As the story goes, John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich, popularized his eponymous lunchtime staple in the 18th century by asking his cook to create a snack he could eat without pausing a 24-hour gambling streak. The cook’s solution: meat served between two pieces of toast.
Since then, sandwich-making has become an art, with purveyors the world over seeking the perfect bread-filling-condiment combination. We’ve scoured customer and professional reviews from each state to settle upon these 50 sandwiches worth the trip.
1. ALABAMA // BBQ SANDWICH WITH WHITE SAUCE
Ask a Texan and a South Carolinian what "barbecue" means to them and you’ll get two very different responses (and possibly a brawl). In Alabama, "barbecue" usually means a meaty sandwich slathered in a "white sauce" made from mayonnaise and vinegar. For a mouthwatering sample of the regional treat, head to Saw’s BBQ in Homewood, Alabama, and order the smoked chicken sandwich with white BBQ sauce.
2. ALASKA // HALIBUT BLT
Fresh fish is synonymous with Alaskan food. And if you’re looking for just-off-the-hook halibut, head to a town called Seward, a two-and-a-half-hour drive south of Anchorage. At Chinooks, located right on the Seward waterfront, you can find halibut cheeks, beer-battered halibut, and a halibut BLT—pan-roasted halibut topped with bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, and red onion jam.
3. ARIZONA // ZOOKZ SANDWICHES NO. 60
The sandwiches at Zookz are so unique that they’re patented. Owner Carole Meyer, who grew up in North Africa, recreates the disc-shaped sandwiches her grandmother used to make by baking the bread in a custom-made, cylindrical Zookz press. Meyer got her start selling her own brand of sauces and dressings in markets, and each of her hot sandwiches comes with house-made condiments like sweet heat mustard and mild curry sauce. The sandwiches run the gamut from familiar favorites (the No. 60's pulled pork and coleslaw) to pasta-stuffed specials—one recent offering involved ham, ricotta, Parmesan, and penne pasta all in one hand-held pocket of bread.
4. ARKANSAS // THE GARDEN SANDWICH
Little Rock, Arkansas
No matter your usual sandwich preferences, when you're at Jimmy’s Serious Sandwiches, go for the vegetarian option. Sure, the Little Rock mainstay serves steak hoagies and turkey subs, but it’s most famous for The Garden, a mushroom, three cheese, and spinach-paté special on pumpernickel. It won the National Sandwich Contest in 1979, back when submitting a meat-free dish was almost unheard of. Jimmy used his award-winning recipe to launch his restaurant in 1984 and has been serving up seriously super sandwiches in the same location ever since.
5. CALIFORNIA // FRENCH DIP
Los Angeles, California
Despite the name, there’s nothing French about the "French dip" sandwich—it was invented in Los Angeles. And though two competing restaurants claim to have created it first, the title is often awarded to Philippe the Original, a Chinatown lunch counter that first opened in 1908 (by, OK, a Frenchman). These days, the meaty sandwiches are virtually identical to their early 20th-century counterparts, according to one of the current owners, and the au jus that tops them is still prepared using the same proprietary, two-day process. At Philippe’s, French dip sandwiches aren’t limited to beef, though; you can choose between beef, pork, ham, pastrami, turkey, and lamb. Don’t forget to top it off with the restaurant’s spicy house mustard.
6. COLORADO // FOOL'S GOLD
In 1973, then 16-year-old Nick Andurlakis was working as a cook in a Denver-area restaurant when a hungry Elvis Presley showed up. Andurlakis whipped him up the Fool’s Gold, a sourdough loaf packed with a pound each of peanut butter, jelly, and bacon. Presley was so impressed by the sandwich he later flew in from Memphis on his private jet just to pick up some of the sweet-and-salty sandwiches. Andurlakis opened up his own restaurant in the '80s, and Nick’s Café has been serving up the Fool’s Gold ever since. The whole thing clocks in at 5600 calories, but don’t worry—you probably can’t eat the whole loaf at once, anyway.
