The Ultimate Sandwich
September 30, 2023 5:32 PM   Subscribe

Tell me about the best sandwiches you have ever made or eaten.

The spouse and I are embarking on a quest to make extremely good sandwiches. Elaborate, simple, sweet, savory, vegetarian, meaty, breakfast, lunch, dinner, any geographic origin, all are under consideration. For the purposes of this question we are defining sandwich fairly broadly, up to and including things like hot dogs and open-faced sandwiches. But you're not here to debate definitions, you're here to tell me about the really good sandwiches you have known.
posted by doift to Food & Drink (84 answers total) 94 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Melismata at 5:40 PM on September 30 [4 favorites]

Good sharp cheddar, fried egg, sliced raw onion, pesto and buttered homemade bread.

Also very fresh banh mi - homemade with lots of pickled crunch carrots and veggies and fluffy omelette and grilled chicken and a bit of chili, fish paste and lots of cilantro. You have to get the right kind of Vietnamese-style short baguette and also the sauce which my kid makes in giant batches by taste. They eat theirs with fried spam also.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 5:42 PM on September 30 [5 favorites]

The ultimate grilled cheese:
Good bread, not too thickly sliced. Cut the crusts off if you really want to be Marie Antoinette about it.
Spread mayonnaise right to the edges of the outside of both slices of bread -the mayo is the frying fat, so place mayo side down on the pan.
A ton of cheese inside, whatever you like as long as it’s meltable and you use a layer of cheese that’s about 1/4 inch thick and goes right to the edges.
Mayonnaise and a bit of Dijon inside the bread. Spread them together so the Dijon isn’t in blobs.
Fry it in a pan, with a light weight on top to help the cheese melt (like a pan lid or plate)
About a minute before it’s done, lift it up, put some cheese right on the pan, and the sandwich on top of the cheese. That gives you a crispy cheesey lacey cheese toile on and around your sandwich.
Cut into triangles and prop them up so they don’t get soggy from the steam against the plate.
So good!
posted by nouvelle-personne at 5:51 PM on September 30 [11 favorites]

Put two slices of sourdough bread, one with with goat cheese and a couple of slices of yellow or red roasted peppers on top of it in the oven or toaster oven for 7-8 minutes, put slices or mash of fresh avocado on the "empty" sourdough slice, combine with the goat cheese and peppers slice, cut in half and enjoy.

The exact same thing with a part of a french baguette can also be a good variation.
posted by virve at 5:53 PM on September 30 [5 favorites]

BLAT on lightly toasted Dutch Crunch. Thick cut bacon, Bibb lettuce, perfectly ripe avocado, and an in season but not too juicy tomato with a thin smear of mayo.
posted by A Blue Moon at 5:55 PM on September 30 [3 favorites]

The best sammich I have ever eaten is a muffuletta. I don't have a recipe for it, because I only buy it*, but the one I get is mortadella, ham, salami, olive spread, and provolone on some type of round bread.

*it's not that it's difficult to put together, but more that it's a treat.
posted by sm1tten at 5:59 PM on September 30 [7 favorites]

You know, there's something to be said about simple, old standbys.

The BLT - no need for explaining this one, I'm sure

The egg salad sandwich - I keep mine simple with Hellman's mayo (no derailing, here!), salt and lots of pepper. For me it's about the consistency of the filling; no too thin and not too thick.

The egg mcmuffin, home equivalent. It's easy. Mix up an egg with shredded cheese, salt and pepper in a very small glass bowl. Microwave. Toast the english muffin. Cook the ham, bacon or sausage. If you don't want to do that much cooking and you have ham, cut it into somewhat small pieces and mix it in with the egg and cheese. Put it all together with mayo on both sides of the english muffin. Let it cool down for a minute before taking a bite

Pastrami on rye. I've made them at home and it's just not the same. Go to a deli. Go to a famous deli if you're close to one. I promise you, you won't regret it.

The fried egg sandwich: fry up an egg, toast some bread. Butter it or add mayo. Put the fried egg on the toast. Salt pepper. Ketchup on top. I prefer open-face.

A bagel with cream cheese. Your favorite bagel with your favorite cream cheese. I like everything bagels with green onion cream cheese. Are you close to a good bagel shop? That's where you want to get your bagels, not the grocery store. Costco will do in a pinch.
posted by ashbury at 6:00 PM on September 30 [2 favorites]

These Curried Egg Salad Tea Sandwiches are a favorite— I use raisin bread and arugula microgreens.
posted by kittydelsol at 6:05 PM on September 30 [1 favorite]

Oh boy, how could I forget one of my favorites? Falafels are so amazing but you have to go to a shop to get one. Most places have their own version so you'll have to find the one that is perfect for you and trust me, there is the One that is perfect for you. Make it an excursion by going to a part of town that you don't normally go to and explore the area. Or make it a picnic and go to a park, waterfront, favorite people-watching place.
posted by ashbury at 6:06 PM on September 30 [2 favorites]

Take a ciabatta and slice through to make two halves for sandwich. Drizzle olive oil on both and place under broiler until toasty and hot. Remove and squeeze fresh lemon juice over both halves.

Take the bottom, layer fresh cut basil as desired, then sliced tomato, topped with slice of provolone and/or smoked gouda, and top that with about half clove of very finely sliced/crushed garlic. Put back under the broiler until the garlic and cheese just starts to brown/bubble. Remove, sprinkle some oregano and place the top half of the bread on top. You've got the 2N2222 Special. I could eat these things all day.

