Sacramento’s 20 best sandwiches
Our writers searched high and low, on the grid and off, for the tastiest meals between two buns
These days, Sacramento is gunning hard to be a “world-class” food destination, whatever that means. Even our water tower says hello with “America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital,” like a high school yearbook editor who has elected himself Most Popular.
But delicious food was here before anyone thought to brand the city as its leading purveyor. That’s evident in SN&R’s picks for Sacramento’s best sandwiches. In our guide, you’ll find $14 grilled cheeses and farm-to-fork paradigms alongside filling sandos for less than $4. Sandwiches are a proletarian to-go meal, and plenty of the eateries on this list have been around since long before the internet got angry about avocado toast.
That’s not to say our quest was easy. The search for the yummiest food between two slices got existential: Is a sandwich defined by carbohydrates surrounding protein on two distinct sides? Is a taco a sandwich? What even is a sandwich?
In this issue, we’ve not only diagrammed what makes a sandwich, but also hand-picked the best ones around. So get hungry—but not so much that you chomp the toothpick.
Best banh mi
Banh mi thit nuong,
Giò Chà Duc Huong Sandwiches
This Vietnamese style of sandwich has been copied at trendy restaurants all over Sacramento, but for the real deal, you’ll need to drive to Little Saigon. Start with the grilled pork version, banh mi thit nuong ($3.75 for a large), at locally owned Giò Chà Duc Huong Sandwiches. It’s filled to the brim with salty, delicious pork; cool cucumber; crunchy pickled carrots and daikon; and an abundance of fresh cilantro. The bread, a soft baguette baked in-house with just the right amount of chew, cements its status as the best in town. We dare you to find a more satisfying sandwich for less than $4.
6825 Stockton Boulevard, Suite 200; (916) 428-1188. J.B.
Samuel Horne’s Tavern’s The Dobbie
My jaws create a wet grindhouse as I rend another chunk out of The Dobbie. No, not the little dude from the magic boy books I’m too old to read. (Besides, Wikipedia tells me it’s spelled differently.) The Dobbie is the big ticket “samwich” at Samuel Horne’s Tavern in Historic Folsom. At $11, it’s also the priciest sammie on the menu. Its decadence is the central reason why: Tender ribbons of shaved beef. Tangy, textured strips of bacon. Melted Swiss cheese. And two peppered fried eggs that bleed hot gold over the whole operation. A spongy French roll lathered in serrano aioli doesn’t get in the way either. As for that quirky name? Who cares? Take another bite.
719 Sutter Street in Folsom, (916) 293-8207, http://samhornes.com. RFH
Best reason to go vegan
Cruzer, Pushkin’s Restaurant
Pushkin’s Restaurant fans already know the eatery as the spot for delicious gluten-free eats, but it’s also quickly positioning itself as a vegan destination. The restaurant offers an extensive vegan brunch menu that features several hearty sandwich options. One new favorite is the Cruzer ($10), a nice take on the classic portobello sandwich. Thick slices of the meaty mushroom are layered with tomato, spinach, pesto, mayo and fig jam—the latter giving the sandwich just a hint of sweetness that nicely balances out the rest of its savory ingredients. Served with fries or a side salad, it’s the kind of crave-worthy, animal-friendly meal that might make you rethink your diet.
1813 Capitol Avenue, (916) 823-5520, www.pushkinskitchen.com. R.L.
The Marko Burger, Yianni’s Bar & Grill
When a neighborhood haunt shines with savory dishes and an offbeat elegance, people in a town like Carmichael will keep it a secret. That’s been increasingly difficult with Yianni’s Bar & Grill, where the smells of sizzling lamb juices waft down Fair Oaks Boulevard every other Friday. Though Yianni’s has mastered barbecued lamb, the restaurant has found an equally big hit with its more creative take on the Mediterranean staple, the Marko Burger. This half-pound collision of ground lamb and seasoned beef crammed into a patty with red onion, kasseri cheese and Sriracha mayo, and its bright, briny flavors flow seamlessly together between a hand-baked bun.
6628 Fair Oaks Boulevard in Carmichael, (916) 482-0796. STA
Best adult grilled cheese
T-Brie-D, the Rind
Just because you’re over 10 doesn’t mean you no longer want the comfort of a grilled cheese. Skip the American “cheese” slices and head for the Rind and their T-Brie-D ($14). It starts simply enough with creamy brie and slices of apple, then gets unusual with prosciutto, salted caramel sauce and rosemary. Pair it with mixed greens and a glass of Educated Guess Cabernet from Napa for the full adulting experience.
