Carbo load. Carbs give you strength. You need to be strong if you’re going to fight. Sandwiches are good fight fuel.
This is not a comprehensive list of the 17 best sandwiches in D.C. This is a list of what we’re eating and enjoying right now. Some establishments have been around for decades, some sandwiches are only available until the end of the season.
A. Litteri is old-school, a gorgeous Italian market near Union Market, packed to the brim with every manner of pasta, vinegar and oil, and sauces tucked in the back is one of DC’s best delis. Skip the hemming and hawing over the various cold cuts on display – you’re here for one thing and one thing only, the Classic Italian Sub with capicola, genoa salami, mortadella, prosciutto, provolone, lettuce, tomato, onion, hot peppers, and Italian dressing. A 6-inch soft roll is the perfect vehicle, but no one’s giving you a hard time if you go all out and get a footlong. These sandwiches are worth savoring for more than one meal. -Logan Hollers
In the decade I’ve been living in D.C., I’ve never found a bagel breakfast sandwich better than one you actually have to leave the city to get. The Bagel Place in College Park is right off of the UMD campus, so you may have to dodge a Terp or two, but it’s worth it: the bagels are among the best in the area and make the perfect breakfast sandwich foundation. If you’re smart enough to build properly on that foundation, you’ll order an everything bagel with sausage, egg, and pepper jack. Any great sandwich is all about balance. Here, your egg is scrambled, so it serves mostly as a base for texture. The key is that the sausage, the pepper jack, and the everything bagel are the perfectly matched flavor trio. American or Swiss cheese would get lost in the mix. A jalapeño bagel would overpower the whole sandwich. If you’re going to go to the trouble of searching out a great bagel, you might as well get the sandwich right. -Trisha Brown
The Big Board is H Street’s Cheers: there’s sports on tv, cheap beers, a barful of regulars, and everybody knows your name. They’re known for their outstanding burgers, but the real play is ponying up to the Jalisco Frito, a sandwich combining breaded, buttermilk-brined chicken breast, a sweet and spicy habanero barbecue sauce, pepper jack cheese, two strips of thick-cut bacon, lettuce, and tomato. Also worth mentioning: the thing’s the size of a hubcap. You know you’re getting your money’s worth when you’ve taken six bites and have yet to get to the bun. -Logan Hollers
Having been to Cuba recently I have all things Cuban on the brain. When Colada Shop opened I knew I had to check it out right away; we have few Cuban options in the city and this one seemed promising. And it did not disappoint! While I expected great Cuban food what I did not expect was finding one of my favorite sandwiches in the city. The Veggie Cuban is a modern twist on traditional Cuban sandwiches; it comes on doughy Cuban bread that is crispy from toasting, and has bright, bold flavors from cilantro aioli, mojo marinated mushrooms, and mustard. Melted swiss cheese adds a gooey element and the meaty cauliflower give the sandwich texture and heartiness. Go to Colada Shop for the Cuban food and stay for this stellar sandwich. -Priya Konings
Not all breakfast sandwiches are made the same, and no one makes them quite like the Dacha Cafe. Always quiet and never busy, it’s the best place to stop by if you have a hangover that can only be vanquished with carbs. All of their bagels are from Bullfrog (which seals the deal for me) and the sausage they use is magic. It’s the right combination of greasy and spicy and full of meaty flavor. The eggs are solid. The cheese is melted to perfection. It’s everything I want in a breakfast sandwich. -Kaylee Dugan
It’s the Diner’s take on a French classic; the croque madame. Two eggs, over easy, topped with bacon and bechamel, in between two slices of sourdough, topped with gruyère, served with fried potatoes. It’s huge, full of cholesterol, salt, fat, butter, and everything you need to properly kill a hangover. It’s best eaten in the morning sun, with friends, as you discuss the exploits of the previous night. -Jonny Grave
One of the best fish sandwiches I’ve ever had, the District Fishwife does not mess around. Their invasive fish sandwich features flaky, melt in your mouth, fried catfish, lettuce, tomato, and mayo all on a cheese and jalapeño bun from Lyon Bakery. It’s a messy sandwich, but the simplicity of the toppings and the quality / super fresh ingredients don’t make it feel like it’s going to give you a heart attack the way some fried sandwiches do. Also, the fries are a dreamy mix between a steak fry and a curly fry. I love them. I could eat these things for the rest of my life. -Kaylee Dugan
