Legend has it that some dude named Sandwich (the Earl of Sandwich? Count Sandwich?) was the first to get the idea of stuffing tasty tidbits between slices of bread. His ingenious discovery has transcended its origins to spawn a sandwich universe that’s evolved to cross lines of class, culture and continents. Portable, affordable and infinitely adaptable, sandwiches satisfy at any meal. There is a serious array of sandwiches to choose from ’round here—what are you in the mood for? Here are our favorite seven picks on the mighty ’wich.
The club sandwich is a restaurant menu staple with murky origins, though early sightings go back as far as 1899. It is one of the most beloved of the genre, a hearty stack of meat, cheese and a bit of green stuff for color and crunch. One of our most faithful local establishments—in business for over 30 years—serves a clubhouse worthy of the name; get one on a Tuesday when it’s the lunch special (cup of soup, chips and a pickle spear included). Cobblestone Café’s club sticks to the tried-and-true formula: turkey, bacon, Swiss cheese, three pieces of toast, lettuce and tomato. Basic, yes, but boring? Never. $8.95. 4760 Washington Square; White Bear Lake; 651.429.6793.
FRENCH DIP SANDWICH
Jethro’s Char-House & Pub
The French dip ’wich is hot in both senses of the word: trendy and piping. It’s a warm sandwich with a side of beefy dipping liquid, a.k.a. “au jus.” Jethro’s Char House piles thin slices of rosy roast beef on a crusty roll to dunk in a beef-broth-based French onion soup. Go ahead and add melted Swiss and onions for an extra buck—they underscore the earthy nature of this specialty. Of course, it’s a thoroughly American specialty; try looking for a “French dip” in France and you’ll only find blank looks. $9.95. 3140 Century Ave. N., Mahtomedi; 651.770.2443.
Eat! @ Banning & Fifth
“Not just another sandwich shop,” boasts Eat! We agree: It’s several cuts above the usual slap-and-squash lunch counter. The sandwiches here ooze with artistry and generosity; Eat!’s version of the classic BLT is as satisfying as we’ve tasted. Toasted multi-grain bread makes a sturdy scaffolding for ambitious layering: lots of pecan-smoked bacon, a fat schmear of mayo and just the right amount of lettuce and sliced tomato. Eat! is a great place to venture beyond the classics of the sandwich scene, too: Try the one-of-a-kind Zany Mullaney,” which pits turkey against red peppers, cucumber and sprouts, topped with honey mustard and yogurt dressing, on dark pumpernickel bread. BLT, $7; Zany Mullaney, $6. 2202 Fifth St., White Bear Lake; 651.653.1225.
BEER-BATTERED WALLEYE SANDWICH
Rudy’s Redeye Grill
No Minnesotan sandwich list is complete without a walleye entry; Rudy’s version was a shoo-in, as the restaurant is widely adored for its excellent pan-fried walleye. Their beer-battered walleye sandwich is all it’s cracked up to be (i.e., delish). It’s lightly dredged in a beer-based batter and fried until just crispy. The interior is steaming hot and firm-fleshed, with a kiss of fresh water sweetness. A yellow-hued egg bun makes a nice ride for the generous filet; the restaurant keeps it simple with lettuce, tomato and tartar sauce on the side. It’s dim and clubby here—you’ll feel coolly clandestine munching on this killer ’wich. $14. 4940 Highway 61 N., White Bear Lake; 651.653.6718.
PULLED PORK OPEN-FACED SANDWICH
Sandwiches are typically thought of as lunch fare, but they’re a worthy dinner option, too, especially at Ingredients Café. The eatery lives by Julia Child’s salvo: “You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces—just good food from fresh ingredients.” And that’s what you get out of the pulled pork sandwich: well-prepared, high quality material. The pork is dry-rubbed with spice and barbecued low and slow till it’s falling apart. Tangy buttermilk slaw is an ideal side. $12.95. 4725 Highway 61, White Bear Lake; 651.426.6611.
It's a sub, it's a grinder, it's a hoagie, it's a ... hero! A hero sandwich, that is. Olive Joe's touts its New York style with menu items like the Italian combo hero, which is dense with peppered capricola, a cured, aged beef that is practically an object or worship on The Sopranos. The Hitman attacked us by virtue of its name. It's a carnivorous celebration with layers of capicola, prosciutto (cured ham), salami and pungent slices of probolone cheese. Save for a few kicky cherry peppers, the Hitman is unhindered by meddlesome ceggies and simply dressed with deli mustard, olive oil an vinegar. Olive Joe's caters too: These meaty bombers would be perfect at a tailgate party. $8.95. 106 Wildwood Road, Willernie; 651.426.3668.
CHICKEN SALAD WITH CASHEWS
This cozy and endearing spot serves a slew of faithful regulars solid fare with a heavy emphasis on all-things-local: its motto is to “Cook local, eat local, be local.” At the Cottage, the menu changes a lot, but you can count on the signature creamy chicken salad well-stocked with crunchy cashews (or without, if you can’t do nuts). Comfortingly familiar; excitingly updated. $7. 88 Mahtomedi Ave., Willernie; 651.407.0942.