Quality of the bread is key. I try to find a food ciabatta or French roll that has a good crust. I've also used a baguette with success. Occasionally, I'll add some banana peppers and canned artichoke hearts between the basil and cheese. Also might add a bit of very finely chopped onion along with the garlic on top, so it can brown under the broiler. I'll sometimes sub vinegar instead of lemon juice. No meat, usually, but have put smoked turkey or ham on request. But I think it's best without.
posted by 2N2222 at 6:08 PM on September 30 [5 favorites]

In my experience most sandwiches can be vastly improved by adding a layer of potato chips, which adds crunch and salt.

I’m going to recommend Tyler Kord’s A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches, because of his chart of elements that should go into each sandwich—sweet, salt, fatty, crunchy, and a couple of other things I don’t remember offhand. Other chefs have similar lists—this article lists Max Halley’s choices.
posted by telophase at 6:16 PM on September 30 [5 favorites]

When I used to work in NYC, the deli next door had the greatest sandwich ever, they called it the Ambrosia:
- ordinary deli sandwich roll
- grilled ham (thin sliced)
- mozzarella
- spicy honey mustard, the translucent brown kind

Looks very simple on paper, but what a magic combination...
posted by equalpants at 6:23 PM on September 30 [3 favorites]

I still dream about the mock duck Banh Mi sandwiches I'd buy every time I had to go to our other campus for meetings.

My favorite at-home sandwich is sharp cheddar with chutney.
posted by belladonna at 6:29 PM on September 30 [2 favorites]

Boursin, salami, and arugula that has been tossed with a little bit of olive oil and garlic on a baguette.
posted by capricorn at 6:41 PM on September 30 [3 favorites]

The best sandwich I ever ate was the last one I ate. Or, it will be the next one I eat.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:44 PM on September 30 [5 favorites]

Reubens are one of the rare examples of God's kindly intent towards His creation. However, I blasphemously prefer them with tomato whenever absolutely prime ingredients aren't available.

Good cheddar grilled on sourdough with onion jam is an easier-to-make-at-home delight.

Also harder for Americans to make the classic bahn mi at home because cha lua isn't available in most supermarkets, so get one for lunch.
posted by praemunire at 6:45 PM on September 30 [1 favorite]

I have found that with warm sandwiches, softened cream cheese and a layer of good tomato pesto (not too runny or oily, has a real "pesto" feel) blend together really well and pair exceptionally with thinly sliced onions and/or greens. You want good pita bread or sandwich bread, nothing super-thick like a baguette, because otherwise you end up having to put too much cream cheese on and it gets goopy.

One of the best sandwiches I've had is just your basic pate de campagne - baguette, pate, whole grain mustard and mayo and sliced french gherkins, the milder, sweeter kind.

Do not forget braunschweiger and chopped liver as sandwich fixings - old guy sandwiches, as I think of them. Both are sometimes foods, I admit, but what a sometimes.
posted by Frowner at 6:47 PM on September 30 [4 favorites]

Best sandwich I ever had was 3 little Nurnberger Bratwurst on a small hard roll and a schmeer of mustard. Preferably outside in the bitter winter as the vendor charcoal broils the sausages...Also has roasted chestnuts as a side...
posted by Czjewel at 6:48 PM on September 30 [2 favorites]

Seeded, granary, multigrain type loaf. Fish fingers. Tomato sauce.

Whitish bread, cheese, crisps.

One slice Dark rye bread like almost pumpernickel, Nutella.
posted by runincircles at 6:54 PM on September 30 [1 favorite]

I make this for myself once a year, and no more. The bit about curling the green onions in ice water is crucial, and it took me a few tries before I learned that the crispier the spam, the better.
posted by AbelMelveny at 6:56 PM on September 30

I really like a vegetarian BLT made with Lightlife Smoky Tempeh strips. Fry the strips in a little oil to make them crisp.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 7:00 PM on September 30

Turkey, mozzarella, olive oil, and rosemary on a sun-dried-tomato roll.
posted by jgirl at 7:19 PM on September 30

The BLT - no need for explaining this one, I'm sure

Yeah but have you ever had one from Rogers Donuts in Mountain View? None of this stingy two strips, they make theirs with at least a third of a pound of bacon, maybe more.

The best sandwich I ever ate was the last one I ate.

That would be an Elvis special: crunchy peanut butter and sliced bananas on wheat bread, grilled in a small cast-iron pan, with butter.
posted by Rash at 7:20 PM on September 30

The sandwich which stands at the head of my sandwich pantheon is one I use to get from Hyde Park Produce in Chicago. They call it the "Goatshead Gobbler", and it consists of:
  • Pastrami turkey
  • Cream cheese
  • Giardiniera (Chicago-style, of course)
  • Red Onions
  • Honey mustard
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
All on an Italian roll.

