This outrageous all-in-one sandwich can be found at Giordano Bros. in San Francisco
Giordano Bros. packs the whole plate into their all-in-one signature sandwiches.
At the beginning of the last century, Jeff Jordan’s great-grandfather, Rafael Giordano, immigrated from outside of Palermo, Sicily, to America. Like many immigrants at the time, his last name was changed by the officials who approved his entry to the country, and Rafael Giordano became Ralph Jordan and started a produce business outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1923.
Fast-forward to the end of the century, when Jeff Jordan and his now wife, Allison, relocated separately from Pittsburgh to San Francisco in 1994. Introduced by mutual friends, the two became a couple and settled in North Beach, where the Jordan version of the famous Primanti sandwich from their hometown became a staple treat at their Bay Area cook-outs and parties over the years. This prompted them to open Giordano Bros. in 2004, where they serve their outrageous, all-in-one sandwiches.
Their hot capicola has since created a buzz around town.
It starts with slices of pillowy Italian bread from the Italian French Bakery, between which the Jordans and their team load hot capicola from Molinari’s, peppery coleslaw comprising fresh ingredients from Bob Sbragia Produce, and crispy French fries — yes, you read that correctly: the fries are in the sandwich. It’s an impressive, belt-bursting take on an American gastronomic staple, which is why it’s earned a feature as our Sandwich of the Week.
Click here for other featured sandwiches or check out the Sandwich of the Week Slideshow. Know a sandwich that should be featured? Email The Daily Meal or comment below. Better yet, become a contributor and write up your favorite today!
The 15 Best Sandwiches in America, Ranked
Naming America&aposs best sandwich is like picking the sexiest Instagram model or the hottest supercar—there are just too many deserving contenders to choose from. Thankfully, the folks at Time Out have compiled a solid list of what they believe are the 15 greatest sandwiches in the USA, along with tasty descriptions of these slammin&apos sammies.
Take a look at the gut-busting contenders and see if you agree.
1. Pastrami on Rye at Katz&aposs Deli, NYC
Perhaps the most classic sandwich in America, Katz’s juicy, sliced-to-order pastrami has been perfected over more than a century, since back in 1888 when the classic Lower East Side deli was founded. Slathered with mustard, perched on chewy rye and accompanied by sour pickles, this is a NYC must-eat. $19.95
2. Roast Beef 1000 at Cutty&aposs in Brookline, MA
Located just outside of Boston, this beloved sandwich shop crafts drool-inducing creations such as the Spuckie (salami, capicola, mortadella and mozzarella layered on ciabatta) and a Saturday-only roast pork with broccoli rabe and provolone on a seeded roll. Our favorite is the impressively sized Roast Beef 1000, rich slices of brioche stuffed with rare-roasted beef and sharp cheddar, slicked with housemade Thousand Island dressing and sprinkled with crispy shallots. $9.95
3. Pork shoulder at The Peoples Pig, Portland OR
This Portland BBQ joint is perennially packed with pork-lovers who seek out various preparations of expertly smoked cuts: dry-rubbed ribs, sliced shoulder and ham. Its sandwiches, served on excellent sourdough rolls, are fantastic: our favorite features those juicy slices of pork shoulder, stacked with braised greens and shot through with spicy vinegar. $10
4. Swinery Spectacular at The Swinery in Seattle, WA
This Seattle butcher shop certainly knows its way around meat, which shows in an excellent roster of sandwiches graced with the likes of crispy pork belly, house-smoked ham and pulled pork. We’re partial to the over-the-stop Swinery Spectacular, a pork-glorifying triple dose of all those aforementioned meats, plus melty Swiss cheese, creamy Dijon aioli and briny house pickles. $13.50
5. Hot Capicola at Giordano Bros. in San Francisco, CA
The conceit behind this Mission sandwich shop is genius: all ‘wiches are served “Pittsburgh style,” heaped with coleslaw and fries in between the bread. The Italian-American spot specializes in all manner of Old World meats but we’re partial to the spicy capicola, layered, along with provolone, between two slices of an excellent Italian load. $8.50
6. Carlito at Torta Grill in Denver, CO
Denver is graced with no shortage of excellent Mexican food, among which Torta Grill’s overstuffed sandwiches stand out. These bad boys tend to double down on rich meats such as breaded fried steak and pork loin, but the Carlito keeps it simple: just excellent, tender carnitas (pork braised in its own fat), anointed with creamy avocado salsa. $8.33
7. Cheesesteak at Donkey’s Place in Camden, NJ
Hang your head in shame, Philadelphia: the best cheesesteak in the country is whipped up across the Delaware in Camden, New Jersey. Served on a soft, poppy-seed-sprinkled Kaiser roll, the sandwich features tender, griddle-sizzled steak and plenty of soft caramelized onions and melty American cheese. Buyer beware: you might need to devour more than one. $8
8. Lobster roll at Bite Into Maine in Portland, ME
This seasonal food truck parks itself in Portland’s beautiful coastal Fort Williams Park each spring and summer, serving up fresh Maine lobster that’s pristine and perfectly cooked. Three types of lobster rolls are available, and they’re all unimpeachable: Maine style, with fresh chives and just a bit of mayo Connecticut style, with hot butter or picnic style, with hot butter, fresh coleslaw and celery salt. $17.49
9.ਏried shrimp po𠆛oy at Parkway Bakery & Tavern in New Orleans, LA
Though po’ boy loyalty is fierce in NOLA, many residents and tourists alike agree that one of the very best is found at Parkway, a family-run spot that’s been crafting excellent, seafood-piled po’ boys since 1911. It’s hard to decide between the fried oyster and fried shrimp iterations, but we usually go for the latter, the plump crustaceans outfitted in a crisp golden crust and piled into an airy loaf 𠇏ully dressed” with lettuce, tomato, pickles and mayo. $7.85
10. Roast pork at John’s Roast Pork in Philadelphia, PA
This Philly eatery, around since 1930, does just a few things𠅌heesesteaks, roast beefs and roast pork sandwiches𠅋ut it does them right. Our favorite of the three is the roast pork: meltingly tender slices of meat, sharp provolone cheese and garlicky wilted spinach. Yum. $6.50
11. French dip from Phillippe’s in Los Angeles, CA
One of Southern California’s oldest restaurants, Philippe’s opened in 1908 and, ten years later, accidentally hit upon its best-selling sandwiches—so the story goes—when Frenchman founder Philippe Mathieu inadvertently dropped a sliced French roll into a pan of hot beef gravy before layering the sandwich with sliced meat. Today, Philippe’s is still going strong and its excellent, meaty French dip is as craveable as ever. $7
12. Cubano at Versailles in Miami, FL
Lovers of Cuban food flock to this Miami standby, serving up classics such as ropa vieja, picadillo and mashed green plantains since 1971. Its sweeping dining room hung with twinkling chandeliers is the perfect place to chow down on one of the city’s best Cubano sandwiches: sliced ham, roast pork and Swiss cheese pressed inside soft Cuban bread with mustard and tangy pickles. $6.50
13. Pop’s Beef Brisket at Bub and Pop’s in Washington, D.C.
This D.C. standby layers up the best subs in the city. Its classic Italian hoagie is delicious, but we love the excellent beef brisket sandwich as well. Featuring juicy slices of slow-braised beef laced with an apple-horseradish cream and a lashing of veal jus, it’s crowned with five-year-aged gouda and served piping hot. $8
14. Harry’s Perfect Pastrami at Little Deli in Austin, TX
Just call it the little deli that could: this bustling Austin spot dishes out a far-ranging menu of pizzas, salads and hot and cold sandwiches. The can’t-miss ‘wich is Harry’s Perfect Pastrami: a full half pound of sliced meat piled atop rye, heaped with coleslaw, slicked with Thousand Island dressing and griddled. $12.95
15. Grilled pork banh mi at Lu’s Sandwiches in Minneapolis, MN
A sizeable Vietnamese population keeps the Twin Cities well fed with above-average pho and banh mi sandwiches. For the latter, we’re partial to the grilled pork specimen at Lu’s. Inside a crisp-fluffy baguette, the juicy meat is nestled against refreshing cucumbers, carrots and cilantro, along with comforting slicks of mayo and butter. $4.95
Giordano’s Famous Stuffed Deep Dish Pizza
No discussion of iconic Chicago foods would be complete without talking about deep dish pizza and quibbling over who makes it best. Is it Pizzeria Uno, the originator of deep dish pizza? Or maybe it's Geno's East, with their signature cornmeal crust? Or perhaps it's Giordano's, and their double-decker stuffed deep dish? Each pizza is unique in its own way and all of them have a devoted fanbase, but with extra cheese, an additional layer of dough—and some aggressive franchising—many are now calling Giordano's Famous Stuffed Deep Dish Pizza the best Chicago deep dish in America.
