Best specialty hot sandwiches. The sandwich was invented in 1762 when England’s fourth Earl of Sandwich was on a 24-hour gambling binge and he told his cook to make him something that wouldn’t interfere with his game. Since that time, some culinary geniuses have made some delicious sandwich staples that have become part of society. Below is the definitive list of the best hot sandwiches.
#24 The Elvis
WHAT: Bananas and peanut butter cooked up grilled cheese style.
WHY: This one was brought into popularity by Elvis, who was said to eat these by the truck load.
HOW: This is a make it at home type of concoction, not something you are going to see out at restaurants.
#23 Patty Melt
WHAT: A burger that is constructed like a sandwich, and cooked like a melt.
WHY: Writers suggested that Los Angeles restauranteur Tiny Naylor may have invented the patty melt in the 1930s, 1940s, or 1950s as a new dish for their restaurants. LA institutions Tiny Naylor’s, Du-par’s, and Wolfgang Puck’s Granita.
HOW: This has become a staple of the diner and can be found in your favorite greasy spoon restaurant around the US.
WHAT: The ingredients are in the name – bacon, lettuce and tomato. Served on toast with a healthy spread of mayo.
WHY: This became popular after WW2 when the ingredients became readily available year round. Abbreviating the name into three letters happened in the 70s.
HOW: This is probably the second most common sandwich on this list of best hot sandwiches. That being said, it doesn’t really fit into any specific restaurant category so it can’t necessarily be found that many places. Good news is it is incredibly easy to make and a lunch or dinner favorite in homes everywhere.
#21 Thanksgiving Sandwich (aka the Pilgrim, aka the Gobbler)
WHAT: Turkey, stuffing, potatoes, cranberry, gravy (at a minimum) but then add any Thanksgiving leftovers that are available the next day. Served on a thick bread to support the weight.
WHY: This one is an American favorite that just came to be as a natural progression of how we think. If you have a lot of random foods that go together, it makes sense to make a sandwich. This can be seen in the great variance in the ingredients, there are no rules.
HOW: The mother of all opportunities to eat this sandwich is by making it yourself with thanksgiving leftovers the day after the holiday in November. However, this idea, has spawned a simpler version of this sandwich sold in places like Trader Joe’s. It takes the idea of the salty turkey being cut through by a touch of sweet cranberry with some of the interesting textures of stuffing.
#20 Italian Hero
WHAT: Made with meats such as salami, capicolla, mortadella, and ham along with provolone or American cheese, tomato, onion, sour pickle, green bell pepper, banana peppers, black olives, olive oil or salad oil, salt and black pepper. Served on an Italian roll and can be done in both cold and hot (roasted) varieties.
WHY: The sandwich was invented 1903 by Giovanni Amato, an Italian baker in Portland, Maine. He was selling his bread on a cart and workers would ask he slice it open and add meats for a lunch meal. Dawning the creation of this best specialty hot sandwiches champion.
HOW: Pretty much any sandwich shop in existence will have this as a staple. A good thing to buy out so you don’t have to make a major investment in Italian meats just to build a sandwich.
#19 Pulled Pork
WHAT: Slow cooked pork shoulder in BBQ sauces served on a bun, maybe with a few pickles or coleslaw.
WHY: History unknown.
HOW: This sandwich is a staple of the BBQ restaurant and should be no problem to find. It is also incredibly easy to make in a crock pot so highly recommend.
#18 Meatball Sub
WHAT: Slow cooked Italian meatballs in red sauce served on an Italian roll with a little parmesan cheese.
WHY: This is another culinary feat whose origin is unknown, but it is believed the Meatball sub was founded in the US around the time of the turn of the 20th century.
HOW: This one is tricky because quality of meatballs is everything, you can’t just go anywhere. Look for the more high end specialty restaurants for these.
#17 Eggplant Parm
WHAT: Breaded and grilled eggplant, topped with red sauce and cheese, served on an Italian roll. Often pressed.
WHY: The classic Italian dish is said to have originated in Naples around 1837. It would become a staple in the best hot sandwiches world years later.
HOW: This one is a little trickier as well, as the execution of this dish is important. Cooking everything to the right consistency and with the right brand of herbs are reserved for the best chefs out there. Do your research on a local joint for this one.
#16 The Cuban (aka Cubano)
WHAT: A type of submarine sandwich, typically grilled, with ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, mustard, and pickles.
WHY: This was a variant on the traditional ham and cheese sandwich made for Cuban works in the Florida Keys by the 1860s.
HOW: These have largely been regional, so not super easy to find, but as of late broken into popular culture.