In my mind this is the ultimate combination of textures & flavours, and it stands out in my mind even though I haven't eaten one in a good 15 years at this point. I will admit that there's probably a certain level of nostalgia in my recollection of this particular sandwich — I associate it with being in my mid-20s, enjoying life in the big city, and being able to walk across the street from my apartment and buy a delicious sandwich along with some excellent produce. But it's still on their menu after all this time, so I'm obviously not the only one who loves it.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:34 PM on September 30 [2 favorites]

The best sandwich we've ever made was an attempted copycat sandwich. We'd had the tri-tip sandwich from Brazil Cafe out in Berkeley (back when it was this shack, now apparently there are several locations). Falling apart tender meat with a creamy, garlicky sauce all topped with thick slices of avocado on a dutch crunch or similar roll. We roughly approximated the same meat flavor and texture with a bunch of onion and garlic and beef in a crockpot, bought an avocado and crusty baguette, and then in a stroke of genius, a perfectly ripe plantain that we decided we'd slice up in rounds and fry alongside for some sweet maduros. But then, in a moment of genius, we finished frying our plantains, sliced our baguette lengthwise, assembled our sandwich, and put the fried plantains on the sandwich before cutting the whole thing in half. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. It's a lot of work for a sandwich, so we never made it often, and it's harder for me to find great plantains and avocados that are ripe at the same time now than in the Bay Area. But man, that's a tasty thing.
posted by deludingmyself at 7:42 PM on September 30 [2 favorites]

I have more than one:

Bifana, in Lisbon, with mini-beers.

Francesinha, in Lisbon (it was the only thing I ate that entire day).

Pernil + goat cheese, Lisbon airport. No recipe that I know of because it was some stupid airport restaurant but holy moly it was legit amazing. Best sandwich I've ever had in an airport, no question.
posted by aramaic at 8:03 PM on September 30 [3 favorites]

Best sandwich, from the bottom up: Lightly crusty baguette (bottom half), fig spread, generous amount of prosciutto, arugula (full grown is better than baby), quarter inch slices of fresh mozzarella, really good olive oil, sprinkle of salt, lots of fresh black pepper, top of baguette.

For the adventurous ashkenazi: Blueberry bagel, toasted, plain cream cheese, fresh dill pressed lightly into the cream cheese, good amount of lox, better open faced than closed. Sweet and salty and herby and chewy and crispy and creamy. Upset your uncle at the bar mitzvah brunch.

Grandpa special: Untoasted pumpernickle (toasted is the wrong texture), spicy brown mustard, liverwurst, thinly sliced red onion, thinly sliced kosher dill pickle, more liverwurst on top, mustard on the top bread too, cut diagonally. Squishy outside with crispy veggies inside, spiced but not spicy, rich and filling.

College Mizu’s go-to order from the HOP: big toasted Italian roll, simplest marinara, grated parmesan, thick slices of fried eggplant (light breadcrumb and egg coating, gently fried, not dunked from frozen into a deep fryer), sprinkle of dried Italian herbs, extra marinara, very light sprinkle of low moisture mozzarella, stuck under a broiler for a minute. Life sustaining.

Lady who lunches: Toasted caraway rye, Waldorf chicken salad (that’s chicken salad with mayonnaise, a little celery, grapes, walnuts, apple, and absolutely no goddamned raisins!), butter lettuce, good summer tomato cut thickly and sprinkled with salt left to sit for a few minutes and patted dry before placing on sandwich, and red onion. Cut horizontally, and served with large dill pickle spears.

Roast Beast: whole grain wheat toast, horseradish mayonnaise (a lot), roast beef and roast turkey (preferably of the leftovers variety, but cold cuts are fine if they are the good stuff, also lamb is a welcome addition or substitution), crispy romaine lettuce, a single slice of sharp cheddar cheese, can be melted onto the top toast if you’re hardcore. Very good to dip into gravy.
posted by Mizu at 8:06 PM on September 30 [6 favorites]

Onion roll with Warm pastrami, Swiss cheese, , Sauerkraut, and Mustard

I love this so much.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:37 PM on September 30

You could do worse than trying to perfect the bánh mì. I think very little beats a really good bánh mì.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:38 PM on September 30 [2 favorites]

A good Monte Cristo is amazing.
posted by Aleyn at 8:39 PM on September 30 [4 favorites]

Grilled cheese. Pepperidge Farm white bread, Velveeta, fried on grandma's cast iron griddle with butter. Add Campbell's tomato soup, mixed with milk and not water.

But this only works if you're ten, it's a day when school was closed due to snow, and mom makes it before going out to play.
posted by Marky at 8:42 PM on September 30 [6 favorites]

* Rachel: pastrami, Swiss cheese, and coleslaw on rye bread, with Thousand Island dressing.
* Meatball sandwich (I like mine with sliced onion and bell pepper, and melted provolone cheese.)
* The earlier-mentioned Muffaletta. These really should be bought. It calls for special bread and olive spread. If you are in the USA and not near New Orleans, Jason's Deli is a good place to get them.
posted by NotLost at 8:43 PM on September 30

the one time I actually had a serious "I have a call starting in like 2 minutes and need to get back up to the office yet I absolutely must keep cramming this very large thing down my piehole, I am going to have a hell of a heartburn, but I cannot stop" conflict involved a hot meatball sandwich from a Le Boulanger cafe, but I can't find the description on their website now. There was some sort of perfect bread thing, hot meatballs, some sort of tomato sauce... sadly the details have gone hazy with time.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:12 PM on September 30

I just made a turkey sandwich, ate it, and am ready for another one. Sourdough bread (toasted), havarti melted on top (but really any cheese), raw onion slices (amount depending on how strong the onion is), and a sploosh of mayo and a generous squirt of brown mustard. The crucial special ingredient is very thin slices of apple.