Deep dish pizza is traditional flat pizza’s heftier cousin. The crucial elements are still there—crust, sauce, cheese, toppings—but there’s more of it, and the ingredients are stacked in a different order in a deep pan, and baked for a long time, like a pie.
Chicago-style deep dish pizza had already been popular for 31 years when Giordano’s arrived in town in 1974. Italian immigrants Efren and Joseph Boglio adapted their mother’s Italian Easter Pie and created a deep dish pizza with lots of melted mozzarella baked between two layers of flakey dough. Through decades of hard work, the brothers made Mama Giordano’s secret recipe a Chicago favorite, and Giordano’s restaurants multiplied to over 70 stores in Illinois and around the U.S.
With so many fans of the pizza, I knew it was crucial to get two specific things very right in this famous pizza knock-off: the dough and the sauce. Proper construction of the deep dish is also an important step, but without top-notch good dough and sauce, the rest of it wouldn’t matter.
To make a home version you’ll need to plan ahead a little bit because this dough needs to hang out in your fridge for a while to get right.
Let’s start there. With the dough.
The dough is tricky because it’s not traditional pizza dough. It’s flakier, like pie crust, which means we’ll need a good amount of fat in the mix.
I played with the proportions for 28 batches before finally landing on the best ratio of flour-to-water-to-yeast-to-fat.
You make it by dissolving the sugar and yeast in the water, and that goes into the flour with margarine and oil and salt. Easy so far, right?
Form the dough into a ball, then cover it with plastic wrap and get it into your refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. Wait, what?
Why can’t we just cover the dough and place it in a warm spot in the kitchen for about an hour like most of the other pizza dough recipes?
Sure, we could do that, but we’d get a different type of pizza crust—one that’s chewier and yeastier. And we don’t want that here.
By allowing the dough to rise slowly in the refrigerator we’ll slow down fermentation to get a mellower, more tender deep dish pizza crust. Just like the crust of the real thing.
Ideally, you want the dough to proof (rise) covered in your refrigerator for at least 24 hours and no more than 48 hours.
I promise it’ll be worth the wait.
You’ll have plenty of time to make the sauce. Make it at some point while you’re waiting for your dough to rise, and then you can chill it until you need it.
Keep in mind that the sauce will only be as good as the canned tomatoes you choose, so be sure to get a quality product. San Marzano-style tomatoes work great here.
Add the whole can, heat up the tomatoes until they’re soft, then crush the attitude out of ’em with a potato masher. (San Marzano tomatoes are notoriously cocky.)
That feels good. Better than a stress ball.
When your tomatoes are nicely crushed, add the diced tomato, oil, garlic powder, dry basil, salt, and black pepper. Cook that for 10 minutes, then add the fresh basil.
You may have noticed that the only herb in this sauce is basil which comes in two forms: dry and fresh. The combination adds more complexity since dry and fresh basil taste slightly different, and have different functions. The fresh basil adds color to the sauce along with a light basil flavor, while the dried herb contributes a more intense basil taste.
When the sauce is cool, chill it alongside the dough in your fridge until pizza time.
A couple of hours before it’s time to make pizza, take the dough out of the refrigerator so that it can warm up closer to room temperature.
Before you begin to build the pizza, place a pizza stone in your oven and preheat it to 425 degrees F.