1801 L Street, (916) 441-7463, http://therindsacramento.com. AMR
Best french dip
Roast beef sandwich, Bud’s Buffet
Across the street, you’ll find a tall French dip at Empress Tavern for an equally tall price of $21. For half the cost, Bud’s Buffet offers a more crave-worthy rendition. The roast beef sandwich ($8.99) slathers peppery, buttery gravy on both halves of a soft sub roll. The bread encases tender sheets of roast beef along with lettuce, tomatoes and your choice of cheese. My provolone melted delightfully with each dip back into the cup of au jus. On Bud’s cafeteria-style tables, this down-and-dirty sandwich serves as a reminder that not everything French needs to be fancy.
1016 10th Street, (916) 443-6905, www.budsbuffet.com. R.H.
Fish torta, Chando’s Tacos
Chando’s Tacos’ fish torta seems like an unlikely find at a walk-up taqueria on Arden Way. The fish is super fresh, though, and well spiced, piled on a big fresh teleria roll for only $6.99. You can also get the seafood battered and fried as “the Ensenada.” Squeeze on some fresh lime juice to add zesty acid to the mix and pretend the traffic noise is the sound of gentle ocean waves breaking behind you.
863 Arden Way, (916) 641-8226, http://chandostacos.com. AMR
Best after-school treat
PB&J, Vic’s Ice Cream
If it’s the simple things in life that make us happy, then Vic’s Ice Cream is the place where dreams come true. The iconic Land Park ice cream parlor serves delicious frozen treats, of course, but it’s also a nice spot to take the kids for an after-school snack. Sure, Vic’s rendition of a PB&J ($4) is as no-frills as it gets—peanut butter, jelly and bread—but the trick is to pair it with an ice cream soda or thick milkshake for a delicious nostalgia trip.
3199 Riverside Boulevard, (916) 448-0892, http://vicsicecream.com. R.L.
Beef shawarma, Mediterranean Bakery & Cuisine
In Iraq, diamond-shaped dough is tossed in stone ovens to make a perfectly pillowy bread akin to pita. Here in Sacramento, you can try the bread called samoon at Mediterranean Bakery & Cuisine, where it’s cooked in the cousin of a pizza oven. The beef shawarma ($5.99) wraps doughy samoon around beef that’s lush with tahini, accompanied by onions, pickles and tomatoes. The bread’s nippled ends may cause uninitiated onlookers to suspect that you’re eating an elf’s shoe, but with ingredients so fresh, you won’t care.
1547 Fulton Avenue, Suite C; (916) 333-5788. R.H.
Best barbecue sandwich
Barbecue tri-tip sandwich, Roxie Deli
The sandwich so nice that they make it twice—weekly on Thursday and Friday. Smoked in-house by their old-timey, fire-breathing beast, the brisket ($9.65) comes fall-apart tender and covered in a thick, sweet barbecue sauce in a quantity that moistens the meat without turning it into a goopy mess. Served on a properly firm ciabatta roll, Roxie’s nostril-singeing mustard cuts through the fattiness. It’s best enjoyed with one of the deli’s many local, craft beers on the patio.
3340 C Street, (916) 443-5402, http://roxiedeli.com. J.F.
Best meatball sandwich
Meatball sandwich, Sampino’s Towne Foods
Sampino’s meatball sandwich ($11.50) never fails to revive me from straight-up shitty days. Hot meatballs are served on a ciabatta roll and slathered in marinara and aioli, studded with diced pepperoncini and tomato, and graced with cheddar and provolone. How can that not make your day better? The sandwich is huge and comes with a salad, so it easily serves two if you know someone who needs a pick-me-up.
1607 F Street, (916) 441-2372, www.sampinosfoods.com. G.M.
Chicken boti wrap, Kabab King
I order naan with a side of curry—not the other way around. The same principle draws me to Kabab King’s chicken boti wrap ($6.99) that puts the naan front and center. Freshly baked and sweet, the bread bundles chunks of tangy chicken with a spiciness that slowly escalates. Onions and lettuce round it out with juiciness. With that chewy naan, this is one sandwich where you might not leave any bread scraps.
4740 Natomas Boulevard, Suite 150; (916) 419-2121; http://kababking.eat24hour.com. R.H.
Best smoked fish sandwich
Smoked trout sandwich, Juno’s Kitchen and Delicatessen
A hole in the wall in East Sac serves one of the most delightful sandwiches in Sacramento. Starting with a baguette that has a firm crust but a porous interior, the star of this sammie ($12.95) is the smoked trout that’s a bit more delicate than the ubiquitous salmon. Joining it, there’s arugula, crisp apples that go perfectly with the creamy, salty manchego cheese and a proper amount of aioli that rounds out the flavors. It comes with your choice of salad or red potatoes dressed in rosemary as well as a complimentary treat—for your dog, that is.
