Editor’s Picks

Houston’s Top 10 Sandwiches

These are the 10 sandwiches every Houstonian should try—and they’re not all banh mi and po-boys, either!

By Jeff Balke April 7, 2014 Published in the April 2014 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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Meatball sub at Pi Pizza

Meatball Sub at Pi Pizza

Why order a sandwich at a pizza place? Because chef Anthony Calleo takes the same care with his hoagies as he does his pies: the meatballs are made fresh each day, as is the marinara sauce that goes on top along with melted heaps of mozzarella and provolone cheese. The crowning glory? Sweet-and-tangy pickled cherry pepper mayonnaise.

Schnitzel Sandwich at Heights Bier Garten

Among homemade sausages and composed salads, the pork schnitzel sandwich stands out as a most inspired dish. Topped with onions and a fried egg, it’s finished with something called A1 gravy, at once tangy, savory and thick. The accompanying fries are lightly battered in egg white, which only amplifies the effect of the comparatively upscale meal Burger King’s R&D team has probably long fantasized about making.

Fried Shrimp Po-Boy at The Cajun Stop

The Cajun Stop makes our favorite po-boy in Houston. A generous portion of lightly battered jumbo shrimp is loaded into a baguette and “simply dressed” with mayo, lettuce, and tomato in sandwich sizes ranging from small to “no way you can eat that.” The perfectly seasoned shrimp would normally be the star here (and it’s delicious, to be sure), but the French bread—made with warm, soft dough that has enough structure to hold the filling but is still light—steals the show. Rumor has it, Cajun Stop imports the bread from Louisiana. Wherever it comes from, it’s the closest thing to a New Orleans original you’ll find in these parts, and hoo-wee, is it good.

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Grilled BBQ pork banh mi at Cali Sandwich

Grilled BBQ Pork Banh Mi at Cali Sandwich

While Cali, a strip-center spot on Travis St. downtown, offers a full menu of traditional Vietnamese food, the banh mi sandwiches rule the menu at lunch. The Grilled BBQ Pork variety is packed with sweet and tangy barbecued pork, shredded, pickled carrot, slices of jalapeño, a wedge of cucumber, and cilantro on a soft French baguette. The mix of ingredients is just the right balance of sweet and sour, but beware the raw jalapeño. If you aren’t used to the heat, best to ask for that on the side.

Crunchy Chicken at Local Foods

Local Foods, the casual sandwich shop offshoot of the Benjy’s franchise, is known for, as the name might indicate, foods sourced from local vendors—well, Texas vendors, anyway. The best sandwich on the menu is the Crunchy Chicken, a moist, delicious, oven-seared chicken breast served on a pretzel bun with a “nut crumble,” provolone, pickles, and buttermilk ranch dressing, because why not? It’s a down-home, southern farm-to-table hoedown that comes with one of Local Foods’ house-made sides. Get the potato chips—who wants Tuscan kale or quinoa with crunchy chicken?

The Super Original at Antone's.

The Super Original at Antone’s Famous Po’Boy

There are two remaining original Antone’s locations in Houston, along with two franchised chain versions. They all have the same po-boys, but the older locations are superior. The Original Po-Boy is the classic, filled with sliced Italian deli meats, provolone cheese, mayo, and the sweet relish called “chow chow” sauce. The Super is the same thing with double the meat, making it the clear winner here. For a lighter option, the Turkey and Swiss with sweet pickles is outstanding, but old-school Houstonians crave the Super Original. 

Honey Ham and Brie at Carter & Cooley Co.

Tucked inside an old bank building at the end of a row of quaint shops and antique stores on 19th Street in the Heights is Carter & Cooley. With its refrigerated displays full of meats, cheeses, and breads, the shop offers a long list of sandwich options, but the honey ham and brie is the standout. The warm, sweet, salty slices of ham melded with melting brie taste best on a toasted onion roll with a slather of honey mustard. The sandwich may remind you of the holidays, but, served with C&C’s delicious mustard-based potato salad, it’s perfect for a picnic.

Lobster roll at Maine-ly Sandwiches.

Image: Gary R. Wise

Lobster Roll at Maine-ly Sandwiches

There are lobster rolls, and then there are lobster rolls. The folks at Maine-ly Sandwiches, as the name implies, do it right. Their large roll is 19 bucks, but it comes stuffed with the meat of an entire lobster, simply dressed with mayo on a buttered, toasted roll that literally melts in your mouth. Add a little lemon juice and salt to bring the whole thing home. Finally, Houstonians can get a real Maine lobster roll without leaving town. 

Jive Turkey at Kraftsmen Baking and Café

It’s tough to go wrong when your sandwich place of choice is also a bakery, particularly one as insanely good as Kraftsmen, located inside a 19th-century textile mill in the Heights. There are a variety of tempting sandwich options on the menu, and you might be tempted to bypass the Jive Turkey because, well, it’s a turkey sandwich. But Subway, this is not. In-house, pecan-smoked turkey is layered on toasted ciabatta with provolone, avocado, a smear of chipotle mayo, and sweet caramelized onions (the secret star of the ensemble). The carefully chosen ingredients make for an unbelievably delicious sandwich that’s the opposite of boring.

The Chicken Philly at Pappa Geno’s

The original Pappa Geno’s in Lazybrook has been such a success, they’ve added another location in Bellaire. At both, you can get more than your fill of cheesesteak goodness, and even a Philadelphia expat would have to agree they’re excellent. The Chicken Philly is filled with thin-sliced chicken covered in grilled onions and melted provolone or Cheez Whiz—or both—on light, airy French bread dressed with mayo. It’s beyond decadent, and as mouthwateringly delicious as it sounds. If that’s not enough, you can always add cheese fries.

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