It’s hard to beat the sandwich.
It’s shareable, filling, and usually less than $10 bucks. And Philly has always been a tough sandwich town to beat, with our hoagies and roast porks. But it’s more than just business-as-usual between two slices of bread these days: We’re having something of an international sandwich moment. Here are fifteen of the best sandwiches in Philadelphia, from a bangin’ Bolognese to a classic banh mi. And yes, there’s even a better cheesesteak, although this one isn’t like any you’ve tasted before.
Cheap Eats: A Sandwich Spectacular
FALAFEL SANDWICH, BITAR'S
Bread: Allentown's Soumaya and Sons Bakery pita.
Innards: Falafel, lettuce, tomato, parsley and pickled turnips, topped with tahini sauce.
Sandwich secret: The falafel stays moist and fluffy thanks to a two-part cooking process: First it's pan-seared to seal in moisture, then it's charcoal-grilled to order.
Bitar's, 947 Federal Street, 215-755-1121
ZEP, LOUS SANDWICH SHOP
Bread: Conshohocken Italian Bakery's soft roll.
Innards: Hatfield salami, provolone, white onions, tomatoes, oregano, oil. Hot-pepper "hoagie spread" optional but recommended.
Sandwich secret: Not too much meat or cheese.
Lou's Sandwich Shop, 414 East Main Street, Norristown, 610-279-5415
PULLED PORK ITALIANO, DINICS
Bread: DiGiampietro's Bakery.
Innards: Shredded "Italian-style" pork (sharp provolone optional and recommended).
Sandwich secret: The pork is seasoned overnight, roasted at a high temp, then braised for a garlicky finish. The long cooking process means it's only available after 11 a.m. – and often sells out way before closing, so don't show up late.
Reading Terminal Market, 51 North 12th Street, 215-923-6175
LA CAPRICIOSA, PASTO
Bread: House-made ciabatta.
Innards: Sliced potatoes, garlic-roasted broccoli rabe, marinated sweet peppers and fried eggplant.
Sandwich secret: Potatoes AND bread? Twice the carbs means twice the flavor! Vegetarians needn't get the short end of the sandwich stick when there are options like this around.
Pasto, 1319 Market Street, 215-751-0777
BOLOGNESE SANDWICH, PAESANO'S SOUTH PHILLY
Bread: Liscio's kaiser roll.
Innards: Lasagna, smoked mozzarella sauce, sharp prov, pecorino, tomato sauce.
Sandwich secret: The homemade lasagna is battered and fried– fried! – then topped with all of the above. And an egg, if you're really brave.
Paesano's South Philly, 901 Christian Street, 215-922-2220
ROAST BEEF SANDWICH, OLD ORIGINAL NICK'S ROAST BEEF
Bread: Amoroso's kaiser roll.
Innards: Tender and flavorful roast beef from the flat and round parts of the steer.
Sandwich secret: Order an "overpoured combo with outs," which means extra gravy, cheese, and the crispies – crunchy burnt bits on the outside of the roast.
Nick's Roast Beef, 2149 South 20th Street, 215-463-4114
HOUSE SPECIAL, Q.T. VIETNAMESE
Bread: Baguette from an unnamed New Jersey locale.
Innards: Chicken, barbecued pork, compressed pig ears, páté mayonnaise, and cucumber-cilantro-carrot-jalapeño garnish.
Sandwich secret: There are plenty of banh mi in town, but Q.T.'s has an extra something (the mystery bread? The compressed pig ears?) that makes it special.
Q.T. Vietnamese, 48 North 10th Street, 267-639-4520
LAMB SANDWICH, ARGAN MOROCCAN CUISINE
Bread: House-made Moroccan semolina flatbread.
Innards: Lamb topped with your choice of onions, marinated carrots, roasted zucchini, tomato and cucumber.
Sandwich secret: The slow-cooked lamb! It's so tender, it nearly falls apart. Best to keep it in place by adding the optional white bean sauce, tzatziki or hummus, or the wonderful baba ganoush.
Argan Moroccan Cuisine, 132 South 17th Street, 215-568-8354
FRIED TOMATO SPECIAL, CHICKIE'S ITALIAN DELI
Bread: Sarcone's roll.
Innards: Breaded pan-fried tomatoes, roasted peppers, bacon, turkey, lettuce, sharp provolone and mayonnaise.
Sandwich secret: The shredded cheese and shredded lettuce are key. But this BLT twist owes its bona fides to the ultra-crisp fried tomatoes.
Chickie's Italian Deli, 1014 Federal Street, 215-462-8040
MEATBALL SANDWICH, STOGIE JOE'S TAVERN
Bread: Liscio's kaiser roll.
Innards: Meatballs with optional provolone and parmigiano.
Sandwich secret: The delicious, hefty meatballs (beef, pork and veal) are chef Kristian Leuzzi's grandmom's recipe. Enough said.
Stogie Joe's Tavern, 1801 East Passyunk Avenue, 215-463-3030
EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA, SHANK'S Original
Bread: Seeded Liscio's Italian roll.
Innards: Eggplant, mild provolone, tomato sauce.
Sandwich secret: Breaded eggplant slices are pan-fried in a specially seasoned olive oil, then finished off on the grill for a light, greaseless texture; the homemade tomato sauce elevates this winner.
Shank's Original, 901 S Christopher Columbus Blvd, 215- 218-4000
CROQUE MADAME, PARC
Bread: Buttered, toasted brioche.
Innards: Grilled Black Forest ham, Mornay sauce and a fried egg, open-faced.
Sandwich secret: The perfect brioche is made in-house.
Parc, 227 South 18th Street, 215-545-2262
TOFU HOAGIE, FU WAH
Bread: D'Ambrosio steak roll.
Innards: A combination of lightly fried tofu, jalapeños, cilantro, pickled daikon and carrots, plus Sriracha.
Sandwich secret: Ask for extra Sriracha, and be prepared to wait. These are hugely popular in vegan West Philly.
Fu Wah, 810 South 47th Street, 215-729-2993
FIRE STEAK, JAKE'S SANDWICH BOARD
Bread: Carangi bakery roll.
Innards: Sliced rib-eye steak, onions and mushrooms sautéed in house hot sauce, provolone cheese, and panko-encrusted long hot peppers.
Sandwich secret: Steaks are infused with homemade beef broth during cooking, lending a depth of flavor you don't usually find in a cheesesteak.
Jake's Sandwich Board, 122 South 12th Street, 215-922-0102
THE ITALIAN, GARCES TRADING COMPANY
Bread: Hudson Bread foccacia.
Innards: Bresaola, hot coppa, melted taleggio cheese, arugula, lemon confit, lemon juice and oil.
Sandwich secret: The acidity from the lemon confit cuts through the heavy meats and cheeses and adds a fresh, lively flavor.
Garces Trading Company, 1111 Locust Street, 215-574-1099