Best sandwiches in NYC: CUBA
Pig’s head Cuban sandwich at the Cannibal
The Gramercy spot’s snout-to-tail ethos is particularly evident in this pressed, off-cut revision of the Caribbean classic. After a long, leisurely brine in spicy cherry-pepper juice, funky pig’s head meat roasts at low heat until it’s falling off the bone. Executive chef Michael Berardino piles the soft slices on a squishy roll—along with pickles, slivers of ham from Vermont Smoke and Cure and a slick of mayonnaise—and presses it on the griddle to achieve the Cuban’s signature crunchy exterior. 113 E 29th St between Park Ave South and Lexington Aves (212-686-5480, thecannibalnyc.com). $12.
Best sandwiches in NYC: ITALY
Ortolano at San Matteo Panuozzo
When it comes to the Boot’s handheld edibles, the panino tends to rack up the most acclaim. But the panuozzo, a specialty of Salerno that swaps pressed ciabatta for pliant pizza dough, merits equal consideration. This vegetarian-friendly iteration fills a well-charred oblong loaf with marinated eggplant, roasted red bell peppers, creamy house-made mozzarella and zippy fresh arugula. 127 St. Marks Pl between First Ave and Ave A (212-979-8000, sanmatteonyc.com). $8.
Best sandwiches in NYC: ITALY
Pane Panelle at Pane Panelle
The namesake creation at this takeout shop is a humble Palermo street snack retrofitted for millennial tastes. Cradled in a soft, seeded Italian bun is a thin chickpea-flour fritter, crisped in a bath of sizzling olive oil and swiped with creamy ricotta and mild stringy caciocavallo cheese. Add on a side of eggplant caponata—it’s Sicily’s sweet and pulpy answer to ratatouille. 305 Church St between Lispenard and Walker Sts (212-219-4037, panepanelle.com). $8.
Best sandwiches in NYC: SPAIN
Trio bikini at La Churreria
Popular in Spain’s Catalonia region, these diminutive grilled cheeses encase highbrow fillings in lowbrow white-bread toast. The most authentic variation of the tea-sandwich–size nibble marries translucent sheets of jamón serrano and Mahón cheese from the island of Minorca with tangy house-made membrillo (quince paste) for a salty-sweet bite. 284 Mulberry St between E Houston and Prince Sts (212-219-0400, lachurrerianyc.com). $7.50.
Best sandwiches in NYC: ARGENTINA
Pork sausage sandwich at Calyer
Chef Gabriel Moya draws on his father’s Latin American heritage for this juicy two-hander: House-made porcine links, sliced in half lengthwise, hit the flattop to crisp before being nestled in chimichurri-and-onion–slicked slices of chewy Brick City Baking bread. 92 Calyer St between Franklin and West Sts, Greenpoint, Brooklyn (347-889-6323, calyerbrooklyn.com). $11.
Best sandwiches in NYC: FRANCE AND CUBA
Croque señora at Nights & Weekends
Two culinary touchstones pop up in this hefty hybrid, which you’ll want to attack with a knife and fork. Stacked with a mound of mojo-marinated pork shoulder, chorizo, speck, house-brined spicy pickles and melted Gruyère, the sandwich is a play on a Caribbean medianoche—a near doppelganger for the Cuban sandwich that employs a challah roll. The whole thing is crowned croque-madame–style with a quivering fried egg. 1 Bedford Ave at Nassau St, Greenpoint, Brooklyn (718-383-5349). $14.
Best sandwiches in NYC: VIETNAM AND ITALY
Banh Mi[lano] at the Saint Austere
At this democratic wine bar, the Pirolo siblings reinvent the Vietnamese banh mi using Italian cured meats. A crusty French baguette, typical for the Southeast Asian sub, serves as the vehicle for testa (headcheese), in place of pâté, and fat-studded mortadella, rather than plain pork cold cuts. Chili paste provides a fiery punch, while cucumbers and carrots add brightness and texture. 613 Grand St between Leonard and Lorimer Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-388-0012, thesaintaustere.com). $10.
Best sandwiches in NYC: CANADA
Smoked-meat sandwich at Mile End
Husband-and-wife team Noah and Rae Bernamoff took an artisanal approach to the delicatessen traditions of Noah’s native Montreal when creating this signature item. Beef brisket rubbed in a house blend of 18 spices (garlic, black peppercorn, coriander, paprika and others) dry-cures for 10 days before taking an eight-hour ride in an oak-burning smoker. Two slices of malty homemade rye, primed with spicy mustard, can barely contain the tender, hand-carved meat. 53 Bond St between Bowery and Lafayette St (212-529-2990) • 97A Hoyt St between Atlantic Ave and Pacific St, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn (718-852-7510) • mileendbrooklyn.com. $12.
