It’s time to level up your lunch. Instead of the same old tuna salad on wheat, consider one of Chicago’s seven best sandwiches. From a grown-up gyro to an Italian sub we’d spend our golden years with, they’ll elevate your midday (or really any time) meal.
RETURN OF THE GYRO FROM PUBLICAN QUALITY MEATS
Meat from a cone? Not so much. This sophisticated gyro combines braised pork belly, raita, pea shoots and Calabrian chilie vinaigrette in a griddled flatbread. This is definitely not 2 a.m. drunk food.
825 W. Fulton Market St.; 312-445-8977 or publicanqualitymeats.com
NASHVILLE HOT CHICKEN FROM THE BUDLONG
This sandwich is a little big slice of Nashville right in Lincoln Park. The recipe is simple: fried chicken in the house sauce and pickles on a brioche bun. The taste is anything but.
1008 W. Armitage Ave.; 773-270-9005 or thebudlong.com
COCHINITA PIBIL TORTA FROM XOCO
Pulled pork who? That was our response after sinking our teeth into this crusty roll stuffed with wood-roasted Gunthorp suckling pig and topped with black beans and achiote paste. Rick Bayless, you evil genius.
Multiple locations; rickbayless.com/restaurants/xoco/
BANH MI FROM NHU LAN BAKERY
Whether stuffed with seasoned pork belly or tofu, these Vietnamese sammies are heavenly. The secret might be the light toppings: cilantro, pickled daikon and cucumber. They’re crisp and refreshing and (bonus) won’t induce a post-meal coma.
Multiple locations; nhulanchicago.com
MR. G FROM J.P. GRAZIANO
This Italian market was in business 70-some years before it decided to add a sandwich counter. Thank God it did, because we’d be happy eating the house specialty’s combination of imported provolone, hot soppressata, prosciutto di Parma, volpi Genoa salami, truffle mustard and Roman-style artichokes every day for the next 70 years.
901 W. Randolph St.; 312-666-4587 or jpgraziano.com
VEGAN REUBEN FROM CHICAGO DINER
We love any Reuben, but this one gets top honors for its shockingly vegan recipe. The seitan has just the right tender but chewy texture, and the creaminess of the thousand island dressing is surpassed only by the vegan milkshakes. Yeah, make sure to order one of those while you’re at it.
Two locations; 773-935-6696 or veggiediner.com
JIBARITO FROM EL NUEVO BORINQUEN
Why limit yourself to bread ? This Puerto Rican specialty layers thinly sliced steak, cheese, tomato and mayo between flattened and fried plantains. Our minds (and taste buds) are blown.
1720 N. California Ave.; 773-799-8390
ITALIAN BEEF FROM AL’S ITALIAN BEEF
Italian beef is one of those iconic Chicago foods, and this one is, well, the icon. The owners claim they invented the recipe of thinly sliced roast beef and au jus on an Italian-style bun way back in 1938. We’re too busy scarfing ours to fact-check.
Multiple locations; alsbeef.com
FALAFEL PITA FROM SULTAN’S MARKET
This pocket feast costs only $4.75. That’s right, for just a Lincoln, you get creamy hummus, crunchy falafel and all the toppings you want (cucumber salad, tabbouli and hot sauce are our mix) inside a pita. Sure beats a footlong...
Multiple locations; chicagofalafel.com
CORNED BEEF FROM MANNY’S CAFETERIA & DELICATESSEN
This is a corned beef sandwich with a little chutzpah: Manny’s says it’s the best in the city. Whether on a roll or rye bread (your choice), the perfectly salty meat gets piled high and comes accompanied with a pickle spear. Make it even better by adding a potato pancake for a buck.
1141 S. Jefferson St.; 312-939-2855 or mannysdeli.com