7. CONNECTICUT // HOT LOBSTER ROLL
Maine may be a better-known destination for lobster, but southern New England has its own claim to shellfish sandwiches. Unlike the traditional lobster roll that’s served cold with mayonnaise, Connecticut’s lobster rolls come hot and tossed in butter. For a truly authentic Connecticut lobster experience, head to Clinton’s waterfront seafood shack, Lobster Landing. Attached to a retail fish market, the seasonal restaurant is open from the spring to the fall each year (it opens in mid-April for 2017). There are only a handful of items on the menu, so all the focus is on those hot lobster rolls, each of which comes with exactly a quarter pound of hand-picked meat drizzled with butter and just a little splash of lemon.
8. DELAWARE // THE BOBBIE
While Capriotti's is no longer headquartered in Delaware, the chain got its start in Wilmington’s Little Italy neighborhood back in 1976, and one of their signature sandwiches, The Bobbie, has become one of the most famous in the state. Named for the aunt of the restaurant’s founders, it’s a loaded post-Thanksgiving sandwich: turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and mayo, just like you’d make from leftovers—but better, and year-round. It’s been winning "best sandwich" awards around the country for decades [PDF].
9. FLORIDA // CUBANO
10. GEORGIA // CHICKEN CONQUISTADOR
Not only the best sandwich in its home state, the Chicken Conquistador at Zunzi's in Savannah was named one of the Travel Channel’s Best Sandwiches in America. The Conquistador—named for its impressive size—is quite simple in its construction: a crusty baguette layered with baked chicken, fresh lettuce and tomato, and a generous slathering of Zunzi’s secret sauce.
11. HAWAII // KĀLUA PORK
A staple of luaus and picnics across the islands, kālua pork also makes an awesome sandwich. The tender, slow-cooked shreds of meat are a treat on their own but are even more delightful when paired with sweet pineapple salsa and a soft bun, as they are in Honolulu Burger Co.’s Kalua Pig Burger.
12. IDAHO // MEAT YOUR MAKER
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
If your idea of heaven is a French roll piled high with sausage, pepperoni, steak, peppers, and onions, take a trip to the Best Sandwich Shack in Coeur d’Alene and prepare to Meat Your Maker. It may be the only sandwich on this list that comes marked with a pseudo-medical warning ("This one is over two pounds of sandwich—it may kill you"). As one reviewer said, the whopping, sizzling sandwich is "not for the faint of heart, but it’s DEFINITELY worth toughening up for."
13. ILLINOIS // ITALIAN BEEF
You’ll find no fancy sandwich names here. Chicago’s classic Italian beef sandwich is exactly what it sounds like: thinly sliced and seasoned beef served with peppers, gravy, and giardiniera (pickled vegetables). Many sandwich shops will boast that their beef is the best, but if you want the original, head to Al’s Italian Beef on Taylor Street.
14. INDIANA // HOOSIER SANDWICH
In Germany they make it with veal and call it schnitzel; in Texas, it’s beef and chicken-fried steak. But Indiana natives will tell you that their Hoosier Sandwich—a thin, breaded, fried pork tenderloin nestled on a pillow-soft bun—could beat them all. Credit for the first Hoosier Sandwich goes to Nick’s Kitchen in Huntington, which has been selling the crispy, filling sandwiches since the 1900s.
15. IOWA // LOOSE MEAT
Somewhere in between a free-form hamburger and a sloppy joe minus the sauce, the loose meat sandwich is as filling, tasty, and no-nonsense as it sounds. Locals bellying up to the counter at Ottumwa’s Canteen Lunch in the Alley know to order their sandwiches "wet" or "dry" (we’re talking about grease levels here), or with cheese, if they’re feeling wild.
16. KANSAS // BBQ PULLED PORK
Kansas City, Kansas
Nothing says Kansas City like good barbecue. True aficionados know that the best barbecue sandwich (and their house-specialty pulled pork) can be found at Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, a restaurant that started as a competitive meat-smoking team called Slaughterhouse Five. The team won and kept on winning, and today Joe’s has three locations around the city, all boasting great barbecue and a dose of good humor.
17. KENTUCKY // HOT BROWN
In 1926, Fred Schmidt, a chef at the historic Brown Hotel, became famous for inventing a unique sandwich he called the Hot Brown. Schmidt’s culinary creation was a variation on the traditional Welsh rarebit: an open-faced turkey sandwich with bacon, smothered in Mornay sauce, and broiled until bubbly.
