There’s no food quite like a sandwich is there? I could wax rhapsodic now, extoll the virtues of this inherently humble food, but that would go against everything that makes a sandwich so perfect. What’s great about sandwiches is that they can be as simple as you want them to be, but they can also be elevated to such a degree that they’d belong on the menu of the finest of restaurants. Plus, they’re unfailingly satisfying. And so, in celebration of the sandwich, we’ve chosen twenty of Brooklyn’s finest examples, each from a different neighborhood, and from a variety of cuisines. We can’t recommend highly enough that you try them all. It’s a tough mission to set for yourself, but we believe in you. Enjoy. And try not to drool on your keyboard.
All photos by Austin McAllister
Bushwick: Northeast Kingdom’s Kung Pao Chicken Sandwich
Before trying the Northeast Kingdom chicken sandwich, I would’ve thought it was impossible to improve upon something so simple and so good. I mean, what’s better than a classic chicken sandwich? Oh, I don’t know, maybe a chicken sandwich smothered in spicy, nutty Kung Pao sauce that’ll make your tongue tingle and your nose burn and will leave you feeling like you just can’t get enough of this savory sandwich served on a soft, sweet brioche roll that offers the perfect contrast to the crunchy, spicy chicken. Do yourself a favor and eat up accompanied by one of the many beers Northeast Kingdom has on tap. This is definitely one of our favorite lunches in Brooklyn.
18 Wyckoff Avenue, Bushwick north-eastkingdom.com
Bed-Stuy: Scratchbread, Hot Meatball Sandwich
Is the meatball sub the perfect sandwich? I don’t know, it just might be! What doesn’t it have…toasted bread, sharp and pungent cheese, and little orbs of meat. Orbs! Meat! Met orbs! This version is maybe the Platonic ideal of the meatball sub because it benefits from having as its foundation a delicious Scratchbread hoagie roll, which is then stuffed full of juicy chicken meatballs, which are in turn smothered in fontina cheese, spicy tomato sauce, garlicky greens, and perfectly crunchy breadcrumb salsa. In other words, this sandwich has it all.
1069 Bedford Avenue, Bedford Stuyvesant scratchbread.com
Fort Greene: Cafe Habana’s Guacamole con Queso Sandwich
Part of what makes a good sandwich is contrast, especially in textures. No one wants to eat a mushy sandwich; there needs to be a crispy and a creamy component for it to work. Enter Cafe Habana’s Guacamole con Queso sandwich. While Cafe Habana is rightly renowned for its Cubano sandwich, we’re partial to this vegetarian version which matches creamy avocado with mild queso fresco, fresh lettuce and tomato and zingy chipotle mayonnaise. Now all of these ingredients are already pretty great, but this sandwich is really all about the bread. Crispy and buttery, the bread is the real star here, complementing all the soft, mild textures and giving this sandwich a well-deserved spot in this best of Brooklyn list.
757 Fulton Street, Fort Greene cafehabana.com
Clinton Hill: Maggie Brown’s Fried Fish Club
Club sandwiches are an American institution. But American institutions can almost always be improved upon (what’s up, second amendment). And so with that in mind, we chose Maggie Brown’s fried fish club sandwich, which replaces the classic meat of choice (watery turkey breast) with a crisp, fried filet of fish, and then adds all the usual suspects—tomato, lettuce, red onion, mayo, and avocado, for a sandwich that really hits the spot. Plus, it comes with Maggie Brown’s perfect french fries, because you can’t order salad as a side when you’re getting a sandwich. I mean, who does that? No one we know. Get the fries. Eat the sandwich. Feel a little bit like you’re in heaven.
455 Myrtle Avenue, Clinton Hill maggiebrownrestaurant.com
Prospect Heights: Lincoln Station’s Porchetta Sandwich
The thing about a sandwich is that it’s all about having the finest ingredients. You can’t hide bad quality in sandwiches, it’ll be almost immediately apparent. Which is why Lincoln Station sandwiches shine. Only the finest ingredients are used, and each sandwich is prepared in an impeccably balanced way, but perhaps none more so than the porchetta sandwich. Presented on perfectly chewy ciabatta bread, the succulent porchetta is complemented with intensely flavorful caramelized onions, peppery arugula and horseradish, mayo, and mustard, making for a delicious sandwich that’s good to the last bite.
409 Lincoln Place, Prospect Heights stationfoods.com
Crown Heights: Royal Bakery and Roti House’s Doubles
Not every sandwich consists of meat and vegetables in between sliced bread (not that there’s anything wrong with that model), and a West Indian doubles is the perfect antidote to sandwich fatigue. The doubles is made up of quickbread (which gets its yellow tinge from turmeric) and a chickpea stew laced with chutney. It’s spicy and savory and really ought to be spiked with a good Scotch bonnet hot sauce before being
eaten inhaled. There are many Trinidad and Tobagan spots in Crown Heights that offer doubles, but the one at Royal Bakery and Roti House is our favorite because of the springy, spongy bread, which soaks up every last bit of saucy goodness from the chickpeas.
