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By now you’ve probably tried a handful of the 12 sandwiches City Paper recommended this fall. Now we’re back with more offerings to enjoy when hunger strikes this winter. The ten beauties below will sate you while you’re watching TV, warm you up on snowy days, and serve as portable, sharable fare when you meet friends outside for polar picnics.
Brasato di Manzo at Stellina Pizzeria ($18)
399 Morse St. NE, (202) 851-3995, stellinapizzeria.com
When Chef Matteo Venini’s wife tried Stellina Pizzeria’s braised short rib sandwich, piled high with fontina cheese and potato croquettes, she found she couldn’t get every element in one bite. Her strategy? Turn the bread into a plate and eat it like a main course.
The pizzeria’s latest sandwich is personal. Venini marinates the beef short ribs for 48 hours in red wine, celery, carrots, onion, fresh herbs, and dark chocolate. “It’s a trick that my grandma taught me when I was in Italy,” he says, referring to the chocolate. “It helps kill the acidity of the wine and gives it a deep flavor.”
Venini braises the beef for up to seven hours, then vacuum seals individual portions that the restaurant heats up whenever someone orders it. This tactic keeps the meat moist. The next step is topping the short ribs with melted fontina cheese and a couple of creamy potato croquettes.
“The first time we tried it, we thought it was missing some crunch,” Venini says. The spuds provide needed texture. “It looked beautiful. It looked big. I haven’t seen it before. It’s a very meat-lovers sandwich. I grew up in a butcher shop. For me, meat is everything.”
Stellina Pizzeria is open for outdoor dining, takeout, and delivery Tuesdays through Thursdays from 4 to 9 p.m., Fridays from 4 to 10 p.m., Saturdays from noon to 10 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 9 p.m.
Carnitas & Rabe at Ghostburger ($15)
1250 9th St. NW, (202) 827-5237, ghostburgerdc.com
Ghostburger, the ghost restaurant Espita launched during the pandemic, made its first foray into classic Philly sandwiches was a fanciful cheesesteak. Chefs Robert Aikens and Ben Tenner both cooked professionally in Philadelphia, so naturally, they attempted the beloved roast pork and broccoli rabe sandwich next.
From the first bite, Ghostburger’s take has little in common with DiNic’s. Since Ghostburger is run out of a Mexican kitchen, the team cross-utilizes its smokey, citrusy carnitas in the sandwich. They also swap in whiz for sharp provolone and smear smoked tomatillo salsa on the roll from Sarcone’s Bakery.
“The combination of dry-curing and marinating the pork for two days, then slowly cooking it confit in pork fat gives it great flavor,” Aikens says. He utilizes 40 different ingredients for the cure mix, adobo and achiote marinade, and cooking liquid. Try one for dinner and get in a fight with someone from Philly over authenticity for dessert.
Ghostburger is open for takeout and delivery Mondays through Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Grilled Cauliflower Pita at Yellow ($14)
1346 4th St. SE, (202) 921-9592, yellowthecafe.com
Albi, from Chef Michael Rafidi was the best restaurant to open in D.C. in 2020. You can get the same Levantine fine-dining flavors for a little less money at Yellow, the daytime cafe next door in Navy Yard. In addition to honey halva lattes and pastries, the cafe serves pita sandwiches.
The vegetarian grilled cauliflower pita is fresh and filling. Rafidi thickly coats the cauliflower in soujek spices, so it becomes crunchy without being fried. The pillowy pocket also holds cabbage slaw macerated in sumac and serrano chilies, a chopped salad of pickled green tomatoes, cucumber, and red onion, baby lettuces, sumac onions, labne, and “habibi sauce” made with tahini, lemon, and garlic.
The pita is $14 on its own, or you can make it a lunch deal with a cold drink and a halva chocolate chip cookie for $20. Save some room for a side of labor-intensive batata tots ($11).