Why a pizza stone? The direct heat from the hot stone will help brown the crust on the bottom of the pizza, giving it a crispier texture. If you’ve got a pizza stone, definitely use it here.
If you don’t have one, don’t worry about it. You’ll still get great deep dish pizza.
And you won’t have to think about where to store a big, heavy pizza stone. So there’s that.
Our dough is no longer cold. So let’s roll it out.
First, use a knife or a scraper to slice off one-third of the dough and set that chunk aside.
We’ll start with the big portion of dough.
Roll the dough out on a floured surface, making a circle that is 16 inches across.
Now you need to get the dough into a 10-inch deep dish pan.
Before you add the dough, rub the pan with a coating of soft margarine. This will keep the pizza from sticking while adding flavor and a tender crunch to the outside of the crust.
Next, fold your dough circle in half, lift it into the pan, then unfold it.
Once your dough is in place you can add toppings, which in this pizza, don’t go on top.
Unlike traditional pizza, the toppings in a deep dish are baked into the middle of the pizza, underneath the cheese and sauce.
To keep it simple, I’ll just use pepperoni in this pizza.
But you can add whatever you like.
Here are some of the most popular toppings.
Add a single layer of whatever you fancy, then it’s cheese time.
Giordano’s pizza is packed with a lot of cheese. It’s 100% mozzarella that’s made in Wisconsin, and it’s really good cheese.
Because the cheese is such a big star in this pizza, don’t skimp. Get the best mozzarella you can find and don’t get it pre-shredded.
Pre-shredded cheese is dusted with cornstarch so that the shreds don’t stick together in the bag. That might make the cheese look better and sell better, but it also keeps pre-shredded cheese from melting as smoothly as freshly shredded block cheese.
Get a block of the best mozzarella you can find and shred it yourself. Then make sure the cheese comes to room temperature before you load it into the pizza, or it may not get as warm and gooey as you want it.
Roll the leftover dough into a 12-inch circle and place it over the cheese.
Pinch the dough together all the way around, then trim the top, flush with the top of the pan.
Without any way for the air to escape, the dough will bubble and the sauce will slide around on top.
We can fix that by cutting a few ventilation holes into the dough with a sharp knife.
Now you can spoon some sauce over the dough. Just add enough so that you can’t see the dough.
It will take about half of the sauce to cover the pizza.
Which means you’ll have enough left over to make another one.
And you’ll probably be much better at it the second time around.
You have just one pie in the oven, so it’s not likely you’ll forget what’s inside of it.
But at Giordano’s all the pizzas look the same, and with a lot of them in the oven at once, it gets very confusing.
And that’s why they add one piece of each of the fillings to the top of the pizza. Everybody always knows which pizza is which.
Finally, it’s time to bake the pizza.
Place the pan on the pizza stone in the hot oven for 40 minutes or until the top of the sauce begins to brown in spots.
Finish off your pizza with a sprinkling of a grated Parmesan and Romano blend.
Let the pizza cool for 5 minutes, then slip a large spatula under the pizza as you tip the pan to remove the pizza.
Once the pizza is out of the pan, use a large sharp knife to slice across it three times, making six slices.
You are now a Chicago deep dish pizza master. Humbly accept your praise, and dig in.
Sandwich of the Week: Giordano Bros.’ Hot Capicola - Recipes
We liked the food a lot and the laid-back staff was very nice. The sandwiches are a lot like Panini's in the Midwest, if you are familiar.
Only thing was the music was really, really loud in a very small area. We left earlier than we wanted to though not a reflection on the group playing. I appreciate the support of local musicians, but considering the size of the place, you might want to limit to acoustic artists.
