Edit Module
Edit Module
Sandwich City

The 10 Best Sandwiches

A highly opinionated ranking from Chicago’s premier street-eats expert

1

The Combo (above)

Johnnie’s Beef
Elmwood Park

What it’s made of:Italian beef, grilled Italian sausage, sweet and hot peppers, and giardiniera piled on a French roll and dunked in gravy

Why Titus loves it:All due respect to Scottie and Mike, but this sandwich is Chicago’s greatest one-two punch. First, take the beef: You can count on one hand the number of spots that still roast their own in-house, and Johnnie’s is one. That supremely tender beef is paired with a sausage that’s been grilled over live charcoal, so it adds some bite. It’s all loaded into a roll and topped with roasted peppers (get both sweet and hot) and giardiniera, which give it some zip. The finishing touch is a quick dip in gravy for a beefy slam dunk. The result is unbeatable: juicy, smoky, sweet, piquant, and unbelievably messy. It’s Chicago in one bite. $5.35. 7500 W. North Ave.

 

The Italian Sub

2

The Italian Sub

J.P. Graziano’s
West Loop

What it’s made of:Hot capicola, Genoa salami, hard salami, mortadella, provolone, sliced tomato, and lettuce on French bread, accented with red wine vinegar and oregano (throw on some giardiniera too)

Why Titus loves it:Yes, J.P. Graziano’s signature Mr. G is a killer sandwich, but hear me out: Order the Italian sub next time you’re at this old-school Italian market. In a city where there’s no shortage of cold-cut sandwiches, the super-high quality of ingredients makes this one stand out. Owner Jim Graziano sources each item individually, so the Genoa salami comes from Volpi Foods in St. Louis, the bread is delivered from D’Amato’s each morning, and the giardiniera is a tangy, spicy house recipe that features olives. It’s hands down the best Italian sub in town. $9.25. 901 W. Randolph St.

 

The Pork Shish Kabob

3

The Pork Shish Kabob

Mr. D’s Shish-Kabobs
Montclare

What it’s made of:Cubes of char-grilled marinated pork tenderloin and onions tucked into a roll, splashed with beef gravy, and topped with tomato and a slice of lemon

Why Titus loves it:This sandwich is all about the little details: The squeeze of lemon adds a welcome brightness, the pork and onions are interspersed so you get a good bit of each per bite, and there’s just enough gravy to soften the bread inside without coming close to an Italian beef situation. Bonus: Every sandwich at this Greek joint comes with an order of outrageously good fries. $7.90. 6656 W. Diversey Ave.

 

The Steak Sandwich

4

The Steak Sandwich

Bia’s Café Marianao
Dunning and Kilbourn Park

What it’s made of:Thin slices of steak simmered in oil and stacked in a roll with crispy mojo-marinated onions, tomato, and melted white processed cheese, then pressed

Why Titus loves it:I adored the Cuban steak sandwich at the legendary Cafeteria Marianao, which closed in 2016, but thankfully the family has since opened two outposts of Bia’s Café Marianao — and the steak sandwich is back and better than ever. Two things take it over the top: The addition of salty melted cheese basically turns this into a Cuban cheesesteak, while a quick trip through a sandwich press gives the bread some welcome crunch. $6.65. 6401 W. Addison St.; 4323 W. Addison St.

 

The Nhu Lan Special (No. 1)

5

The Nhu Lan Special (No. 1)

Nhu Lan Bakery
Ravenswood and Uptown

What it’s made of:Ham, head cheese, and pork pâté tucked into an airy house-baked baguette with pickled daikon, carrots, cilantro, cucumber, and jalapeños

Why Titus loves it:This is my holy grail of Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches in Chicago. The contrast of the cold, porky deli meats combined with pickles, veggies, and herbs, all served on warm bread, can’t be beat. It’s savory, crunchy, refreshing, and funky, and the bread is so fresh that your fingers will leave indents. $6.50. 4810 N. Sheridan Rd.; 2612 W. Lawrence Ave.

 

The Papa con Chorizo Pambazo

6

The Papa con Chorizo Pambazo

El Habanero
Logan Square

What it’s made of:A soft, oblong wheat roll (known as pambazo) dipped in guajillo chile sauce, toasted on both sides, and filled with chorizo-studded potatoes, lettuce, sour cream, and queso fresco

Why Titus loves it:This is the rare sandwich that’s just as good for breakfast. The chile sauce loads the bread up with smoky and spicy flavors, while the potatoes are blistered until golden and cooked with a traditional Mexican chorizo that clings to each piece. $7.99. 3300 W. Fullerton Ave.

 

The Doner

7

The Doner

Ali Baba Doner
Lincoln Park

What it’s made of:Spit-roasted chicken stuffed into a Turkish roll with a choice of lettuce, cabbage, onion, and tomatoes, plus a creamy yogurt or garlic sauce, and finished with a hint of heat from Turkish chile flakes

Why Titus loves it:Ali Baba’s sandwich is on par with those you’ll find at the very best doner spots in Berlin, where this Turkish-invented dish thrives. The chicken is super crispy, and when it comes to toppings, I get everything — and especially love the potent wallop of the garlic sauce. $10.90. 545 W. Diversey Pkwy.

 

The Turkey Cristo

8

The Turkey Cristo

5 Loaves Eatery
Chatham

What it’s made of:Turkey, Swiss, and cheddar nestled between slices of egg-and-milk-soaked bread, deep-fried until golden, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and served with a side of raspberry preserves

Why Titus loves it:It’s a battered sandwich sprayed with sugar, for crying out loud! Super gooey from two layers of cheese, it’s hard to top this for brunch, and it strikes a delicate balance between savory and sweet. Owner Constance Simms-Kincaid has a seasoned hand when it comes to frying, and the exterior is super crunchy. $12. 405 E. 75th St.

 

The Anda Masala

9

The Anda Masala

Egg-O-Holic
River West and Schaumburg

What it’s made of:A toasted double-decker construction featuring, for the top section, American cheese with raw chopped vegetables like bell pepper and cucumber and, for the bottom, egg salad mixed with tandoori masala (you want to order it spicy, which means jalapeño joins the mix)

Why Titus loves it:This is unlike any other sandwich in town. It packs all the bright and bold flavors of Indian cuisine into a hybrid grilled cheese and egg salad sandwich. The egg is mixed with cumin, coriander, and turmeric for a wash of warm spices, and a press on the griddle sets up an array of contrasts: melted cheese, raw vegetables, and creamy egg salad. $7.99. 833 W. Chicago Ave.; 829 W. Higgins Rd.

 

Crispy Fish Fillet

10

The Crispy Fish Fillet

Hagen’s Fish Market
Portage Park

What it’s made of:A breaded pollock fillet fried to order, placed on a toasted brioche bun, and dressed with lettuce, tomato, tangy housemade tartar sauce, and a slice of American cheese if you want it (you do)

Why Titus loves it:If you love the McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish, this is a top-shelf version: A crisp layer of breading blankets a large square of flaky pollock that extends past the perimeter of the bun, while the sauce and veggies provide a cool contrast to the steaming hot fish (and Hagen’s is a fishmonger, so you know the fish is quality). $5.99. 5635 W. Montrose Ave.

Share

Edit Module
Edit Module
Submit your comment

Comments are moderated. We review them in an effort to remove foul language, commercial messages, abuse, and irrelevancies.