Someone in the newsroom recently asked me if sandwiches were my favorite dish. Of course not. Don’t be ridiculous, I thought. But … maybe he was right. I love the versatility of their flavor profiles – you can get tastes from all over the world served between two pieces of bread – the ease and the price.
Austin has dozens of great sandwiches. Below are 10 of my favorites from the past few months.
French dip at Bartlett’s ($ 24)
Tim Bartlett opened Houston’s in Austin in 1990 after helping open the first American steakhouse in Nashville. It changed the name in 2010, but it sensibly hasn’t changed much else – same warm service and consistent execution (the spinach, artichoke and smoked salmon dip are perfect every time).
When Bartlett passed away in 2013, his longtime partner and general manager Alan Thomas, who arrived at the restaurant in 1989, continued the service and culinary traditions, including the restaurant’s famous French dip sandwich. As Arik Skot Williams, Thomas’ business partner and longtime Bartlett chef, says, “We roasted bones and mirepoix and simmered it for hours before the bone broth was cold. ”
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It’s the sandwich’s eponymous broth, which gives an extra depth of beef essence to half a pound of velvety ripples of roasted prime rib that are so soft they almost melt into toasted New World Bakery bread and brushed with mayonnaise, because the fat will not hurt you. (2408 W. Anderson Lane. 512-451-7333, bartlettsaustin.com)
Apricot Chicken Salad at Chicken Salad Shoppe ($ 8.49)
The pandemic struck just as husband-and-wife duo and restaurant veterans Ivan and Molly Mills prepared to launch their new concept. But they turned the crisis into an opportunity. The couple have operated Vanilla Orchid Catering since 2009, and when the coronavirus pandemic effectively leveled restaurant and event activities across town, the Mills opened their new Chicken Salad Shoppe as a take-out, serving to the front of their catering kitchen. The name says it all: the company exclusively serves chicken salad on sandwiches and salads (OK, there are vegetarian options and a cookie as well), with about a dozen varieties on the menu.
Anyone who remembers the old Central Market Apricot Chicken Salad Sandwich knows how delicious this sweet and savory mix can be. Pieces of white meat are mixed with dried apricots and pieces of almonds which give the creamy mixture a nutty crunch. The sweet, salty, crunchy and tangy mess overflows with soft sourdough bread. (7433, chemin Burnet. 512-790-7790, chickensaladshoppe.com)
Butter ham at Hopfields ($ 13)
The first time I backpacked across Europe, I looked for quick and easy snacks that I could buy in a market and eat on a train. A baguette with sliced ham and butter was simple, filling and delicious, and in France it had the added benefit of serving a sense of belonging.
Hopfields offers a refined take on this traveller’s treat, with lush pink carnation ham folded into a crisp baguette coated in creamy butter. If you want a more dimensional touch, add emmental cheese for nutty and slightly sweet notes.
As recently reported in these pages, Hopfields will be opening a store on South First Street in July. It’s hard to imagine this classic sandwich not making the trip south of the river. (3110 Guadalupe St., No. 400. 512-537-0467, hopfieldsaustin.com)
Bacon, egg and cheese at Paperboy ($ 13)
It’s really great to see an Austin hotel business come full circle. Paperboy started out as a trailer on this East Austin lot over five years ago and now has their own building to call home.
It has significantly expanded its menu since the early days to include more pastries, bowls, sandwiches and mixed dishes, but one of the first pillars remains. Golden yellow oozes from the tangy chili cheese-coated buttermilk buns, a smart Southern modification of a classic sandwich, with thick slices of solid bacon hanging down the edges. Order online or at the window without an appointment, and you can even make an online reservation for their patio. (1203 E. 11th St. 512-910-3010, paperboyaustin.com)
Grilled pork bánh mì at Le Bleu ($ 8)
Chef Tebi Nguyen grew up next to a bánh mì store in Saigon before moving with his family to San Antonio, and he built his two food brands (The Blue and the Saigon the Seller trailer) on force. of those Vietnamese sandwiches. The baguette crackles and collapses around caramelized grilled pork that has been marinated in a fish sauce, garlic, red shallots and a touch of honey. Pickled cucumbers and carrot matches give the tender meat a crunchy relief, with cilantro and jalapeño balancing the floral calm and spicy tang. Online order / call and curbside pickup only for now. (9070 Research Blvd., Suite 303. 512-770-1100, lebleuatx.com)
Pimento cheese at Butler Pitch & Putt ($ 5)
Ben Crenshaw helped design the greens at the refurbished Butler Pitch & Putt, and the two-time Masters winner likely recognizes plenty of sandwiches on the par three course. Olamaie’s Chef Michael Fojtasek, a regular butler and now culinary partner, created the sandwiches in homage to the simple classics served at Augusta National.