I also mentioned a goat cheese and roasted sweet potato (yam?) sandwich in another MeFi thread and I still remember how much I enjoyed that from a San Francisco cafe somewhere around Bryant or Harrison circa 2001. I also only have the haziest recollection of the other ingredients. A baguette, banh mi size. Cilantro? Maybe?
posted by spamandkimchi at 9:29 PM on September 30

growing up, it was getting a ham and american cheese on buttered cuban bread smooshed in a plancha.

now, the greatest sandwich EVER, is the roasted porchetta from Salumi in Seattle.
posted by alchemist at 9:37 PM on September 30

I used to live next to a place that had Xian Hamburgers. They are amazing. I’ve never tried making one myself, but that link looks legit.

Another Chinese “sandwich” is Peking duck buns. So, so good.
posted by tinymegalo at 9:39 PM on September 30

I'm a big fan of The Bentley from the Carving Board, though I get it with plain mayo, not bacon mayo: filet mignon, blue cheese, mayo, spinach, grilled onion on ciabatta.
posted by yasaman at 9:43 PM on September 30

I don't have a very good food memory and so the fact that this sandwich is one of a handful of edible things that stands out vividly over a lifetime blur of eating says how enormously delicious it was.
One gazillion decades ago, I often ate this at Cafe Pamplona (now closed) in Cambridge MA : a sandwich of a hard Spanish cheese (maybe manchega?) with quince paste on a baguette.
This sandwich was so simple and SO AMAZINGLY GOOD but for some reason it was never as good when I tried it to reproduce it at home.
posted by ojocaliente at 9:48 PM on September 30 [1 favorite]

I am also a fan of the Mediterranean Veggie at Panera Bread: zesty sweet Peppadew peppers, feta, cucumbers, emerald greens, vine-ripened tomatoes, red onions, hummus, salt, and pepper on Tomato Basil Bread. I think the bread is the key.

And I want to mention the best name for a sandwich shop that I've ever eaten from is Tummy Stuffers.
posted by NotLost at 9:51 PM on September 30

No one has mentioned the Cubano? I love a good Cubano sandwich, the melding of flavors and textures between the ham, roast pork, cheese, pickles and mustard all grilled and melty together is heavenly. I will order it every time I see it on a menu and have rarely been disappointed!
posted by platinum at 10:42 PM on September 30 [4 favorites]

Prosciutto, butter, and pecorino on a baguette.

Or camembert and butter on a baguette.

now, the greatest sandwich EVER, is the roasted porchetta from Salumi in Seattle.

This isn't wrong.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:56 PM on September 30

Tomato grilled cheese, with fresh very ripe beefsteak tomatoes, home grown (or if you can get equivalent tomatoes commercially, more power to you and also count your blessings).

In Seattle, Paseo's before the 2014 events, or Un Bien after. I can speak for the sandwiches but not the labor conditions.
posted by away for regrooving at 12:00 AM on October 1

Best sandwich I've had was smoked.trout, arugula and green apple on baguette. It has butter or creme fresh or something (I forget exactly), and was delicious. The smoky saltiness of the fish plus the juicy tartness from the apples and bitterness from the greens combine perfectly.
posted by lorimt at 12:26 AM on October 1 [1 favorite]

The Chick Parm from Micky's in Manchester's Northern Quarter, with the pesto swapped for olive tapenade.
posted by alby at 1:04 AM on October 1

Ham sandwich - good bread, good butter, slices of nice ham, a smear of mustard

Tomato sandwich - good bread, good butter, sliced ripe tomatoes, touch of salt and freshly ground pepper

Bacon sandwich - good, white bread, back bacon cooked to perfection. I personally don’t need butter on my bread because bacon juices but to each their own. Maybe a tiny bit of ketchup or brown sauce.
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:04 AM on October 1

- some good white roll
- pile of fatty roast duck
- pile of roasted Mediterranean veg
- some, let's say, recurrent sauce
- a crispy potato rosti. An honest to goodness rosti as a sandwich ingredient. Absolute mad lads. Great stuff.

Amazing thread, well done, folks!
posted by Hermione Dies at 1:08 AM on October 1 [1 favorite]

There's a variation on the Muffaletta that does all the picking out fluffy bread, stacking the inside with tasty bits and then compressing the thing to slice and eat ... but with Italian ingredients.

I like the beef brisket, pickles, saeurkraut and mustard (on rye) of a Reuben, not saying it's a better sandwich than a Cubano, Banh Mí or muffaletta but it's noteworthy.

As is taking a any grade of croissant, slicing lengthways and putting it in a sandwich-toaster filled with ham and cheese for a buttery and savoury ham-cheese delight. Optionally add pickles or hot sauce as your heart desires.
posted by k3ninho at 1:37 AM on October 1 [1 favorite]

I give you the marvel that is the croque monsieur, a thick cut French sandwich filled with ham, cheese and bechamel sauce. Amazing.
posted by Jubey at 1:57 AM on October 1 [2 favorites]

This is a very hard question, and I don't think it can have a single answer. Sandwiches are seasonal and also depend on the place and its moods and atmospheres.