3675 J Street, (916) 456-4522, http://junoskitchen.com. J.F.
Best quick pick-up veggie option
Total Veg-Out, Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op
The recently revamped Sacramento Natural Food Co-Op’s expanded deli offers a cornucopia of quick takeout picks, including several vegan and vegetarian options. A longtime Co-Op mainstay, however, remains a favorite to-go choice. The Total Veg-Out ($7.49), available from the grab-and-go case, is a healthful veggie heaven with shredded carrots, sliced cucumber, red onion, avocado, sprouts, sunflower seeds and tofu-mayo packed high between two slices of honey whole-wheat bread. Simple but delicious.
2820 R Street, (916) 455-2667, https://sacfood.coop. R.L.
Best po’boy for truly poor boys
Shrimp po’ boy, French Po-Boys One
As legend has it, the po’boy was invented in New Orleans in the early 20th century, when streetcar drivers on strike would enter Martin Brothers’ Coffee Stand for a hot beef sandwich. Supposedly, the cooks would shout: Here comes another poor boy! Now, the po’boy is found everywhere from fine dining restaurants to corner stores. The Sacramento sammie closest to its working-class origins is found in Tahoe Park at French Po-Boys One. For $5.49 on a 5-inch sandwich, the fried shrimp come thickly battered with cornmeal. Tomatoes, diced lettuce and pickles are slathered with mayo and held together with a crackly, warm baguette. It’s delicious fuel when you’re low on funds—or anytime, really.
6498 Broadway, (916) 739-1671. R.H.
Best dessert sandwich
Ice cream sandwich, Federalist Public House
This pizza haven serves up a few traditional meat-and-bread situations, but our favorite sandwiching action is seen on the dessert menu. Though there are formidable competitors in this category, Federalist’s ice cream sando ($10) stands an edge above the rest. Vic’s vanilla meets two chocolate-dipped oatmeal cookies, and then the whole thing gets rolled in crushed, toasted pistachios for the sweetest textural sensation. You could easily share, but you won’t want to.
2009 Matsui Alley, (916) 661-6134, https://federalistpublichouse.com. J.B.
Best hidden sando
The Saint Patty’s Melt, the Boxing Donkey
It’s easy to slap a shamrock on a marquee and try to claim any bar’s an Irish pub, but capturing the raucous mix of cynicism, witticism and alcoholism inherent in Hibernian toasting traditions is harder than it looks. Not so for the Boxing Donkey, which blasts Celtic tunes on the radio and pours Guinness as dark as the Shannon River. The Roseville pub’s also known for a guilty gut-bomb of a sandwich called the St. Patty Melt ($10). This house specialty features ground beef on toasted Rye, slathered in melted jack and cheddar cheese, surrounded by caramelized onions and drenched in a mote of Thousand Island dressing. Each bite is a zesty amalgam of juice, grease and greatness.
300 Lincoln Street, (916) 797-3665, www.theboxingdonkey.com. STA
Best fried chicken sandwich
Hot chicken sandwich, South
It’s exceptionally difficult to choose the best fried chicken sandwich in this town, where so many new, delicious versions have cropped up in just the past couple of years. But it’s hard to say no to the hot chicken sandwich ($13) at South, a mecca for fried chicken. For this sando, a juicy thigh gets nice and crispy in the fryer before getting basted in spicy goodness, Nashville style. Sliced cucumber and a creamy, basil-flecked dressing add a light, California flair. And the soft bun? Just right for the job.
2005 11th Street, (916) 382-9722, www.weheartfriedchicken.com. J.B.
Best grown-up vegetarian sandwich
Roasted beet and goat cheese, Selland’s Market-Cafe
Too often, vegetarian sandwiches feel like an afterthought: Oil-slicked vegetables piled unceremoniously atop bread and then smushed together into a dreary blob. Selland’s Market-Cafe, thankfully, ups the veggie standard with its Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese sandwich ($8.75). Thick, juicy slices of roasted beet are layered with rich, creamy goat cheese, crunchy red cabbage and green onion and then lightly dressed with a maple-sherry vinaigrette and mayonnaise. The kicker, though, is the thick baguette, which gives the whole shebang a pleasing crunch.
915 Broadway; 5340 H Street; 4370 Town Center Boulevard, Suite 120 in El Dorado Hills; www.sellands.com. R.L.
Best dealer's choice
Corti’s special, Corti Brothers
Corti Brothers is a Sacramento institution—
evident from its old-school interior, plus its distinct briny smell that lends the same gravitas to markets that the musty vanilla smell of old paper does to libraries. So if you’re feeling trusting, just go with the Corti’s Special ($5.99), a “poor-boy style” sandwich that takes all the extra cuts they’ve made and combines them in a way that will hit all the salty, sweet, smoky and fatty notes you crave. It’s hard to find a higher-quality sandwich for $5.99.
5810 Folsom Boulevard, (916) 736-3800, https://cortibrothers.com. J.F.