Argentinian choripan with chimichurri and creole sauce.
BROTEstudio/istockphoto

How Many of These Bucket-List Sandwiches Have You Tried?

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Argentinian choripan with chimichurri and creole sauce.
BROTEstudio/istockphoto

Bread Necessities

Just like the popular legend that the Earl of Sandwich created the first one, there are hundreds of other sandwiches with equally dubious origin stories. But no matter how the ubiquitous sandwiches on this list came to be, one thing is true for them all: They're amazingly delicious, unique, and worth seeking out. If you consider yourself a true food lover, do yourself a favor and make sure you get your hands around all of these bucket-list-worthy sandwiches.


Related: Famous Deli Sandwiches: A 50-State Bucket List

Banh Mi
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Banh Mi

When France colonized Vietnam, it brought with it crusty French bread and creamy pate. Both foods never left the country since they're essential ingredients in the banh mi, a sandwich made with a baguette — often made with some rice flour to make it shatteringly crisp — a smear of pate, various pork cold cuts, pickled carrots and daikon radishes, cucumber, cilantro, jalapenos, and mayonnaise. You can find them at street carts and casual restaurants in Vietnam, and practically any Vietnamese restaurant in the U.S., including popular chains like Lee's Sandwiches.

Related: Amazing Global Cuisines in U.S. Cities You Wouldn’t Expect

BLT Sandwich
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BLT

Though the BLT likely began somewhere in 19th century Britain, it's become as American as apple pie, thanks to the availability of its ingredients in post-World War II suburban America. It's a deceptively simple sandwich that becomes much greater than the sum of its parts when the best ingredients are used. Can't find a farmer's market or backyard tomato? Don't even bother. The best version uses just-crisp-enough bacon, whole leaves of crunchy iceberg, thick-cut heirloom tomato (salt and pepper is a must), a generous swipe of Duke's or Hellman's, and lightly-toasted white bread. If your sandwich isn't dripping, your tomato wasn't good enough.


Related: Mouthwatering Bacon Dishes Across America

Healthy Vegetarian Falafel Pita
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Falafel

No one really knows where falafel, the crispy balls of fried spiced chickpeas, originated, and like so much that relates to the Middle East, most claims are disputed. The popular theory is that falafel started in Egypt with the Copts before spreading north where Jews and Palestinians started making the staple with chickpeas and embraced them as part of their cultures. Now the balls are smashed into pita bread with fresh vegetables and pickles of all kinds, plus copious amounts of nutty tahini. If you can't get to Tel Aviv, your best bet is to head to your local Middle Eastern grocery store where there's often a lunch counter with frying falafel in the back. Taim in NYC and D.C. will get you a pretty great version, too. 


Related: 29 Must-Try International Street Foods Under $5

Sandwich
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Lobster Roll

Mainers, look away: The lobster roll was probably invented in Connecticut. It was at a restaurant called Perry's in Milford in the early 1930s, and it was what's now called the Connecticut-style roll with warm lobster meat bathed in butter. Eventually, it made its way up the coast to Maine, where it underwent a New England transformation with mayonnaise and maybe a smattering of veggies, and became a sandwich darling. If you find yourself in Maine, grab one of the classics at Red's Eats, a seasonal shack that always has a line dozens long for its overstuffed buns.


Related: 20 Amazing Seafood Shacks Across America

Vada Pav
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Vada Pav

No one is going to complain about a carbs-on-carbs sandwich, especially in vegetarian-heavy India. That's where vada pav, a street food that's practically synonymous with Mumbai, comes from. It was probably invented near a train station in the 1960s where there was a steady stream of hungry people to feed. It consists of a ball of spiced mashed potato that's dipped in chickpea batter and deep-fried, then placed on a soft bun with a hefty smear of tangy tamarind or cilantro chutney. If you live in a city with a sizable Indian population, chances are you can find this sandwich locally.


Related: The World's Most Amazing Sandwiches

Philly cheese steak sandwich with side of potato chips
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Cheesesteak

Unlike many sandwiches, the origin of the Philadelphia staple cheesesteak is well documented and relatively undisputed. Pat Olivieri operated a hot dog stand and created the sandwich in 1930 when he threw some shaved beef on the grill for a sandwich. A cab driver saw the delicious creation and asked for one, and it became so popular that Pat changed the name of his hot dog stand to Pat's King of Steaks. It's still one of the most visited cheesesteak spots in town, and you can order your sandwich 'wit' or 'wit-out' onions, Cheez Whiz, or provolone. Head directly across the street to Geno's and answer the age-old debate of which is better, too.