Yellow offers outdoor dining or takeout Tuesdays through Sundays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Southside Club at Queen Mother’s ($15.89)
918 S. Lincoln St., Arlington, (703) 997-8474, rocksolidfood.com/queenmothersdc
Chef and podcaster Rock Harper says his fried chicken sandwich venture that’s now based in Arlington is a tribute to his mother and Black women everywhere. “It’s an opportunity to put some respect on Black women’s names as it relates to our food and our culture,” he explains, noting that his mom consults on the menu. “As we reverse the trend and take ownership of our culture, we want to pay homage to where our recipes came from.”
While Harper won’t reveal much about his secret brine, he says he cooks his locally sourced birds in a bit of duck fat because “it adds a bunch of damn flavor.” While the duck fat adds richness, Harper’s fried chicken turns out light because he dredges it in rice and chickpea flour. “It doesn’t absorb as much oil,” he says. “It’s not a greasy sandwich at all.”
If you have to pick one, go with the Southside Club. It comes with Nodine’s Smokehouse applewood smoked bacon, housemade pimento cheese, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles on a toasted brioche bun. Harper uses Kewpie mayonnaise in his pimento cheese, which makes the traditional southern dip spreadable.
Queen Mother’s migrated from Ghostline in Glover Park to La Cocina VA in Arlington this fall. Diners can eat the Southside Club in La Cocina VA’s cafe or order it for pick-up and delivery. The restaurant is currently open Tuesdays through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., but Harper hopes to add dinner service soon.
Reuben at Cafe Berlin ($14)
322 Massachusetts Ave. NE, (202) 543-7656, cafeberlin-dc.com
When Rico Glage and Clytie Roberts-Glage became owners of Cafe Berlin on Capitol Hill they tweaked the reuben recipe that had been on the menu for years. Instead of sourcing corned beef from an outside purveyor, Rico started brining halal brisket in house before boiling it for four hours and letting it rest overnight. “He puts juniper in everything and that makes life better,” his wife Clytie explains. The ratio of meat to sauerkraut to housemade Thousand Island dressing is what makes this reuben satisfying. It’s not so overstuffed that you need a fork and knife or piles of napkins.
The lunch menu featuring sandwiches is only available on Fridays from noon to 3 p.m. Cafe Berlin reduced its hours slightly during the pandemic. The reuben comes with a choice of the soup of the day, German potato salad, or green salad. Customers can replace the corned beef with roast turkey. Clytie says there’s one other secret ingredient: “The key to all of our food is a little German anger.”
Shao Bing Breakfast Sandwich at Cafe Spoken ($10)
1770 Euclid St. NW, spokenenglishdc.com/cafe-spoken-menu
Bagels take a backseat to shao bing on Cafe Spoken‘s morning menu. The spinoff of Spoken English that’s been operating during the pandemic inside The LINE DC hotel builds its breakfast sandwiches on sesame flatbread with more layers than a well-made croissant. “We get the dough, laminate it, and then bake it with lots of layers of sesame and sesame oil,” says restaurateur Erik Bruner-Yang. Though shao bing originated in Northern China, the chef has eaten the pastry most recently in Taiwan and Shanghai.
The shao bing breakfast sandwich starts with a vegetarian base of folded egg omelette, tomato, caramelized onion, cheddar cheese, and mustard. For three extra bucks you can add bacon, chicken sausage, breakfast sausage, or turkey bacon.
“I’ve always tried to bring more Asian breakfast to D.C.,” Bruner-Yang says. He harkens back to when he did a breakfast noodle soup pop-up at Union Market prior to opening Maketto on H Street NE. “There’s never been a market for it, but we’re still trying to make it happen.”
The Cafe Spoken breakfast menu is available daily from 7 to 11 a.m. for dine-in, takeout, and delivery.
Porco Cubano at Porchetta District ($14)
3421 M St. NW, (202) 337-4455, porchettadistrict.com
Aykan Demiroglu is a Turkish restaurateur who grew up in Switzerland and France and wound up obsessed with Italian porchetta. When he owned Bistro Vivant in Northern Virginia the restaurant often ran it as a special. “It flew,” he says. “I started thinking that I should do a porchetta business. Who doesn’t love bacon, Laura?”