While Fojtasek’s chili cheese nods to the famous golf tournament, it also finds its roots in the humble sandwiches the chef ate with his grandmother during races at 7-Eleven as a child. . The chef copied the recipe from his former bosses Vinny Shook and Jon Dotolo of Animal in Los Angeles, although Fojtasek believes the recipe originated elsewhere. It’s as creamy as you want the chili cheese to be, and inside the mix of cheddar, cream cheese, and mayonnaise (I guess) is a nice spicy explosion that gives the sandwich more jazz than it does. his cousin in Augusta.
The cheese spread and a juicy slice of tomato rest on a soft, dimpled white bread baked by Carlyle Watt, who moved to Austin to run Fojtasek’s Mignette bakery, a future laid-back Southern spot in the St. Elmo development in southern Austin.
Augusta National may have more prestige and a few more decades of history than Butler, but as someone who attended the Masters, I can promise you Austin Golf Course has the best cheese sandwich and with chili. Fojtasek longs to find out for himself one day, hopefully while carrying the bag of his brother, Randall, a member of the University of Texas golf team. (201 Lee Barton Drive, butlerpitchandputt.com)
De Lujo Fried Chicken Sandwich in Pollo las Abuelas ($ 10.25)
Crunchy, salty and juicy… fried chicken sandwiches are a perfect food. And that’s before you even dress them. They’re awesome enough to build a food trailer (or a food empire). Chef Matt Reinhart obviously knew that. He put calorie counting aside at Snap Kitchen, where he served as executive chef for six years, and in 2018 opened this south Austin trailer where the bird is the first and last laugh.
The name pays homage to his two grandmothers, one from Illinois who had a gift for fried chicken and the other from the Rio Grande Valley. The latter’s influence can best be appreciated on this sandwich which carries the smoke and twilight of chipotle, the grassy bite of roasted Serrano cream, the crispness of pickled coleslaw and the fatty creaminess of the avocado and cotija cheese. Proving once again that the fried chicken sandwich, already perfect in its simplicity, is one of the best bases to accompany a flowering of flavors. (11444, chemin Menchaca, 737-228-7449, pollolasabuelas.com)
Whitefish salad on a grilled bagel at Wholy Bagel ($ 8)
Wholy Bagel changed hands over five years ago, but retained his New Jersey pedigree when Nicole and Richard Spiegel bought the store from fellow New Jersey native Scott Campanozzi. The bagels are kettle-boiled and baked for a glossy, crisp and chewy finish that makes them some of the best in town.
Lox sandwiches can collect most fish-filled bagel sandwiches, but I prefer a sandwich with smoked whitefish salad. Wholy Bagel uses smoked white fish salad from Brooklyn’s Acme Smoked Fish. The mixture is overflowing with oily fat and pulls a bit of spice and minerality from the mayonnaise and salted egg yolks. You’ll want to give the creamy spread some backbone; this is where the red onions and added banana peppers come in. I take my sandwich on an all toasted bagel which enhances the flavor and gives it more complexity. (4404 W. William Cannon Drive, 512-899-0200; 3637 Far West Blvd., 512-992-0003, wholybagelatx.com)
Falafel at TLV ($ 10)
If you want the best falafel sandwich in town, you’ll have to wait a few weeks. Since I last ate Chef Bertie Richter’s falafel, TLV has taken a brief hiatus as its downtown Fareground home prepares to reopen under new management in July. But your patience will be rewarded.
The fried balls break apart to reveal a grassy green center complemented by several sauces that are layered with lively herbs, a pickled whisk and a nutty depth of tahini. TLV’s Creamy Hummus, a chewy blend that provides a clean slate for the explosion of added flavors, keeps the pita sandwich content supple, with overflowing coleslaw adding its own crunchy texture to that of falafel. (111 Congress Ave. Fareground No. 7.512-608-4041, tlv-austin.com)
Chicken and Bacon Ranch Burger at Hold Out Brewing
OKAY. Is a hamburger a sandwich? Not really. Am I cheating here? Sort of. Is this chicken-bacon beast from Better Half’s sister brewery good enough to get me breaking my own rules? Certainly.
The two stacked ground chicken patties are seared and juicy, draped in Swiss cheese, crispy with iceberg lettuce and red onion, and topped with a breath of umami from a tangy miso ranch dressing. There is so much going on that you can barely taste the bacon, which really means something. And if you don’t dig on the pork, you can substitute the pork with shiitake bacon for a small fee. Grab a four-pack of Juicy, Piney, and Tropical Koala Takedown IPAs ($ 14) to find Hold Out makes beer as well as food. (1208 W. Fourth Street 512-305-3540, holdoutbrewing.com)
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