That said, if I were very hard pressed, my favorite sandwich would be the one I make for myself on Christmas morning (and st. martins day): hard and seedy rye bread thinly sliced, with good butter, leftover goose and salt. Nothing more. We are not Christian, we are in it for the goose. Some of my relatives who all get up later than me, so they get the lesser leftovers, will put pickled red cabbage on top. That is good too.

Other open sandwiches on rye bread that I love are with pickled heering. There are several types, I prefer the plain white, the mustard and the curry, in that order. Raw slices of red onion on the plain heering, soft boiled or poached egg on the other two. Some people use lard under the plain heering, and some other types that I haven't mentioned. It is good.
There is also my grandmother's chopped liver. She was very protective of the recipe, and gave out false recipes when the family asked for it. But she did show it to me, and I wrote it down, but I can't find the notebook. I still hope it will turn up some day, and I can have it again. Garnish with kosher dill gherkins. One thing I know is that it was made with veal, and all chopped liver recipes I can find online are with chicken liver. It was also quite lean.

On white bread, or on something we call surbrød, sour bread, you can have smoked salmon or shrimp. Unfortunately, wild salmon from the Baltic Sea are no longer available and nothing else we can get is comparable, but I'm putting it here because you have access to wild salmon in the US and Canada. Lucky you. Do not eat farmed salmon. A surbrød is a bread made from a 50/50 mix of rye and wheat, and with caraway seeds for extra extra. You don't have to use a sourdough and you don't want a crunchy crust. Bake the bread, let it cool, slice and smear a generous amount of fresh butter on it, then smoked wild salmon or shrimp, and pepper, nothing more. Absolutely no mayo. Danes are very particular about what toppings go on which bread. You can't eat heerings on white bread for example. And if you don't have rye bread with eggs, you will get mice in your tummy. This is true, but only for Danes. Weird. For example, if you have shrimp alone, they go on white bread or surbrød. But if you have eggs with shrimp, it belongs on rye bread.

Those above are very simple open sandwiches, depending on the quality of the ingredients. Among the more elaborate smørrebrød, my favorites are probably potato and roast pork. The potato is on dark rye bread, with butter, sliced waxy potatoes, mayo and raw and roasted onions. You might even put on a bit of chopped chives, for color, or bacon. This may seem underwhelming, but it is amazing. It even works quite well on white bread, if you can't find rye.
For the pork, you need a good roast with cracklings. Again, this calls for rye bread and butter, then slices of pork, red cabbage, maybe a cornichon or two, and slices of orange. Extra crackling on top, if you have it.

Speaking of pork and seasons, in winter in Italy, you can buy porchetta rolls from trucks. They are very simple, the porchetta is roasted on a spit over an open fire or gas grill, and then sliced thinly and stuffed into crusty bread rolls on demand. IMO this only works when the porchetta is still warm and dripping with fat and juices.

It took me a while to learn the magic of tramezzini, but then I did, and now I can't stop. Tramezzino with artichoke and tomato, tramezzino with aubergine and mozzarella, tramezzino with an eggy tuna salad, it never stops. Basically, a tramezzino is an English tea-type sandwich, but with no regard for tradition. Put anything in there and use all the mayo.

This time of year, there are still ripe tomatoes and everyone should be eating all the tomato sandwiches all the time. BLT has been mentioned, but a plain tomato sandwich with a good mayo is also good. My son-in-law loves tomato sandwiches all year round and out of season he spices them up with salt, balsamico and sometimes a grind of chili flakes.

If you can get the perfect ingredients, a classic jambon-beurre is a thing of great beauty. Unfortunately, those perfect ingredients can be hard to source, even in France.
posted by mumimor at 2:18 AM on October 1 [7 favorites]

Wait, I somehow forgot Sol over Gudhjem. How could that happen? One thing is that I only make it when I can get freshly smoked herring. (Apologies for the misspelling above). In the link, a Canadian makes it with tinned kippers. I don't know if it will work. With a still warm, freshly smoked herring, this is divine. If you are scared of salmonella, a pasteurized egg yolk will do just fine.
My intuition is that any small, fatty fish will work just fine as well, if you have a smoker. I don't know what fish you have where you live, but a fresh caught mackerel would be very good.
posted by mumimor at 3:19 AM on October 1

Crusty roll, lightly buttered, layer of smoked salmon, scattering of rounds of raw red onion. Onion gives a flavour and texture contrast with the salmon. Crusty roll also gives texture against soft salmon.
posted by biffa at 4:25 AM on October 1

Reuben. 'Nuff said.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:59 AM on October 1 [1 favorite]

Imagine coronation chicken but with Thai green curry flavourings/spices, with liberal fresh mint. In a baguette.

Alternatively, slices of brie with cranberry sauce and rocket [arugula]. Again in a baguette.

British-style back bacon grilled and hot with red or brown sauce on white bread.

Chip butty with chips from the chip shop.
posted by plonkee at 5:31 AM on October 1 [1 favorite]

My current sandwich obsession is turkey, brie, and either sliced apple or pear on a baguette.

A hum-drum sandwich can be improved by adding potato chips.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 6:05 AM on October 1

One of the very best things I've ever eaten was a sandwich at All’Antico Vinaio in Florence. They make a chewier, flatter kind of foccacio with buckwheat flour on which was prosciutto, provelone and truffle spread. Ambrosia!