Best sandwiches in NYC: GREECE
Thrimatismeno arni se pita at Boukiés
Think of this petite pocket as the classy Mediterranean version of a sloppy joe. Lamb shoulder sourced from northern Colorado braises and roasts with mirepoix, red wine, garlic and a pantheon of spices. Supple bits of meat are doused with reduced braising liquid before they’re stuffed inside a soft pita. To add some tang, apply a scoop of the accompanying mint-flecked yogurt, which gets a subtle zing from the addition of the Moroccan spice ras el hanout. 29 E 2nd St at Second Ave (212-777-2502, boukiesrestaurant.com). $12.
Best sandwiches in NYC: INDIA
Mumbai pav at Desi Galli
Mix-and-match options abound at this Curry Hill newcomer, but you’ll want to focus on the pav section of the menu. Characteristic of the Maharashtra state in western India, these slider-like buns hold anything from chicken tikka to our favorite—dense patties made from cumin-laced potatoes and grated paneer (a firm Indian cheese). Skip the tamarind and mint chutneys on the side; the fillings are best left unadulterated. 101 Lexington Ave between 27th and 28th Sts (212-683-2292, desi-galli.com). $2.99–$3.99.
Best sandwiches in NYC: FRANCE
Pâté de Campagne at Épicerie Boulud
Boulud’s upscale deli brings rustic French flavors to bear upon this classic sandwich. Master baker Mark Fiorentino delivers its yeasty foundation—a chewy whole-wheat baguette. To that crusty torpedo, staffers add burly slabs of coarse, house-made pork and chicken liver pâté, plus briny cornichons, bitter frisée and a zingy blend of Dijon, whole-grain and Orléans mustards to cut the richness. 1900 Broadway at 64th St (212-595-9606, epicerieboulud.com). $7.50.
Best sandwiches in NYC: CZECH REPUBLIC
Grilled Camembert at Doma na rohu
Chef Arpad Galvacs reimagines the ubiquitous Czech beer snack smazeny syr (fried breaded cheese) as a grilled cheese sandwich at this Austro-Hungarian café. Golden fried fingers of earthy Camembert ooze onto a chewy ciabatta—their molten flow trapping the lacy shreds of fried parsley sprinkled on top. A Mitteleuropa kick comes by way of imported German lingonberries, whose burst-in-the-mouth juices provide a sweet-tart complement to the pungent rind. 27 1/2 Morton St at Seventh Ave South (212-929-4339, domanyc.com). $9.
Best sandwiches in NYC: TURKEY
Wrap at Cigkoftem
This intriguing wrap offers a raw and vegan-friendly version of cig kofte—a traditional Turkish tartare of chilled lamb or beef. To make this meatless version, a lengthy list of ingredients—including bulgur wheat, walnuts, cumin and plenty of hot pepper—are finely ground, bound together with tomato paste and flattened into moist patties. The hearty kofte is paired with a dicing of sweet tomato, crunchy cucumber and parsley, plus a drizzle of lemon and pomegranate juices, all contained in a resilient lavash wrap. 438 E 9th St between First Ave and Ave A (212-777-8767, cigkoftem.com). $4.85.
Best sandwiches in NYC: CAMBODIA
Grilled Khmer sausage at Num Pang
Num Pang’s fragrant, fatty sausage sandwich provides a bright survey of Cambodian flavors. A pair of lightly charred pork bangers, hot and herbaceous, with red Thai chilies, fresh mint and cilantro, are loaded onto a garlic-toasted semolina baguette. They’re crowned with a tangle of sweetly pickled carrots, fresh cucumber and more aromatic cilantro, which help balance the sausage’s smokiness. A dab of chili-kicked mayo adds extra heat to the heady mix. 140 E 41st St between Lexington and Third Aves (212-867-8889, numpangnyc.com). $7.50.
Best sandwiches in NYC: MEXICO
Torta pesce at Tortaria
Chef Alfredo Vicuna revamps a seared-snapper recipe native to his Mexican hometown of Tlapehuala by mashing it up with another South of the Border standby: the Mexico City–style torta. He dresses the flaky red fish with fresh Bibb lettuce, pickled red onions and a slurry of jalapeño-parsley mayo, then tucks it into a soft semolina roll. 94 University Pl at 12th St (212-776-1830, tortaria-nyc.com). $7.81.