The limitless possibilities of making a meal between two slices of bread have catapulted the sandwich into new menu territory. Breakfast and lunch sandwiches still dominate, but these days, bars and late night menus are featuring mini ethnic sandwiches and full-service restaurants tout overstuffed dinner-size versions. What’s more, carriers and fillings are crossing traditional boundaries. Bagels and waffles show up at lunch, while crusty baguettes hold breakfast ingredients and tiny slices of rye form grilled cheese tapas. These operators show how they are blurring the dayparts with innovative sandwich creations.
Bowery Kitchen & Bar
New York City
In Italy, breakfast is a cup of espresso and a pastry, but the Italian-centric menu at Bowery Kitchen & Bar caters to busy New Yorkers. That’s not to say the trendy newcomer is serving English muffin pizzas. Instead, chefs Andrea Mainardi and Simone Apostoli have dug into their global larder to create a fried egg sandwich layered with prosciutto, avocado and melted fontina cheese on a toasted whole wheat potato roll ($6). It’s served everyday between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m.
“Egg sandwiches are big business in New York City, but we wanted to put some pizzazz in ours and not be run of the mill. So we made it modern by using avocado, and Italian by adding prosciutto di prago,” say the chefs. “We strive to infuse Italian culinary style on consumer favorites, using high-quality ingredients and complementary flavors.” In a city like New York, where time is of the essence, creating food that can be enjoyed on the go is another priority.
Steve Oh co-founded the fast-casual Waffold this past summer, transforming the waffle—a breakfast staple—into a carrier for lunch sandwiches. “I was inspired by Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles, a long-time Los Angeles landmark,” he reports. “But I’m taking that concept to another level.”
Oh and his team worked on their waffle recipe for a long time to perfect it. “The waffles couldn’t be too bland or too sweet, too thick or too light and airy,” he explains. “They had to have just the right crispness, texture and flavor to stand up to the savory fillings.” The yeast-leavened waffles are freshly griddled to order.
A signature sandwich is the Cajun Fried Chicken ($6.95, pictured top left), consisting of a crispy, hand-battered chicken breast glazed with sweet maple-chili sauce and topped with crunchy coleslaw. Another popular item is the Turkey Club, with guacamole and applewood bacon.
So far, Waffold is a popular sandwich destination for lunch and beyond; it’s open until 10 p.m. “People love the convenience of a sandwich—you get carbs, protein and veggies in one handful. But they want some variation from the normal sub experience. The waffle makes it interesting,” Oh says.
At the bar
Barcito is the “stand & eat” lounge within Chicago’s lively Spanish-Latin restaurant, Tavernita. A crush of customers comes to snack and drink from early evening until late at night, and the item they order most often is the Pork Belly Bocadillos: two for $10. “We sell about 1,600 in a month,” notes chef Ryan Poli.
Bocadillos are a street food in Spain, Poli points out, and he aims to give street food his own spin on Tavernita’s menu. “But the sandwiches didn’t translate well into an 8 p.m. dinner reservation,” he laments. Although several types of bocadillos can be ordered at lunch, the pork belly version is a star at the bar. Poli layers slices of the rich meat on a softer brioche roll “to play off the crispness of the pork.” Then he adds pickled red onions (for acidity), arugula (for peppery spice) and apple jam (for sweetness).
“The flavors and textures are spot on,” says the chef. “And the size is perfect—two to three bites. Any bigger, and it would be too rich. Plus I wanted to make the bocadillos small enough to eat with one hand.” Barcito’s customers tend to order several plates of bocadillos as pintxos [tapas] to share.
Del Frisco’s Grille
This casual, family-friendly offshoot of Del Frisco’s steakhouse was originally conceived to catch the overflow from its higher-end parent, but it’s now successful in its own right, claims Rob Klink, executive chef. “Del Frisco’s Grille is more accessible and fits today’s lifestyle, particularly among younger diners,” he adds. The “Meat Up Drink Up” theme puts more focus on the bar and patrons can order sandwiches any time of day.
At dinner, the big “two-fisted” sandwiches are a big hit. “Our Shaved Prime Steak Sandwich features 8 ounces of prime New York strip with garlic butter on a 7-ounce sub roll,” Klink says. It comes with horseradish sauce, au jus, Parmesan frites and a pickle ($17). “You need two hands to eat it,” he adds.
That and the high-quality ingredients are attracting more Gen Y customers, Klink reports. Del Frisco’s Grille currently has four locations with more planned.