Closer to home and only about 1 time a year - Zingerman's #1 Who's Greenberg Anyway - corned beef or pastrami and chopped liver on rye with lettucee, thousand island dressing and a dill pickle. Bliss!

And also - a good sesame bagel, toasted. With nova lox, cream cheese, thinly sliced red onion, cukes and ripe tomato. Can add some capers.... and that will be breakfast today :-)
posted by leslies at 6:16 AM on October 1

I love sandwiches fiercely and there are some amazing suggestions in this thread. Making your own đo chưa for banh mi Is actually super easy - you just soften the carrots and radish by salting kn a strainer and then toss them in a very simple brine of vinegar salt and sugar.

We spent some time in Portugal this summer and the bifana and fransechina suggestions are solid. I have plans on throwing a bifana party at some point. Cacchorinhos from Porto are also an elite food-on-bread (described as a hot dog they’re really so much more, a raw, uncased sausage is spread on the bun and griddled while stuck to the bread. Although I think the bread is essential here and maybe near impossible to acquire or replicate adequately.

One of the whackiest and most memorable sandwiches I’ve ever had was the torta de chilequiles in Mexico City. Soft inside but crusty torta roll stuffed with a breaded chicken breast and a whole mess of chili sauce laden fried tortillas. Oddly soft texture? Sure. Carb on carb? Also sure. Impressively delicious? Oh definitely.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 6:17 AM on October 1

Baguette with a little mayo to wet the bread (actual French mayo, ie made with Dijon mustard), chicken, blue cheese, rehydrated sultanas (I usually rehydrate them in water with a drop of rum), and rocket/arugula. Also I just got the idea of drizzling a little bit of honey on top. I've never tried that, but I might next time I make it.
posted by snakeling at 6:33 AM on October 1

We make pan bagnat now and then. I linked to the bon appétit recipe because it has the basic procedure we use except we flatten the sandwich for much longer than 20 minutes, even overnight. The ingredients can be whatever you imagine. For a couple of years we made a big one every other week so we've had many flavor combinations on several kinds of hard-crusted bread.
posted by kingless at 6:46 AM on October 1 [3 favorites]

There are so many. So many.
Most of my favourites are more British/European in style than (stereotypical) American- one or two fillings, fairly thin, with maybe one lettuce leaf or a sprinkle of baby mustard-and-cress for a delicate crunch. The bread and ingredients both need to be great.
Salmon mashed with tart yogurt.
Chicken liver pate with a fruity chutney or caramelised onions.
Sliced cold sausage (ie not a salami, but a leftover grill-and-eat-hot sausage) with cranberry relish.
Cheddar, cucumber and tomato.
Prawn mayo.
Hummus and quick-pickled carrot and red cabbage.

My all-time favourite, though, that I have recreated with some success, was from a food van with a charcoal grill. A fairly heavy-duty roll which could soak up some juices; whole grilled enormous mushroom, grilled peppers that had been briefly soaked in vinegar, thin-sliced fried halloumi.
It's good with sliced fresh peppers too (more crunch) as long as they get a dip into vinegar while the mushroom cooks. It's OK with bacon instead of halloumi, but I prefer the cheese. Whole fried cherry tomatoes are a great addition, but messy to eat. Oh it's so good. Sadly I don't have halloumi in at the moment or I'd make it for dinner.
posted by Shark Hat at 7:44 AM on October 1 [2 favorites]

I live in Providence, RI which is the land of old-school, cash-only sandwich shops. My three favorites are:
1. Italian sub. I've never made one at home (requires a lot of ingredients to do it properly) but this recipe looks legit.
2. Meatball sub. Easy to do at home. Meatballs, marinara sauce, provolone cheese. Toast in oven.
3. Thanksgiving sandwich. Roast turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce on fresh sliced bread or a roll. Sometimes I'll get crazy and also add mashed potatoes, roasted squash, or other leftover veggies in there. Leftover sandwiches are the best part of Thanksgiving! There is a sub shop near me that sells a Thanksgiving sub year round with a side of gravy for dipping. It's heaven.
posted by emd3737 at 8:00 AM on October 1

I don’t eat meat anymore, but I swear the best sandwich I’ve ever had was at Heathrow airport. It was white cheddar, ham and mango chutney on something like a Dutch crunch roll. That combination of sweet and salty on a sandwich is amazing.
posted by gt2 at 8:23 AM on October 1

So much fabulousness here. I applaud your quest.
Some personal favourites

Deeney's Lady Macbeth - Veggie haggis, caramelised onions, melted cheddar, rocket and mustard sold with a can of Irn Bru.
Hot buttered lobster in brioche I once had from a fancy food truck on Abbot Kinney.
Bahn mi as many have said.
I do a homemade version of a Leon breakfast muffin I had once: Toasted halloumi, avocado, sharp and tangy chunky homemade tomato ketchup.
Masala Omelette wrapped in a chapati
Surprised to see no mention of the majesty that is the fishfinger sandwich! whether fancy with sourdough and lemon mayo, or oldskool with white bread and ketchup. One of life's trashy delights.
And of course a really good chip butty.
posted by tardigrade at 8:30 AM on October 1

Jambon-beurre. Be sure to include cornichons.
posted by trip and a half at 8:40 AM on October 1

