The 24 Best Sandwiches In Chicago
Over the past two years we've listed our favorite burgers, hot dogs, gyros, grilled cheese sandwiches, Bloody Marys, pizzas, tacos, burritos, dumplings—pretty much everything under the sun. Except a general best sandwiches list.
Chicago is more than a meat and potatoes town; it's a meat-and-potatoes-between-two-pieces-of-bread town. From Italian beef sandwiches to bánh mì across the city, from open-faced sandwiches drowning in gravy in diners to deli classics made with house-cured meats and oven-fired bread, there's a sandwich for everyone. (We could have made a list of only Italian beef sandwiches and one day we will, guaranteed). Today, we offer our favorite sandwiches in the city. As always, this list is not absolute and we encourage dissection, debate and discussion. Please share your favorites with us in the comments and on social media.
Three Little Piggy at Silver Palm
Every best sandwich list needs a gut buster and this sandwich just may be the difference between borderline good blood pressure and a lifetime of hypertension and diabetes medication. This is a pure meat and cheese stacker with double smoked ham, bacon, a breaded pork tenderloin cutlet, two ginormous onion rings and Gruyere cheese. In case you need extra assurances your triglycerides will be elevated after eating this, it’s topped with a fried egg. If you can eat it by yourself, it’s your funeral. I recommend splitting it among at least two other people. — Chuck Sudo
Silver Palm is located at 768 N. Milwaukee Ave.
The Winchester's Trout and Chicken Sandwiches
Frankly most sandwiches bore me. I can make a perfectly fine ham and cheese at home. When I’m at a restaurant I’m not going to order one unless it’s truly intriguing. And The Winchester has two such sandwiches. The first is a smoked trout, which is creamy with mascarpone and flecked with bits of perfectly crisped trout skin. Honey and lavender taste much better in the sandwich than they sound, balancing out the savory salty fish with just a little sweet. Then there is the tender juicy smoked chicken sandwich with tangy pickles and lemon-garlic aioli. It’s just really hard to choose between the two. — Melissa McEwen
The Winchester is located at 1001 N. Winchester Ave.
Bánh Mì at Nhu Lan Bakery
A good bánh mì starts with the foundation of great bread, so it’s no surprise that Nhu Lan, where they bake their bread fresh on-site, is already a winner out of the gate. Bánh mì sandwiches are such a simple dish that without quality ingredients you’ll end up with a real dud. Thankfully Nhu Lan has perfected the art of simplicity and offers up a wide range of flavorful bánh mì to choose from. I like to stick to the classic, filled with pork pate, head cheese and ham. If I’m feeling a little bold, their special also throws on some extra pork because you can never have too much pork. Now here comes the part that is so simple but really brings the sandwich together. Your bánh mì is topped with the traditional mix of pickled daikon, carrot some fresh cucumber, fresh jalapeno and cilantro. The fat of the pork mixes with the pickled acid and sweetness of the daikon and then the heat of the jalapeno pops in. All of these delicious bites are complimented by the soft, airy bread that has just enough crunch to its crust. It’s so simple, yet so satisfying. For those who don’t eat meat, they’ve got a nice selection of options to choose from (I’ve heard great things about the ginger tofu bánh mì) and their grab and go cases are full of delicious treats as well. Another winner is the price and the fact that if you order five sandwiches, you get a free sixth one added to your order. Take a friend, order up most of the menu and enjoy. — Lisa White
Nhu Lan Bakery is located at 2612 W. Lawrence Ave.
Torta Ahogada at Xoco
Chicago is known for its messy sandwiches, but rather than another Italian beef go for the torta ahogada at Xoco instead. A torta roll is piled with pork carnitas, a smear of black beans, and pickled onions. Traditionally, a torta ahogada is bathed in a spicy tomato sauce before being served. Rick Bayless’ take on the Mexican sandwich is to serve the sandwich with its halves standing upright in a sea of red sauce. This allows the bread to remain crispier longer, and keeps your hands a little cleaner as you dip. Or you can simply spoon the sauce over the whole thing and employ your beef stance. — Benjy Lipsman
Xoco is located at 449 N. Clark St. and 1471 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Panino Di Carciofino at Oggi Trattoria
There’s no shortage of trattorias along Grand Avenue in River West. Oggi has long been a favorite of mine with a menu of hearty pasta staples, focaccia and panini. At any other place I would always lean toward something with meat. Oggi is another matter entirely. Vegetarians, especially, should order the panino di carciofino, teeming with marinated artichokes, cheeses and spices. The artichoke hearts are perfectly marinated, preserving the sweetness of the hearts while allowing just enough acidity from the vinegar to peek through. A six-inch panino will run you $6.50 but if you order the 10-inch version for a dollar more, you’ll have two meals. —Chuck Sudo
Oggi Trattoria is located at 1378 W. Grand Ave.
Seasonal Sandwiches at Gaslight Coffee Roasters
Food in coffee shops is almost uniformly depressing. Many offer pre-made sandwiches, which regale the tastebuds with the not very delicious blend of stale and soggy. There is really no excuse for it. Gaslight has a postage-stamp sized kitchen and they manage to make fresh sandwiches that vary with the season such as baked rushing waters trout, heirloom tomato, bacon, arugula, and remoulade on challah. Or a fresh-cooked over easy egg with crispy prosciutto. — Melissa McEwen
Gaslight Coffee Roasters is located at 2385 N. Milwaukee Ave.
The “Sam Levy” at Eleven City Diner
This one is for all you diner aficionados out there. Eleven City brings together the best aspects of a classic diner and a New York deli with a hip vibe and fun staff. Like any great diner, the menu is a beast to be reckoned with. With a whopping eleven pages, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. You definitely can’t go wrong with any of their sandwiches, but the “Sam Levy, ” an Eleven City Diner specialty is particularly yummy. The cajun chicken on thin slices of toasted challah is the perfect portion to get you full without being too heavy and the “comeback sauce” that comes with it goes great on sandwich and fries. A definite must-taste! — Sophie Day
Eleven City Diner is located at 1112 S. Wabash Ave. and 2301 N. Clark St.
Torta Cubana at La Oaxaqueña
This would make a satisfying pick for a last meal if you’re on Death Row, and it could prove to be your final meal even if you don’t have an execution pending. One of the restaurant’s “Super Tortas,” which they claim to be unique in Chicago, this artery-clogger is a decadent mix of meats (Mexican sausage, hot dog, ham, and breaded steak), covered in cheese and honey mustard with tasty fixin’s. Yes, it is evil. And yes, it is mouth-wateringly wonderful. — Joel Wicklund
La Oaxaqueña is located at 3382 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Fried Chicken Sliders at Analogue
What often comes to mind when one hears about a "brunch sandwich" is a stack of eggs, cheese, probably bacon, ham, or sausage, maybe some hollandaise on a bagel or an English muffin. My first time having Sunday brunch at Analogue showed me that brunch doesn't have to have eggs to make for a truly satisfying experience. One of the Logan Square restaurant's dinnertime highlights, the fried chicken sandwich, is given an even more complex flavor coupled with a solid presentation in this morning-after brunch version. Three crumbly buttermilk biscuits hold perfectly battered fried chicken breast topped with housemade bread and butter pickles and a drizzle of red sauce that has just the right amount of bite. The Andouille sausage gravy compliments the sliders, giving it an intriguing flavor profile. The buttery biscuits go perfectly with the peppery sweetness delivered in the chicken while the slightly-smoky sausage gravy adds a whole other level to an otherwise simple and straight-forward sandwich concept. Analogue's spicy Bloody Mary is a hearty, even necessary, companion to this sandwich and I would strongly suggest getting one ... or two. Brunch is served on Sundays from 11:00 a.m. till 3:00 p.m. and is a great way to feel renewed if you had a little too much fun on Saturday night. — Carrie McGath
Analogue is located at 2523 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Lox & Bagel at La Farine Bakery
Everyone loves a good burger, everyone likes a turkey sandwich (unless you’re vegetarian, I know) but what if you want that lox and bagel combo? Well, La Farine has the answer. Served on a freshly baked plain or seeded bagel (your choice), the sandwich is layered with thin, smoky slices of lox, smeared over in cream cheese, tomato, and capers to add a mild salty kick. Coming in at $6.75, it’s a little pricey, but worth the charge. Napkins are needed because it’s a messy one, but who gives a fuck about that? Fine for breakfast or lunch, this sandwich also works well in relieving hangovers. — Ben Kramer
La Farine Bakery is located at 2909 N. Milwaukee Ave.
CB&J at Hopleaf
A destination we all know and love for obvious reasons offers wonderful Belgian entrees, but this marriage of two childhood favorites sops up those brews just fine. For me, this is everything I love in life - I mean, food: Sourdough, check. Cashews, yum. Figs, absolutely! Cheese, swoon. Pan fried in more glorious fats and served with mac’n’cheese AND house potato chips? Heaven. You probably won’t finish it, but that’s what the beer is for. — Kristine Sherred
Hopleaf is located at 5148 N. Clark St.