18. LOUISIANA // PO' BOY
New Orleans, Louisiana
It’s hard to find a bad po' boy in New Orleans, but foodies seeking the regional staple can’t go wrong with Parkway Bakery and Tavern. Opened in 1911, the local institution first began serving po' boys in 1929; Parkway closed in 1993 but re-opened a decade later. Since then, they’ve served countless customers—including President Barack Obama in 2010—clamoring for their classic meat or fried seafood sandwiches, served on French bread.
19. MAINE // LOBSTER ROLL
Most people go to Maine to escape the crowds, but they’ll likely encounter a big one at Red’s Eats, a roadside take-out restaurant located on U.S. Route 1. Red’s Eats moved from Boothbay, Maine to its present-day location in 1954, and became known by locals and vacationers alike for its signature lobster rolls. They’re stuffed with more than an entire crustacean’s worth of meat, with a side of butter or mayo. The upside to Red’s infamously long lines? While waiting, you’ll work up the appetite to finish it.
20. MARYLAND // CRABCAKE SANDWICH
A visit to Maryland isn’t complete without a crab feast, and Faidley’s Seafood, a vendor in Baltimore’s historic Lexington Market, makes some of the state’s best crab cake sandwiches. A huge lump of fried crabmeat—mixed with a mustard-based sauce, crushed saltines, and Old Bay—sits atop chewy white bread, lettuce, and tomato.
21. MASSACHUSETTS // FLUFFERNUTTER
Nobody quite knows who made the first sandwich with peanut butter and marshmallow crème filling, but that hasn’t stopped Massachusetts residents from claiming the snack as their own. They make their version with Marshmallow Fluff, a local brand of marshmallow spread produced by Durkee-Mower, Inc. in Lynn, Massachusetts.
During the 1960s, Durkee-Mower coined the name “Fluffernutter” to market the sandwich. Over the decades, it’s become such an intrinsic part of New England’s culinary culture that in 2006, the Massachusetts state legislature spent a week arguing whether or not the Fluffernutter should be named the official state sandwich. For a particularly decadent version, swing through Boston and try Local 149’s deep-fried Fluffernutter, served with warm Nutella.
22. MICHIGAN // REUBEN SANDWICH
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Zingerman’s Delicatessen in Ann Arbor, Michigan may be the Midwest’s answer to New York City’s now-closed Carnegie Deli. The deli opened in 1982 and has grown into a local empire that now includes a sit-down restaurant, a café, a bakery, a coffee roasting shop, and a cheese and gelato producer.
Still, Zingerman’s remains most famous for its classic Reuben sandwich. According to deli officials, they make around 50,000 Reubens per year—but if you can't make it to Michigan, don't worry. They also offer "Reuben Kits," containing ingredients to assemble your own Reuben at home.
23. MINNESOTA // FRIED WALLEYE SANDWICH
St. Paul, Minnesota
Since the walleye is Minnesota’s state fish, locals have had plenty of practice figuring out the best ways of preparing it. If fried and served between bread slices is your choice, Tavern on Grand is reputed to be the best place to dig in. You can opt for grilled, blackened, or sizzling in oil, each one prepared using walleye fresh from Lake Manitoba.
24. MISSISSIPPI // PIG EAR SANDWICH
It might take a little courage, but bold eaters will be rewarded at Jackson’s Big Apple Inn, where fourth-generation operator Geno Lee serves pig ear sandwiches. Lee's great-grandfather Juan Mora was the one who stumbled upon the idea in the 1930s after a local butcher offered him a deal on leftover lobes. With a crunchy bacon taste and a lasagna noodle blanket to add contrasting texture, the sandwiches are served with seasoning based on how much extra spice you can handle.
25. MISSOURI // THE GERBER
St. Louis, Missouri
While you can get the state’s trademark open-faced ham and beef toasted sandwich at plenty of places, only Ruma’s Deli based in St. Louis offers them up under the "official" title of Gerber. Using proprietary braising techniques to make sure the meat juice drips down and onto the bread, Ruma’s goes through 66 pounds of roast a day to meet demand.
