Building the Best Sandwich

Start with great bread, layer on tasty filling ingredients, add a
creative touch or two—five pros share their tips for making sensational

Tory Miller, L’Etoile Restaurant and Café Soleil, Madison, Wisconsin
Café Soleil Reuben

When Miller crafts a sandwich, he carefully chooses a bread that complements the filling. Rye, whole grain, honey oat, brioche and ciabatta—all baked in house—are at his disposal. Cheeses, produce and even meats are sourced locally—often at the twice-weekly farmers’ market across the street from his restaurant. “The farmer I buy my beef from had to move a lot of brisket, so I bought some and brined it to make corned beef for this Reuben,” he says. Hook’s aged Swiss cheese from Wisconsin, house-made sweet and sour cabbage and Jewish rye complete the sandwich, which is then grilled to a toasty turn. 

Michael Scott Castell, Bistro Toulouse, Houston, Texas
Roasted American Lamb Sandwich

Lightly toasted slices of French boule, purchased from a nearby wholesale bakery, enclose roast lamb slices, Port wine-poached pears and goat cheese for this hearty sandwich. Castell cooks a boneless American lamb leg specifically for this menu item, making it one of the more expensive lunch selections. “Even though the sandwich costs $12, it’s one of our most popular items,” he reports. The soft and slightly dry goat cheese—sourced from Texas producer Cheesy Girl—adds just the right creamy contrast.

Nancy Silverton, La Brea Bakery and Osteria Mozza, Los Angeles
Rare-Seared Tuna Sandwich with Edamame Puree

A layering of flavors as well as ingredients distinguishes this open-face knife-and-fork sandwich. Toasted sourdough bread forms the base; an herbed edamame puree is spread on top, followed by soy sauce-marinated seared tuna and whole edamame. “I like to use interesting spreads and fresh herbs to jazz up sandwiches,” Silverton says.

Jeff Perkins, Amato’s, Portland, Maine
Amato’s Original Sandwich

In Maine, this quintessential Italian sub is called the “real Italian,” but at Amato’s locations in other states, it goes by “original sandwich.” Either way, Amato’s soft, signature Italian roll is stuffed with thin slices of ham, cheese and lots of vegetables. “We buy a specific high-end brand of cured meats and cold cuts, but our sandwiches are as much about the veggies as the meat—fresh-cut onions, tomatoes, green peppers and olives set them apart. We don’t use sauces to add flavor; all our flavor comes from the fresh ingredients,” Perkins explains.

John Strohm, Palm Springs Koffi, Palm Springs, California
Roast Turkey Panini

Lattes and espressos might be the draw at this casual coffee bar, but the staff serves some tempting go-alongs. The panini press works overtime, turning out grilled breakfast sandwiches and lunch specials. For this turkey panini, one slice of ciabatta is spread with seasoned cream cheese; the other, with whole cranberry sauce. Thinly sliced roast turkey and onion are layered on top and the sandwich is closed and lightly grilled in the press.

Sidebar: Between the bread

In this competitive sandwich market, the filling has to live up to its cover. What are operators buying to stuff inside and how can they maximize profits in this period of escalating food costs?

“We make all our tuna, chicken and egg salad fillings in house,” says Mike Lassiter of Rising Roll. “For our best-selling chicken salad, we spec whole muscle meat and cook it from scratch.” Right now, chicken and cheese are sky high, but using a variety of proteins helps control costs.”

Erbert & Gerbert’s, the regional Wisconsin-based chain, buys only solid muscle deli meats—no pressed or formed products. Its Flash Italian club is made with capicola ham, Genoa salami and smoked Virginia ham; prime roast beef goes on Halley’s Comet and real turkey breast on the Boney Billy. “We work through Sysco, but bid out to several suppliers to get the best quality at the best price,” says Doug Klunk. “We train our staff to ‘balance and build’. The proteins and cheeses have to evenly cover the length of the bread and they use minimal oil or mayonnaise to just highlight the taste of the filling—not overpower it.”

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