"Yum. avocado, carne asada, marinated chipotles, oaxacan string cheese and papalo (grown by the owner in season)."- Get directly down on Flickr (Creative Commons License)
Carne Asada at Cemitas Puebla
The beauty of a perfect sandwich is in the build, that ideal layering of bread, spread and meat co-mingling and inspiring a symphony of texture and savor. Every sandwich at Cemitas Puebla is a work of art: the sesame seed-coated rolls are baked fresh daily and smeared with chipotle sauce and buttery avocado then layered with a pile of melty Oaxacan cheese and your choice of meat. You can’t make a bad choice here: everything is delicious, from pata (cow foot) to veggie. While most will favor the Atomica, featuring Carne Enchilada, Milenesa and Jamon, I choose a more simple route with the Carne Asada. The meat is crispy but so tender it nearly disintegrates into the avocado. It tastes like buttered pastrami with Mexican spices. — Erika Kubick
Cemitas Puebla is located at 3619 W. North Ave and 817 W. Fulton Market.
Fried Bologna Sandwich at Au Cheval
I’m admittedly not a fan of Au Cheval’s burger and why should I be when Brendan Sodikoff’s take on a latchkey kid staple makes my mouth water like Pavlov’s dog every time it’s placed in front of me? Thin-sliced, pepper-specked house cured mortadella is stacked high on a brioche bun and served piping hot to you here. If bologna sandwiches looked like this when I was in grade school, I would have been beat up more often. —Chuck Sudo
Au Cheval is located at 800 W. Randolph St.
The Pilgrim at Uncle Sammy’s
Your holiday leftovers may be dwindling, but true Thanksgiving enthusiasts can get their fix year round with Uncle Sammy’s “Pilgrim”. The DePaul sub shop’s specialty piles oven roasted turkey breast, raisin herb stuffing, cranberry sauce and mayo on freshly baked bread for an entirely unique sandwich experience. Uncle Sammy’s distinct approach to the turkey sub will not only fill you up, but leave you with a nice tryptophan buzz. — Robert Martin
Uncle Sammy’s is located at 1231 W. Fullerton Ave.
Tuna Sub at J.P. Graziano’s
You can’t go wrong with any sandwich from Graziano’s but my favorite is the tuna sub, which is made to order. I like to hold the mayo, add extra mustard and go light on the hot giardinera because I want the flavors from the roasted red peppers and artichokes to stand out. Celery and onion give the sandwich an added crunch while the bread from D’Amato’s Bakery makes a nice set of bookends to load the fixings inside. This is another sandwich that can serve as two meals and, at $8.25, is a steal. —Chuck Sudo
J.P. Graziano is located at 901 W. Randolph St.
Bangers and Grinders at The Aberdeen Tap
The Aberdeen Tap's ingredients aren't the most traditional when it comes to your average neighborhood bar and eatery. Then again, neither are their sandwich styles- grinders (open faced stuff sandwiches) and bangers (sausage sandwiches). The Aberdeen combines crispy pork belly with rich apple cinnamon butter, smoked alligator sausage with a bacon etouffée, duck confit with a chimichurri puree. The list goes on and we've never made a poor choice at this homey hideaway. Though we will continue to campaign for the return of the rabbit sausage sandwich until we're able to taste the brie-smothered sammie once again. — Katie Karpowicz
The Aberdeen Tap is located at 440 N. Aberdeen.
Chicken Tikka Kabob Sandwich at Salam Restaurant
A good sandwich is all about balance, ingredients working together to dish up lots of flavors and texture. Biting into a bland version of a dry or mushy sandwich is equally worse in my book. One of my favorite sandwiches that hit the mark in balance is the chicken tikka kabob at Salam Restaurant. Right off the Kedzie CTA Brown Line station, Salam’s original location is tucked into a small strip mall serving up my favorite falafel (nutty and with such subtle spice notes) and hummus (so smooth and creamy) that I’ve found in the city. Everything I’ve had there is delicious but I always find myself going back to the chicken tikka kabob sandwich. The chicken is never dry- it's always juicy with a perfect blend of spicy flavor. Wrapped in warm pita, it’s topped with crispy raw onions (all about that texture), tomatoes and your choice of sauce. Tahini adds a wonderful nuttiness, but because I’m a spice fiend I also love to add their hot sauce. It gives a nice slow burn but the tahini and pillowy pita bread cut the fire so it isn’t too overwhelming. I usually end up smearing some of my side of hummus I always order on mine as well. Once again, it isn’t pretty eating. A few bites in and my pita is usually falling apart but hey, nothing a fork at the end can’t fix. Make sure to save room for sweets after. They sell delicious baklava from their neighbors Nazareth Sweets. If Nazareth Sweets is open, make sure to stop in and grab a tray to go and if they have jalebi, the syrupy, sticky funnel cake-like treat- grab a few of those and thank me later. Salam also recently opened a second location on Fullerton near Ashland as well. — Lisa White
Salam Restaurant is located at 4636 N. Kedzie Ave and 1524 W. Fullerton Ave.
