Anyone can make a standard sandwich, but an amazing one requires a feat of architecture and a perfect balance of tastes. Some historians trace the origin of the dish back to a famous British earl who popularized the sandwich as a snack to keep one’s fingers clean while playing cards. In California, however, we’re not so prim and proper: We like sandwiches that are bursting with flavor and require a napkin—or eight.
In fact, Los Angeles was the birthplace of the messiest of them all. In 1908, the French dip, a delightful mix of hot beef, melted cheese, and a side of jus for dipping, was born here at either Cole’s Pacific Electric Buffet or Philippe’s Original, depending on who you ask.
On National Sandwich Day (November 2), we invite you to travel with us far beyond deli meat and iceberg lettuce to try 10 of the Golden State’s tastiest towers of fresh veggies, meat, cheese, and more.
The Rainbow Sandwich, Selland’s-Market Cafe
Move over unicorn latte, Selland’s-Market Cafe makes a stunning multicolor sandwich with only the freshest of ingredients. The Rainbow Sandwich has become one of Sacramento’s most popular lunches thanks to a mix of crisp red cabbage, carrot, bell peppers, avocado, and pumpkin seeds.
Philly Cheese Sandwich, Contimo Provisions
What happens when two highly trained chefs (résumés include New York’s Per Se and Blue Hill at Stone Barns) put their combined efforts toward crafting the perfect sandwich? Contimo Provisions in Napa Valley is born and with it the Philly Cheese Sandwich, a version of which was dubbed “one of the best” by The San Francisco Chronicle. The wood-fired roast beef, tomatoes, onions, and provolone are all locally sourced.
Cajun Shrimp Sandwich, A Moveable Feast
The Central Valley city of Lodi is known for exceptional wines. One of the best spots to soak up all that vino is a lime green food truck serving gastropub-level grub. The Cajun Shrimp Sandwich delighted the California Dream Eater when he made a visit to A Moveable Feast. (Watch the episode here!) Think a bun loaded high with buttery shrimp and crispy cabbage. Yum!
Crab Melt, Duarte’s Tavern
Like a beacon in the fog, Duarte’s Tavern in seaside Pescadero has served as a waypoint between Santa Cruz and San Francisco since 1893. A mainstay on the menu: The Crab Melt made with freshly caught crustaceans, best paired with the Cream of Artichoke Soup.
Tri-Tip Sandwich, BBQ in the Stix
Santa Maria–style barbecue dates back to the 1800’s when Central Coast ranchers roasted tri-tip over coast live oak. The BBQ in the Stix food truck in Santa Maria puts a spin on the classic by adding a charred bun and chili sauce.
Fried Chicken Sandwich, Son of a Gun
One of the most popular dishes at buzzy seafood spot Son of a Gun has nothing to do with fish, oysters, or clams. Eater LA named its Fried Chicken Sandwich one of the best in the city, thanks to its “audibly crispy” chicken topped with cooling pickles and slaw.
Pastrami Sandwich, Sherman’s
Sherman’s kosher-style deli has been sending Palm Springs diners home with doggie bags since 1953. The local favorite is known for home-cured meats and freshly baked rye bread, but the must-have pastrami swaps out the standard slices for potato latkes.
The Bubble Breakfast, The Sandwich Society
Mi Ho, founder of The Sandwich Society in Orange County believes that “life’s too short to be eating boring sandwiches,” and her creations are anything but. Get there before 11am to try The Bubble Breakfast, a true Instagram favorite. Warning: Taking a picture before you dig in is harder than it looks.
Favorite Turkey, The Goat and Vine
Surrounding dairy, olive, and vegetable farms make for a robust farm-to-table culture in Temecula. Taste the agricultural tradition at The Goat and Vine where chef Lydia Ornelas makes the basics sing. Her Favorite Turkey is made exceptional thanks to aged brie, basil aioli, field greens, fig-balsamic compote, and homemade sourdough.
Drowned Sandwich, El Gallito Tortas Ahogadas
A brightly painted food truck just south of San Diego in Chula Vista serves up what Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern calls “one of the 10 best sandwiches in America.” Try the aptly named “drowned sandwich” at El Gallito Tortas Ahogadas. The fried pork and beans are smothered in a spicy sauce is so delightfully messy some regulars bring their own metal fork from home.