Bread? Meat? Put them to-ge-ther. Sandwiches are easy, on-the-go foods that have stood the "taste" of time. Historically, the term and creation of the sandwich is attributed to John Montagu, fourth Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792). According to wikipedia, Montagu was a British statesman, who was also a notorious gambler who could not be bothered with leaving the gaming table for supper, hence ordering his valet to bring some meat tucked in-between two pieces of bread.
Ever wonder where you can find the best sandwiches in town? Long-gone are the days of PBJ's, BLT's and turkey clubs. We asked local chefs where they like to grub on sammiches and interestingly enough, many are not traditional favorites.
For chef Matthew Pak from the Burger Joint, a banh mi is what he craves. The pork and pate on a crunchy light baguette from Les Ba'get is outstanding alongside an ice cold Hitachino Nest beer. "Add an egg and boom!" he said.
Traditional banh mi includes a protein (everything from grilled chicken and pork meatballs to cold-cuts or tofu), pickled veggies, cilantro, fresh jalapeno and a French mayonnaise/butter. At Les Ba'get, diners can choose a baguette or croissant and every sandwich is dressed with duck liver pate, truffle aioli, cucumber, pickled carrot and daikon, scallion, cilantro and fresh jalapeno. (Lemongrass pork banh mi on baguette is $6.50.)
The eatery offers the full line of Hitachino Nest Beer, which is created using a Japanese sake-brewing method. Les Ba'get is a Vietnamese cafe located at 1717 Montrose.
Chef Pak is not the only one who thinks banh mi is a bomb-ass sandwich; State of Grace's Bobby Matos and Third Coast's Jon Buchanan also worship the pig in banh mi form.
Matos' go-to sammy is from Cafe TH at 2108 Pease in EaDo. The Heart Throb is a double the meat, double the flavor version of a pork banh mi. Affectionately named by a regular many years ago, the young lady told owner Minh Nguyen that the sandwich simply made her heart throb with anticipation. The small version is $7.50, large is $8.50 and it comes stacked with double the amount of charred-pork and chicken, two fried eggs and two pieces of bacon. Sounds more like a "heart stop," but bring it on. Matos says it's his favorite simply because it's "always delicious."
Chef Buchanan swears by the char-grilled pork banh mi at Les Givral's, along with an order of shrimp spring rolls and ca phe sua da (Vietnamese iced coffee with milk). "I love the crusty bread along with the crispy vegetables—the caramelization of the pork and the texture of the pate is so damn good!" he said. "I want to go get one now just talking about it."
We'll meet you there, chef. Les Givral's has two locations in Houston, at 4601 Washington and 2704 Milam in Midtown. A char-grilled barbecue pork banh mi is a steal at just $3.75.
Steak 48's chef Jeff Taylor gets the #6, Freaky Philly, at Papa Geno's. It's a "real Philly cheese-steak with just the right chew on the bread," he says. This Italian favorite comes loaded with white American cheese, grilled onions, brown gravy, Cheez Whiz and topped with Papa Geno's "hot oil peppers" otherwise known as giardiniera, a relish of pickled vegetables in vinegar and oil. Chef Taylor says it's like "Philly meets Chicago-delicious!" His perfect side is a cold St. Arnold's Weed Wacker ale. The Freaky Philly is $9.49.
Sylvia Casares of Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen is in love with the Reuben sandwich. She enjoys the ooey-gooey cheesiness and fresh bread at Kenny & Ziggy's and Baba Yega Cafe.
Kenny & Ziggy's is located at 2327 Post Oak in the Galleria area and also at 5172 Buffalo Speedway. The open-faced sandwich comes with mile-high stacked corned beef, sauerkraut, cheese and Russian dressing for $18.95. While we're on the subject of cured meats, when you can't decide between corned beef and pastrami, executive sous chef Martin Weaver of Brennan's goes for the Fiddler on the Roof (also found on Kenny & Ziggy's menu), a triple decker with both meats, Russian dressing and coleslaw. (Both sandwiches are $18.95.)
The Reuben at Baba Yega is a much cooler $11 and is served on marbled rye with Thousand Island dressing.
Chef Weaver couldn't pick just one favorite, so he also mentioned that Roostar's grilled chopped-ribeye banh mi with a fried egg tops his list. Roostar recently opened its second location at 5551 Richmond in the Uptown/Galleria area. Check out its great selection of local brews and big, fat Vietnamese egg rolls.
Executive chef Kent Domas of the new Alice Blue (formerly Shade) says "there is nothing better than a barbacoa torta from Tacos Tierra Caliente." The taco truck at 2003 West Alabama has been a long-time neighborhood fave. Tortas are $5 and are as big as your face. Domas likes to sit down with the torta and a nice cold Lone Star from the West Alabama Ice House.
