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1,131 restaurant dishes, 17 days: Meatless sandwiches

With meatless items among the top 10 center-of-the-plate trends for 2014, according to the National Restaurant Association, even operators who might not have done meatless are making room on the menu. For nonvegetarian customers, looking to incorporate meatless meals only sometimes, sandwiches are one entry point. Nearly nine in 10 (87 percent) consumers say they have purchased a sandwich away from home in the past two months, according to Chicago research firm Technomic.

Chef Gerry Ludwig, Gordon Food Service corporate consulting chef, saw a broad range of twists on meatless sandwiches during his research visits to 92 restaurants in just 17 days. All ingredients (except meat, of course) were fair game. And while squash was a common substitute for the protein in a sandwich, so were fish, cheese and some unexpected vegetables. Here’s a sampling of the unique options Ludwig encountered in his travels.

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