Our 2013 Best of Houston® winners were announced a while back, but in many cases, picking the best item in any category was no easy task. In order to show off all the culinary greatness Houston has to offer, we're continuing to round up the "rest of the best" in some of our favorite categories. Bon appétit!
Last week, we did a little griping about what we feel the Houston food scene is missing. Among our wishes for this fair city: Moroccan food, more downtown nightlife, great sandwiches from real delis.
Many agreed with us on the whole sandwiches thing. Sure, there are plenty of places in town to get a decent sandwich, but not many of them are true delis, and for a city of more than 2 million, we need more than a handful of killer sammies.
That said, we aren't completely lacking. In fact, I had trouble narrowing this list down to just ten great sandwiches, because the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Houston's cultural diversity also makes for a great diversity in the sandwich realm. From bánh mì to po'boys to Italian hoagies, we've got at least one wonderful spot for each of them.
Best Trendy Sandwich Max's Wine Dive - Fried Egg Sandwich Those in the know know Max's Wine Dive is the place to go for brunch on Washington, and the thing to order is the fried egg sandwich. It starts with two slices of sourdough bread, between which is stacked bacon, melted Gruyère cheese, bibb lettuce and sliced tomato. The bread is smeared with earthy black truffle aioli, and holding all of that deliciousness together are three fried eggs. When you press down on the top slice of sourdough, the yolks pop and run down all the other ingredients in a buttery, yellow mess. Sure, fried eggs are super trendy right now. But they're everywhere for a reason.
Best Vegetarian Sandwich Local Foods - Garden Sammie Say what you will about Local Foods's truffled egg salad sandwich on a pretzel bun. Yes, it's a favorite, but even better than that is the Garden Sammie, so hearty and packed full of good stuff that you won't miss the meat at all. It starts with a ciabatta roll that's crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, so it soaks up all the veggie juices without getting soggy. Then, from top to bottom, there's a layer of avocado spread, crisp pickled red onions, local purple microgreens, seasoned cauliflower, chopped lettuce, roasted brussels sprouts, roasted tomatoes and a generous smear of homemade hummus.
Best Deli Sandwich Kenny & Ziggy's - The Zellagabetsky This isn't just a sandwich; It's a SANDWICH. Weighing in at about four pounds, the Zellagabetsky is a monster of a meal. It's six different types of deli meats (corned beef, pastrami, turkey, roast beef, salami and tongue) layered with eight slices of rye bread, Swiss cheese, cole slaw, sweet red pepper and Russian dressing. If one person can finish the entire $55 sandwich alone, he or she will get a free slice of cheesecake. Cause of course, that's exactly what one wants after consuming that much deli meat. The fact that it's a food challenge and a truly massive sandwich isn't what makes it great, though. It's each individual type of meat artfully prepared by the Jewish deli that make this sandwich so fantastic.
Trivia: Shaquille O'Neal actually ate two of these and both slices of cheesecake that came with finishing each sandwich.
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Best Pretzel Bun 13 Celsius - Mortadella Sandwich While the pretzel bun is a bit of a fad, there's no denying that, in some cases, it truly enhances a sandwich. The mortadella sandwich is one such dish. Of course, to be fair, I should clarify that this isn't exactly a pretzel bun. It's an actual soft pretzel, just sliced in half and topped with grilled mortadella, a fried egg, tomato slices and gloriously melty provolone. It's a deceptively simple sandwich, but the bright pop of acidic mustard and the little bits of creamy fat in the thinly sliced mortadella add new dimensions to what's arguably a glorified meat, cheese and tomato sandwich.
