When a Sandwich is Not Really a Sandwich

This is one damn fine looking burger, but it ain't a sandwich.
This is one damn fine looking burger, but it ain't a sandwich. Photo by Kirsten Gilliam Photography

For the past year-plus, I've been writing about Houston's Best Sandwiches. They have run the gamut from hole-in-the-wall dives to fine dining and everywhere in between. I tried to set some basic parameters about what would be included, but I've been asked about what rules are in place for choosing what exactly makes a sandwich a sandwich.

It's actually a good question because there are a number of hand-held food items that might seem to qualify, but I've purposefully left off my list. This seems as good a time as any to discuss that and why exactly.


When I am asked about what things I don't cover, hamburgers are one of the most suggested additions. The fact is, a burger is a sandwich, but it does absolutely deserve it's very own category, particularly in Houston. Our city has some of the finest hamburgers anywhere on earth and putting them into the same group as a turkey sub seems almost unfair to the turkey. Burgers are so beloved, they have their own battles and blogs. If any "sandwich" deserves to stand alone in comparison to others, it is the burger.

Hot Dogs

Similar to burgers, but this also hits on my own personal prejudice. That is, I'm not sold that just because it has bread and meat does it deserve to rank as a sandwich, particularly if its shape is SO different as to make it almost another creation altogether. I've reviewed lobster rolls and sub sandwiches that have the same hot dog shape, but they seem somehow different to me. Again, this is probably simply my own prejudice, but to me, a dog isn't a sandwich.


I really love a good wrap. Love. But, the comparison to a sandwich is more to me simply because of the size and the casualness of the meal. It can be filled with sandwich filling — some places offer a wrap-instead-of-bread option, which can be quite good — and unless it is lettuce, most tortillas or flatbreads certainly qualify as a starch. Still, if you aren't going to put tacos on this list (more on that in a second), wraps have to be disqualified.


Why in God's name would anyone want to put a taco on a sandwich list if you live in Houston? The taco and the burger are sacred territory and, like the hamburger, in Houston, tacos get a category all to themselves. Sure, traditional "soft" tacos (for those of you from up north who think of them as coming in crispy shells) are very sandwich like, but let's not put them on this list if for no other reason than respect. Besides, we have tortas.

Breakfast Sandwiches

This is probably the one category where this list might stray as it gets longer and more comprehensive. I tend to view breakfast as a very different animal from the rest of the day's meals. Lunch and dinner are almost interchangeable, but breakfast is unique. Thus, so are its sandwiches. For one, it feels like the one meal where scrambled eggs are acceptable. No one asks for scrambled eggs on a lunch sandwich. A fried egg, sure! But scrambled are for breakfast. Nevertheless, I find myself drawn to them and you might see the list open up to these awesome creations in the future. For now, they remain on the banned list.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke