By Tracy Morin

Breads, cheeses, meats, toppings, condiments—brought to their barest bones, sandwiches seem basic. But creative sandwich makers across the country are showing that the best examples are anything but. Rather, they offer carefully crafted combinations of the most complementary elements, all in the perfect ready-to-chow, handheld format. Read on for some tips on nailing every last one of those elements, every time.

Upgrading the Classics
The Pros: Alex Phaneuf and Or Amsalam, chefs/owners, Lodge Bread Co., Los Angeles, CA

We think it’s best to keep the sandwich straightforward and simple, with high-quality, fresh ingredients. We don’t fuss around with too many toppings. We’ve created sandwiches that remind people of a sandwich from their childhood—just elevated to another level. Our best sellers are the Breakfast Sammie and Roasted Turkey Sammie. 

For the Breakfast Sammie, we use a sourdough brioche bun, mayo, Nueske’s bacon, cave-aged white cheddar, two fried farm-fresh eggs and fresh arugula. The brioche bun (or any sandwich bread) is very important, and ours is made fresh every day with coconut oil, freshly milled whole-grain flour, raw sugar and eggs. Nueske’s is the best bacon for a sandwich—you can taste the difference. The eggs are extremely fresh and rich. The cave-aged white cheddar cheese is very sharp and stands out nicely, and the arugula gives the sandwich a fresh and peppery bite. Unbeatable!

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Our turkey sandwich combines Diestel Ranch’s amazing Honey Roasted Turkey Breast, mixed greens, heirloom tomato, Fontina cheese and whole-grain mustard aioli. The sourdough flavor of our housemade country loaf complements this sandwich tremendously, while the honey-roasted turkey breast sets the sandwich apart from other classic turkey sandwiches. Next, it’s important to lather the turkey sandwich generously with whole-grain mustard aioli and add crisp flavor and texture with the heirloom tomatoes. This sandwich is nostalgic for most eaters—our guests have fallen in love with it.

“We’ve created sandwiches that remind people of a sandwich from their childhood—just elevated to another level.”
— Alex Phaneuf and Or Amsalam, Lodge Bread Co. and Full Proof Pizza

Working From Scratch
The Pro: David Bloom, chief development and operating officer, Capriotti’s, Las Vegas, NV 

Having products consumers really can’t get anyplace else is one way we raise the bar and differentiate ourselves. We’re preparing and cooking in-house from scratch every day and night. We hand-roll and roast our own meatballs, and our stuffing and coleslaw are made in-house each day by hand from our proprietary recipes. Butterball raises a line of turkeys just for us called the Capriotti’s Super Tom, which are then slow roasted in our deck ovens at a low temperature overnight, cooled down and pulled by hand each morning. Our American Wagyu Roast Beef is produced for us by Snake River Farms in Idaho. Our proprietary hot and sweet peppers are grown, picked and jarred just for us, and even our mayo is a custom recipe unlike anything you can buy.

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Capriotti’s sandwiches are stuffed with more meat and cheese than our national competitors, which ensures you get a mouth full of flavor in every bite. Subs can be customized with our sweet or hot peppers, pickles, onions, tomatoes, mayo, mustard, oil and vinegar and/or spices. One interesting side note is that we probably have the broadest and best vegetarian offering in the sub sandwich category. Our vegetarian turkey, vegetarian chicken cheesesteaks and Impossible Cheesesteaks are incredible. They’re so good, some first-time customers cannot believe they are vegetarian—we have to show them the product to prove it to them! Also, all of our subs are still wrapped old-school, in newsprint, which keeps them fresh and cold, or hot and steamy. One hallmark of our subs is how well they travel. 

“We probably have the broadest and best vegetarian offering in the sub sandwich category. Our vegetarian turkey, vegetarian chicken cheesesteaks and Impossible Cheesesteaks are incredible.”
— David Bloom, Capriotti’s

Mixing It Up
The Pro: Stacey Krawczyk, president, FoodWell Strategies, and consulting registered dietitian, Grain Foods Foundation, Washington, D.C.

Making great sandwiches starts with the foundation—a crusty roll, whole-wheat bread, flavored flatbread or any other grain base. Great sandwiches have a mixture of textures (crunchy, creamy, crispy, tender) and tastes (salty, sweet, savory). Is your sandwich menu more of a basic bread, meat and cheese selection? Are you gourmet or budget-friendly? Do you cater to those with adventurous palates? Take all of these into consideration when building a better sandwich.

The most important thing is to keep your layers balanced. For example, if you’re making an open-faced sandwich, start with the less colorful and/or heavier fillings on the bottom and keep the bright stuff on top. Finally, my best recommendation: Pile on the veggies! Adding not only the typical lettuce and tomato but also things like cucumbers, spinach and peppers will provide some of those craveable textures, adding pizzazz to the palate.

The Vegan Twist

Jenny Goldfarb, CEO and founder of Mrs. Goldfarb’s Unreal Deli in Los Angeles, landed investments from Mark Cuban himself after she appeared on Shark Tank with her vegan-friendly plant-based deli slices, available in turkey, corned beef and steak varieties. Her advice for serving up premium sammies with faux meats: “Use two to three ounces of meat per sandwich, serve on your favorite bread (toasted for sure), and load up on your favorite toppings, like vegan cheese, kraut, slaw, tomato, onion and avocado,” she says. “Pile on your favorite sauces, like Russian dressing, mayo or mustard. If you want to step beyond the sandwich zone, these meats also help make awesome salads, appetizers, baked dishes and more.”

For more vegan recipe ideas, visit

In-Season Inspiration
The Pro: Sylvia Melendez-Klinger, founder of Hispanic Food Communications; member of Grain Foods Foundation Scientific Advisory Board, Washington, D.C.

To suit a lacto-ovo vegetarian or vegan diet, get creative—add cucumber slices, top with cantaloupe ribbons, sprinkle on goat cheese or a vegan cheese alternative, and garnish with a bunch of arugula or fresh herbs. Healthy toppings and fillings can add flavor, texture and a bundle of nutrients. Spread avocado instead of mayo and add crunch with sliced veggies or even sliced nuts. Make your own patties with beans and veggies or serve them with a signature sauce.

When pairing specific flavors and/or textures within the sandwich, the seasons are my guide. For summer, think of adding fruits and veggies that are in-season. Sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, peaches and strawberries go well with many sandwich combinations—for example, adding cantaloupe slices to a grilled cheese sandwich or tomatoes and peaches to avocado toast. In fall, adding pears, Brie cheese and arugula to a turkey sandwich can bring a great crunch and flavor. 

Make it a complete meal with a salad or soup on the side. Also, you can make a big impression by using different kinds of bread. Wrap the sandwiches in parchment paper to provide an artisan, old-fashioned look that many people love.

Grain Foods Foundation

An Artisanal Approach
The Pro: Michael Simhai, owner, HauteMess and Della Terra, Los Angeles, CA

HauteMess is renowned for its sandwiches created with a variety of breads—including sourdough, rustic ciabatta and crusty or soft baguettes—baked throughout the day. With an emphasis on high-quality ingredients, we also offer unique imported cured meats, such as our popular flavorful prosciutto di Parma, aged 18 months, from Italy. Most of our sandwiches are also paired with a generous drizzle of our gourmet sauces, which we create daily. 

Every sandwich blends a mix of flavors: The Cosmopolitan e Rosati is made with prosciutto di Parma, burrata, fresh tomato, basil, arugula and a drizzle of pesto vinaigrette. The French Connection has prosciutto cotto ham, Brie cheese, cornichons, fresh tomato, lettuce and Dijon mustard. The Appletini di Spagna includes Serrano ham, Manchego cheese, sliced Granny Smith apple, arugula and our vinaigrette spread. As an extra perk, we also make our own potato chips for those who like extra crunch on the side.  

Tracy Morin is PMQ’s senior copy editor and the editor of

Food & Ingredients