On a Roll
A dozen mouthwatering sandwiches to devour this summer
by Leigh Stuart, Theodora Malison and Bill Donahue

One origin story has the grand and noble art of sandwich making dating back to 1762, when original card sharp and devoted gambling man John Montagu—a.k.a., the fourth earl of Sandwich—asked his handlers to bring him a tasty snack suitable for consumption at the gaming table. The resulting taste sensation, featuring sliced meat bookended by slices of bread, has since gone on to earn a top spot among the world’s most endearing foods.

In the Greater Philadelphia Area, the good earl’s namesake reaches apex status. Rather than focusing on the sandwiches from the area’s most iconic restaurateurs, however, we’re zeroing in on a dozen you might not have tried yet, but we think you certainly will after seeing what makes them so special.

The following pages are a celebration of the sandwich, in all its forms: cheesesteak, banh mi, po-boy—and, as is the case with one wildcard selection, hash browns.

These selections would surely make Sir Montagu proud.

Portobello Banh Mi 
Norristown’s Banh Mi Bar & Bistro offers fresh Vietnamese food for locals, including the lunch crowd from the nearby Montgomery County Courthouse. The Vietnamese hoagies, better known as banh mi, are a particular area of specialty, and one of our favorites is the portobello variety. The mushroom-based vegetarian delight stars jalapeno, pickled slaw and avocado, topped with caramelized onions and stalks of cilantro. The sandwich is made even better by the sweetness of chili sauce and balsamic, all tucked into a chewy, crispy torpedo roll. bmbbistro.com

Barclay Prime Cheesesteak

A cheesesteak is street food, right? Not necessarily. It makes perfect sense that Philadelphia—home of the cheesesteak—would give rise to the most decadent of steak sandwiches. Barclay Prime, an upscale Rittenhouse Square steakhouse from restaurateur Stephen Starr, offers a $120 cheesesteak, which is exactly what it sounds like. This, however, is no run-of-the-mill ribeye with Kraft Cheez Whiz. This stunning sandwich starts with thinly sliced cuts of Wagyu beef, topped with foie gras and melted truffled cheese, all served on a freshly baked sesame-seed roll. And what better way to wash it down with the complimentary half-bottle of champagne? barclayprime.com

Shrimp Po-Boy Benedict
At Bud & Marilyn’s in Philadelphia’s Midtown Village, nostalgia is the name of the game. Modeled after the Ripon, Wis., restaurant owned by chef Marcie Turney’s grandparents (Bud and Marilyn Briese), this restaurant serves comfort food with style. One example of such an elevated dish is the shrimp po-boy Benedict, a brunch menu item. The sandwich features grilled Gulf shrimp and poached eggs with a pickle-brine hollandaise nestled into a toasted potato bun. budandmarilyns.com

The Smacko
Find the suburbs’ answer to a true Philadelphia sandwich icon at the Butcher & Barkeep in Harleysville. This medley of grilled ribeye steak, fried salami and a three-cheese blend—reminiscent of the wonderful Schmitter, from McNally’s Tavern’s in Chestnut Hill—is gloriously adorned with beer-glazed onions, green tomato and chipotle cream. To add to the bliss, it’s served with a side of fried pickles with Creole mustard. thebutcherandbarkeep.com

Meat lovers, rejoice! Thanksgiving on a sandwich has arrived in the form of the Turbacon, a Jake’s Sandwich Board original starring turkey—slow-roasted overnight for 12 to 14 hours, as are all the meats at Jake’s two Philadelphia locations (Midtown Village and University City)—bacon, turkey gravy, cranberry-apple spread and potato pancakes. Even the vessel has a starring role here; all of the sandwiches at Jake’s are served on breads by South Philly’s own Carangi Baking Co. jakessandwichboard.com