26. MONTANA // PORK CHOP SANDWICH
Visitors to Montana will be tempted to sample the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made with the state’s pervasive huckleberry jam, but for a true one-of-a-kind experience, the lean, boneless, fried pork chop sandwiches made at Pork Chop John’s in Butte can’t be beaten. The eatery opened in 1932, with each successive owner maintaining the secret of its famous pork chop batter.
27. NEBRASKA // THE BLACKSTONE REUBEN
No one can say for certain, but it’s possible that the world-famous Reuben—corned beef topped with Swiss and sauerkraut—originated in Omaha. Whether that’s true or not, there’s not much argument that the state perfected it. The Blackstone, available at the Crescent Moon in Omaha, has been recognized as the standout sandwich in the state. Unlike most Reubens, it doesn’t squirt meat or dressing when you bite into it; the meat comes in chunks rather than slices because it’s too tender to cut too thin. Once it’s been assembled, the sandwich goes through a conveyor-belt-style pizza oven for toasting. If you’re lucky, the Crescent might even be in the mood to offer up a smoked corned beef version.
28. NEVADA // THE DIRKA DIRKA
Vegas is home to plenty of novelty foods, but the Full Belly Deli opts for taste over high-concept. Their Dirka Dirka is consistently cited by travelers and locals as a destination sandwich you won’t need to gamble on—corned beef, pastrami, and jalapeño coleslaw on blue cheese or cheddar bread.
29. NEW HAMPSHIRE // MOE'S ITALIAN SANDWICH
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Not all Italian subs are created equal. Moe’s, a Portsmouth staple since 1959, has perfected a hoagie that uses just the right amount of salami, provolone, dressing, and toppings. Their art is so dialed-in that Moe’s has successfully franchised throughout New England without registering any complaints about watering down a classic.
30. NEW JERSEY // PORK ROLL
Shrewsbury, New Jersey
In 1856, state senator and businessman John Taylor created the smoky, processed pork that serves as the backbone of this savory breakfast sandwich. Delis and diners throughout the Garden State grill or fry the meat, top it with cheese and eggs, and throw it on a sturdy roll—Bagel Masters is a favorite on the Jersey Shore. The recipe is consistent throughout the state, though the name isn’t. Folks from north Jersey refer to it as a Taylor ham, while central and south Jerseyans adamantly maintain it’s a pork roll. Whatever you call it, it’s delicious.
31. NEW MEXICO // GREEN CHILE CHEESEBURGER
San Antonio, New Mexico
New Mexicans love their green chiles. They put them on top of pizza, cook them in waffles, blend them into cocktails, and stir them into all sorts of stews and sauces. But the best use of the green chile might be green chile cheeseburger. Here, chiles get worked into the patty, cooked to spicy, meaty perfection, and topped with American cheese—try the one at Buckhorn Tavern in San Antonio (that’s San Antonio, New Mexico), which piles on lettuce, onions, and other veggies.
32. NEW YORK // PASTRAMI ON RYE
New York, New York
This Big Apple classic originated in the city’s kosher delis and was perfected over the decades by establishments like 2nd Avenue Deli, Carnegie Deli, and Katz’s. Sadly, most of the city’s kosher delis have gone out of business, but plenty of restaurants have carried on the tradition of serving tender, melt-in-your-mouth pastrami on rye bread. These include hip Manhattan joints like Harry & Ida’s Meat and Supply Co., which smokes its pastrami for 10 hours over oak and maple planks, as well as those a little further from downtown, like Jay and Lloyd’s Kosher Deli in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. Of course, there’s also Katz’s, which is still going strong after 120 years.
33. NORTH CAROLINA // PULLED PORK SANDWICH
Greenville and Lexington, North Carolina
Two styles of this sandwich hold sway in the famed barbecue state. In the eastern half, you’ll find finely chopped pork mixed with vinegar, spices, and hot pepper, while in the western parts of North Carolina a thicker, tomato-based sauce gets slathered over tender chunks of pork shoulder. Since choosing between the two is impossible, why not try both? For top-notch Eastern-style chopped pork, head to B’s, an old-fashioned, wholly unpretentious joint (there’s no website and no phone) in Greenville. For Western-style pulled pork, head to Lexington, the epicenter of sauced-up Carolina ‘cue, and the famous Lexington Barbecue.
