A few weeks ago, The Houston Press published a review of Manenas, an Argentine deli/bakery on the west side of Houston. Included in this review was a bold statement – that the milanesa sandwich was “easily the best sandwich in Houston”
Those are strong words, especially to a sandwich lover like me. I had a number of conversations with friends and family about this, and to be honest, I doubted the conclusion. In doing so, I started building my own personal list of the best sandwiches in Houston – while I can’t come down to just one, I did come up with a bit of criteria:
- Hamburgers don’t count – that’s a special category all its own
- The best sandwich had to be something I was willing (and in most cases, have) driven long distances just to eat – where the primary purpose of the trip was specifically to eat the sandwich. This narrowed the list significantly.
- Price, style, nothing really counts – some of these sandwiches are simple and basic (and cheap) some are complex and expensive. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks, and those need to be documented.
So, without further ado – the list:
Original Antone’s Super Original Note – this has to come from the Original Antone’s, of which there is only one remaining: on Holcombe in West University.
This sandwich has the perfect balance of really nice italian deli meats and sharp provolone cheese. There’s real chow chow on it, unlike at the chain Antones restaurants. Lastly, the bread. It’s crusty and really tasty, but soft enough to keep from cutting your mouth up. One of these with a bag of Cheetos, a Dr. Pepper in a can and some grape leaves is just heaven, and one of the best lunches I can think of.
Rueben with extra Russian dressing – Kahn’s Deli
Some say this isn’t a sandwich as much as a couple slices of toast with a pound of pastrami corned beef. Not everyone is a big fan – however, ordering this on a Saturday afternoon – just a bit late, so you’re really hungry – with the extra russian dressing for dipping along with some Guldens mustard really is awesome. The pastrami corned beef is heated just enough, the kraut is not too sour, and eating the second half as leftovers the next morning is really one of the best parts of this sandwich. Definitely worth a special trip to the Village.
Club Sandwich, Market Square Bar and Grill
I don’t know what it is about this place – who am I kidding, of course I do. It’s the great beer selection and the amazing horseradish mayo served with everything your order here. There’s not a whole lot that the magic flat top at Market Square can do wrong, but the club sandwich is one thing that never touches it – but tastes really great. A good club sandwich mixes all the great taste of a BLT (mayonnaise-y, bacon-y goodness) with a great ham and cheese and heavily buttereed toast – all some of my favorite flavors. This, folks, is a good club sandwich. Add a nice dollop of the aforementioned horseradish mayo and you’re approaching perfection. A regular stop for me almost any day of the week (save for Sunday, they’re closed).
Roast Beef Po-boy, BB’s
A recent addition to my list – this thing is amazing. The roast beef on the sandwich is cooked to that perfect place where it can still be sliced but is also falling apart. This way each bite has great bits of fat, meat and juice that makes good roast beef grand. The extra fluffy buns soak up a fantastic melange of mayo, gravy and meat juices that I think should be jarred and sold as a condiment. The sandwich itself is imposing – served on what appears to be a 12 inch roll. When you’re finished you are aware you have eaten something large – but you don’t regret a single bite. Dipping this into the ‘pepper cream’ sauce that comes with the ‘Pollo bullets’ improves something that on its own is nearly perfect. This sandwich is worthy of being a king.
Honorable mention – mixing this po-boy with the sriracha mayo from Little Bigs across the street is another genius idea I plan on trying soon.
Softshell crab sandwich, Texas Crab Festival
I struggled with including this one, because it’s not really available but one weekend a year – but this is the definition of a ‘special trip’ sandwich. For the first few years I went to the crab festival on Bolivar I went seeking one thing – softshell crab sandwich. This one is basically a softshell crab deep fried (whole), but on a sesame seed hamburger bun, smeared in mayo and tartar sauce and served. It’s esoteric to eat this standing in the sun on the peninsula, and is something I look forward to every May.
Cheesesteak Hoagie, Rockys Subs
I’ll never forget walking into Rocky’s Subs on Greens Rd and I-45 for the first time – I had been working on this side of town for about a month, and was exploring the local delis and sandwich shops around my office. I walked through this door in a storefront, nestled between a ratty Kroger and a check cashing place, and found a little hole in the wall decorated in Philly memorabilia and serving that Philadelphia classic, the cheesesteak. Now, this cheesesteak isn’t especially authentic – no cheez whiz, former owner had sold out to an Asian family – but this family took his recipes to heart and faithfully got all their ingredients from the same suppliers. Each sandwich, served on a really tasty po-boy roll, is stuffed with more chopped sirloin than you would expect for the price and smothered in tasty white cheese. Topped off with sliced-just-right onions, it’s really a great sandwich. Adding in the fun of introducing people to Greenspoint vis-a-vis this random little spot for a surprisingly good cheesesteak, and you have one the great sandwiches in Houston.
Torta de Pastor, Taqueria Huetamo
Another Greenspoint find, this is easily one of the best places for pork cooked in the ‘pastor’ style in town. That and getting a giant torta made with it for less than $3 is simply amazing. Dipping this sandwich in the mouth puckeringly hot green sauce that comes gratis with each order is another memory for me of working on the north side of Houston.
Small po-boy, Colonial House of Sandwiches (Baytown)
Part of the allure of this place is, without a doubt, the name. It just sounds like some kind of southern small town hangout, and I’m sure it may well have been back in the day. Now, it has 2 locations in Baytown and is absolutely packed for lunch. The sandwiches are generally meh – cheap meat, American cheese,, plastic bread – but the po-boy is a little different. It’s just a darn good sandwich, made with decent ingredients and done carefully. It’s also cheap – less than $3.
- Softshell crab po-boy, Jazzie’s Cafe
- Oyster po-boy, Calliope
- Muffaleta, Mandola’s Italian Deli
- Steakburger, Steak and Shake