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Over the past year we’ve been rounding up memorable sandwiches that are worth seeking out in the D.C. area. Now you can read about each season’s sandwiches all in one place with the Washington City Paper sandwich guide. Bookmark this page so you always have about 40 sandwich options to turn to when hunger strikes. (Restaurants that have closed have been removed.)
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.
“G” Man Sub at Mangialardo’s ($9)
1317 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, (202) 543-6212, mangialardos.com
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.
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.”
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.
POGI-O-Catfish at PogiBoy ($10.95)
1100 Vermont Ave. NW, (202) 681-7516, pogiboydc.com
This fried catfish sandwich that mimics McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwich comes on a Grimace-colored bun. PogiBoy chef and co-owner Paolo Dungca says he uses ube (purple yam) flour to create the fluffy, bao-like bread that’s getting a lot of play on Instagram. Ube is ubiquitous in the Philippines and PogiBoy is inspired by Filipino fast-food chain Jollibee.
The POGI-O-Catfish comes with a comically oversized fish filet that hangs over the bun, shredded lettuce, pickles, melted American cheese, and a “secret” sauce. It’s not that secret—Dungca says it starts with Duke’s mayo and also includes banana ketchup, cornichons, and Filipino chili vinegar. “It’s kind of like Filipino Thousand Island meets tartar sauce,” he says.
At first, Dungca and co-owner Tom Cunanan made the sandwich for themselves and their employees, but they eventually added it to the menu for all to sample. PogiBoy is open from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.
Burnetta at Little Food Studio ($12.50)
849 Upshur St. NW, littlefoodstudio.com
Chef Danielle Harris has a strategy that makes her sandwiches stand out at Little Food Studio, located in the former Cuzzin’s & More carry-out space in Petworth. Instead of using predictable condiments to add moisture and richness to her creations, she crafts spreads from scratch, like the olive cream that lines the Burnetta sandwich made from Castelvetrano olives blended with olive oil. The focaccia sandwich contains the classic Italian combination of creamy burrata and mortadella streamed with fat ribbons and studded with pistachio halves. “Mortadella is bougie bologna,” Harris jokes, if only because it’s fun to say. She finishes the Burnetta off with pistachio spread and a spicy Calabrian chili relish.
“This sandwich is named after my mom’s mom,” Harris says. “I try to name all of the sandwiches based on what I think that family member would like to eat. She passed away in 2010. I really think she’d love this sandwich.” Little Food Studio is currently open Tuesdays through Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. or whenever the small shop sells out. Sandwiches become available at 11 a.m.
Baker’s Daughter Breakfast Sandwich ($13)
1402 Okie St. NE and 675 I St. NW, (202) 729-6990, bakersdaughterdc.com
Chef Matt Baker may have earned a Michelin star for his delicate work at Gravitas, but he doesn’t dig dainty breakfast sandwiches. He likes them to have multiple meats and a “20 percent messy factor” that makes you feel like you’re indulging in something special. The breakfast sandwich at Baker’s Daughter is the best seller at the growing local brand that will soon have three locations. The third one is set to open inside the Eaton DC hotel downtown in August.
The sandwich layers Applewood-smoked bacon, ham, baby arugula, espelette pepper aioli, pungent Gruyère cheese, and a runny fried egg. During the recipe testing process, Baker tried 20 ham varieties and settled on a “low-sodium, low-moisture Virginia-style ham that doesn’t sweat too much when you cook it.” Baker builds his sandwiches with symmetry in mind and promises there won’t be “pockets of bad bites.”
While he currently sources the sandwich’s sourdough from Lyon Bakery, he soon hopes to make breads in house for Baker’s Daughter and his forthcoming restaurant Michele’s. The Ivy City and Chinatown locations of Baker’s Daughter are open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and you can order breakfast all day.
South Philly at Buffalo & Bergen (¼ lb $12.50 or ½ lb $19.50)
240 Massachusetts Ave. NE and 1309 5th St. NE, (202) 525-3350, buffalobergendc.com
It’s possible not even Philadelphia has thought to forgo a hoagie roll and pile its signature sandwich on a squishy bagel instead. Enter Buffalo & Bergen owner Gina Chersevani, who has been making cheesesteak bagels for about seven years. She has some tips for acing your order. “We ask everybody to do it on a sesame bagel,” she says. She also encourages diners to add pickled hot peppers and pair the sandwich with a root beer. “I have a lot of staff that put a scrambled egg on top and eat it for breakfast. For me, it’s a little too much,” she says.