618 Nostrand Avenue, Crown Heights
Ditmas Park: Mimi’s Hummus’s Iraqi Sandwich
We’ve loved Mimi’s Hummus for years, having happened upon it almost by accident right after it first opened, and becoming devoted diners immediately. And while just a plate of hummus (fava bean is our fave) and some warm pita is a perfectly decent snack, lunch calls for something heartier, something like this sandwich. The Iraqi sandwich melds a layer of hummus, oily, melt-in-your-mouth eggplant, slices of mild potato, perfectly boiled eggs, and a sprinkling of cilantro for the ultimate Mediterranean treat. Accompanied by some of the best pickles you’ll ever have, this is elevated Middle Eastern street at its finest.
1209 Cortelyou Road, Ditmas Park mimishummus.com
Sheepshead Bay: Roll n’ Roaster’s Roaster Beef
Another sandwich which proves the maxim that less is more, the Roaster Beef from the Sheepshead Bay institution Roll n’ Roaster is a borough classic, having fed generations of hungry Brooklynites since 1970. There’s other things to get at Roll n’ Roaster, but who cares? The classic roaster beef sandwich—thinly shaved slices of rare, medium, or well-done roast beef (get the rare, duh) on a perfectly squishy kaiser roll—is what fast food is supposed to be: filling, messy, and indulgently delicious. Just don’t embarrass yourself by getting the turkey. You’ll get some raised eyebrows for sure.
Emmons and Nostrand Avenues, Sheepshead Bay rollnroaster.com
Bay Ridge: Karam’s Chicken Shawarma Sandwich
This is not some run-of-the-mill chicken shawarma that you’ve drunkenly consumed from whatever food truck happened to be around when you got the brilliant idea to try and soak up the alcohol sloshing around in your stomach. No, this is so, so much more than that. I don’t know exactly what Karam does to get the chicken so juicy and flavorful, but it’s rare to have shawarma this tender and perfectly spiced. Beyond just the chicken though, is the pungent lemon-garlic sauce that you’ll find yourself craving whenever you’re not eating it, and the crisp pickled vegetables that add texture and brightness to this intense sandwich.
8519 4th Avenue, Bay Ridge karam-brooklyn.com
Sunset Park: Ba Xuyên’s #1 Banh Mi
We can barely remember our sandwich lives before we were introduced to the banh mi. This sandwich has it all: several contrasting types of fatty, juicy meats, crunchy, vinegary pickled vegetables, creamy mayo, spicy hot sauce, and the bright green flavors of cilantro and jalapeño slices. The classic #1 sandwich from Ba Xuyên is the best we’ve ever had, using just the right amount of each ingredient, all stuffed inside an alternately crunchy and chewy baguette. Perfect.
4222 8th Avenue, Sunset Park
Windsor Terrace: Brooklyn Commune’s BLT
Maybe, for purists, the BLT is the kind of sandwich that can’t—or shouldn’t—be improved upon, but we’re anything but catholic in our tastes, and we love what Brooklyn Commune has done with the BLT. The main ingredients are all exactly what you’d want: thick-cut, perfectly crisp bacon (and plenty of it), fresh lettuce, and ripe, juicy tomatoes. But what Brooklyn Commune added is a slick of smashed avocado on one piece of the bread and savory tomato jam on the other, lending just the right amount of creaminess, plus an extra hit of umami, making this simple sandwich so much more than the sum of its admittedly already excellent parts.
601 Greenwood Avenue, Windsor Terrace brooklyncommune.com
Park Slope: Meltkraft’s Melter Skelter
So there’s lots of places to get grilled cheese in this city, and even in this neighborhood. So why’d we pick a brand new place to represent the best of Park Slope? Well, maybe because this is one of the best, most interesting grilled cheeses we’ve ever had. Meltkraft (opened by the people behind Valley Shepherd Creamery) uses local ingredients and farm-fresh cheeses to make its innovative sandwiches. This one features Valley Shepherd’s “Melter Skelter” cheese (similar to a 3-month old Raclette), pickled green tomatoes and jalapeños for an acidic, spicy kick, watercress for a fresh, peppery flavor, and BBQ potato chips because, DELICIOUS. Added bonus? You can get this grilled cheese fried in duck fat.
442 9th Street, Park Slope valleyshepherd.com
Gowanus: Littleneck’s Full Bell Ipswich Clam Roll
So this sandwich right here? Is the ocean in a buttered hot dog bun. Keep your lobster rolls (or, actually, give us your lobster rolls too, but, well, you know) it’s Littleneck’s clam roll that is our go-to sandwich in Gowanus. This sandwich is positively overflowing with briny, juicy, crispy fried clams, decadent tartar sauce, and shredded lettuce. It’s rich and satisfying and makes us think of the beach even though the closest body of water is the crème-de-menthe colored canal. Pause between bites of your clam roll for tastes of the pungent pickles (which, we’ve actually had friends take video of our mouth-puckering reactions to these suckers) and pretend it’s summer even as we head into the fall.
