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Photograph: Courtesy Cat-Su Sando

The 8 best sandwiches in Chicago

We've found some of the most creative dishes stuffed between two (or more) slices of bread.

Zach Long
Morgan Olsen
Written by
Zach Long
&
Morgan Olsen
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So you've already sampled Chicago's best Italian beefs, eaten a jibaritos and tracked down the often-overlooked sweet steak sandwich. What's next? We decided to look beyond the standard local delicacies and find some of the most creative assemblages of items stuffed between two (or more) slices of bread. After all, you can't beat the handheld convenience of a great sandwich, and plenty of Chicago restaurants, delis and cafes are using the unbiquitous dish as a template for innovation. From a ham and cheese sandwich made with peach preserves to a panini that features jerk-seasoned turkey, these creations offer something unexpected in a familiar package. We even tracked down some amazing vegetarian-friendly options (you won't even miss the meat!). Check out some of the best sandwiches in Chicago that you may not have tried... yet.

The 8 best sandwiches in Chicago

  • Restaurants
  • Logan Square

What's on it? Goat cheese, smoked ham and peach preserves on sourdough

Not even Carl Sandburg could have dreamed up a sandwich like this in the city he named the “Hog Butcher for the World.” The Midwest’s ubiquitous ham and cheese gets a serious upgrade in the hands of chef Joe Frillman, who ditches Swiss in favor of earthy chèvre. But the real star of the show is the mess of macerated, succulently sweet peach preserves, procured from nearby Frillman Farms. If you could somehow cram summer in Chicago between two pieces of bread, this would be it.—Morgan Olsen

  • Restaurants
  • Cambodian
  • Hermosa

What's on it? Fried chicken thigh, pickled papaya salad, long beans and Asian herbs (Thai basil, culantro, mint, etc.)

This tiny Cambodian fusion restaurant in Hermosa isn't exactly competing in the Chain Restaurant Chicken Sandwich Wars, but it's fried bird on a bun is a real contender. Owner and chef Ethan Lim marinates his skin-on chicken thighs with a mixture of spices (garlic, lemongrass, tumeric), soy sauce and fish sauce before deep frying them to crispy perfection. The umami of the meat is balanced out by a sweet pickled papaya salad, long beans and a bouquet of herbs, lending every bite an interesting array of textures and flavors. It may look fairly simple, but Hermosa's fried chicken sandwich is as complex as they come.—Zach Long

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  • Restaurants
  • Delis
  • Greater Grand Crossing

What's on it? Turkey breast, Kingston Kick jerk sauce, turkey bacon, red onion, spinach, Swiss cheese and roasted red pepper mayo on panini bread

In Chicago, jerk seasoning goes with just about anything—and that includes a great turkey breast panini. Mabe's Deli is probably better known for its excellent jerk chicken sandwhiches, but it's Kingston Kick jerk sauce pairs well with the poultry that you typically eat on Thanksgiving. This pressed sandwich (also available as a wrap) augments the warm flavors of the Jamaican spice blend with melting cheese, crunchy turkey bacon and a tangy red pepper mayo. With Lem's Bar-B-Q and Brown Sugar Bakery nearby, this stretch of 75th Street is stacked with delicious options—but this panini is a great reason to stop by Mabe's Deli the next time you're in Chatham.—Zach Long

  • Restaurants
  • Sandwich shops
  • Irving Park

What's on it? Grilled rapini, white beans, caramelized onion, provolone cheese and calabrian chili aioli on grilled Tuscan bread

Beans on a sandwich? Put your skepticism aside, because one bite of this vegetarian-friendly creation from JT’s Genuine Sandwich Shop will likely be enough to change your mind. Inspired by the Italian side dish, this combo of white beans, rapini and caramelized onion works suprisingly well stuffed between too slices of bread with melted provolone holding it all together and some calabrian chili aioli lending the entire handheld a spicy kick. It's so flavorful that you may briefly forget that you're eating a pile of veggies, a feat that only a group of sandwich experts could achieve.—Zach Long

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  • Restaurants
  • Sandwich shops
  • Lake View
  • price 2 of 4

What's on it? Fried egg, thick cut bacon, aged cheddar, potato latke and spicy ketchup on your choice of bagel.

Madison, Wisconsin transplant Gotham makes some of the best bagels in the city at its Lakeview and Gold Coast locations, but it's also putting the perfectly-chewy baked goods to use as vessels for some great sandwiches. Our favorite on the menu is the Rocky's Deli, an especially hearty take on a standard bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich that tastes good any time of the day. The addition of a potato latke turns this sammie into a meal, served on the bagel of your choice (we recommend the egg everything bagel). There's nothing wrong with having breakfast for lunch!—Zach Long

  • Restaurants
  • Vegetarian
  • Hyde Park

What's on it? Vegan turkey, vegan bacon, green leaf lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, mayo and sweet mustard on a triple decker of toasted wheat bread

Even a plant-based meal can be a decadent treat, and this towering sandwich from Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat is proof. Swapping out actual turkey and bacon for plant-derived alternatives, this loaded club sandwhich retains all the flavor (if not the texture) of the popular, piled-high dish. Cut into four slices and served on a bed of fries, the lack of meat isn't going to stop you from filling up—though, if you have some extra room, the vegan shakes at this Hyde Park spot are pretty great, too.—Zach Long

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Humboldt Park
  • price 1 of 4

What's on it? Smoked turkey, grilled Spam, provolone, caramelized onions, Spam jam, shrettuce and lemon mayo on toasted milk bread

You should absolutely try the namesake dish at ex-Blackbird chefs Will Schlaeger and Shawn Clendening's Japanese-inspired concept—their golden-fried chicken thigh is one of the best examples of katsu in the city. But if you're ready to try something a bit different, this slightly intimidating stack of meats is sure to satisfy. A variation on the diner and deli menu staple, the Cat-Su Club swaps out ham and bacon for grilled Spam and adds an additional savory kick with dollops of "Spam jam" (trust us, it's tasty). It all comes on the same airy milk bread that cradles Cat-Su Sando signature dish, though these slices are toasted to give this jam-packed menu item a bit more structure. It may even inspire you to pick up a can of Spam the next time you're at the grocery store.—Zach Long

  • Restaurants
  • Delis
  • Greektown

What's on it? Cold-smoked pastrami-cured beets, yogurt, marinated tomatoes and greens on malted rye.

There's no avoiding it—you're going to smell the unmistakable scent of pastrami and corned beef wafting from the kitchen at this West Loop deli. We can't blame you if you decide to indulge in the meatier side of Rye's menu, but anyone looking for a vegetarian-friendly alternative won't be disappointed by this creative root vegetable sammie. The beets on these slices of malted rye bread are treated much like the meats, cold-smoked and brined so that they're salty, savory and juicy. It's probably going to leave your fingers purple, but it's so delicious that it's worth the vigorous hand washing.—Zach Long

Find more amazing sandwiches

  • Restaurants

Sandwiches are having a moment right now, and it's not hard to see why. Over the past year, restaurants around the globe have pivoted to include more casual, carryout-friendly eats that cater to our lockdown lives. To pay homage to the ancient art of cramming our favorite ingredients between two slices of bread, we're shining a spotlight on the world's best, most sensational sandwiches right now—try not to drool while you read this list.

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