The sandwich is already rich. Buffalo & Bergen soaks the onions in dark beer before straining them and mixing them with a generous amount of butter. The onions hit the griddle with thinly sliced beef and American cheese. Cheesesteak traditionalists will reject that the restaurant finishes the sandwich with mayo and lettuce, but live and let live. You can choose between a quarter pound of beef or a half pound of beef. The latter spills out of the bagel in a big way.
In addition to its new Capitol Hill shop, the South Philly is also available at Buffalo & Bergen’s Union Market location. The shops keep identical hours: Mondays through Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Fridays through Sundays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (The bar remains open until 5 p.m.)
Smoked Salmon at Crazy Aunt Helen’s ($14)
713 8th St. SE, (202) 750-8140, crazyaunthelens.com
A standard lox and bagel sandwich wouldn’t have been out of place at this Barracks Row newcomer specializing in comfort food. “I’m Jewish. I love my smoked salmon,” Chef Mykie Moll says. “I wanted to have it on the menu, but have a different twist on it.” He went Mediterranean by pairing the smoked salmon with housemade tangy goat labneh, pomegranate seeds, cucumbers, and pickled red onions. The secret to the sandwich, though, is the sumac. “It’s one of my favorite spices to use. It’s very earthy and has a little bit of acidity to it,” Moll says.
Moll selected pan de baston as the vessel. The sub roll comes from Lyon Bakery. Moll first used them when making sandwiches for Bird’s Eye—Doi Moi’s former daytime cafe. “It gets a nice crisp on the outside but doesn’t fall apart on you and it retains its warm gooey center,” he says. The sandwich is served with housemade potato chips that he reports diners are already obsessing over. The smoked salmon sandwich is currently available during lunch, served Wednesdays through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
BBQ Jack at Shouk ($12)
395 Morse St. NE and 655 K St. NW, (202) 313-7671, shouk.com
The contents of this pita sandwich hail from Sri Lanka or Thailand. That’s where Shouk is sourcing the fibrous jackfruit that stands in for pulled pork in its latest menu item. The plant-based restaurant brand is branching out. “We’ve shifted away from just being Israeli or Middle Eastern to global street food,” says co-owner Ran Nussbacher. “This is our first big culinary move in that direction.”
Since they’re new to the barbecue game, Shouk asked Money Muscle BBQ pitmaster Ed Reavis for advice. “He gave us some pointers on flavor profile and mouthfeel,” Nussbacher says. It paid off. The sandwich—with “pulled” jackfruit slathered in a mesquite-smoked barbecue sauce, crunchy red cabbage slaw, and crispy shallots—has quickly become a fan favorite. Tack on an order of fries with a side of the barbecue sauce so you can taste its smokiness with more of a blank canvas. Both Shouk locations are open daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Chicken Schnitzel BLT at Girl & The Vine ($13)
7071 Carroll Ave, Takoma Park, (301) 272-1230, the-girl-the-vine.square.site
The chicken schnitzel BLT sandwich was an early hit when The Girl & The Vine opened in Takoma Park in April 2019. They’ve improved upon it recently by swapping out a fried chicken thigh for a thin, pounded cutlet that’s more reminiscent of the schnitzel you’d find in Germany. It crackles when you bite into it, but isn’t dry. Co-owner Jocelyne DeHaas‘ favorite touch is the pickled green tomatoes that are firm enough to have some snap. The sandwich also comes with tomatoes, baby greens, bacon, and dijonnaise on a brioche bun from Lyon Bakery.
The wine and sandwich shop has ample outdoor seating and just opened its indoor bar again for customers who are 21 and up. Visit Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, only snacks are available after 3 p.m. The schnitzel sandwich is most definitely not a snack. It’ll fill you up for the day.
Spicy Aubergine at Duke’s Grocery ($14)
1513 17th St. NW and 2000 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, (202) 733-5623, dukesgrocery.com
Less is not more at Duke’s Grocery, where the British sarnies have always been about addition. The sandwiches are heaping piles of flavors that play well together, but you typically need a massive jaw to complete a bite. The vegetarian option has many components, but isn’t exceedingly tall. It features panko-coated eggplant and squash, smoked gouda cheese, charred red onions, pickled jalapeños, fennel walnut pesto, green chili purée, and coriander. The fried veggies aren’t greasy and the verdant spread that coats the ciabatta bread is herbaceous and light.
