City of sandwiches

Sacramento isn’t necessarily known as a sandwich town, but maybe it should be

Illustration by Styles Munson

Sacramento is a sandwich kind of town.

Look around. Find me an American cuisine-leaning restaurant menu that doesn’t have a sandwich on it. Even Sacramento’s most celebrated fine dining restaurants like the Firehouse Restaurant, Mulvaney’s B&L and Ella Dining Room & Bar serve sandos in the afternoons.

Despite rising rents and an influx of trendy restaurant concepts, Sacramento is still, at its core, a working-class city. And there are few food categories as financially and ergonomically friendly as the humble sandwich: an entire meal that you can eat with your hands, usually for less than $10. Without even thinking, you’ve got your protein, carbs and just enough veg to make yourself believe you’re achieving that balanced diet.

Sandwiches don’t discriminate, either. If you’re Democrat or Republican, vegan or gluten-free, there’s still a sandwich for you in Sacramento. And that’s a beautiful thing.

The region’s amazing diversity is proudly on display via sandwiches. We’ve got enough banh mi and tortas to start serious debates, as well as brilliant examples from Italy, France and even Hong Kong. (Holler at those deep-fried peanut butter sandos known as Hong Kong-style French toast!)

We’ve got your all-American barbecue, your nostalgic grilled cheeses, your all-about-the-meat carved goodness. Transplants from the East Coast are fawning all over our tri-tip, with good reason. And we’ve got spots fulfilling everyone’s fuzzy vision of a California sandwich with that avocado-sprouts-cream cheese trifecta.

But it’s time for Sacramento to push the sandwich envelope, to move beyond the classic and established combinations. We’ve seen countless Sacramento chefs offer their take on banh mi at one point or another. Now, let’s see some truly original sandwiches.

I do want to give props to Sacramento’s doughnut purveyors for pioneering the now ubiquitous doughnut-ice cream sandwich. Sacramento was one of the first cities in the country to have the treat, and we should all be proud.

With the city’s restaurants getting more and more ambitious, though, the sandwiches ought to follow suit. Do we really need another turkey club? Fried chicken sandwiches are amazing, but can we try a new flavor profile? And we get it, pastrami is hot right now.

To be clear: I’m not asking for an avalanche of gimmicky sandwiches without substance. I’m not calling on restaurant chefs to go all food truck mania on us. I do not dream of two more slices of bread attempting to contain mac ’n’ cheese.

I want to see more sandwiches on biscuits—and not just at brunch. I want to see more kimchi, gochujang and Korean marinades gracing my bread. I want to see Japanese chicken katsu curry in sandwich form. I want to see crispy fries in my sandwiches, not just next to them. More Dutch Crunch. Chimichurri. Romesco. Romanesco.

In other words, let’s have some fun. OK?