12 - 16 of 53 reviews
We were looking for a good lunch and found Giordano Bros. when I looked for the best pastrami sandwiches in SF. Indeed they are excellent! In fact, we liked them so much we ate at Giordano Bros. three times for lunch during the week we spent in SF. A short walk from the financial district, through Chinatown, to North Beach, Giordano Bros. serves "Pittsburgh style" sandwiches, which means you get the fries and a vinegar-based cole slaw right on top of the meat. (There's also a slice of cheese on the pastrami.) The pastrami was really tender and the whole shebang was absolutely delicious. We also had the steak sandwich at one meal, which my husband liked very much, and the kielbasa, which was good, but the pastrami is better. All Giordano Bros. sandwiches are served the same way in terms of the cheese, fries, and slaw. Don't mess with success, as their sign instructs. Truly great food. Oh yes: the atmosphere is sort of like a sports bar, but not dark and there's no smell of spilled beer. You could definitely take kids there. It's a small space and on Fridays, I think it is, they have live music. So be aware that the crowds and noise level may be more intense then. All in all, we loved it!
Capicola, Capocollo, Coppa, Ham-Capocollo: How can you cope?
The names of Italian cured meats are notoriously unstable when it comes to their pronunciation. When there are so many different varieties of meats due to regional styles, it’s easy to see where “gabagoo” came from. At Di Bruno Brothers, we have heard nearly every possible form of these words, from super-sausage to Purzoot (sopressata and prosciutto, respectively). However, there is a method to the madness, and not surprisingly, it all starts in the homeland.
The confusion stems from the many regionalized styles of coppa in Italy and the difficulty of importing them to the United States. A centuries old tradition, some form of coppa is created in nearly every region of Italy. There are two DOP (dizionario d’ortografia) protected coppas in existence today: Coppa Piacentina and Capocollo di Calabria. DOP means they can only be made in a certain region and according to traditional methods. Coppa Piacentina is made with pork neck muscles and stuffed into an intestine casing. Capocollo di Calabria is made with wine moistened meat from the high part of the leg and then stuffed into a casing. Both of those coppas use a whole cut of meat. This is the most basic difference between coppa and soppressata, in which the meat is ground and then stuffed into a casing. Most American made coppa comes from pork shoulder and neck and is spiced with either black peppercorn (sweet) or red pepper (hot). Regulations regarding slaughterhouse conditions in Italy prevent Italian coppa from being exported to the United States. Therefore Di Bruno’s carries only American-made coppa.
The other capicola-style product we carry is called ham capocollo or ham-capi. A boiled ham coated with spices, it is leaner than coppa and larger. Nearly one foot by six inches, it is packed in water. A company called M&V Provisions company claims to have invented the ham capicola product in 1949. According to their website, ham capicola was created “by combining Italian capicola with boiled ham.” The version we carry at Di Bruno’s is called Ham-O-Collo. It is spicy, and nearly addictive.
Both our hard, cured coppa and the ham capi can be used in similar ways but with very different effects. The hard capicola must be sliced thin or else it is too hard to chew. When cut correctly, it has a texture close to that of Prosciutto di Parma. Wrapped around cheese like Asiago Stravecchio or roasted peppers, it makes a decadent appetizer or addition to an antipasto salad. Or it can be added to a sandwich with prosciutto and cheese. You can also wrap it around asparagus or smaller cuts of meat before grilling or baking. And of course, there is nothing wrong with eating coppa slices straight.
Ham capocollo can also be eaten in diverse ways in fact, you could eat ham capi for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You can be sure that at least once a week, someone at Di Bruno’s eats a scrambled eggs, ham capi, and American cheese sandwich for breakfast. And what makes a better, quick lunch than a ham capi sandwich with provolone and mayo. For dinner, try slicing a whole ham capocollo in half and setting both pieces on a plate – it’s easy and classy. All jesting aside, ham capi is one of my favorite sandwich meats and even works as an appetizer wrapped around cheese.
All of the coppa meats we carry are made by east coast companies, Freda Deli Meats and Danielle Meats in Rhode Island. However, our hard capicolas will soon be produced in house. We tasted the new coppa a few weeks ago and are waiting for the first shipment. It is handmade to a homemade recipe and will soon replace our current sweet and hot coppa. The new meat has a richer flavor and can only be described as delicious. We have no plans to replace the ham capi, but then again, how can you improve perfection?
