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A new year brings a bounty of new sandwiches worthy of being included in City Paper’s sandwich guide. If New Orleans is on your mind with Mardi Gras approaching, there’s a muffuletta waiting for you. Also find out about a secret off-menu chicken parm, a memorable meatball sub, a Japanese-style fruit sando, and a butcher that imports pastrami from the Bronx.
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.