When the craving for a sandwich strikes, we have plenty of options in L.A. It’s not hard to stumble across a decent sandwich at a burger stand, farmers’ market, food truck or grocery store—but what about those select shops that specialize in sandwiches, those that serve nothing but food smooshed between baguettes and croissants and rolls and Japanese milk bread? The traditional, counter-style sandwich shop is only slightly harder to come by in Southern California. Excluding purveyors of most specialty sandwiches (aside from L.A.’s own invention, the French dip), we’ve compiled a list in favor of lunch counters with a more expansive and classic selection of sandwiches, a list of L.A.’s very best sandwich shops—because even the humble sandwich is worth celebrating.
L.A.'s best sandwich shops
This tiny, wonderful operation at the end of a circuitous route through Frogtown now has a second location in Chinatown, where Wax Paper still makes cutting-edge versions of the most iconic sandwiches—with a few new creations thrown in, too. Whichever location you stop by, small-batch sandwiches are crafted and sent out to be eaten in cozy enclaves, making this an ideal to-go/picnic option. In true cool, nerd-kid fashion, each sandwich is named after a National Public Radio personality, though specials can take cues from chefs and local bands—but regardless of possible pretensions, these sandwiches are the real deal.
Try the beloved Ira Glass, a classic creamy-crunchy ideal of a sandwich with avocado, shredded cheddar, sprouts, pickled and raw red onions, cucumber and garlic aioli.
Italian delis are getting harder and harder to come by, but those looking for an old-school experience—complete with hanging salami and provolone—know they can always stop by this Santa Monica staple for cured meats, sausages, cheeses and gourmet specialties. The lunchtime crowd takes a number and queues up for some of the city’s best sandwiches, which often come meaty, messy and slathered in oil and vinegar on a soft roll that somehow holds form under the weight of all those cold cuts.
Try the legendary Godmother, piled high with salami, mortadella, prosciutto, coppa, ham, provolone cheese, mild or spicy peppers, served on freshly baked bread.
Tucked away in a garden-patio oasis just south of UCLA, Attari is a delightful sandwich shop that takes complex Persian cuisine and serves it up in the middle of a simple American-style hoagie. Dressed with tomato, mayo, pickles and a lettuce-and-parsley mix, the sandwiches are served out of a small shop that might be crowded with fans watching soccer games. Great vegetarian options like the kuku sabzi (comparable to a frittata) and the olivieh (a potato-and-egg salad) share the menu with brain and tongue. That tongue sandwich—braised til soft and seasoned wonderfully—is rightly famous, but any option at Attari is going to be a great choice.
Try the braised tongue sandwich with mustard, mayo, lettuce, tomatoes and pickles.
The menu? Compact. The vibe? So chill. 213 Hospitality’s Dave Fernie and former Wallace chef Joel Miller combined forces to bring DTLA an Italian-inspired sandwich shop with a name that roughly translates to “it’s tight.” Unsurprisingly, the casual spot at the front of Bar Clacson lives up to its name. There are Simpsons reruns playing on TV, while stacks of specialty, imported meats and cheeses get a very soigné upgrade with house-made sauces and spreads. Wash it all down with a few of the deli’s low-intervention wines on the patio, for best results.
Try the ILL PAPA, their take on an Italian sub, stacked with mortadella, capicolla, chorizo, manchego and house-made giardiniera. Vegetarian? The marinated-artichoke sandwich is brilliant.
As the name might suggest, All About the Bread is extremely proud of its bread—and for good reason. It’s crispy and crackly on the outside, soft on the inside and tastes even better when loaded up with ingredients such as meatballs, turkey or fresh mozzarella. Though this busy shop is sometimes criticized for making a clone of Bay Cities’ legendary Godmother sandwich (here dubbed the Godfather), hungry Mid-City eaters can save themselves a trip to Santa Monica by heading here instead. The rest of All About the Bread’s menu showcases a dedication to quality, innovation and good sandwich making with cheese and sun-dried tomatoes.
Try the hot meatball sandwich, served with marinara, provolone and parmesan.
Curtis Stone’s glitzy Gwen offers a menu of prixe-fixe options in the evenings, but dayside, you can stop by for the butcher shop for what might be the finest sandwiches in Hollywood. Find Italian grinders made with house-cured charcuterie; steak on a crispy baguette smeared with ramp aïoli; meatball subs featuring broccoli rabe pesto; killer house-made pastrami; and a few more sandwich surpsrises, plus beer, wine and espresso. The kicker? Each sandwich will only set you back around $12—but just try to get out without picking up one of those gorgeous terrines sitting in the butcher case, we dare you.
Try the meatball sandwich (dry-aged beef meatballs with melted mozzarella and brocolli rabe pesto).
Just off one of Echo Park’s most foot-beaten stretches of Sunset Boulevard is Trencher, a small shop named for the medieval open-faced predecessor of the sandwich. A cozy dining room with a laid-back vibe, Trencher is a purveyor of specialty sandwiches with novel ingredients such as puréed garlicky parsnip served over brisket, or portobello mushrooms with red peppers, onions and basil. Each sandwich is expertly composed and served alongside house-made chips or one of the kitchen’s scrumptious hot sides, including smashed potatoes, mac and cheese or buffalo cauliflower.
Try the namesake sandwich, The Trencher, a mix of veggies, avocado, smoked salmon, rosemary aioli and hard-boiled egg.