This hearty sandwich is as tasty as it is healthy! Loads of greens are smothered in melted cashew cheese and super garlicky tomato sauce and then served on a baguette. It’s so good I’m drooling just thinking about it. -Priya Konings
D.C.’s best new BBQ joint sells out every night. Once the meat is gone, the place is closed. Last Saturday night, no more meat remained at 7:30 p.m. They’re supposed to close at 10 p.m. It’s the best problem a restaurant can encounter. The demand is greater than the supply at Federalist Pig. Three months into a hopefully long run, order whatever you can. -Brandon Wetherbee
Just because it’s vegan, doesn’t mean it has to be boring. I’m not sure if that’s HipCityVeg’s mission statement but I should be. HipCityVeg in Chinatown is a fast casual plant based restaurant from Philly. Being from Philly, of course there’s a Philly Steak Sandwich. You get pulled “steak”, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms and organic ketchup in a wheat roll. It has everything you want in a Philly Steak with a little less guilt. -Allison Lane
The BYT office just relocated which meant finding a new lunch spot. I’m trying to eat better. It’s difficult, and overwhelming. Enter MODERN market. In their words it’s “where paleo, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and ‘non dieting’ friends can all enjoy a great meal, together,” or if you’re me you can enjoy a great meal while reading a book on your lunch break completely and utterly alone (perfect!). My go-to sandwich in any better eating scenario is a caprese sandwich. The Arugula Mozz is like a more fuckable caprese sandwich with fresh mozzarella, basil aioli, balsamic vinaigrette (SOME PLACES SKIP THIS, DON’T), arugula, and tomato on a toasted Izzio’s ciabatta. The bread is warm and crunchy, the balsamic vinaigrette isn’t too tart and you get a generous helping of mozzarella which let’s face it, is why I’m here. Plus, they include the caloric breakdown of every meal on your receipt AND you get a coupon every day. The other day I got $5 off THAT’S LIKE A WHOLE OTHER MEAL. I also overheard the manager talking about how they prepare their food and it’s alarmingly fresh. I’m never eating anywhere else again. Period. – Jenn Tisdale
NuVegan is a gem. Vegan Soul Food at it’s absolute best. Kanye West has said the food is a “work of art.” You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu but the chick’n options, the Fried Chick’n Sandwich in particular, is just delightful. Crispy, “meaty”, juicy chick’n patty paired with all the sammy fixings topped with their special sauce makes for a big messy sandwich that’s really fun to eat. Good enough for Yeezy. Good enough for meezy. It’s not cheesy. This sandwich is delicious. -Allison Lane
Whenever I go to Georgetown I love going to Peacock Cafe for brunch. They have great smoothies, and some of the best sandwiches and fries in town. My favorite sandwich is the Gene Kelly, for two reason. While I love mushrooms, the real winning ingredient is the avocado which makes the sandwich feel decadent and rich. The other reason is the tomato pesto, which brings a sweet, garlicky note to the sandwich. Enjoy it with a smoothie and don’t forget the fries. -Priya Konings
We’re truly living in the Golden Age of the Apocalypse: on the one hand, each day under Trump’s administration feels like the beginning of a pick-your-own-adventure dystopian novel; on the other, DC’s culinary scene is the toast of the country. If you’re going to have cause to eat your feelings, there’s no better place to do it than our nation’s capital.
As simple as it sounds, a fried chicken sandwich is rather hard to perfect – which might explain why Chick-fil-A has slowly taken over America. Too many places struggle in nailing down just the right balance of spices, garnishes, and cook temperature of the chicken breast; you want to make sure that what you’re serving is ultimately at the perfect intersection of crunch, juiciness, and subtle, back of the mouth heat. Unsurprisingly, Chef Aaron Silverman and the rest of the team at Pineapple and Pearls nail it.
The fried chicken sandwich at Pineapple and Pearls is only available at their coffee bar, which operates from 8 a.m. to early afternoons (4 p.m. on Saturday). It’s not the biggest sandwich on this list, but it makes up for its lack of size with a wallop of flavor. The perfectly cooked honey glazed chicken breast is the ideal combination of sweetness, smokiness, and spiciness, and the accompanying pickle slices add a pleasant bite to balance things out. Served on a soft roll with some Bibb lettuce, parsley, and red onion, as well as with a slather of their secret sauce, you’ll most likely be smiling as you make a mess of eating this sandwich. Who cares? It’s delicious.
