A meatless sandwich? "Blasphemous," you might say, and note only the grilled cheese as a possible exception. You'll change your tune, my carnivorous friend, once you try a well-constructed vegetable sandwich (and I'm not talking veggie burgers). If you're looking to start practicing "Meatless Mondays" or are just trying to incorporate more vegetables into your diet, try these five Houston varieties on for size.
5. Gandalf (Hobbit Cafe) Somehow, I don't picture Gandalf the White (né Gray) as a vegetarian (Elrond is a totally different story). The Hobbit Cafe has, however, chosen to give his name to its voluminous vegetable sandwich bursting with avocado, mushrooms and melted American cheese. Although it has never been confirmed, I seriously think they put an entire avocado in this sandwich. Seriously, the amount of 'cado that falls out while you're eating the sandwich is enough to make a side of guacamole.
4. Basil Sunshine (Baba Yega). The only sandwich on this list in which the bread rivals the fillings, the Basil Sunshine at Baba Yega layers buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes, peppers and spinach on focaccia. The spongy, buttery carbohydrate layers flecked with rosemary are certainly good enough to eat on their own, but when partnered with thick slices of cheese and produce (which I suggest you lubricate with the side of basil vinaigrette) make for a delectable combination.
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3. Spinato Panini (Jus' Mac). The spinato panini is the most compelling reason not to order one of many crazy-delicious varieties of macaroni and cheese available at Jus' Mac. Amply buttered white bread is loaded with sautéed spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes and roasted garlic (all united with a generous handful of feta cheese), then squished and grilled crisp on the panini press. Unlike with Jus' Mac's pasta dishes, you might be able to handle a double serving -- hey, it's all in the name of getting your RDA of vegetables, of course.
2. Market Veggie Sandwich ( Local Foods). Though not my favorite sandwich at Local Foods (that honor goes to the truffle oil egg salad on a pretzel roll), the Garden Sammie fulfills a certain botanical longing I have on the day after an extended meat binge. Many of the usual suspects (tomatoes, sprouts) make an appearance, but the addition of some brussels sprouts, cauliflower and an avocado-tofu coulis gives this sandwich a creamy roasted richness that prevents it from being mere rabbit fare.
1. The Djinn (Sandy Witch Sandwich Company). I considered disqualifying the Djinn from this list because some might argue its patty base is a form of veggie burger, but it's just too darn good to be ignored. A soft onion bun contains the small mountain of chana masala (chick peas with coriander, garam masala and chiles) covered in a blanket of mint yogurt sauce, which takes the edge off the heat of the layer of spicy Indian pickles. As you might expect, the bun barely holds it together; you'll need napkins and maybe a glass of milk to successfully tackle this sandwich.