The name of this operation encompasses just about everything except sandwiches, but trust us, Larchmont Village Wine, Spirits & Cheese is renowned for its sandwiches. Hidden inside the back half of a damn fine wine store is a sandwich counter, where a team of masters slice veggies, meats and cheeses for Italian countryside-style sandwiches. Served on a choice of pillowy ciabatta or crusty baguette, the seven options on Larchmont’s gourmet menu each come with a little side of salt-cured olives and crunchy cornichons, and make for a surprising value for such high-end ingredients.
Try the sopressata salami with manchego, oil, vinegar, mixed greens and sun-dried tomato spread on a baguette.
In business since 1908, Philippe the Original claims to have invented the famed French dip—and whether or not you believe them, there’s no denying the eatery slings an exemplary sandwich. Savvy customers make their way across the sawdust-covered floor to select a traditional lamb, beef or turkey filling, then ask their server to double-dip the bread in the meaty juice; add some of the sinus-clearing house mustard and you’re golden. A bevy of sides include coleslaw, macaroni and potato salad, hard-boiled eggs and pickles—all to be eaten in the midst of friendly strangers, whom you’ll inevitably wind up talking to.
Try the leg of lamb or the classic roast beef, both succulent and gamey enough to hold up to extra dunks of that flavorful broth.
Whether you’re a Philippe’s fan or Cole’s believer, the real question is—do you dip? Originators of the French dip (or at least they claim to be), Cole’s sits in the same Downtown location as it did in 1908. Today, thanks to a revamp from 213 Hospitality, it’s also a great place to drink. Diners can order up hearty, beef-jus–dipped sandwiches in a setting that’s much darker and moodier than Philippe’s, on rolls much denser and fluffier. You just need to ask yourself: Congenial cafeteria vibes at one spot, or the darkened bar where mobsters and Charles Bukowski used to frequent?
Try the roast beef or the fall-apart pastrami—and don’t forget the rum-and-coke float for dessert.
This New Orleans-style sandwich shop is making po’boys right in the heart of Chinatown. A small market specializing in Southern goods and Cajun delicacies fills a large space that’s primarily dedicated to producing some of the finest sandwiches this side of the Mississippi (or at least L.A.). The po’boys—NOLA’s famed sandwiches that hold fried mollusks or crustaceans in a “dressed” remoulade-coated long bun—are the primary draw here, but Little Jewel serves a wide variety of deli goods, including the Louisiana belly-burster, the Muffalleta, as well as simpler ham, turkey, and sausage options.
Try one of the oyster or shrimp po’boys.
L.A.’s traditional Italian delis feel rarer by the day, but this new-school New York-style spot feels like a second coming, one for the next generation. Uncle Paulie’s makes its own mozzarella daily, sells cold cuts by the pound and stacks subs with some serious flavor combos, such as London broil with spicy giardiniera, and fennel salami with a scoop of chopped salad. Their sesame baguettes are some of the best bread in the game, but you can also stop by early for breakfast sandos like the cacio e pepe—made with egg, parm and cracked black pepper—served on a fluffy roll. Wash it all down with something from the fridge stocked almost entirely with seltzers.
Try the classic bacon, egg and cheese, served until noon.
On a sun-baked northern stretch of the city-spanning boulevard, Cahuenga General Store is almost like a portal to a small sandwich shop on a backroad in Maine—or 19th-century America. With rows of antique cans and products lining the walls, and a potbelly stove at the center of the space, the rural vibe carries on in the sandwiches: made quick and served with little fuss in a wicker basket. The counter serves high-quality takes on a wide range of classic sandwiches, icluding muffalettas, curry chicken salad, and warm pear-and-ham.
Try the Oscar Wilde (curry chicken salad) or the Tattoo (roast beef, melted swiss, pepperoncinis).
Less a traditional deli and more of a sandwich shop with a set menu, this spot in Westwood, Encino and Hollywood builds massive stoner-friendly takes on classics, piling deli meat with mozz sticks, potato chips, onion rings and just about anything else onto a hoagie roll. You can also opt for traditional, normal-size options, or the seasonal specials and fun collabs worth keep an eye on—but we all know that’s not why you’re here. If you’re really hungry, go for the “fat sandwiches,” made on extra-wide hero bread, or the smothered “fat fries.” There’s no denying that the food here is a heart attack waiting to happen—but it sure is good.
Try the Fat Banh Mi-Ki, with rib-eye steak, onion rings, pickled vegetables, Szechuan slaw, tomatoes, jalapeños and teriyaki glaze on a garlic hero.
Something of an eclectic shop in North Hollywood, Georgi’s Hymart—self-described as Mediterranean fusion—serves unique subs, salads and wraps. Classic sandwich fillings like egg salad, roast chicken and pastrami are given a twist with Armenian-influenced seasonings, sauces, pickles and peppers. Wholly original sandwiches like a ground turkey patty with basil, or shredded chicken with serrano chiles, are served—like the classics—on a fresh-baked Armenian soft roll. This original menu has become wildly popular, and the relatively tiny seating area is typically jam-packed during lunch hours.
Try the Foreman’s Special, featuring seasoned chicken, serrano peppers, jalapeños and spicy sauce.
As a decidedly old-school style of sandwich shop, the folks at Mike’s are serious about their sandwiches, whether at their Little Tokyo or Maywood location. Touting their commitment to Boar’s Head products in copious amounts of in-store advertising, they’re experts at transforming the quality meats and cheeses into top-notch sandwiches. It’s the cutting specifically that Mike’s Deli does best, as they’re serving some of the thinnest-sliced meat in town: paper-thin cold cuts are topped with pickles, onions and honey mustard on squaw bread or croissants, though customers can always build their own from the counter’s extensive ingredients.
Try the Mike’s Deli #1, with cajun turkey, pepper jack and all the fixings, or the behemoth double-decker New York-style reuben.