P&P is Michelin rated, so it’s not a surprise to hear they can also execute more casual fare at a high level. While we don’t really need all of these awards and accolades to tell us that there’s really good eating to be done around town, it ultimately helps draw attention (and keep the lights on) to places that are doing some pretty remarkable stuff. -Jose Lopez-Sanchez
There is a time and a place for American cheese, and it’s at breakfast and on egg sandwiches. From the Egg McMuffin to Moons Over My Hammy, American cheese is the melty foundation on which classic breakfast sandwiches are built. Go to brunch at Scarlet Oak and you can enjoy the delicious nostalgia of the standard bearers without the sticky counters or paper wrappers. The Scarlet Oak Breakfast Sandwich two fried eggs, ham, and (yes) American cheese on focaccia bread. That’s a delicious combo that fits any occasion, from meeting your significant other’s parents to nursing a hangover. -Trisha Brown
He shuddered against the wind, turning away from the ash blowing in toward the fire. “Man, it was spectacular. Thick cut pastrami, stacked high as that ridge in the distance.” The grinding noise in the background died down when people spoke, like entropy itself stalled in the face of organisms hoping to muck order from the chaos.
“You mean Dismembered Robot Corpse Ridge?”
“Yeah, that one.”
“Wow, that’s high.”
“He didn’t mean literally.”
“Yeah, well, it was still a mighty sandwich. I met a man once, he said it had too much cinnamon in the rub, but I never thought so. Gave the meat a warmth in the flavor, this piquant element that balanced against the tang of the coleslaw on top.”
“Why are we even talking about this? You know cows are extinct.”
“I don’t care. I choose to remember the good- the best of the sandwiches. I don’t care if we’re living on lichen and guinea pig meat now. Once there was a place called Stacked and Smoked, on 9th on the northwest side of the convention center in DC. Little place, real simple menu. Damn fine bread, most people don’t realize what made a sandwich was the bread, and the ratio of stuff between it. You could call saltines glued with Vegemite to either side of an orangutan an ‘orangutan sandwich,’ that wouldn’t make it a good sandwich, no sir.”
“Tell us about the bread.”
“Did you ever have milk bread? That stuff was amazing. Dense and sweet but not cloying, it felt like it had a soul, like the baker made a really good bread dough with eggs and honey and milk powder, and then took the abandoned bread-souls of thousands of loaves of store bought white bread and imbued this new bread with those lost souls. It was the sort of bread to give a purpose to its ingredients, and damn if it didn’t soak up the gravy.”
“That’s it? Just some fancy bread, a bit of meat…”
“A PILE OF PASTRAMI.”
“Okay, a pile of meat…”
“PASTRAMI, THE GRAND VIZIER OF MEAT.”
“Fine, pastrami, and some slaw?”
“Well, there’s a bit of mustard, which mixes with the juices coming off the meat. Hard to argue with a fundamental element like that. Oh, and I’d take to asking for comté cheese on top. They’d do it for breakfast with a runny egg, but for lunch you had to ask them to add comté special. Always worth it.”
“Yeah, that does sound like a damn fine sandwich.”
“It sure was.”
“Fire’s getting low.”
“Don’t worry, it’ll burn through the night; keep the scavengers away.”
“I’m more worried about the cold.”
“Nothing you can do about that now. They call it ‘nuclear winter’ for a reason. I like to think of the good times, the before times. They keep me warm. Little sandwich shops what make their own pastrami and milk bread, and the bakery across the street that made their own nutella hoho’s, like the kind you see in vending machines sometimes, but better. Buttercream, I think was the name.”
One by one they nodded off, dreams of the platonic ideal of comfort food a world within the world of the jungle fire in the middle of their camp, the periphery of which saw slow but ever present encroachment from other survivors of the dying rock… not all of whom were human, or human any more. -Jeb Gavin
There are veggie sandwiches, and there are the modest-sized gardens that Taylor Gourmet crams into its hoagies. Seriously, the regular option is enough to leave you well sated. The large will feed a family of six. As usual, I roll with Taylor’s seasonal offerings, and its winter veggie sandwich Double Dragon doesn’t disappoint. The “meat” of the sandwich is smoky, spicy chili-roasted broccoli. The heat rises with blistered shisito peppers and a salad of red pepper and red cabbage. Everything is bound together by a creamy (almost cream cheesy) blood orange spread, along with some mysterious Double Dragon sauce. Oh, and cashews and bean sprouts are in the mix for a little extra crunchy texture. Is it a little decadent? Sure. Taylor’s sometimes double downs on sauces when one will do. But, you know what, sometimes it’s fun to treat yourself. Also, that broccoli totally cancels out anything unhealthy about this sandwich. -Phil Runco
If these 17 beauties aren’t doing it for you, consult of 16 Sandwiches For 2016 feature.