WHAT: The meat is young pork stuffed with salt, pepper, wild fennel, garlic and white wine, slow roasted in an oven for seven hours. The sandwich is then served with greens (rapini or spinach) and provolone cheese on Italian bread.
WHY: The meat was developed in 1919 and quickly became a staple of Venetian cuisine. Italian immigrants brought the trend to the US at the turn of the 20th century most popularly through sandwich form.
HOW: This one is a little harder to find, but is worth the search. This is going to be found in the more high end Italian venues or hip sandwich shops.
#14 Croque Madame
WHAT: Boiled ham between slices of brioche-like pain de mie topped with grated cheese such as Gruyère and slightly salted and peppered, which is baked in an oven or fried in a frying pan. It is then topped with a poached or lightly fried egg.
WHY: The croque-monsieur first appeared in Paris France around 1910. It was created to be an easy snack in bars and cafes. Shortly after the variants appeared, including this very popular evolution, which is the same sandwich but with an egg on top.
HOW: This best hot sandwiches all-star can be found in almost any bar or cafe in France, throughout much of Europe and in specialty French restaurants in the US.
#13 Bahn Mi
WHAT: A sandwich that consists of a Vietnamese single-serving baguette, also called bánh mì in Vietnamese, split lengthwise and filled with various savory ingredients. Something like pork belly, pickled carrot, coriander leaf, daikon, jalapeño and mayonnaise.
WHY: The baguette was introduced to Vietnam in the mid–19th century, when Vietnam was part of French Indochina, and became a staple food by the early 20th century. During the 1950s, it was developed in Saigon, becoming a popular street food. Following the Vietnam War, Overseas Vietnamese immigrants popularized the bánh mì sandwich outside of the country.
HOW: This one is going to be hard to find. You are pretty much only going to be able to find these in Vietnamese restaurants. Those are not at the same level of popularity as other restaurants, though thanks to the pho this is changing.
WHAT: This is a general sandwich served on a firm and crusty sandwich roll. It has a main ingredient such as jamón, aguacate, adobada, huevo, milanesa or pollo. Then toppings such as avocado, chili pepper (usually poblano or jalapeño), onion and tomato are added.
WHY: The origin of the torta is not well documented. Some claim it sprouted in Puebla due to Spanish-French interaction. Teleras (the bread usually used in tortas) were inspired by French baguettes.
HOW: These are a staple in Mexican cuisine and typically can be found in those restaurants. Look more for the food trucks and the holes in the walls when it comes to these.
#11 Lobster Roll
WHAT: A sandwich made of lobster meat served on a grilled hot dog-style bun with the opening on the top rather than the side. The filling may contain butter, lemon juice, salt and black pepper, with variants some times replacing the butter with mayonnaise. French fries or potato chips are the typical sides.
WHY: According to lure the lobster roll originated as a hot dish at a restaurant named Perry’s in Milford, Connecticut, as early as 1929 and then spread quickly up and down the Connecticut Coast. A classic example of using the ingredients available to you to make something great.
HOW: Associated with the state of Maine, but are also commonly available at seafood restaurants in the other New England states and on Eastern Long Island, where lobster fishing is common.
WHAT: Traditional versions include fried shrimp and oysters on sub style bread. Soft shell crab, crawfish, catfish, Louisiana hot sausage, fried chicken breast, roast beef, and French fries are other common variations. A “dressed” po-boy has lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayonnaise. Fried seafood po-boys are often dressed by default with melted butter and sliced pickle rounds. A Louisiana style hot sauce is optional. Non-seafood po-boys will also often have Creole mustard.
WHY: There are different theories but it is known that it all started in New Orleans. Around the roaring twenties and the depression, this could be seen as a working man’s sandwich and something “thrown together” for the “poor man”.
HOW: The place you are finding these gems are the traditional creole shops that offer other goods like gumbos, bisques, jambalaya, crawfish kickers and boudin, a Cajun sausage.
#09 French Dip
WHAT: A hot sandwich consisting of thinly sliced (roast beef, pastrami, turkey, etc) on a “French roll” or baguette. It is usually served topped with Swiss Cheese, onions, and a side of beef juice from the cooking process (au jus means “with juice”). It has nothing to do with France, but the dip comes from the fact you dip the sandwich in the juice just before serving. The exact amount of dip varies and most of the time is up to you,
WHY: Two of Los Angeles’ oldest restaurants, Coles and Philippe’s, have been in a century long battle over who created this sandwich. Both restaurants were formed in 1908.
HOW: You should have no problem finding this one but be wary, many will try to rush the meat and ruin the dish.