Those on the quest for the perfect sandwich should be aware of The Sword and the Sandwich which is a blog "Going through Wikipedia's List of Notable Sandwiches in alphabetical order, with tasty commentary." So much commentary... they started two years ago and they're only in the Fs, now (and to honor Melismata's first response in this thread, for an example, #66: their Fluffernutter entry).
posted by Rash at 8:51 AM on October 1

Also, see the Sandwich Tribunal.
posted by kingless at 9:14 AM on October 1

The fruity grilled cheese: your favorite sandwich bread (mine is heavily seeded whole wheat); gjetost cheese (the only brand I have found in the US is Ski Queen), very thinly sliced tart apple (my favorite is pink lady).
Melt cheese on both slices of bread, pile on the uncooked crispy apple, and smush into one sandwich. A little salty, a little sweet, a little creamy-caramely, a little warm, a little crisp. Mmmm. Delicious.
posted by aint broke at 9:48 AM on October 1

Egg salad with green onions and tomato. Add parsley for greenery (like, in the salad). Serve on buttered bread. Make sure it is soft with a good crust. Wegmans near where I live has a farmhouse bread that is perfect.

Alternative- egg and green olive or, egg and caper. Leave capers whole, but def dice the olives.

Grilled, marinated tofu and garlic hummus with a pile of the crispiest veg you can find in a spinach wrap. Make sure there is a cucumber in there.
posted by oflinkey at 9:56 AM on October 1 [1 favorite]

Warm, thinly sliced roasted lamb on toasted foccasia bread, with arugula that has been lightly tossed in a vinegarette, garlic aoili, and havarti cheese.

Lions mane mushrooms, lightly salted, sliced thick and fried in butter until golden, then toast sourdough slices in the remaining butter. Add beefsteak tomatoes and garden lettuce, and a bit of Kewpie mayo. Like a BLT but better.

Cold roast chicken, with plenty of salt and pepper, on a sliced baguette topped with avocado and mayo. Simple but elegant.
posted by ananci at 10:21 AM on October 1 [1 favorite]

Oh crud I forgot my particular once-a-year favorite:

Black rye (ideally eastern european)
Limburger cheese
Sharp raw onion (none of this Vidalia crap)
Fuck-you-I'm-strong mustard (if it can make your eyes water, so much the better)
Sometimes I add horseradish

Consume with a very strong dark beer.
posted by aramaic at 11:03 AM on October 1

Best sandwich I ever ate was the ham sandwich at The Turkey and the Wolf in New Orleans. They are more famous for a fried bologna sandwich with chips on it; I tried that, too, but it was inferior.

The sandwich I had was really fresh shaved ham (good quality pork), with herbed havarti and some other stuff, including cranberry and mayo. Hands down top 5 meals of my life. They still have it on the menu, but they've replaced the havarti with cheddar, which is a downgrade in my opinion in terms of the flavor balance of the overall sandwich I enjoyed.
posted by Temeraria at 12:06 PM on October 1

TLT panino from tragically closed Cafe Ghia in Brooklyn: "marinated tempeh, baby spinach, oven-dried tomato, vermont cheddar and aioli on ciabatta" is what the menu says, but there was some kind of kick to it and when I make my not-as-good-but-still-good version I use horseradish mayo and sundried tomato pesto.

And the Vegitalian from Court Street Grocers: "roasted butternut squash, swiss, mozzarella, pecorino, arugula, white onion, csg hoagie spread, mayo" per the menu. I feel like in my memory the spread is more of a muffuletta spread than a hoagie spread, though.

Oh, and muffulettas from Central Grocery, before I stopped eating meat.
posted by babelfish at 12:17 PM on October 1

The best sandwich I ever had was from a fancy cheese shop I used to frequent in Chicago (RIP). It was slices of herbed duck confit, thinly sliced cipollini onions that had been pickled in balsamic vinegar, slabs of fromage de d'affinois (a brie-like soft cheese), stone ground mustard, a small handful of arugula, all on a beautiful fresh baguette. I still dream of this sandwich on the regular, alas.
posted by merriment at 1:38 PM on October 1

Some great candidates here, but the best sandwich is so context dependent.

The best late-morning, I had a late night involving red wine kind of a sandwich, is a large quantity of smoked streaky bacon, slow fried, in a toasted cinnamon raisin bagel. Ketchup to taste. Tea or coffee in medicinal quantities.

A local cafe does a spectacular egg mayo sandwich with their own tangy tomato chutney on ciabatta, great for a social lunch. Close rival to this when making for yourself is boiled egg + salad cream + ripe juicy tomatoes + salt and pepper. Peppery greens if you’re so inclined. Best on crusty white bread.