For two products as different as they are, only the word “ham” separates them in terms of linguistics. One was created so long ago it’s difficult to guess the time or place of its origin and the other was created only recently as a new take on the Italian classic. The only way to truly differentiate them, and to be honest, the only thing that really matters, is to taste them and enjoy their flavors. And once you try coppa and ham capi and use and appreciate them, you realize that the name doesn’t matter all that much when you are eating.
Sean lets us in on how he was able to stay ahead of the labor shortage with higher wages at his two-unit Atlanta pizzeria, St. Angelo’s Pizza. We also talk about how his locations effectively crush high-volume peaks. This episode is hosted by Creative Director Josh Keown and Executive Editor Denise Greer. A lot… Read More &rsaquo
This week, we talk delivery programs, pizza of the month LTOs and a COVID-19 update with Debbie Gainor, who owns Pizza Zone in suburban Houston with her husband Paul. We also dive into retirement planning. This episode is hosted by Executive Editor Denise Greer and Creative Director Josh Keown. A lot has changed this… Read More &rsaquo
It could be the well-muscled, backward-hat-wearing server who emigrated from Steel City just three weeks ago. It could also be the overstuffed Pittsburgh-style sandwiches, piled high with meat, melted Provolone, French fries and Italian-style coleslaw.
At Giordano Bros.' new location, both contribute to the disorienting sense that you are not in the heart of the Mission but in some sports bar-cum-East Coast stronghold.
For fans of the original North Beach location, the formula here is not so different. As at Pittsburgh's legendary Primanti Bros., sandwiches are made with plush slices of Italian bread, soft enough to hold your fingerprints but somehow robust enough to hold the ample filling.
The aforementioned server recommends salami, endorses pastrami and shrugs disappointedly at the mention of turkey. You can also have kielbasa or coppa where appropriate, the meats are first griddled, so the edges curl and crisp.
The menu at the new location has expanded moderately to include pierogi (skip) and battered and fried pickles (order). And because these sandwiches are, without a doubt, best with beer, Giordano Bros. has 24 varieties on tap, including Magnolia's Kölsch ("I tell guys it comes in a tiny glass," says our server) and Scrimshaw Pilsner, served in a man-size mug.
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The Best Fancy and Wacky Sandwiches in San Francisco's Mission District
I spent five weeks this summer living in San Francisco's Mission District, going to bars that let my dogs roam free, making plans for big hiking trips, and pretending that I was going to learn to surf. Instead, I mostly ate sandwiches. Lots of sandwiches. Over 50 of 'em. This week, I'm walking you through the best.
We're wrapping up San Francisco Mission Sandwich Week with the best of the rest.
The sandwiches in this list are the odds and ends that were tasty and memorable enough to earn a place in my notebook and camera roll, but didn't fall neatly into my Grilled Cheese, Mexican, or San Franciso-style Sub categories. What we've got here is a mix of fancy, simple, wacky, and otherwise plain delicious options.
When ranking these sandwiches, I first and foremost always looked towards harmony between the ingredients and balance of flavor, taking into account their eatability (do they fit in my mouth? Do they fall apart?), and quality of ingredients.
Here are today's winners, and make sure you stay tuned for Monday when I'll be naming the one and only King of San Francisco Mission Sandwiches, along with my ten favorites across all categories, and a slideshow of every sandwich I tried for this roundup.
The Best: Dave's House-Smoked Brisket From Pal's Takeaway
When I last wrote about Pal's Takeaway, it was still located in the back of Tony's Market, a liquor store past on the Eastern edge of the Mission on 24th and Hampshire. Since then, owner Jeff Mason has moved to more permanent, larger digs at La Movida wine bar on 24th and Treat. New space, same Jeff, same sandwiches.
Well, at least as same as the sandwiches ever were, which is not very same—the menu changes daily depending on what Jeff finds at the market and sources from his friends. As I said before, more than anything, Jeff's a curator. He seems to have a particular knack for finding truly delicious things, be they meat, vegetable, or bread, and sticking them together. Proudly emblazoned on the top of their menu is Jeff's slogan: "Always vigilant in the search to find some more good fucking stuff to put between two pieces of bread for you."
