The sandwich is inspired by how Markert likes his collard greens, as well as the ham and mustard sandwiches Markert packs himself for the beach. “I took what I normally put in my collard greens and pulled them apart,” Market explains. He cooks the mustard greens down with shallots, garlic, vinegar, butter, and chili flakes.
Fight Club currently offers pick-up, delivery, and patio seating. Wherever you eat the Ham & Mustard sandwich, make sure you have dental floss within reach.
Fight Club is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
The National at Mélange ($13)
449 K St. NW, (202) 289-5471, melangedc.com
Chef Elias Taddesse once led Michelin-starred kitchens in New York, including Caviar Russe and Corton. Now he’s serving up casual sandwiches out of his developing Mount Vernon Triangle restaurant Mélange.
He calls his signature sandwich “The National” because it’s inspired by what many consider to be Ethiopia’s national dish—doro wat. The crimson chicken stew is flavored with berbere spice and served with hard-boiled eggs. Taddesse makes a doro wat from scratch as prep for the fried chicken sandwich, complete with the chicken legs, so that when he coats the bird in the stew it has that unctuous chicken fat flavor.
Taddesse, who grew up in Addis Ababa, also infuses both the flour and buttermilk used for battering the fried chicken with Ethiopian spices. Then he piles the sandwich with niter kibbeh (spiced clarified butter) aioli, turmeric slaw, and either a fried or hard-boiled egg.
Order one for pick-up or secure an outdoor tables so you can eat it straight away without worrying about the yolk popping in your passenger seat.
Mélange is open Sundays through Tuesdays from noon to 7 p.m., Wednesdays from noon to 8 p.m., Thursdays from noon to 10 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 11 p.m.
Tripleta at La Famosa ($13)
1300 4th St. SE, (202) 921-9882, eatlafamosa.com
Joancarlo Parkhurst refers to his restaurant’s popular Puerto Rican sandwich as “obrero” or “worker” food. People on the island typically stumble upon them at street stands. “It’s ubiquitous,” he says. “It’s like hangover food.”
As the name implies, the tripleta is stacked with three meats: pernil (slow-roasted pork shoulder), deli ham, and shaved beef ribeye. “You start out with the ribeye, chopping it up on the flat-top with house-made adobo seasoning, salt, and mojo,” Parkhurst says. “Then you toss in the pernil and then the lunch meat. It gets worked around with onions like a big Puerto Rican cheesesteak.”
The rest of the toppings include a smear of ketchup mixed with mayonnaise, Swiss cheese, and crispy potato sticks. The restaurateur also compares eating a tripleta to how one devours an especially juicy cheesesteak—hunched over with at least five napkins at the ready. A knife and fork is the only option for neat freaks.
La Famosa uses traditional pan de agua brought in from Miami, but Parkhurst hasn’t ruled out baking his own bread in-house down the line.
The restaurant is open for dine-in, pick-up, and delivery from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. They serve their breakfast menu from 7 to 11 a.m.
Vegetarian Cemita at Taqueria Xochi ($15)
924 U St. NW, (202) 292-2859, taqueriaxochi.com
Chef Teresa Padilla makes it possible for vegetarians to experience a Puebla-style cemita. While the regional Mexican sandwich more typically features breaded chicken or steak, Taqueria Xochi has one that subs in crispy fried eggplant. Bite into it and you’ll get a mouthful of Oaxaca cheese, chipotle, beans, avocado, onions, tomatoes, and mayo.
The bread, which Padilla bakes in-house and tops with sesame seeds, separates cemitas from tortas. “The bread is very special,” Mendoza says. “It’s not like the bread you use for torta. It’s fluffy, like brioche. That’s what distinguishes cemitas from tortas.”
Before opening Taqueria Xochi this month, Padilla and her business partner, Geraldine Mendoza, worked together at ThinkFoodGroup’s China Chilcano. The first-time restaurant owners offer their food for pick-up and delivery through the apps. Pair a cemita with a mangonada made from frozen mango, tamarind mango, chamoy, and lime.
Taqueria Xochi is open daily from 3 to 10 p.m.