34. NORTH DAKOTA // SLOPPY JOE
Grand Forks, North Dakota
Also known as "barbecues" and, at least in the western part of the state, "slush burgers," these meaty concoctions are typically held together with a sauce made from ketchup, taco seasoning, and a few other choice ingredients. They’re a favorite at sporting events throughout the state, and perfect to wash down with a cold beer. For a taste of tried-and-true North Dakota sloppy joe at home, try Jumbo’s Sloppy Joe Sauce, which follows a recipe from a famous (but now closed) drive-in. As far as restaurants go, The Fabulous Kegs Drive-In is worth a stop. It serves up sloppy joes with crispy onion rings and ice-cold root beer.
35. OHIO // POLISH BOY
Before ordering this Cleveland delicacy, make sure you’ve got an appetite and a shirt you don’t mind ruining. The Polish boy—not to be confused with the Louisiana po' boy—starts with a kielbasa that gets grilled and slid inside a sturdy hot dog bun. Then comes the fun part: coleslaw, French fries, and barbecue sauce all go on top in a messy free-for-all. Seti’s Polish Boys is a local food truck that’s worth tracking down—finishing one of their big boys could be a challenge; doing so without utensils even more so.
36. OKLAHOMA // CHICKEN-FRIED STEAK SANDWICH
The classic chicken-fried steak is a meal in its own right, but put it between two buns and you’ve got a whole new way to enjoy an American classic. What sets the sandwich at Tally's Good Food Cafe apart is the steak: Dipped in a batter of eggs, buttermilk, and Worcestershire sauce, it then goes for a generous roll in a mixture of flour, garlic powder, and seasoning salt before getting deep-fried. For those who crave a classic chicken-fried steak experience, not to worry: Tally’s offers a side of gravy with each sandwich.
37. OREGON // BÁNH MÌ
All types of Vietnamese cuisine can be found in Portland, and that includes Vietnam’s official sandwich. Bánh mì are traditionally made with ham, pate, cilantro, and pickled vegetables on a French baguette. Lardo sandwich shop gives its bánh mì a funky Portland twist by swapping the protein with pork meatballs and slathering on Sriracha mayo.
38. PENNSYLVANIA // ITALIAN ROAST PORK SANDWICH
Here’s a secret locals don’t want you to know: The cheesesteak isn’t the best sandwich in Philly. That distinction belongs to the equally decadent Italian roast pork sandwich. Like its beefy cousin, the sandwich is served with sharp provolone cheese on a crusty Italian roll. But instead of sliced rib eye, the bread is filled with slow-roasted pork and sautéed broccoli rabe. DiNic’s in Reading Terminal Market offers a classic rendition of the Philly gem.
39. RHODE ISLAND // FRIED CLAM ROLL
Middletown, Rhode Island
Little has changed at Flo’s Clam Shack since it opened in 1936: The seaside establishment is still serving up world-class clams lightly coated in breading and fried to a golden-brown crisp. At Flo’s, diners can order the morsels as part of a platter or a sandwich. The clams are classic on their own, but a griddled bun makes the perfect vehicle for delivering one of Rhode Island’s best bites of seafood.
40. SOUTH CAROLINA // PULLED PORK SANDWICH
Greenville, South Carolina
The pig reigns supreme in the South Carolina barbecue scene. When it comes to the region’s pulled pork sandwiches, Smoky Dreams BBQ makes a version that shines in its simplicity. To prepare their famous barbecue, the family-owned restaurant chooses the freshest, high-quality meat and smokes it until it’s fall-off-the-bone tender. Their pork shoulder is seasoned with a house-made spice rub and pulled to perfection.