Related: Legendary Restaurant Rivalries Across America

Classic Cuban Medianoche Sandwiches
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Medianoche

You've probably heard of the Cubano, but what about its late-night brethren, the medianoche? Its name means midnight, and it's pretty indistinguishable from the Cubano except for one big difference: the bread. Instead of the light and airy white bread, it's got a yellow, enriched, and slightly sweet bread similar to a brioche that grills up even crispier. That touch of sweetness plays off the tangy mustard and pickles and rich pork beautifully. It was probably consumed late at night in Havana, hence the name, but you can get it all over Miami and Tampa. Grab a spectacular version at Las Olas Cafe in South Beach to eat on the sand.


Related: Best Subs, Grinders, and Hoagies Across America

Croque Monsieur, Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Black Forest Ham, Gruyere and Bechamel Sauce
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Croque Monsieur

Ham and cheese might not sound so fancy, but leave it to the French to take it a step further and turn it into a decadent lunch staple. The croque monsieur consists of thin slices of ham and a creamy melting cheese like gruyere or Emmental toasted between two slices of bread. It's then topped with a thick, creamy Mornay sauce full of cheese plus a sprinkle of more cheese before getting broiled until it's hot and bubbly. Legend has it that it was created by accident because someone left their sandwich next to a radiator, but we do know that it started showing up in Paris restaurants around 1910. Add a fried egg on top and you've got its popular croque madame variation. 

Sandwich with ham and cheese, lettuce
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Monte Cristo

The pure American version of the croque monsieur is the Monte Cristo. There's deli ham and cheese — and sometimes turkey — but with added sugar in the form of jam or powdered sugar and added fat in the form of French toast or deep frying. Many variations of this classic sandwich are fully coated in a pancake-like batter and deep fried, including the popular one at chain restaurant Bennigan's. A similar sandwich appeared in cookbooks in the 1930s, but it didn't gain its fame until Disney decided to put it on the menu at Disneyland's Cafe Orleans in the '60s, where you can still get it today. Once the Mouse put his stamp on it, it spread like raspberry jam on toast.

Shrimp Po Boy Sandwich
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Po' Boy

The most accepted story for how the New Orleans staple sandwich po' boy was created involves a streetcar strike in 1929. Brothers Bennie and Clovis Martin, who owned a restaurant, decided to show solidarity to the 'poor boys' on strike and feed them free sandwiches. That did actually happen, but there's evidence the brothers were already selling sandwiches before that, and there are other legends, too. Regardless of the exact origins, the sandwiches, made on fresh, long bread and dressed with lettuce, tomato, pickles, mayo, and hot sauce, are a NOLA staple. Head to Domilise's for some of the most affordable fried shrimp, roast beef, and oyster sandwiches around. 


Related: The Best Fried Foods Around the World

pambazo sandwich
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Pambazo

The pambazo joins the ranks of sandwiches with soaked bread, like the more well-known French dip. Except this sandwich is bathed in a bright-red guajillo chile sauce, making it a messy and delicious eating experience. It gets its name from its bread, which used to be called pan basso, or poor man's bread. It's crustless and squishy, which is perfect for soaking up all that sauce. Once it's filled with chorizo and potatoes, the soaked sandwich is griddled to crisp up both the top and bottom. A final smear of crema, some queso fresco, and lettuce give it some fresh crunch at the end.

Turkey and Bacon Club Sandwich
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Club Sandwich

No, club isn't an acronym for chicken and lettuce under bacon. Its actual origins are unknown, though a Morrissey’s Club House sandwich appeared in 1894 at the Saratoga Club-House, a men-only gambling club. It first appeared in a recipe book in 1903, then it made an appearance at the 1904 World's Fair. King Edward III and his wife, Wallis Simpson, relished the sandwich, which today is almost always triple decker and cut into triangles. There is debate over whether it should include chicken or turkey, but bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayo are all non-negotiable. The best version is the one you'll find at your favorite diner, hotel restaurant, or country club.

Homemade Chicago Italian Beef Sandwich
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Italian Beef

Forget deep dish pizza — it's Italian beef sandwiches that Chicagoans eat all the time. Its history is an interesting mix of weddings, bookies, illegal gambling, and men with names like Pacelli and Ferrari, but the important bit is that the thinly-shaved beef soaking in a flavorful broth became a mainstay in the 1950s. Now you can find it everywhere in Chicago, with its sandwich roll dipped completely in the beef gravy. You choose hot or sweet peppers, though your answer should always be hot since it comes in the form of another regional classic, pickled giardiniera. Head to Al's #1 Italian Beef for the original, or hit up Portillo's if there's one near you.