Tartines at Cellar Door Provisions
I do insist that a tartine, which is an open-faced sandwich, belongs on a list of normal sandwiches. Because the slice of fresh sourdough bread used here, which is the epitome of hearty, is easily the equal of two or even five pieces of normal bread. It’s the star of show, but the seasonal toppings complement it perfectly. Right now they are sesame butter, sesame seeds, honey and greens. Simple, delicious and beautiful. — Melissa McEwen
Cellar Door Provisions is located at 3025 W. Diversey Ave.
Daniel Tamayo at Z&H
When you’re on the lookout for unique and tasty sandwiches, there are few places that are better suited to your needs than Z&H Market Cafe in Hyde Park. This sandwich is vegetarian friendly, but will entice carnivores as well. It contains an egg, chorizo-style seitan, tomato, and cranberry chipotle cheddar pressed into a panini between two pieces of focaccia. You’ll be hard-pressed to find seitan cured this way anywhere else, so get over to Z&H and have some for yourself. — Sophie Day
Z&H is located at 1323 E. 57th St.
Panino Caprese At Gio’s Cafe & Deli
This Bridgeport corner grocery and deli makes some amazing sandwiches and their tuna panino gives Graziano’s a run for its money. But it’s their caprese sub that is the standout of their menu. Teeming with mozzarella, tomatoes, onions and fresh basil, it’s a salad nestled inside some Italian bread and surprisingly filling, given the light ingredients. Add a little oil and you be holding a feast in your hands. —Chuck Sudo
Gio’s Cafe & Deli is located at 2724 S. Lowe Ave.
Pine sandwich at Reno
When it comes to sandwiches, especially when I’m not making them in my own kitchen, I don’t like to dial it down. Give me bold flavors, tons of toppings and keep it messy. If I’m committing to something wedged between bread, it better deliver. I also love a sandwich that could be easily consumed at any hour of the day, walking the line between breakfast and dinner, so the Pine at Reno truly fits the bill for my sandwich dream team. A crispy fried chicken thigh (already a winner here) is topped with a simple trio of white cheddar, dill pickles and hot honey on their Trinity bun. These ingredients are pretty basic but together they truly sing. The dill pickles give a nice crunch and hit of acid, the melty cheese is fatty and rich and the hot honey is the real champ, adding a subtle dose of heat along with the perfect touch of sweetness. The bun is just sturdy enough and somehow the chicken retains a good amount of crispiness despite the messy meeting of honey and melted cheese. This isn’t pretty eating; get ready to have honey dripping down your hand, on your chin, melted cheese grasping to the sandwich as you take a bite. But who cares because you are too busy enjoying the delicious balancing act of savory and sweet. It’s a perfect hangover cure but it is also just as delicious when sober. You can grab the Pine during brunch or lunch hours, so head to Reno, ask for some extra napkins and dig in. — Lisa White
Reno is located at 2607 N. Milwaukee Ave. They are cash only, but have an ATM.
Capicola & Cheese at Lucky’s
Being a native Pittsburgher, I would be remiss not to shout out to my brethren committing the unthinkable between two very white slices of Italian bread. Don’t let anyone tell you this megawich was invented here or worse, in Cleveland. I assure you, it was not. Lore tells that truckers dropping goods in the warehouse district of Pittsburgh (called the Strip District not for reasons running through your head) wanted a sandwich and fries but struggled to eat both while driving an 18-wheeler. Fret not, local deli stalwart Primanti said: we’ll just slap those handcut fries right on top of the meat and below our signature vinegar slaw. Lucky’s does one of the Steel City’s few known claims to fame justice. — Kristine Sherred
Lucky’s Sandwich Company is located at 3472 N. Clark, 717 W. Maxwell St. and 1635 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Grilled Laughing Bird Shrimp and Fried Oyster Po’Boy at Nana
Not everything that receives Guy Fieri’s blessing should be viewed with skepticism. Example: this menu staple from Bridgeport’s destination brunch spot attracts people from around the city based on Fieri's approval, but it's also a hit with Chicago's more discerning gourmands. Nana takes choosing between shrimp and oysters out of the customers’ hands and gives them both, stuffed in a baguette with Cajun mayo, arugula, tomato and, in a Chicago twist, housemade giardinera. It’s a world class sandwich for a world class city. —Chuck Sudo
Nana is located at 3267 S. Halsted St.
Buffalo Chicken Sandwich at Cobra Lounge
I thought my friends were crazy for their strange obsession with this apparent cab-ride worthy sammy. Before my first encounter, I didn’t even realize that Cobra served food, having only frequented the bar to relish Dusty Grooves. But one bite into that hot buffalo chicken and order envy flies out the window - never mind the fact that your table of eight all ordered the same thing. My gifted home cook friend argues that the sauce too closely resembles a BBQ, but that variance is precisely what moves this rendition up the ladder. The spicy sandwich is usually a sure thing on any pub menu, but none will surpass the punk lounge version found at Ashland and Lake. — Kristine Sherred
Cobra Lounge is located at 235 N. Ashland Ave.