The Best Sandwiches in America
One of the best things about the sandwich—aside from your first bite—is its versatility. It can be as simple as a PB&J, or you can put everything in your refrigerator on a ciabatta bun and create an epic mountain of sandwich goodness. Follow along as one sandwich lover takes you on an American tour.
Sometimes there’s nothing like sinking your teeth into a tasty sandwich. If you grew up in a certain area of the country, you’re probably partial to the sandwiches you grew up eating, whether a Philly cheesesteak or a Fluffernutter. But there are plenty of other sandwiches from every corner of the U.S.A. that you may never have even heard of—but are totally worth trying.
Alabama: Pulled Chicken with White Sauce
While some form of barbecue sandwich is popular in most southern states, Alabama has a unique take in the form of a pulled chicken sandwich with white sauce. The mayo-based sauce is tangy and mildly spicy thanks to cider vinegar, horseradish and a potpourri of other spices. A surprising runner-up? The simple tomato and mayo on white bread. Find out what the best slow cooker recipe from your state is.
Arizona: Fry Bread Taco
When I took a poll among my Arizona associates for their state’s best sandwich, none of the answers I received were, in fact, sandwiches. In keeping with the heritage of this southwestern border state, I’m giving the nod to the fry bread taco, which—to further confuse things—isn’t actually a taco either, but a flatbread piled with pulled meat, beans, and cheese. You can make something like it with this recipe.
California: The French Dip
California is a big place with a diverse array of cultures, and it would be easy to pick any number of sandwiches to represent our most populous state, including the fish taco and the avocado club. In the end though, I have to go with the French Dip, traditionally made with roast beef on a French roll and dipped in its own juices. Which L.A. eatery invented the sandwich is a matter of some dispute. You know you’re from the West Coast if you’ve tried all of these foods.
Colorado: Denver Omelet
There’s no waffling among Colorado experts on the state’s most iconic sandwich: It’s the Denver omelet sandwich. The traditional omelet was first a sandwich and features eggs, ham, cheese, peppers, and onions. If you can’t find it in sandwich form on a menu, just order the omelet with toast and assemble it yourself.
With a large Cuban population, it’s no surprise the Cubano is the Sunshine State’s most iconic sandwich (and in full disclosure, a well-made Cuban is among my favorite dishes). The panini-style sandwich is stuffed with Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and ham, salami and/or pork. I have a friend in Florida who claims to have had a religious experience eating the Cubano at Drago’s in Bradenton. The Cubano is definitely one of the best sandwiches from around the world.
Georgia: Pimiento Cheese Sandwich
This simple blend of cheese, mayonnaise, and pimientos (a sweet red pepper) on white bread is so iconic to Georgia (and the entire South), it’s even served at the Masters golf tournament every April as the tournament’s official sandwich. You can easily make some at home to enjoy while you watch the big event in the spring; ill-fitting green jacket optional.
Hawaii: Hawaiian Pulled Pork
While half the states on this list could claim a pork barbecue sandwich as their own, the good people of Hawaii enjoy whole hogs slow-cooked in an underground oven, sometimes with a tangy sweet sauce that features pineapple. Perfect for a barbecue on the beach, or—if you live in the landlocked Midwest like I do—a barbecue you’re pretending is on the beach. Here’s how to cut a pineapple like a Hawaiian.
Idaho: Peanut Butter and Jam
I was so afraid we were going to go through this list and not find a spot for the sandwich most of us grew up with in our school lunches, the classic PB&J. Fortunately, Idaho is here to save us from that fate. They don’t make just any peanut butter and jelly in this mountainous state, however. Idaho is known for using huckleberry jam with Idaho huckleberries to add some style to this classic. Find out where peanut butter and jelly came from in the first place.
Illinois: Chicago-Style Hot Dog
My wife’s whole family is from Chicago. If I get this wrong, I’m in trouble. Relatives have said I need to pick Italian beef, Polish sausage, or The Horseshoe. My wife, however, has told me to do the right thing and pick the Chicago-style hot dog, because, in her words, “If any one state on your list gets to claim the hot dog, it’s us.” Just make sure you skip the ketchup—it’s verboten on a Chicago dog. Check out where to find the best hot dog in every state!
Indiana: Pork Tenderloin
County fairs light up the Indiana countryside all summer long, and you can bet you’ll find pork tenderloin sandwiches sold at each and every one of them. These flat, breaded pork sandwiches are approximately the size of dinner plates, and if I ever find one put on a bun even half the size of the patty, I’ll be amazed. This sandwich is definitely better than these horrifying state fair fried foods you’ll find.
Kansas: Brisket Burnt Ends
If I picked anything but some form of barbecue for Kansas, I would fully expect a mob of angry Kansans with torches and grilling tongs to march up to Ohio and give me what-for. The trouble is choosing between the state’s many barbecue sandwich options. Brisket, perhaps my favorite cut of beef, has a grand reputation in Kansas, where the burnt ends of the cut are used for a particularly fine sandwich.
Kentucky: Hot Brown
Few states have a sandwich more iconic and legendary than Kentucky’s Hot Brown. Created and still available at Louisville’s Brown Hotel, the Hot Brown features turkey, bacon, and tomato with Mornay sauce on toast, all browned in a broiler. Try out the best fall recipe from your state.
