For the next 20 weeks, we'll be rounding up the runners-up to our 2012 Best of Houston® winners. In many categories, picking each year's winner is no easy task. We'll be spotlighting 20 of those categories, in which the winner had hefty competition from other Houston bars and restaurants.
For this week's Rest of the Best list, we decided to focus on the wonderfully portable sandwich, a meal which pleases the pickiest of eaters and in the simplest of ways: bread, meat, maybe some cheese. With that in mind, we kept this week's list to low-key places serving straightforward deli-style sandwiches, preferably those who slice their own meat and carefully source products like cheese and bread (if they don't bake their own).
Banh mi, milanesas, cheesesteaks, tortas, the shrimp BLT I dream about at Frank's Chop House -- all of these are noble and noteworthy sandwiches. But today it's all about the humble deli sandwich.
10. The California Connection at Central Market
There's always a long line at the sandwich counter just around the corner from the deli inside Central Market. And as far as I'm concerned, the line is for its top sandwich: the California Connection. Slices of turkey are jazzed up with sweet, caramelized red onions, two kinds of creamy pesto, chipotle mayonnaise and melted provolone on soft sourdough bread. I like to add avocados for overkill, but the sandwich is terrific ordered as-is.
9. Honey ham and Brie at Carter & Cooley
As mentioned in a recent post covering the Top 10 restaurants in the Heights, the honey ham and Brie is my personal pick at Carter & Cooley most of the time. It also made Jeff Balke's list of favorite Houston sandwiches a couple autumns back. It's a simple, straightforward combo that just makes sense: sweet honey mustard and honey ham mixing with mushroomy melted Brie on a salty, savory onion roll. There's lettuce and tomato involved too, but who cares?
8. Italian hoagie at Paulie's
Topped with just a little oil, vinegar, pepperoncini peppers and salad stuff -- served alongside a couple of scoops of surprisingly light herb-laced potato salad -- the Italian hoagie and Paulie's is actually less top-heavy than its thick stacks of ham, Genoa salami and Provolone would imply. You'd expect to feel like a blimp after eating the hefty sandwich, but the best thing about the hoagie is how it leaves you simply and pleasantly satiated instead.