He spent two years researching and perfecting the recipe he uses at Porchetta District inside Georgetown Gourmet. He seasons the specialty cut of deboned pork loin with the belly attached and skin still intact with special salt from Sicily, dehydrated garlic, Calabrian chili flakes, Italian fennel pollen, and fresh herbs.
Demiroglu has “reimagined” popular sandwiches like a Vietnamese banh mi and a Cubano by using the porchetta in place of other pork products. The latter has a fully stamped passport. It combines Italian porchetta, French smoked ham, Norwegian Jarlsberg cheese, Turkish pickles, Dijon mustard, and Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise. It works.
Porchetta District is open for takeout and delivery daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Quarter-Pound Crab Cake Sandwich at MLK Deli ($15)
3113 Martin Luther King Jr Ave. SE, (202) 597-5897, themlkdeli.com
This Congress Heights classic that’s been under new ownership since 2017 has its crab cake recipe nailed down. “It’s all jumbo lump crab meat, no fillers,” says Andre White, a manager. He also talks up the seasoning mix and mayo-based seafood sauce that comes on the side.
The quarter-pound crab cake is enough for a meal, but Washingtonians with big appetites can also spring for a half-pound crab cake ($25) or whole pound crab cake ($50). White says he can’t finish the full-pounder, but plenty of customers order it. The golden-hued crab cakes come on squishy bread with lettuce, tomato, and sauce on the side. Wash it down with lemonade.
Like many restaurants, MLK Deli stepped up during the pandemic to offer first responders and healthcare workers free meals. “We are here in the community, from the community, and for the community,” White says. MLK Deli is open Mondays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. for takeout only.
Chicky Pep at Your Only Friend ($16)
124 Blagden Alley NW, (202) 316-9396, youronlyfrienddc.com
When Paul Taylor was putting together the line-up for his pop-up that operates out of Columbia Room, he wasn’t sure he had the guts to put a chicken cutlet sandwich on the menu. “Not coming from a strong Italian background and not being from Philly or New York, I had to do a deep dive into how to make a proper cutlet.”
He loves Philadelphia sandwich culture so much that his bachelor party consisted of a sandwich crawl through the city. If you befriend him at Your Only Friend, ask to see the spreadsheet. After trying myriad recipes, including Action Bronson’s, Taylor ultimately settled on one that keeps it simple.
Each Chicky Pep contains three cutlets, provolone, mozzarella, pepperoni slices, and cured and roasted red peppers. Taylor brushes one side of the roll with aggressively pungent garlic mayo and the other side with Italian dressing. Taylor takes a blowtorch to the sandwich before sticking it in the oven for five minutes. He hopes it tastes a little like pizza and a little like “those hoagies” from “shops up north” that seemingly slap everything together in one sandwich. It’s as comforting as an after school snack made with love by mom or dad.
Your Only Friend is open for outdoor dining, takeout, and delivery Wednesdays and Thursdays from noon to 10:30 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from noon to midnight.
Marisa Tomei Eats Free at Compliments Only ($13.50)
1630 14th St. NW, (202) 794-4638, complimentsonlysubs.com
The name of this sub stuffed with capicola, genoa salami, fresh mozzarella, basil and arugula salad, and honey chili aioli should clue you into its creator. Back when Pete Sitcov started the deli at Yang Market, he named all of his sandwiches after scenes or quotes from his “absolute favorite movie,” My Cousin Vinny. Now he’s teamed up with Emily Cipes on a new sandwich venture anchored on 14th Street NW. It’s a reincarnation of sorts of the Subbies sandwich pop-up that the pair ran out of Coconut Club over the summer.
Sitcov says he watches the 1992 flick eight times a year. “Marisa Tomei won an Oscar for best supporting actress for that part and goddamnit, she deserved it,” he says. “This sandwich was on the Yang Market menu when I owned it in 2017, and honestly it’s my baby.”
Salty cured meats, extra creamy cheese, peppery greens, and just a hint of heat and sweetness from the aioli make this sandwich an ideal game day meal. Compliments Only is open for pick-up and delivery Wednesdays through Mondays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.