For a packed lunch, in need of a sandwich that travels well, it’s very hard to go wrong with a crusty-chewy baguette full of slicked turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce (canned, so it doesn’t soak into the bread).
posted by breakfast burrito at 3:57 PM on October 1 [1 favorite]

Eaten once, never replicated: leftover lamb from a SCA feast, still warm, on very good bread with absolutely nothing on it -- no butter, mustard, no mint. Just lamb, lamb juices, and the bread.
posted by maudlin at 5:23 PM on October 1 [1 favorite]

I've had many sandwich epiphanies at 2am, but these are not necessarily repeatable. May I suggest the roast beef poboy? There are intense debates about which is the best, but I've enjoyed the one in the back of Erin Rose which is non-traditional with horseradish sauce, pickled peppers and spicy beans (of course that could just be my 2am talking) It's also perfectly fine to seek out the kind that has so much gravy it saturates and then shoots out all sides of the bread.
posted by credulous at 5:27 PM on October 1

“One of the highest points in the sandwich-maker’s art. We call it the Mount Everest Special. For Commanders only.”
posted by chavenet at 6:28 AM on October 2

Since returning to vegetarianism, I've found sandwiches that sub roasted sweet potatoes for meat are delightful. There's a pub up the block that makes a sweet potato reuben, with thick wedges of sweet potato for the corned beef but otherwise faithful, that is absolutely lovely. But the best is the 44 Special: slices of roasted sweet potato, slices of pickled beets (which we always have on hand), soft goat cheese, garlic aioli, and lemon-vinaigrette-dressed arugula, all on a ciabatta bun. It's a million steps and still good enough that we have it for dinner with some regularity.

A similar combo of salty, sweet, acidic that even my kids liked: Eggplant and pickled beet sandwich.
posted by SeedStitch at 8:32 AM on October 2

I applaud your quest. Sandwiches are my favorite food, and I’ve had many incredible ones, but the one that always comes first to mind was in Stockholm, from a little stand in a park with a wood fired oven. A third of a baguette, sliced nearly through but leaving the hinge, a little olive oil brushed on both sides, a thick slice (like 2cm thick) of Brie with rind on, two or three thin slices of fresh tomato on top of that, and a handful of fresh basil leaves between the cheese and tomato. Salt and pepper. Toasted open faced in the wood oven until the bread crisps. It’s been about 20 years and I still dream of that perfect sandwich.
posted by skookumsaurus rex at 9:15 AM on October 2

Best-ever in my book is ham, cheese & pineapple toasted.

Sharp cheddar and tamarind chutney is pretty good too.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 6:18 PM on October 2

Response by poster: There is no way to pick a best answer here, you are all my heroes.

(Or my hoagies, subs, or grinders, depending on location.)
posted by doift at 6:47 PM on October 3 [2 favorites]

If you're a fan of sprouts like I am, two I love: 1: fresh mozz, red onion, tomato, pesto, sprouts, on a bagel or flatbread. 2: avocado, gruyere or muenster, sundried tomato, sprouts, olive oil, on seven grain seedy bread slightly toasted.
posted by lolibrarian at 5:51 AM on October 5

Slices of eggplant, red bell pepper, zucchini, onion, all roasted. Rounds of good goat cheese, also roasted with just a hint of golden brown. On a decent baguette, lightly spread with something like pesto. The year is 1996, the location is Virage in the East Village, you are on a trip with your family from Florida, you are 15, in 2 hours you will watch Stomp live and in 18 hours you will learn your grandmother has terminal cancer and that's why she wanted to take this trip. It's delicious and unusual and so new. It's the first time you've not just enjoyed but been fascinated by food. If it's not the best sandwich you've ever eaten, it's the most singular. The most memorable. You'll chase it for decades. It's served with shoestring potatoes.
posted by penduluum at 6:25 AM on October 5 [4 favorites]

The showstopper sandwich that we make in our house that always gets rave reviews is ratatouille and goat cheese on a soft hoagie roll. Whip the goat cheese with softened butter to make it more spreadable (and some salt and fresh herbs if you're feeling saucy), and make sure to spread it on both pieces of bread to keep the ratatouille from sopping in to the bread too much and making it too soggy.
posted by saladin at 9:21 AM on October 13

I am hardly the first to sing the praises of the Kappacasein Grilled Cheese Toastie, sold from a little window on the edge of Borough Market in London, but it is, hands down, the best grilled cheese I have ever had. So good we went back three days in a row on our trip.

Their website describes the recipe as "Montgomery cheddar, Ogleshield, London raclette, comte, onions and leeks sandwiched between slices of sourdough" (link)... we've reproduced something sort of like it in the States by applying a couple insights:

1. Really good crusty bread. Sour is best, but any good loaf is fine. We'll be using a panini press so it needs to hold up to the pressure.
2. The bread needs to be buttered on all sides, inside and out.
3. A good variety of flavorful melting cheeses: cheddar, Gruyere, Comte, Jarslberg. Three types is good. Grated, not sliced.
4. A very fine mince of at least two, better three, kinds of alliums: garlic, no more than a quarter per sandwich; shallot; red onion; leek; yellow onion if it's all you have.
5. Each sandwich has about a tablespoon of fine allium mix on the bottom piece of bread and then a big pile of cheese on top, like, half a cup, about an inch, of cheese. A little bit of extra cheese on the outside, to get some of that frico fried cheese crunch.

My second place finisher has to be an amazing pork loin on a wheat roll I found at a little café somewhere in Waimea, on Hawai‘i. The thing that put it over the top was the chutney, which was some mixture of apple and plum, with sweetness and sourness and just a little heat. My takeaway from that was: don't be afraid of jam, vinegar, and chilé in your sandwiches... sometimes, they are just what is needed. Too often I feel like fruit-and-sweet is relegated to the "leftover Thanksgiving turkey with cranberry" corner of the sandwich universe. Apple slices, or spicy apple butter on pork; marmalade on chicken, mango in a veggie stack? Why not?
posted by graphweaver at 4:59 PM on October 15 [1 favorite]

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