41. SOUTH DAKOTA // PHEASANT SALAD SANDWICH
Brookings, South Dakota
Since opening as a gas station cafe in 1949, the Pheasant Restaurant and Lounge has become a Brookings institution. Their signature sandwich is one that’s rarely seen on menus outside the state. It follows the recipe of traditional chicken salad sandwiches, incorporating apples, dried cranberries, and roasted pecans into the mix—but instead of chicken, it highlights South Dakota’s most famous game bird as the main protein. The pheasant salad is topped with melted Swiss cheese and served on two slices of grilled marble rye.
42. TENNESSEE // FRIED PEANUT BUTTER AND BANANA SANDWICH
The Arcade Restaurant in Memphis is the best place to go to eat like the King. Elvis was a frequent customer back in the day, and his favorite booth in the back of the building is still open to diners. If you’re lucky enough to snag the seat, order the fried peanut and banana sandwich with bacon—there’s no better place to eat the rock icon’s gut-busting sandwich of choice.
43. TEXAS // BEEF BRISKET SANDWICH
Since 1978, Hutchins BBQ has been serving some of the best brisket in the Lone Star State. They smoke their meats according to the same method they’ve used for decades—low and slow over embers of fine pecan wood. Order it sliced and served between two buns with a healthy dose of their sweet and spicy sauce, or take a pound or two of the brisket for the road.
44. UTAH // GOUDA SMOKER
Robin’s Nest, Salt Lake City
Locals rave about all of the sandwich offerings on the menu at Robin’s Nest in Salt Lake City, but the Gouda Smoker was added to the menu by "intense customer pressure," so you know it holds up. Put a classic BLT on ciabatta, then add some roasted turkey breast, smoked Gouda cheese, and house-made garlic-BBQ sauce, and it’s easy to see what Robin’s customers were clamoring about.
45. VERMONT // THAI CHICKEN
You might not expect Vermont to be known for a Thai chicken sandwich, but anyone who has had the spicy stack at Four Corners of the Earth is ready to make it the official state food. If Thai’s not your thing, don’t worry—this little deli lives up to its name. You can travel the world between two slices of bread with sandwiches like Iraqi chicken, Korean kimchi, Jamaican avocado, Serbian pork, and Lebanese lamb.
46. VIRGINIA // TUNA MELT
You definitely won’t find any StarKist on the premises at The Ten Top, where they make a classic tuna salad using fresh fish. After it’s topped with cheddar, the tuna is loaded into a French baguette and toasted to crispy perfection.
47. WASHINGTON // BÁNH MÌ
Bánh mì sandwiches—baguette-style loaves of bread smeared with aioli and stuffed with a variety of fillings—are a blend of cuisines resulting from French colonialism in Vietnam. Add a little Seattle style to the mix, and you’ve got Saigon Deli, which has been named one of the best places for bánh mì in the country. Though there’s not a bad one in the bunch, the BBQ pork seems to have won quite a few hearts in Seattle.
48. WEST VIRGINIA // PEPPERONI ROLL
Fairmont, West Virginia
In 1927, Chef Giuseppe Argiro at Country Club Bakery in Fairmont was the first to wrap a few pepperoni sticks in bread dough to create a portable, easy-to-eat sandwich for miners who needed hearty lunches. Though the handy sandwich has since spread across the state, the golden, spicy pepperoni rolls here are baked to perfection. (And we hear some people doctor theirs by splitting them open and adding hot dog chili.)
49. WISCONSIN // GRILLED CHEESE
If grilled cheese sandwiches make you think of a slice of Kraft American on Wonder Bread, get thee to Wisconsin—no one does cheese better than the Dairy State. Any restaurant in Wisconsin will likely have a delectable version on the menu, no doubt layered with locally made cheese, but the Stuffed Grilled Cheese at Alchemy in Madison is especially top-notch. They’ve elevated the classic sandwich by filling it to the brim with broccoli, roasted carrots, tomato, red onion, cilantro pesto sauce, and local cheddar and Swiss.
50. WYOMING // REUBEN PANINI
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Local Butcher hasn’t been around as long as some of the other standbys in Wyoming, but their locally sourced farm-to-butcher-block meats have been a hit in Jackson Hole. Also a new favorite? Their Smoked Reuben Panini, made with corned beef, Gruyere cheese, Thousand Island dressing, and sauerkraut.