The spicy aubergine sandwich is available at both Duke’s Grocery locations, which are open Mondays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Fridays from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.; Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.; and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. You can also get it at sister restaurant, Duke’s Counter, by the National Zoo. It’s open Mondays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fridays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Classic Muffuletta at Michele’s ($14)
1201 K St. NW, (202) 758-0895, michelesdc.com
Michele’s inside the Eaton hotel is named after Chef Matt Baker’s mother, so it makes sense to serve a sandwich from her native New Orleans. A Sicilian immigrant created the muffuletta (also spelled muffaletta) at Central Grocery in the city’s French Quarter circa 1906. “It’s just one massive sandwich that has been cut into wedges, almost like a pizza slice,” Baker says. He takes some liberties, diverging from the original recipe by using more robust tasting provolone picante, spreading pesto on house-made ciabatta, and swapping in smooth olive tapenade for a rough-chopped olive mix. The meat stack is more traditional—mortadella, coppa, and ham. Michele’s will eventually serve a full lunch menu. In the meantime, they’re offering a few dishes as a lunch pop-up. Try the muffuletta for pick-up, delivery on UberEats, or dine-in Wednesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Strawberry Sando at Bonsando ($7)
2800 10th St. NE, bonsando.com
Open your mind to a sweet sandwich. A few countries in Asia are obsessed with them for good reason. Bonsando, which serves Japanese-inspired sandwiches out of Tastemakers in Brookland, had to have one on its menu when it launched recently. The ghost kitchen comes from the Korean family behind Bangbop. “Korean cuisine borrows heavily from Japanese cuisine and vice versa,” says co-owner Joon Park. He loves the bakery culture in both countries that blend French techniques with Asian ingredients. Bonsando currently stuffs its fruit sando on milk bread from O Bread & Cake with fresh whipped cream and sliced strawberries. A kiwi-pineapple combination is on the horizon. Customers can order Bonsando for delivery or pick-up. There are some outdoor tables at Tastemakers that Park recommends for a picnic. Bonsando is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Meatball Sub at Ghostburger ($16)
1250 9th St. NW, (202) 827-5237, ghostburgerdc.com
When Chef Robert Aikens was cooking in Philadelphia, he was surrounded by spots that serve meatball sandwiches. “For a lot of people, it’s their go-to sandwich,” he says. “That’s why I wanted to put it on the Ghostburger menu.” The recent addition at the ghost kitchen, which operates out of Espita in Shaw, travels well. Aikens took it for a test bike ride—the Sarcone’s roll offered protection similar to a helmet.
The balls are made from ground beef and pork and fresh breadcrumbs soaked in milk. Cooks season them with onion, garlic, thyme, sage, oregano, fennel, ketchup, and Dijon mustard. They simmer in a classic marinara sauce laced with butter until they’re ready to be topped with roasted broccoli rabe, pickled Anaheim peppers, garlic mayonnaise, basil, and grated Parmesan and Chihuahua cheeses. Try it for pick up or delivery from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. (Note that the meatball sub is not available at the Ghostburger that operates out of Las Gemelas.)
The City Island at HK Fish House ($16)
3809 Rhode Island Ave., Brentwood, (240-681-0976), instagram.com/hkfishhouse
Chef Kimberly VanKline is particular about the ingredients she uses at HK Fish House inside the miXt food hall just over the D.C. border in Prince George’s County. She brings whiting down from her native New York City because she prefers it to what she can find in this area and she likes that it’s skin-on. The fried fish is the main character of the City Island sandwich, which also comes with shredded lettuce, beefsteak tomatoes, house-made pickles, cherry peppers, and HK Boss Sauce on buttery brioche. VanKline is heavy handed with the pickles, which makes the sandwich stand out. It comes with sides of chips and coleslaw. Try the City Island for dine-in, pick-up, or delivery through third-party apps from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays as well as Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Chicken Parm at Caruso’s Grocery ($18)
914 14th St. SE, carusosgrocery.com
You have to be in the know to try Chef Matt Adler’s latest comfort food creation. The chicken parm sandwich is only available at the Caruso’s Grocery bar and you have to ask for it. Adler hopes the crowd-pleasing secret special drives bar traffic earlier on in the evening. “We make as many as we make until we sell out,” he says.