House Smoked Chicken Melt
This delectably meaty treat from Jesse’s Barbecue & Local Market in Souderton features Jesse’s own sliced and smoked chicken topped with provolone, whole-grain mustard, housemade ranch dressing (a blend of paprika, sour cream, mayo and secret spices) and fresh leafy arugula. What makes this sandwich truly unique? It’s the meat, which is smoked in house for two to three hours, utilizing hickory and cherry wood. Jesse’s sandwiches feature breads by a local bakery, too—The Hearth Baker and Deli in nearby Lansdale. jessesbarbecue.com

Vegan BBQ Pulled Pork
The tangy bite of a good North Carolina-style pulled pork sandwich is enough to set off the salivary glands of even the most devoted vegetarian—and, in some cases, make him or her consider veering from the meatless path. At the always festive Khyber Pass Pub in Philadelphia’s Old City, the vegan barbecue pulled pork sandwich enables vegetarians to have their “cake” and eat it, too, so to speak—topped with coleslaw, of course. Of course, for those who prefer actual pork in their barbecue, Khyber Pass offers a traditional version as well, and it, too, is spectacular. khyberpasspub.com
Mac and Hash Sammy
Fortunate for city goers and devout connoisseurs of the phenomenon that is mac and cheese, the widely chased down Mac Mart food truck has conveniently opened a permanent location in the city’s Rittenhouse section. Although it’s best known for pumping out its signature potato-chip-panko-crusted, seven-cheese creations, Mac Mart is now offering a mac and hash “sammy” that is changing the game. It’s the same traditional mac, sprinkled with bacon bits and wedged in between two buttermilk ranch-coated hash browns. Run, before they sell out. macmartcart.com

Valley Thunder
Carnivores and grilled cheese aficionados can sink their teeth into the best of both worlds with this delectable creation, brought to you by the folks at Meltkraft in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse neighborhood. With 12-month aged cheddar, Bubbe’s beef brisket topped with a heaping scoop of macaroni and cheese from Valley Shepherd Creamery, the name speaks for itself. All sandwiches are served with a smattering of Covered Bridge kettle chips. meltkraft.com

House-smoked Duck Bacon Sandwich
A popular sandwich lighting up the taste buds of many frequent diners of Roots Café in West Chester, the house-smoked duck bacon sandwich remains a hit most notably for its particular ingredient: the house-smoked duck bacon. The meat is tastefully tucked between two slices of golden sourdough bread, cushioned by melted brie cheese, and accented with arugula, caramelized onions and local berry preserves. It’s no wonder this unique eat made our list. rootscafewc.com

The Dipper
The sandwich is all about the combination, and few things go better with a good sandwich than a great cup of soup. Teresa’s Café in Wayne certainly knows what it’s doing with the Dipper, a grilled cheese paired with a warm side of tomato soup. A melted-together blend of mozzarella, sottocenere and fontina cheeses creates the ideal sandwich perfect for… well, dipping. Did we mention the tomato soup is included? teresas-cafe.com

Cream Cheese Ice Cream and Cookie Dough Brownie Ice Cream Sandwich
Danielle Jowdy and Parker Whitehead, the entrepreneurs behind Zsa’s Gourmet Ice Cream, have created some truly masterful creations—small batches of artisanal ice cream and ice cream sandwiches—starring dairy from Trickling Springs Creamery in Chambersburg. It’s difficult to choose a favorite ice cream sandwich from Zsa’s, but we’ve narrowed it down to two: The one with cream cheese ice cream between a cookie-dough top and a brownie bottom wins by the narrowest of margins; while another, with vanilla ice cream between graham crackers coated with salted toffee and almonds, ranks a very close second. No matter which flavor strikes your fancy, the gods have truly blessed us by making them available in several places. Zsa’s dispatches its roving food trucks from its production facility in the Roxborough/Manayunk area to local farmers’ markets, night markets and other special events. Bonus: Select artisanal markets and food co-ops stock their freezers with Zsa’s handmade products. zsasicecream.com

Barclay Prime photograph courtesy of STARR Restaurants