New York City's sandwich scene now goes way beyond the pastrami on rye at Katz's Deli
New bread-wrapped innovations include a pulled pork twist on the classic Vietnamese banh mi
Nearly as potent a symbol as the bagel, the black-and-white cookie and the pizza slice, Katz Deli’s pastrami on rye sandwich is the quintessential New York snack. Yes, that’s the one from “When Harry Met Sally” – the orgasm-inducing sandwich that led to customers asking for “what she’s having,” with a line out the door to boot.
But in New York City, there’s always room for improvement (this is, after all, the home of the cronut) and, over the past few years, there have been a slew of great new sandwiches served across the Big Apple.
Each innovation is more exciting than the last, adding a little something special to a city-dweller’s lunch. Here are nine New York sandwiches that deserve ranking alongside Katz’s pastrami on rye:
1. Pulled Duroc Pork Sandwich from Num Pang Sandwich Shop
A hit since first opening in 2009, this small chain of shops selling Cambodian banh mi-style sandwiches proved that even something as familiar as pulled pork deserves an upgrade.
At Num Pang, they serve pulled Duroc pork with spiced honey accompanied by cucumber, pickled carrots, cilantro and chili mayo on a semolina or quinoa baguette.
It is, in a word, addictive.
2. Falafel Sandwich from Mamoun’s
The oldest falafel restaurant in New York City just might be the best and, after more than four decades, not much has changed – much to the delight of their very loyal customers.
The signature snack is the falafel sandwich: deep-fried balls of chickpeas and spices served in a warm pita with tahini sauce and salad, with a wallet-friendly price tag.
3. Broccoli Classic from No. 7 Sub
First things first: Forget any preconceived notions about what a broccoli sub is.
Throw them out the window because the hefty sandwich from No. 7 is a certifiable game-changer.
It’s made with roasted broccoli, feta cheese, fried shallots, mayo and a bit of lychee for sweetness, all stuffed in an Italian hero baked in Brooklyn. A vegetarian option has never tasted so good.
4. Lobster Roll from Luke’s Lobster
Getting Maine lobster in New York City has never been much of a problem, but finding an excellent lobster roll isn’t always guaranteed.
That is until Luke’s Lobster’s lobster rolls arrived in 2009 – simple buns with a touch of mayo, a few spices and a quarter-pound of high-quality Maine lobster claw meat.
To say it was a (delicious) success is an understatement: after opening its first East Village shop, Luke’s has expanded to several states across the country and as far away as Tokyo.
5. Classic Sliders from The Meatball Shop
Chef/owner Daniel Holzman’s dream of opening a restaurant that only serves meatballs and meatball subs was realized in 2010 and the now-beloved eatery, The Meatball Shop, struck gold with its sliders.
The meatball and sauce combo in a mini bun allows diners to mix and match sauces and meats, but the classic – a single beef meatball, hand-rolled in-house, with a simple tomato sauce – is where it’s at.
Their classic tomato sauce has been a hit in its own right: Since opening six years ago, TMS has gone through over 55,000 gallons of it and is now selling it in shops and online.
6. Burnt Ends Sandwich from Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque
Still a youngster in the NYC food scene, Mighty Quinn’s began selling its barbecue from a booth in an outdoor Brooklyn food market.
By 2013, it’d found a home in the East Village – along with a legion of devotees.
Its style, a mix of Carolina/Texas barbecue, makes for unforgettable pulled pork, spare ribs and especially burnt ends – which are deserving of their own sandwich.
The charred ends of brisket are served on a freshly baked bun and smothered with house-made sauce. Unsurprisingly it’s one of the most popular items served.
7. Smoked Meat Sandwich from Mile End Deli
A Jewish/Canadian deli in Brooklyn (that’s non-kosher, no less), Mile End is anything but ordinary and so is their uber-popular smoked meat sandwich.
A rival to Katz’s pastrami, Mile End’s sandwich is packed with dry-cured brisket that’s been spiced, smoked and piled high on rye bread (with mustard, natch).
Says owner Noah Bernamoff: “Deli meats at large have become commodified like so many other traditional foods, so the real reason people love our smoked meat is because we take the time and use the care necessary to make it the old-school way – starting with exceptional quality beef, dry-curing and smoking with real hardwood.”
8. The Italian Combo from Court Street Grocers
One might think that a sub jam-packed with Italian cured meats and cheeses shouldn’t require too much thought, but in the case of Court Street Grocers, the owners took over two years to perfect their Italian Combo sandwich.
The blend of mortadella, capicola, soppressata, Swiss, mozzarella, Pecorino Romano, red onion, arugula, mayo, and Court Street’s hoagie spread comes together perfectly on a seeded club roll. It’s a new twist on an old classic done right.
9. The Chicken Parm Sandwich from Parm
Turning a classic – and undoubtedly familiar – Italian-American dish into an unforgettable sandwich takes a special touch.
In the case of the chicken Parmigiana sandwich, that’s provided by Parm.
With its tangy tomato sauce, perfectly pounded chicken and just the right amount of basil leaves, sandwiched in a semolina roll, the mix of comfort food meets high-end improvement yields an unforgettable sandwich. Fans seem to think so too: Parm’s sandwiches can now be found at Yankee stadium.
Cindy Augustine is a lifestyle writer and editor living in downtown New York City. She will travel to the ends of the Earth for a great meal, especially if it involves pizza. See her pictures on Instagram and follow her on Twitter.