WHAT: It consists of a specialty bread muffuletta loaf (a focaccia style bread) split horizontally and covered with layers of marinated olive salad, salami, ham, Swiss cheese, provolone, and mortadella. Served both cold and toasted.
WHY: This incredible innovation in the best hot sandwiches game was created in 1906 at Central Grocery Co. on Decatur Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, by its owner Salvatore Lupo. Sicilians, however, had been making various versions of the bread for centuries. Lupo saw an opportunity to use the ingredients of the area and make something great.
HOW: Very common in the New Orleans and surrounding areas but a little less common elsewhere. You may need to look around. These giant loafs-turned-sandwiches are huge and sold as quarter, half, and full-sized pieces.
#07 Hot Pastrami on Rye
WHAT: A very simple sandwich, slow cooked pastrami on marble rye with mustard. It is all about the quality and spice of the Pastrami. Even in thick slices it should melt in your mouth.
WHY: Made famous in the Jewish kosher delicatessens of New York City. It was first created in 1888 by Sussman Volk, who served it at his deli on Delancey Street.
HOW: The pastrami on rye sandwich has come to be a symbol of the classic New York Jewish deli and can easily be found anywhere that type of establishment exists.
#06 Tuna Melt
WHAT: Tuna and mayonnaise, topped with cheese (cheddar, american) and then grilled between two pieces of bread melt style.
WHY: Tuna Melts melts, a staple of the traditional US diner, were commonly found on menus as far back as the 1950s and possibly the 1940s.
HOW: Still today this is a diner staple and very easy to find in the US.
#05 Italian Beef
WHAT: thin slices of seasoned roast beef, simmered and served au jus (known by locals as ‘gravy’) on a long Italian-style roll. The bread itself is often dipped (or double-dipped) into the jus, and the sandwich is typically topped off with Chicago-style giardiniera (called “hot”) or sauteed, green Italian sweet peppers (called “sweet”).
WHY: Exact origin is unknown, but many believe it was created by Italian immigrants who worked for Chicago’s old Union Stock Yards in the early 1900s. They often would bring home some of the tougher, less desirable cuts of beef sold by the company. To make the meat more palatable, it was slow-roasted to make it more tender, then slow-simmered in a spicy broth for flavor.
HOW: This walks a fine line with French Dips and Cheesesteaks. The main difference comes down to the spice, the peppers and/or giardiniera, but also the regional area. Once you start leaving the Chicago and midwest area this starts to change into something else. There are chains specifically known for being the champions of these sandwiches, go there.
#04 The Primanti
WHAT: Any combination of meat heaped with traditional sandwich sides of tomato, coleslaw, and French fries between your slices of giant Italian bread.
WHY: This entry into best hot sandwiches was conceived in Pittsburg as a sandwich for the working man. For the truckers so they could eat with one hand while steering a rig with the other.
HOW: The idea of the kitchen sink sandwich is kind of everywhere now, popular chain Fat Sal’s is one in particular bringing these types of creations to your neighborhood.
WHAT: Corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing, grilled between slices of rye bread.
WHY: The origin is disputed but it would have been around 1920 and somewhere more on the Eastern side of the US. There are different stories but it was earlier an accident or a stroke of genius.
HOW: These are pretty easy to find, any deli, but typically any family restaurant as well.
#02 Philly Cheesesteak
WHAT: thinly sliced rib-eye or top round beef is mixed with cheese (whiz or provolone) and onions and grilled together on a hot flat top grill. That mixture is scooped onto a fresh Amoroso roll. The roll is a long, soft, Italian sub style roll that is an absolute must to make the sandwich legitimate. These are made in Philly so people will fly them out half baked and complete them.
WHY: It all began in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In the 1930s, a hot dog vendor in south Philadelphia decided to grill some beef from the butcher and put it on an Italian roll. A cab driver caught a whiff and asked for a steak sandwich. Word spread and a brick and morter soon followed. Cheese was added in the 40s and the rest was history.
HOW: You can get these anywhere, but honestly, outside of Philly 90 – 90% of them are no good. When you find a good cheesesteak, hold on tight.
#01 Grilled Cheese
WHAT: pan – butter – bread – cheese – bread – butter – pan.
WHY: Original American cheese was considered cheap and cheese sandwiches were an early staple, but the cheese was grated. In 1949 Kraft launched the kraft American cheese single. This laid the way for the in home take off of the modern grilled cheese sandwich.
HOW: Look left, then right, now forward. You probably just saw at least one grilled cheese. These are everywhere from your kitchen, to the low end joint, to the high end bistro. And variants for days. Go nuts.