H Town Restaurant Group's Ruben Ortega thinks the barbecue sandwich at Goode Company BBQ is one of the best in the city. As executive pastry chef for Backstreet Cafe, Hugo's, Caracol and Xochi, Ortega doesn't get shorted on great food options, but he loves the sliced beef on jalapeno bread with that delicious barbecue sauce on the side.
Goode Company BBQ can be found at 5109 Kirby, 8911 Katy Freeway or 20102 Northwest Freeway. A sliced beef sandwich is $7.95, dressed with jalapenos, pickles and onions on jalapeno cheese bread or homemade bun.
Gr8 Plate Hospitality's Paul Miller says that the Super Bee from Grafitti's at Union St. is fantastic. The Union Kitchen owner knows a thing or two about American comfort foods and the Super Bee served on a fresh-baked bun always hits that spot. It's a juicy, crispy fried chicken sandwich with smoked gouda, onion shoestrings, pickles, Texas pepper slaw and a spicy horseradish.
Dögarz Döner's donerMe comes on gourmet bread with seasoned lamb and beef meat, yogurt/garlic sauce, a mixture of Turkish, Italian and Mediterranean spices, cucumber, tomato and cilantro. This sandwich "fills the void left by my former love affair with NYC halal street-carts," says Pass & Provisions co-founder and chef, Terrence Gallivan.
Dögarz Döner's is located at 2101 Smith downtown. (A donorMe costs $8.50.)
Gallivan also enjoys the 24-hour sous-vide pork belly banh mi at Les Ba'get and the Crunchy Chicken Sandwich at Local Foods. "The crunchy chicken hits all the notes of a perfect chicken salad without being an actual chicken salad," he added.
There are several Local Foods stores in the Houston area. The Crunchy Chicken sandwich is $11 and comes with a nut crumble, provolone, buttermilk ranch, pickles, tomato, romaine lettuce, and crushed chips on a pretzel bun.
Pass & Provisions other half, Seth Siegel-Gardner has a simple sandwich love, the Turkey from Spec's, "it's hard to fuck up anything you put on a toasted jalapeno cheese bread," he says. "They're gigantic, delicious and the prep time takes just long enough [for me] to browse the bourbon aisle," he added.
Underbelly's chef de cuisine Gary Ly goes for the gusto with a Cheese Steak Hoagie at Rocky's Subs near Greenspoint Mall. The joint has been around since 1980 and is still slinging one of Houston's best Philly cheese steaks. Rocky's is located at 210 West Greens. A cheese steak hoagie costs $4.95 and comes loaded with all the fixins' (lettuce, tomato, onions, oil, vinegar and dried Italian herbs). "I've been eating here since elementary school," Ly said. "The meatball sub and pizza is great too."
One Fifth's chef de cuisine Nick Fine has a favorite at Kingwood's Chelsea Deli & Cafe. The chicken salad is a homemade recipe that hasn't changed in 25 years. "It's simple. The bread is made fresh, and I've been eating it since middle school."
Chelsea Deli & Cafe is located at 1538 Kingwood Drive.
The Central Market at 3815 Westheimer serves up a fresh sandwich every time. According to Killen's STQ's chef de cuisine Teddy Lopez, he always gets exactly what he wants at the deli counter. Toasted sourdough, honey mustard and horseradish cream, couple slices of roast beef and roasted turkey breast, pickled peppers, caramelized onions, arugula and muenster cheese makes for a perfect sandwich every time. These sandwiches are so big, "it takes two days to finish them," said Lopez.
Grab a small soup and drink to go along with the sandwich and it's all for under $10 bucks, "I am never disappointed," he added.
Founder of Urban Harvest Farmers Market on the Eastside Tyler Horne said it is a toss up between two sammies from the same place. Local Foods makes our list again with Crunchy Chicken and the Vegan "Meat"ball made with mushrooms. "Local Foods (and Benjy's) has supported our farmers for a long time and I appreciate the way their chef Dylan Murray has created a menu that makes everyone in my family happy, which is a hard thing to do," said Horne.
Seaside Poke's Tai Nguyen also shows the love for Local Foods and swears that he could eat the truffle egg salad sandwich everyday. "I already eat this at least once a week," he said.
Well there you have it, our Houston chefs are crazy about sandwiches. Looks like banh mi, cheese-steaks and just about everything at Local Foods come highly recommended. Where are you eating your favorite sandwiches? Share your picks with us in the comments.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.