Meatball “Sangwich” at Your Only Friend ($15)
124 Blagden Alley NW, (202) 316-9396, youronlyfrienddc.com
Paul Taylor, who crafted all of the sandwich recipes for Your Only Friend, likens eating his meatball sandwich to getting a big hug. He’s always loved them and swears he can pick up the smell of a Subway meatball sub from miles away.
His version is built with pork and beef meatballs, mozzarella, provolone, parmesan, and fontina cheeses as well as torn fresh basil and a slathering of tomato sauce inspired by Marcella Hazan’s famous recipe, which calls for butter instead of olive oil.
The Meatball “Sangwich” initially had more ingredients, such as fennel and porchetta, but Taylor edited himself. He’s a bartender by trade and builds sandwiches like he builds drinks, by making sure everything is in balance. He hopes to open a brick-and-mortar Your Only Friend one day. For now, it’s a pandemic-born pop-up operating out of Columbia Room. Your Only Friend donates a portion of proceeds from each sandwich to No Kid Hungry and Campaign Zero.
Sandwiches are available via pick-up and delivery. There are also a handful of outdoor tables for dining in. Your Only Friend operates Wednesdays and Thursdays from noon to 10:30 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from noon to midnight.
The Philly Special at Bub & Pop’s ($11 for half, $22 for whole)
1815 M St. NW, (202) 457-1111, bubandpops.com
Bub & Pop’s Chef Jon Taub sought to slightly improve upon the roasted pork sandwiches he remembers from classic Philadelphia haunts like Tommy DiNic’s and John’s Roast Pork. He does so by utilizing porchetta—a preparation that calls for the belly to be wrapped around the much leaner loin. The two textures make the sandwich special, especially because Taub packs fennel seeds, crushed red pepper flakes, salt, Pecorino Romano cheese, and garlic between the two layers of pork before roasting it.
The sandwich is named after a trick play in Superbowl LII when Eagles’ quarterback Nick Foles caught a touchdown pass on fourth down. Taub tops the porchetta with a ladle of au jus, aged sharp provolone, and broccoli rabe sautéed with hot cherry peppers for some heat. He says he took it off the menu once and people got mad. Now it’s a permanent fixture and Taub says they go through 20 pounds of porchetta a day.
Bub & Pop’s is open for pick-up, delivery, and outdoor dining Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., though they sometimes close earlier. Call ahead if you’re going in the evening.
The Original Egg at I Egg You at CHIKO ($5)
423 8th St. SE, (202) 558-9934, ieggyou.com
Usually it’s the runny yolk that takes a breakfast sandwich from ordinary to extraordinary, but at I Egg You, the bread pulls its own weight. Chefs Danny Lee and Scott Drewno source the fluffy milk bread from O Bread, a Korean bakery in Annandale. They first utilized it on the brunch menu at CHIKO’s sister restaurant Anju.
I Egg You is a weekend “ghost restaurant” that’s been operating out of CHIKO’s Capitol Hill location since September. Sample the signature “Original Egg” breakfast sandwich with a brown butter egg and fontina cheese on griddled bread. You can opt to add bacon or confit Logan’s Sausage for two more dollars or a splash of CHIKO hot sauce for fifty cents.
I Egg You is open Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. for pick-up and delivery on Caviar and DoorDash.
Kitfo Sandwich at Langano Ethiopian Restaurant ($7.25)
8305 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, (301) 563-6700, langanorestaurant.com
It’s hard to find an Ethiopian restaurant in the D.C. area that doesn’t have kitfo on the menu. The minced raw beef preparation gets its flavor from mitmita—ground African bird’s eye chili peppers—and niter kibbeh—clarified butter infused with herbs and spices.
What’s less common, however, is a kitfo sandwich, which Silver Spring’s Langano offers. Customers can specify whether they want the beef raw (tire), rare (leb leb), or well done. Go with raw so you can experience the pleasing contract between warm, crusty bread and a cool filling that’s both fiery and tangy.
Find it in the restaurant’s appetizer section. It’s about the size of a large croissant, leaving customers with the opportunity to try other dishes. Langano is open for pick-up, dine-in, and delivery through the apps from 9 a.m. to close.