288 3rd Avenue, Gowanus littleneckbrooklyn.com
Red Hook: Defonte’s Fried Eggplant, Fresh Mozzarella, and Hot Peppers on a Hero
This is Brooklyn. And now we’ve come to Red Hook. How could we not recognize one of the iconic Italian sandwich spots that put Brooklyn on the map for those in the culinary know way before Brooklyn became “Brooklyn.” Anyway! It doesn’t get much better than Defonte’s, and while it was hard to choose just one sandwich (the potato and egg is also incredible), we like this best because the eggplant is beautifully friend and breaded without being greasy or leaden, and the mozzarella is creamy and fresh, and it’s all perked up with those vinegary hot peppers whose juice soaks into the hero bread. Yum.
379 Columbia Street, Red Hook
Carroll Gardens: HBH Gourmet Sandwiches’ Sour Squash Ruben with Pastrami
How do you feel about spaghetti squash? We love it and feel like it’s a criminally under-appreciated vegetable, always losing the spotlight to butternut or acorn squash. But it’s used to perfect affect here at HBH, and transformed into an unorthodox, tangy sour kraut that graces an otherwise classic Ruben. The pastrami melts in your mouth, any of the homemade Russian dressing that lands on your fingers will immediately (maybe discretely, but who cares) get licked right off because it’s just that good, and the marble-rye is just sturdy enough to handle this gut-buster of a sandwich. Finally, the spaghetti squash gets its due.
407 Smith Street, Carroll Gardens hbhnyc.com
Cobble Hill: Van Horn’s Fried Chicken Sandwich
Ok, so this is the second fried chicken sandwich on our list, but really, this sandwich is just that good (and also a totally different beast than the Kung Pao Chicken sandwich from Northeast Kingdom). The sesame seed bun is made especially for Van Horn by legendary Brooklyn bakery Caputo’s, and the unbelievably juicy and tender chicken breast comes from legendary Brooklyn butcher Paisano’s. The chicken itself is drenched in tangy buttermilk and achieves the perfect crust, the kind that doesn’t just break, it shatters under the pressure from your teeth in the best possible way. Topped with red cabbage slaw for a different kind of crunch, this is Southern food the Brooklyn way—super satisfying.
231 Court Street, Cobble Hill vanhornbrooklyn.com
Brooklyn Heights: Iris Cafe’s Meatloaf Sandwich
Some sandwiches are fancy. Some use exotic ingredients. And some are made with good, simple ingredients that all come together perfectly to make a sandwich that tastes like the best thing that your mother ever put together for you on a day you were home sick from school. This meatloaf creation is the latter. It features Iris Cafe’s house made meatloaf (so savory and so perfect at room-temperature) with melted cheddar cheese, a potent dijon mayo and slices of tomato and red onion, all on toasted whole grain bread. It’s the kind of thing we wish we always had the ingredients for so that we could make our own version, but it still wouldn’t measure up to this sandwich.
20 Columbia Place, Brooklyn Heights iriscafenyc.com
DUMBO: No. 7 Sub’s Broccoli Classic
So, yes. A broccoli sandwich. Broccoli only seems like an odd choice for a sandwich filler until you try this sub, because then? Then, you’ll be hooked. The broccoli in this sandwich is roasted until it’s perfectly al dente, but with some caramelized bits in the florets. Add to that the salty ricotta salata, crunchy peanuts, creamy mayo, and sweet/sour lychee muchim and you’ve got sensory overload, but in the best possible way. Plus, you’ve got the added bonus of feeling healthy because, broccoli!
11 Water Street, DUMBO no7sub.com
Williamsburg: Saltie’s Scuttlebutt
This sandwich is a vegetarian’s delight, yes, but it’s also just perfect for anyone with taste buds. All the fixings are piled on pillowy focaccia, which isn’t always my sandwich bread of choice, but is absolutely a genius move here. And what exactly are those fillings? So glad you asked! We’re talking a ridiculously addictive pimentón aioli, hard-boiled egg, pickled vegetables (like green beans and peppers), loads of fresh parsley,briny capers and black olives, and funky feta cheese.This sandwich is a monster. A delicious, delicious monster. Eat the monster. Do it.
378 Metropolitan Avenue, Williamsburg saltienyc.com
Greenpoint: Five Leaves’ Vietnamese Spiced Lamb Sandwich
This sandwich makes us want to cry, and not because we cry easily, but because it is so completely what we want and need in our food. Served on a warm, soft roll, this sandwich features two kinds of vibrantly spiced lamb (rillettes and shredded, roasted leg of lamb), pickled vegetables, and shishito peppers (which, they’re the best kind of peppers…eat them whenever you get the chance). As rich and sort of beautifully gamy as the lamb is, the herbs and pickles give it a brighter flavor profile than a lamb sandwich usually has. Eat this sandwich. Eat them all. Enjoy.
18 Bedford Avenue, Greenpoint fiveleavesny.com
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