The best thing I tried this time around? Thick slices of Dave's smoked brisket (I'm not sure who Dave is, but he has a way with brisket) served with a spicy and herbaceous slaw, some blistered cherry tomato relish, and some hot and bitter greens with a bit of homemade Russian dressing hiding in there as well. He puts it all neatly on a Firebrand roll and hands it to you for $10.
That's an exchange I'd make any day, but like I said, you're unlikely to find the exact same combination again. Whatever Jeff gives you, you're in good hands.
The Best Runner Up #1: The BLT Zarella From Pal's Takeaway
Ok, am I allowed to do this? The second best sandwich I had in the Wacky/Fancy Pants/Other category was also from Pal's. The BLT Zarella ($10) changes up occasionally, but it's always got some form of tomato (in this case breaded and fried green tomatoes), great chewy-crisp bacon, heirloom lettuces, and a spicy mayo. It used to be made with Tabasco. These days he's switched over to Sriracha—just enough of it to get some heat in there, but not so much that its overpowering garlickiness takes over. This guy comes stacked on toasted bread made by Josey Baker, one of the finest young bakers in town
The Best Runner Up #2: The 500 Club From Clare's Deli
Club sandwiches are stacked tall—there's no denying that, but some sandwich makers seem to think that fact gives them free reign to accessorize all they want, transforming lunch into a teetering tower of ego and hubris that tumbles and falls apart as soon as you make it past the obligatory toothpick.
At Clare's Deli, they understand perfection in concept and execute it flawlessly. Their 500 Club ($8) stacks bacon, turkey, ham, cheese, lettuce tomato, mustard, mayo, and three slices of bread with the precision and restraint of a Frank Lloyd Wright building, in perfect harmony with its surroundings and with your mouth.
I'm not sure what that metaphor really means, but here's the point: This is as good a club sandwich as you can hope for, and it comes with free all-you-can-drink Kool-Aid. Drink the Kool-Aid.
P.S. If you aren't feeling quite so flush, the always-on-the-menu, always-three-dollars "Broke Boy" bologna and cheese sandwich is excellent and comes pinned together with a mini American flag.
The Best Runner Up #3: The Fidel From Bi-Rite Market
Three runners up you ask? Yes, the sandwiches I had were all just that good, and I certainly couldn't leave out the Fidel ($8.99) from Bi-Rite Market. The hipster is strong with this one, but man, so is the flavor. Heritage pork shoulder braised until it's pulled-pork tender, served on a toasted Acme roll with a garlicky, lemony mayonnaise, dijon mustard, carrot and red cabbage cole slaw, and pickled jalapeños.
The Best Salumi: The Saucisson Sec From Craftsman And Wolves
Craftsman and Wolves only has two sandwiches on the menu. The very worthy Sloppy Joe ($10) is the brash lead singer who probably gets all the groupies, but if you're smart, you'll order the Saucisson Sec ($7). It's the kind of simple sandwich that defies logic. There's nothing special about sliced salami, chopped cornichons, and mustard on a baguette, is there? There is when every single one of those components is of the highest quality.
The French dry-cured sausage is sliced thin and the baguette is chewy—this is a sandwich made for small, pensive bites, dainty and demure in stature but not in flavor.
The Best Salumi Runner Up: The Salumi From Salumeria
Salumeria sure gets talked up a lot, and its semi-outdoor patio is a gorgeous place to take in a sandwich or two, especially in the mid-afternoon when the crowds have dispersed and the sun is still out. And while their salumi is quite tasty and their focaccia is delicious (especially when it soaks in juices from the pepper relish and pickled onions), the sandwich ($11) had one fatal flaw that kept it from the #1 spot in this category: the salumi was sliced so thick and the bread so tender that with my first bite the entire stack of meat was yanked out, turning what was a sandwich into a very tasty salumi platter with bread on the side.
The Best Egg Salad: The Devil's Egg From Mission Picnic
A great egg salad sandwich takes care and precision. The eggs need to be cooked just right—no sulfurous yolks or rubbery whites, please!—and they need to be bound with just enough mayo to season them, but not so much that they turn runny or overly loose. Mission Picnic does it right with their Devil's Egg ($8), which comes with crisp bacon on a brioche bun that's just soft enough to ensure that the egg salad doesn't all squeeze out as you bite your way through it. What's that melted provolone doing in a cold sandwich? It's a genius move designed to keep the egg salad from squishing into the bread. Nobody likes squishy egg salad-y brioche.