Shrimp Banh Mi at District Fishwife at Union Market ($14)
1309 5th St. NE, (202) 543-2592, thedistrictfishwife.com
District Fishwife co-owner Fiona Lewis treasures the time she spent living in Vietnam. She became hooked on the funk and tang of the cuisine, which she showcases in her Union Market stall’s take on a seafood-centric banh mi.
The base is a shrimp patty, which Lewis makes with sweet Gulf shrimp, shrimp paste, fish sauce, and sambal. She pulses the mixture to make it sticky before dropping it into the fryer until it’s golden brown.
District Fishwife fills the banh mi with lemon mayonnaise, cilantro leaves and stems, pickled daikon and carrot (Đồ Chua), and pickled jalapeño. They make everything in house except the baguette, which they source from Lyon Bakery.
The pickled components combined with the hot, fried shrimp patty make it hard to consider trying other dishes on the District Fishwife menu. It comes with a choice of fries, vinegar slaw, apple slaw, or Asian pickled vegetables. You can buy the shrimp patties separately, should you want to try cooking them at home.
District Fishwife’s kitchen is currently open Sundays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Delivery is available through Uber Eats.
Mangialardo’s has been the barometer by which D.C. judges other Italian subs by since it opened on Capitol Hill in 1953. Tony Mangialardo is still working the register and answering the phone. He says his dad came up with the ingredient combination for the “G” Man sandwich in the 1970s and it hasn’t changed since.
It comes with ham, salami, mortadella, pepperoni, super funky crumbled fontina cheese, provolone cheese, oregano, hot peppers, sweet peppers, lettuce, tomato, onion, and enough mayonnaise to make eating it a worthy debacle. The $9 price tag for the football-sized amount of food has crept up a little over the decades, but not by much.
The carry-out restaurant’s stuck-in-time vibe is heart-warming in a city that reinvents itself every six months. A sign in the top right corner seemingly always reads, “Merry Christmas.”
The only thing trickier than spelling Mangialardo’s are its hours. It’s open Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., robbing D.C. of weekend picnics.
Meatloaf Sandwich at A Baked Joint ($11.50)
430 K St. NW, (202) 408-6985, abakedjoint.com
The slice of meatloaf that headlines one of A Baked Joint’s most craved sandwiches is a little like the one your mom might make. The matriarch of the family that owns the Mount Vernon Triangle restaurant, Teresa Velazquez, retooled the recipe she grew up on and later fed her own children and co-owners, Tessa and Zak.
“I’m from a big family,” says Teresa, who’s from Ohio. “There were six of us kids. I took my mom’s cheap version and changed it up a bit. It was originally made with Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup and a packet of Lipton Onion Soup.”
The spiffy model doesn’t take any shortcuts and is made from a blend of 80 percent lean, 20 percent fatty beef to ensure it stays juicy. Adding minuscule house-made breadcrumbs also means the meat isn’t too dense. A Baked Joint tops it with bourbon ketchup, crispy onions, mayonnaise, and bibb lettuce and serves it on buttered and griddled pain de mie.
Tessa says the sandwich has been on the menu since day one. “It’s very homey,” she says. “We’re seeing more of an appreciation for simple food. Simple food is our bread and butter, literally.”
A Baked Joint is open for take-out and delivery Mondays and Tuesdays from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Wednesdays through Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; and Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Rappahannock Oyster Po’ Boy at Puddin’ ($16)
To get your hands on a Rappahannock oyster po’ boy, find a Puddin’ food truck by following the Louisiana comfort food brand founded by Toyin Alli on social media. The rolls studded with expertly fried oysters are worth the chase. Alli dresses them up with a spicy Cajun remoulade and tangy sweet vinegar slaw. She uses bread from two local Maryland bakeries—H&S Bakery based in Baltimore and Uptown Bakers from Hyattsville.
For vegetarians, Alli also offers a local veggie po’boy that she creates based on what’s available at the farmers markets where she often parks one of her food trucks. Think sweet peppers, green and red onions, squash blossoms, and zucchini.
Once upon a time you could add a half smoke to any po’ boy, but that tradition is sadly no longer. The Union Market location of Puddin’ doesn’t have the capacity to make po’ boys, but you can try Alli’s other hits like chicken and sausage gumbo and bread pudding for dessert.