Where to Eat 10 Classic Deli Sandwiches Across the Country
The simple combination of cold cuts between bread is the backbone of some of the country's most popular sandwiches. A big, hearty sandwich can be a full meal -- maybe more than one -- and is often among the least expensive items on a restaurant menu. Here are 10 of the most iconic and best-loved sandwiches built on sliced meat and bread, and where to find them in their ideal or original form.
While there are plenty of options at Katz's Delicatessen, the place is probably most famous for its pastrami sandwich on rye (and "When Harry Met Sally"). Katz's can get extremely busy, but reviewers say it's worth the wait and the $20 price for a New York institution. The family-run business dates back to 1888, and Serious Eats calls Katz's pastrami sandwich a contender for "New York's most iconic dish."
Also known as a beef dip, the French dip sandwich is a hot sandwich featuring thin slices of meat on a French roll or baguette, generally served au jus (with juice -- that is, beef juice from the cooking process). Two downtown Los Angeles restaurants, Cole's and Philippe's, claim they were the first to concoct the delicacy more than 100 years ago. They're less than 2 miles apart, so consumers can easily try both.
Here's a sandwich so traditional and classic that it's impossible to track down the first. The Italian Food Center in New York's Little Italy has a history that goes back a century and a combo that has many a patron walking away happy and full. Avoid the tourists (but not a long line of hungry locals) at Roberta's, an unassuming gem in Brooklyn that offers a $13 sandwich piled with prosciutto, soppressata, mortadella, stracciatella, roasted red peppers, banana peppers, onions, and pepperoncini.
This classic hot sandwich consists of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian or Thousand Island dressing, but no one is quite sure where these ingredients were originally combined. It might have been at Reuben's Restaurant and Delicatessen in New York in 1914, but some food historians give the edge to grocer Reuben Kulakofsky in Omaha, Nebraska, for dreaming up the sandwich -- including a hotelier who put it on the menu at his Blackstone Hotel in 1925. Although the hotel is gone, the Crescent Moon restaurant across the street from the original wins widespread acclaim for its authentic, locally sourced version -- "the best Reuben in the city where the Reuben was born," according to the Omaha World-Herald.
In its most famous form, a po' boy involves signature fried seafood piled onto baguette-style French bread. Parran's Po-Boys' two locations, in Metairie and Kenner, have more than two dozen kinds of po' boys, some as cheap as $7. One customer review suggests the J & M Special combining ham, roast beef, and Swiss cheese, saying, "All ingredients were fresh and the bread was the perfect po' boy bread. I am a big guy and could only finish half ... Believe the hype!"
New York's best corned beef sandwich might be from Harold's New York Deli -- although the restaurant is in Edison, New Jersey, some 35 miles from New York City. Reviewers use the word "amazing" to describe the sandwich and also to express astonishment at the portions. A sandwich starts at $28 but feeds up to three people. The "pickle bar" offers bread to let customers make more sandwiches from the massive amount of meat they're delivered.
More than your basic ham and cheese sandwich, the Monte Cristo is dipped in egg and fried in butter, and traditionally served with a side of jelly for dipping. At least, that's how it comes at the place that popularized it by putting it on menus in 1966: Disneyland, although recipes date back to the 1920s, influenced by the French croque-monsieur. Rather than go to Disneyland just for a sandwich, try the version Esquire called one of the best sandwiches in America for $16 at Canter's Deli in Los Angeles. The Monte Cristo may have gotten its U.S. start in Southern California, and Canter's opened in 1931.
Nobody is entirely sure where the BLT got its start, but how it could be left off a list of classic sandwiches? Travel & Leisure and The Daily Meal both point diners to Ted's Butcherblock in Charleston, South Carolina, where the artisanal Bacon of the Month BLT is $8.50. For a twist on the traditional BLT, the Avocado BLT ($9) at 300 East in Charlotte, North Carolina, is popular and highly rated; it was featured on Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives." (Or sneak off to St. Louis for the historic Crown Candy Kitchen's well-named Heart Stopping BLT, featuring thick-sliced bacon with Miracle Whip on white toast for $9.)