Cajun Muffaletta Sandwich with Meat and Cheese
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Muffuletta

The culinary capital of New Orleans lays claim to another famous sandwich: the muffuletta. It's thanks to Italian immigrants who would eat their lunches piecemeal with a little bread, a little cheese, and a little meat. Salvatore Lupo, a Sicilian immigrant and owner of Central Grocery, took notice, and turned everything into an easier-to-eat sandwich. A muffuletta starts with a round loaf of Sicilian bread that's stuffed with ham, Provolone, salami, and mortadella, plus a good glug of olive oil and a thick layer of olive salad, the ingredient that really makes it. The oil from the blend of chopped black and green olives, vegetables, and spices seeps into the bread, infusing your whole wedge of a sandwich with its tang.


Related: Iconic Sandwich Shops That Changed Lunch Forever

Turkey Panini On AS cutting board
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Panino

Yes, we're talking about paninis, but in the U.S., the correct singular form of the word, panino, rarely gets used. It's a grilled sandwich that's served hot and often with gooey melted cheese inside, though in Italy the panini tend to be much simpler than they are here. Some cured meats like prosciutto, mortadella, and salami along with cheese are typical, maybe with a smear of pesto or other condiment. The bread is usually flat and it's cut lengthwise into large squares, though in Italy panino don't necessarily get grilled or pressed. If you're in Florence, head to All'Antico Vinaio, a world-renowned shop that always has a massive line for its sandwiches that include ingredients like pecorino, artichoke cream, and grilled eggplant.

Doner Kebab
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Doner Kebab

The doner kebab became Germany's favorite late night after-bar food by way of Turkey. It was Turkish immigrants who brought vertically-roasted meats to Europe, and now Germany supposedly consumes a massive 600 tons of doner meat each day. A few Turkish immigrants claim to be the genius who first made the doner a sandwich in the 1970s, but it probably already existed in some form in Turkey anyway. Today, the sandwich takes the form of a large flatbread filled with meat — usually a combination of beef and lamb, but sometimes chicken — sliced off a vertical spit, plus vegetables like cabbage, tomatoes, and onions, plus creamy and spicy sauces.


Related: Indulgent Dishes Every Meat Eater Should Try

Roast Beef Sandwich
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Roast Beef

There are parts of the U.S. where the roast beef sandwich is more than just what you grab at Arby's when you don't have time for dinner. On the East Coast, especially, locals appreciate the simple sandwich of medium-rare-roasted beef piled onto a roll. The north shore of Massachusetts is loaded with historic places like Nick's that pile the meat onto a roll. Near Buffalo, you'll find beef on weck, short for kummelweck, a roll with coarse salt and caraway seeds on top. And in Baltimore, look for pit beef, where the meat is roasted over charcoal, at someplace like Pioneer Pit Beef.


Related: America’s Best Roast Beef Sandwiches

Close-up on traditionale Argentinian choripan preparation
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Choripan

Choripan is the ultimate Argentine street food. It's an extremely simple sandwich made up of two parts: chorizo (that's the chori-) and bread (that's the -pan). The sausage is almost always split lengthwise, though still connected so it forms a flatter shape, before being grilled and placed in a roll. Chimichurri, the herb-heavy condiment, is also a must, so its freshness cuts through the fatty richness of the sausage. It's said to have originated centuries ago with the gauchos, and that's pretty feasible since sausage on bread isn't exactly a new concept. It's not super common in America, but you can always try making your own.

A corned beef sandwich on a plate
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Reuben

There is a surprising history to the reuben sandwich, especially for something so inextricably linked to New York delicatessen culture. It was supposedly invented in Omaha, Nebraska, during a card game in 1920. But as it happens with these kinds of stories, there are feuding families involved, and much consternation. We thank whoever was responsible for the corned beef, Swiss, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing on rye creation, though. Besides one of NYC's iconic delis like Katz's, you can find the components of reubens on pizza, deep-fried in egg roll wrappers, and pretty much everywhere for St. Patrick's Day.

Japanese Fruits Sandwich Furutsu Sando
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Fruit Sando

In Japan, sandwiches are called sandos, and one that's been making the rounds lately on social media is the fruit sando. Despite being trendy and cute, it's actually got a long history. Japanese people enjoy gifting fruit, and fruit gift shops started opening in Tokyo and Kyoto in the 19th century. It was at those fruit parlors that the fruit sando was born. The sandwich is made on squishy, soft white bread with the crusts cut off, and it's filled with fruit like strawberries, kiwi, and peaches. Whipped cream is slathered on the fruit to hold it all in place, and when the sandwich is cut, it reveals an Instagram-worthy, colorful cross section. If you can't get to Tokyo, make it yourself for breakfast or a snack.