The Best Egg Salad Runner Up: Salumeria
Another second prize winner for Salumiera, whose egg salad ($9) wasn't quite as rich and creamy as Mission Picnic's and whose flavor was dominated by just a bit too much dill. Still, the moist, grainy bread it came on earned it some points back—whole grain bread and egg salad are a natural pairing.
Honorable Mentions The All-In-One Sandwiches From Giordano Bros.
Giordano Bros. shamelessly cribs their sandwiches from the Primanti Bros. chain out of Pittsburgh—they even say it right there on their menu, but that doesn't make them any less awesome. For a mere $6.75 you can get a full meal between two slices of thick-sliced white bread, filled with Italian cold cuts and melted provolone cheese, a handful of hot fries, and another handful of vinegary, peppery cole slaw (everything on the sandwich is served by the handful).
The Pastrami Reuben From Wise Sons Deli
Wise Sons Deli has several locations around the city, and they show no signs of slowing. That's mainly because their hand-carved pastrami and corned beef are so damn good. By New York standards you may find the pastrami to be a little too smoky, bordering somewhat closer to a Montreal style, but it still makes one heck of a Reuben ($13.75). The only reason they didn't receive a first place win on this list? That toasted double-baked rye bread could have used just a little more color on it.
The other Gaglione Brothers sandwiches
I’m hardly the first Reader contributor to praise Gaglione Brothers cheesesteaks. Heck, I’m not even the first Feast writer named Ian to do so. The grilled, thinly sliced ribeye steak and lightly crispy crust of the sandwiches have never had a problem winning fans. And even an American cheese naysayer like myself can recognize the stuff works great in this context. I might even go as far to say I’ve never enjoyed American cheese more than when eating a Gaglione cheesesteak. It’s possible they do the same for cheez whiz, but a cheese snob has got to set limits.
10450 Friars Road, Suite B, San Diego
I prefer the Grantville location to the original Point Loma spot. It’s a little smaller, but more finished and homey, especially with family photos of the namesake brothers arranged on one brick wall. But the menu runs the same at both places, and it keeps surprising me that the menu does not only feature cheesesteaks. There are other sandwiches.
Mainly I’m surprised because a visit to Gaglione Brothers tends to be something that happens when you already crave cheesesteak. I might walk in and examine the non-steak sandwiches available to me while standing in line to order. But when I reach the counter, there’s no way I’m foregoing that most famous of Philly sandwiches, grilled onions included. The only question remains whether I order it with or without grilled peppers, either hot or sweet.
Curiosity got the best of me, though, and I started ordering other sandwiches on the menu, just to see. I went for the Sophia Loren, their traditional Italian sub, featuring capicola, Genoa salami, and pepperoni with provolone cheese. It’s a classic sandwich, and when you order it hot, look, you get melted provolone: actual cheese!
The only conceivable problem with this sandwich was the cheesesteak sitting next to it. I wasn’t going to visit Gaglione Brothers and not eat one. I ordered the smaller, a.k.a. 9-inch versions of each sandwich (as opposed to 12- or 18-inch sizes), and though its namesake actress outshone any beefcake they paired her with, this Sophia Loren just couldn’t compare to the cheesesteak.
It was deja vu when I tried a hot sandwich called the Turk: baked turkey with stuffing and cranberry sauce. As one might expect, the chunks of turkey resemble Thanksgiving leftovers piled together onto a roll. Though not the prettiest sandwich, it checked all the right boxes. I enjoyed it. But it was just the opening act to the cheesesteak headliner. I might sit through it politely, but only the ribeye would bring me to my feet.
The Gaglione Brothers serve meatball subs, pastrami, and Buffalo chicken sandwiches, and from any other sandwich shop they might stand out. But here they’re at best appetizers. Cheesesteak will always be the main event.