Best Hoagie Paulie's - Italian Hoagie How many times have I found myself starving after a few glasses of wine at Camerata only to have my hunger quelled by a leftover Italian hoagie from Paulie's next door? Too many times. The wine bar keeps a stash of some of the best sandwiches from Paulie's in case drinkers want a little more sustenance than a meat and cheese tray, and the Italian hoagie never disappoints in that department. Thick layers of ham, Genoa salami and Provolone mingle with tomatoes, lettuce and pepperoncini then get pressed in a panini grill just long enough to give the bread a light toast. It might be a little dry were it not for the oil and vinegar sprinkled on the sandwich stuffs that keeps the whole thing bright, light and wonderfully acidic. Get it at Paulie's or, if you're prone to eating late, at Camerata next door.
Best Classic Revival Market - BLT A regular BLT consists of some sort of bread and bacon, lettuce and tomatoes with a smear of mayo. A Revival Market BLT steps it up a notch with Revival's thick cut bacon, arugula and (when possible) local tomatoes with a generous smear of green goddess mayo all on thick, toasted white bread. It's a cut above the average BLT without going so overboard that you no longer recognize your childhood favorite. The green goddess mayo--a mixture of mayonnaise, extra lemon juice, garlic and herbs--adds a bit of spice to the sandwich, while a side order of slaw will give you some good roughage with a nice, crisp crunch that pairs wonderfully with the BLT.
Best Po'Boy The Cajun Stop - Catfish Po'Boy The tiny restaurant just across Interstate 59 from downtown doesn't look like much from the outside, but it produces some of the best Cajun food you'll find this side of the Louisiana border. When crawfish and oysters are in season, get either one (or both) of those babies on your po'boy. This time of year, though, I stick to simple fried catfish, and though I often find that fish bland, the Cajun Stop knows how to get every ounce of flavor out of those deep fried filets. Dressed simply with tomatoes, lettuce, pickles and mayo on a soft, toasted baguette, these po'boys are best with a little of the homemade hot sauce that sits on every table. If you're getting a po'boy to-go, ask for some on the side.
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Best Chicken Sandwich H-Town StrEATs - The Fighting Chicken Sammich H-Town StrEATs changes its menu often, so get there soon to catch the Fighting Chicken Sammich, a version of a fried chicken sandwich that will make even those indifferent to poultry weak in the knees. It starts with a giant hunk of boneless chicken breast that's doused in hot sauce before being breaded and deep fried. Somehow, a soft, toasted bun is able to hold the massive piece of chicken along with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and spicy mayo. Alert: This is a two-hand sandwich. Though it's made by a food truck, please do not attempt to eat it while driving.
Best Cheesesteak Pappa Geno's - Wicked Philly I have it on good authority that Pappa Geno's Philly cheesesteak is about as authentic a Philly as you're bound to find here in Houston. If you're craving a traditional Philly, the Philly style steak and cheese sandwich oughta satisfy, but if you want something a little more bold, try the Wicked Philly, featuring Italian hot peppers, celery and pickled carrots atop a gargantuan mound of chopped steak on soft, dense, chewy white bread substantial enough to contend with all the juicy meat. Unlike the regular meaty, cheesy options, the Wicked Philly doesn't feel quite so heavy thanks to the acidic pepper mix that helps cut through the fat of the steak, mayo and gooey Provolone.
Best Bánh Mì Cafe TH - Gluttonous Ellis Cafe TH owner Minh Nguyen says this sandwich is named after his buddy Scott Ellis, who would come in every day and order a different type of bánh mì, mixing and matching ingredients until he arrived at this, now his namesake. It's the only bánh mì that comes on wheat bread (though it's available for any other sandwiches should you want it), and it's got a double serving of chargrilled pork as well as tofu and extra veggies. I didn't think of it on my most recent visit until I was halfway through the sandwich, but I think it could benefit from a fried egg too. I realize this wheat and tofu concoction is far from a traditional bánh mì, but it's truly the ingredients that make the sandwich so great. Nguyen's chargrilled pork is some of the best in town, and he's even able to coax ample flavor out of tofu. Perhaps if I can convince him to add a fried egg, he'll change the name to the Eating Our Words.