Stephanie Izard
Photo: Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune

Pickles, Please

Girl & the Goat’s Stephanie Izard preaches the importance of acidity and crunch in a sandwich. Pickles bring both. “I make pickled Fresno chiles, red onions, and giardiniera and use them on just about every sandwich.”

Dominique Leach
Photo: Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune

Upgrade Your Mayo

Dominique Leach of Lexington Betty Smoke House makes a spicy one by combining canned chipotles with cilantro, garlic, orange juice, and barbecue sauce and adding the mix to mayo, which she puts on her chile-marinated chicken sandwich.

Bryan McClaran
Photo: Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune

Bryan McClaran of Best Intentions spikes Kewpie mayo with kimchi and chile oil to create the base for a tuna salad. For a BLT, J.P. Graziano’s Jim Graziano goes with lemon-caper mayo.


Diana Dávila
Photo: E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune

Griddle, Don’t Toast

Want to brown and crisp up your bread? Mi Tocaya Antojería’s Diana Dávila says skip the toaster, since it dries bread out. “I like to use a griddle with olive or sunflower oil or butter,” she says. That method ensures the exterior is golden brown but the interior stays soft.

Dave Miller
Photo: Ting Shen/Chicago Tribune

Sweat the Small Stuff

Baker Miller’s Dave Miller found the perfect secret weapons for a tomato sandwich: celery salt and white pepper. “The celery salt adds umami, and the white pepper gives it a kick without the bitter finish of black pepper.”

Fred Noinaj
Photo: Clayton Hauck

Thai It Up

Lost Lake’s Fred Noinaj uses tom yum paste and fried shallots to give his egg salad sandwich a Southeast Asian spin. “A little tom yum paste, found at most Asian grocers, adds a punch of acidity and spice, plus citrus notes. The fried shallots add a crispy contrast.”

Stephen Gillanders
Photo: E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune

Think Beyond Bread

Bao buns are becoming increasingly available these days in the freezer section. S.K.Y.’s Stephen Gillanders uses them to make mushroom bulgogi grilled cheese, but you can tuck almost anything into these pillow-like buns, from fried chicken to Spam. “Because they’re hinged on one end, they tend to contain messier ingredients better than sliced bread.”

Carlos Gaytán
Photo: Youngrae Kim/Chicago Tribune

Fire Up Your Ham and Cheese

While growing up in Mexico, Tzuco’s Carlos Gaytán would buy ham and cheese tortas and doctor them up with his mom’s guajillo paste. Try it at home: Get some guajillo paste online (Amazon is a good source), or make your own by soaking dried guajillos in boiling water and puréeing them with some sautéed onion and garlic. Then, anytime that ham and cheese craving hits, spread some of that chile paste on the ham slices and sear them in a skillet before piling them on your sandwich.

Brian Bruns
Photo: Sandy Noto

Invent Your Own Combo

Flat & Point’s Brian Bruns has a foolproof formula for creating a chef-worthy kitchen-sink sandwich:

Meats Something cured, something cooked

Veggies Something pickled, something fresh

Sauces Something creamy, something acidic

Bruns’s perfect combo Pastrami, roast pork, giardiniera, red onion, Dijonnaise, and Italian vinaigrette