While the Po’ Boy is certainly popular in Louisiana, it’s not unique to the state. The Muffuletta, however, is. Invented by Sicilian immigrants in New Orleans over a hundred years ago, the sandwich stuffs a loaf of the eponymous bread with olive salad, ham, salami, various cheeses, and a few other goodies for a taste of The Big Easy like no other.
Maine: Lobster Roll
Maine has some of the country’s best seafood, including lobster, so it’s only right they offer the country a road trip-worthy lobster sandwich. The sandwich is pretty simple—it’s mostly just fresh cooked lobster on a roll—but tourists and foodies line up for miles to grab a lobster roll from Red Eats in Wiscasset, Maine, which sits right on the ocean. You’ll never have lobster so fresh. You know you’re from the East Coast if you’ve tried all of these foods.
Maryland: Fried Soft Shell Crab
One of my Maryland friends opened this question up to his social media community, and a lively debate broke out over the sandwich merits of crab cake and fried soft shell crab. They laughed, they cried, they fought, they learned something about themselves and each other. In the end, fried soft shell crab won out, and because they’re only available for a short period of time each year, they’re a bit of a delicacy.
In Massachusetts, there is a thing called a fluffernutter, which is a white-bread sandwich with peanut butter and marshmallow fluff, and actual adults in the state eat it. The adults, in fact, invented it. About ten years ago, the state legislature even devoted some time to arguing about whether this should be the state’s official sandwich. I just have to ask… Is everything OK, Massachusetts? Find out the strangest food law in every state.
Michigan: Ham Sandwich
The state sandwich of Michigan might depend upon whether you believe that pasties—the European hand pies so popular in the Upper Peninsula—qualify as sandwiches. Fortunately, Michigan has a second option to save us from controversy: the classic ham sandwich. Popularized as a lunch item for Detroit auto workers, the sandwich is most commonly topped with pickles and mustard on a poppy seed bun.
Mississippi: The Elvis
As appetizing as the state’s pig ear sandwich sounds, I’m going to go with royalty: the Elvis sandwich, named for Mississippi’s famous son. This curious layering of peanut butter, fried banana and bacon can be had at his hometown of Tupelo’s annual celebration of the King. Another solid pick? The shrimp Po’ Boy. Trying one (or both!) of these is a good addition to the best bucket list for all 50 states.
Montana: Pork Chop Sandwich
Pork chop sandwiches have plenty of fans in Big Sky Country, and I feel much better about this now that I’ve discovered these are boneless chops (that was a confusing and alarming couple of minutes for me). The sandwich’s popularity centers around Pork Chop John’s in the town of Butte, though it’s not the only place you can find this hearty dish.
Nebraska: The Reuben
Along with the Cubano, the Reuben is my favorite sandwich when made well. The bread is everything, and if the bread can’t stand up to the moisture of the sandwich, a disaster quickly ensues. The sandwich was invented in Omaha, and Nebraskans definitely know how to make a disaster-free Reuben. Served on rye bread, the famous sandwich features corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing. Nebraska boasts the invention of the Reuben; find out which famous food owes its creation to your state.
Nevada: Patty Melt
Nevadans might not like me giving The Bobbie to Delaware now that Capriotti’s has moved to Las Vegas, but the sandwich was invented in Delaware and that’s where I’m leaving it. Instead, we’re giving Nevada the patty melt, a grilled cheese sandwich with a beef patty and grilled onions. It was invented in Nevada.
New Hampshire: Monte Cristo
I was only recently introduced to the Monte Cristo, a curious creation that finds ham and cheese nestling between slices of French toast. That’s not all though—the whole thing is often deep-fried and given a touch of honey, syrup, or preserves, making this the ultimate brunch hangover sandwich, and a delight that New Hampshire specializes in any time of day. Don’t miss the most iconic diner in every state.
New Jersey: Taylor Ham, Egg, and Cheese
Italian hoagies are quite popular in New Jersey, but a ham, egg, and cheese sandwich gets the nod here because it’s traditionally made with Taylor ham, a variety unique to New Jersey. The sandwich is often served on a hard roll.
New Mexico: Green Chile Cheeseburger
I went into this list avoiding burgers, but in a couple of cases, it’s been irrefutable that a state’s most iconic food to put between two pieces of bread is a beef patty. In New Mexico, that means the green chile cheeseburger. Green chiles spice up just about everything in New Mexico, and that means a burger with a bit of a kick. Love burgers? Find out which state has the most fast-food restaurants in the country.
North Carolina: Barbecue Pulled Pork
Practically every state south of the Mason-Dixon could lay claim to some form of barbecue pork sandwich, but North Carolina takes the crown with their chopped pork. Tossed in the state’s trademark tangy, vinegar-based barbecue sauce and served with classic Southern sides, it’s hard to find a better summer sandwich.
North Dakota: Sloppy Joe
While Iowa invented the Sloppy Joe, North Dakotans have made it their own. Made with loose meat typically mixed with a tomato-based sauce, this messy treat is a staple of North Dakota life, providing a simple but satisfying option for dinners at home, at community get-togethers, or in numerous mom-and-pop restaurants. Make one of these awesome sloppy Joes at home and see what your family thinks.