Adler was inspired by New York City’s Emilio’s Ballato in developing the recipe. The old-school haunt with celebrities’ pictures on the wall lets diners sub vodka sauce for more traditional marinara. That’s what Adler uses to coat the doubled up chicken cutlets before topping them with mozzarella cheese and fresh basil. The sandwich is extra special because it’s built on bread that gets the same treatment as the restaurant’s garlic bread. It comes with a side of even more spicy vodka sauce for dunking. Caruso’s Grocery is open for pick-up and dine-in Wednesdays through Saturdays from 5 to 10 p.m. and Sundays from 5 to 9:30 p.m.
Banh Mi Fried Tofu at Nineteen-Fourteen Kolben ($7.95)
1914 9th St. NW, (301) 244-9795, 1914kolben.com
If affordable and portable is your kind of lunch, visit Nineteen-Fourteen Kolben in Shaw for Vietnam’s quintessential sandwich. The restaurant replaced Dino’s Grotto when it opened in 2020, complete with a replica train in its dining room. The locomotive signals to diners that the owners are paying homage to Hanoi’s cafe-populated “train street” that the government squashed in 2019 citing safety concerns. There are traditional banh mi loaded with Vietnamese cold cuts available, but keep things light by trying the vegetarian version with fried tofu, pickled carrot and daikon, sliced jalapeños, cilantro, and a spicy sauce that might make your eyes water. What Nineteen-Fourteen really nails is the bread. The locally sourced rolls are crusty on the outside and soft on the inside and don’t disintegrate into a pile of crumbs once you start biting with abandon. When you order online, you can opt to double up on toppings for a few extra cents. Do it. Banh mi sandwiches are available for pick-up and delivery Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from noon to 9 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 9:30 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.
The Bronx at Harvey’s Market ($14 for a whole, $10 for a half)
1309 5th St. NE, (202) 544-0400, harveysmarketdc.com
One of D.C.’s most historic butcher shops introduced sandwiches about four years ago. If you’re a customer who counts on Harvey’s Market for fine cuts of meat, it won’t surprise you that there are several winners. Start with The Bronx, combining 7 ounces of hot pastrami, Swiss cheese, and Dusseldorf mustard on toasted seeded rye bread.
It’s not just any pastrami, according to partner Greg Herring. Harvey’s sources it from the Bronx, hence the name. “It’s an old-fashioned navel pastrami, which is hard to come by these days,” he says. “Navel has a much higher fat content than brisket.” He theorizes that butchers transitioned to using brisket “during the fat paranoia of the ’80s and ’90s.” The sandwich is Musk-level rich so Harvey’s lets customers buy it by the half or whole and the sharpness of the mustard helps balance each bite. Harvey’s, inside Union Market, serves sandwiches from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Check their Instagram to make sure sandwiches haven’t sold out for the day before heading over.
Brown Sandals at Queen Mother’s I Am A Sandwich Pop-Up ($9)
918 S Lincoln St., Arlington, (703) 997-8474, queenmothercooks.com
The name of the Black History Month pop-up at Queen Mother’s might start a fight. Chef and owner Rock Harper teamed up with former ABC Pony Chef Armani Johnson to launch I Am A Sandwich—Hot Dogs and Half Smoke Sausages at the beginning of February. If toppings are between “two pieces of food,” it’s a sandwich, Harper proclaims.
Setting differences aside, the Brown Sandals dog is decadent and likely to last on the menu past February because it’s become a customer favorite. It comes with pulled pork, creamy coleslaw, spicy brown or Dijon mustard, barbecue sauce, crispy onions, and pickled onions on a brioche bun brought in daily from Lyon Bakery. Diners choose between a Roseda Farm beef hot dog or a Ben’s Chili Bowl half smoke for a small upgrade.
It’s named after the person who’s probably doing the grilling. “In the Black cookout realm, somebody in sandals wants to be on the grill,” Harper says. “He probably has some socks on too. That kind of uncle. Some white socks, maybe some camouflage cargo shorts, a cell phone on his hip, and some brown-strap sandals.”
Try the dogs Wednesdays through Saturdays for pick-up, delivery, or dine-in from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.