2020 in Review: 5 of Salt Lake's Best Sandwiches
New Year's Day and New Year's Eve are kind of like pieces of bread, sandwiching a year's worth of events between them. If that metaphor actually works, then 2020 was a pretty shitty sandwich. Maybe the mayo turned? I don't know, but a lot was wrong. But during this awful year, I did eat some pretty amazing sandwiches. So to brighten the mood, I thought I'd share some with you.
I'm a big fan of the sandwich as a concept; a pile of tasty ingredients between two pieces of bread is a surefire way to please a hungry Rio. But there are are countless iterations and recipes, and even more people who make them. So let's get into it. First of all, I'm not claiming these are the ALL TIME CHAMPIONS, I'm not trying to get stabbed in the street over a food argument. But let's just say, these are five of the best sandwiches SLC has to offer, in NO particular order, from a connoisseur of the genre.
Let's start of with Pretty Bird's Fried Chicken Sandwich. This hyper-hip little joint from Chef Viet Pham nailed it right out of the gate with this one. A piece of their (roughly) Nashville-style hot chicken at whatever heat level you prefer on a buttered bun with red cabbage slaw, pickle chips and Pretty Bird sauce. Always go for the “Hot” spice level on this one, as the bun and the toppings really help balance the heat out and any milder ends up losing the point! The chicken is succulent and flavorful, the slaw is crunchy and refreshing, but not too acidic. The pickle chips come in and balance that with even more crunch. Another layer of richness is the sauce, which is not your average fry sauce. There's a citrus element here, burnt-lime powder I think, that adds a depth, tang of citrus, and just a little bitterness to the creaminess. All together, these elements never fail to satisfy.
Next up is the Old School from Caputo's Deli. A classic Italian deli sandwich is always a favorite of mine and this one features a roll piled with sausage, Genoa salami, capocolla, Cacio de Roma cheese, lettuce, tomato, oil and balsamic vinegar, and the kicker: a roasted red pepper spread. This spread really goes amazingly well with the cheese and the saltiness of the layered meats. The veggies add a little refreshing crunch, and the vinegar cuts the fattiness from the charcuterie. This deli is one of the best West of the Mississippi and has become a Downtown Salt Lake institution. Ask for extra vinegar if you want to try it like I get it.
Some of my favorite places are those that fly under the radar for a lot of folks, quietly being badass and making excellent food. Duffy's Tavern on Main Street is one of these and their GLA is on of my very favorites. Made behind the bar in a tiny toaster oven, this massive sandwich is driven by the GLA relish, a paste of olives, jalapeños and garlic that spreads between the layers on this tall sandwich and delivers massive flavor. The layers in questions are pepperoni, ham, pastrami, lettuce, tomato and sooooooo much mozzarella. A drizzle of a balsamic vinegar sauce and some time in the well-seasoned oven finish this one and make it into greasy, messy, spicy, garlicky stack of wonderful. A local beer and a shot from the bar and you're set.
Some sandwiches are almost ephemeral, you never know when they might disappear forever. When Beltex Meatsstopped their weekly-sandwich service during the pandemic, I was afraid their excellent Porchetta Sandwich would meet such a fate. Luckily, they were able to bring it back alongside their popular Cubano (also in contention for this list) during their Saturday curbside market operations across from Liberty Park. This beauty is local ciabatta, a pile of house-made porchetta, fontina cheese, arugula, and a mayo that's been impregnated with their giardinera. The result is so rich and unctuous it's insane. The arugula provides a bit of refreshing crispness and there's a little heat from the giardinera in the mayo, but the real star is that amazing meat. Do not sleep on this one!
What would a sandwich list be without a Jewish deli? Feldman's Deli in Holladay does it all right, and keep things pretty traditional. Their Sloppy Joe is not what you first picture, hearing that name, but instead a pile of everything you love in a Jewish deli sandwich. Apparently, Sloppy Joe is New Jersey-speak for a double decker sandwich and this one has a ½ pound of both corned beef and pastrami (good because I can never decide between the two), along with thousand island dressing and coleslaw, in two layers between their excellent Jewish rye bread. They don't call it a sloppy for nothing, and while messy, it's just... perfect. The bread and the slaw are good balancing agents, but the star here is the meat, which is authentic as it gets. Try it with a knish if they haven't sold out of them already.
Hopefully some of these sandwiches helped keep you sane in 2020 or can help you start 2021 on the right note. If you guys liked this style of article, I'll do more! Let me know what you think? And of course, let me know what I missed? What secrets are out there lurking between two pieces of bread?