For a good many of my 36 years on this Earth, I’ve lived within walking distance of one of the world’s best sandwich shops, thank you very much. Every single day, a long line of cars waits to go through the small diner’s drive-thru to order their eponymous loose meat sandwich. Polish boy sandwiches are better known in the Buckeye state, but this is my list, and the Maid-Rite wins.
Oklahoma: Chicken-Fried Steak Sandwich
The chicken-fried steak sandwich might have a confusing name (no chickens are harmed in the making of this sandwich), but there’s nothing confusing about its appeal here in cowboy country. A thin steak cutlet gets breaded and seasoned and then fried to a golden crisp before getting slapped on a bun with lettuce and tomato. Yeehaw! You also have to try the best casserole recipe from every state.
Oregon: Fried Chicken Biscuit or The Oregonian
A lot of cultural influences come together in Oregon, and when put together with Portland’s open-minded food and drink scene, it can be tough to pin down this state’s best sandwich. So I’m going to let you pick your own between two favorites: PBJ sandwich shop’s The Oregonian (marionberry jam, blue cheese and hazelnut butter on challah) or the fried chicken biscuit from Pine State Biscuits.
Pennsylvania: Philly Cheesesteak
The Philly cheesesteak is so iconic to the City of Brotherly Love that I really have no choice here. Get thee to Philadelphia for the state’s most famous sandwich, or try this copycat. Or try a sandwich from the other side of the Keystone State: a meaty meal with tangy coleslaw, French fries and tomatoes piled between thick slices of Italian bread. This one’s named after the sandwich shop that invented it. Speaking of little shops, have you tried the best coffee shop in your state?
Rhode Island: Italian Grinder
This sub sandwich gets all the classic Italian deli fixings, including pepperoni, salami, capicola, provolone cheese, and Italian dressing. By the way, nobody’s sure where the name came from. It could do with all the chewing you have to do to enjoy one (and enjoy you will).
South Carolina: BLT
I am fully prepared for South Carolina readers to riot because I gave pulled pork to their northern neighbors, but relax, South Carolina, because you get BACON. The classic BLT finds a worthy home in South Carolina with the state’s love for pork and its home-grown Southern tomatoes. For a delicious massive meal, head to the best all-you-can-eat buffet in your state.
Tennessee: Hot Chicken
The hot chicken might sound like a honky-tonk dance move, but it’s actually a legendary sandwich in the Volunteer State. Spicy fried chicken gets topped with nothing but pickles and served on white bread, allowing the bird’s heat to shine through.
Texas: Brisket Sandwich
Brisket is so good it gets two states on this list. This savory meat is usually served sliced on its own, but in Texas, it just as often gets chopped like pulled pork and served on a toasted bun. The meat is falling apart from a long, slow roast over wood, and the flavors are as big as the state itself. For some more flavorful fun, head to the best pizzeria in your state.
Utah: Halibut Sandwich
What’s the first food that comes to mind when you think of the Utah desert? Ocean fish, right? Obviously. Since we already used the Navajo Taco (fry bread) for Arizona, let’s go with a Utah icon, the halibut sandwich from Arctic Circle. The western chain (think Steak ‘n Shake, Midwesterners) is centered in Utah and is celebrating its 70th anniversary soon.
Virginia: Country Ham
Country ham is tops in Virginia, but not just any ham. There is a specific variety produced in Virginia that makes their simple ham sandwiches on a white bun with mayonnaise particularly satisfying. Also satisfying? These delicious potato recipes from every state.
Washington: Bánh Mì
Washington’s population of Vietnamese Americans has brought a southeast Asian touch to many of the state’s menus. The Bánh Mì (try this wrap version!) is served in a baguette roll and includes some form of pork with pickled veggies, cilantro, and jalapeno, often with other fixings thrown in depending on the mind of the maker. Another great Washington pick? Salmon sandwiches!
West Virginia: Sausage Biscuit
True story: I was once fed a breakfast sandwich in West Virginia called something like Galloping Horses, which, in retrospect, should have served as a warning. No matter. There are plenty of excellent sausage biscuit sandwiches in this mountainous state, and no one does buttery biscuits like West Virginia. Find out the one food you absolutely have to try from every state.
Wisconsin: Grilled Cheese
While bratwurst is extremely popular in this heavily German-influenced state, I would be remiss not to acknowledge Wisconsin’s mad dairy skills by picking the classic grilled cheese. The state even hosts an annual grilled cheese competition. If you need judges, hit me up, Wisconsin.
Wyoming: Trout Sandwich
My final notes for Wyoming read “bison reuben, trout, buffalo meatball,” which should tell you this rugged pioneer state does things a little bit differently. While I’d happily try any of those options, I am partial to fresh fish, and you’ll never find fresher trout than in Wyoming. You can find it served in a variety of ways around the state, and if you’re into fly fishing, you can even catch the main ingredient yourself. If by any chance you’re hungry for barbecue now, find out the best barbecue joint from each state.