There are those who believe that if something is good enough to eat on its own, chances are it will be even better stuffed between two slices of bread. Members of this school of thought (like me) will find validation at this sandwich – sorry, “sammich” – shop, in the same North Phoenix strip mall as Chino Bandido. Amidst a steampunk décor of metal pipes and old-timey world maps, you can partake of the tri-tip torta ($8.50) – peppy pulled tri-tip with pico de gallo and cheddar on bolillo, a Mexican take on French bread. Even better is the Cuban ($8.50), which presses pork and chorizo together with pickles and mustard for the right combination of sweetness and sass. Along with many other sandw… sammiches, the menu also offers burgers, quesadillas and “fry plates,” which pair the sammich fillings with a pound or more of potatoes. And on the subject of spuds, you’ll find above-average French fries ($1.50) of the classic crinkle-cut variety on my short list of side dishes.
Must try: Provolone, Swiss and cheddar are blended with tomato on Jesus’ Grilled Cheese Sammich ($6), named not for the Nazarene but for a customer for whom it was improvised when he complained that there was no grilled cheese on the menu.
15414 N. 19th Ave., 602-795-6634, sammichesglendale.com
Just west of the Big Pink Chair on Main Street in downtown Mesa hides this elegant little shop, which aspires, or so it claims, “to be the Cheers of sandwiches.” The service is certainly friendly enough, and no doubt Norm himself could find a sandwich somewhere on the menu to keep him coming back. Both the Cuban and the Reuben (both $9, as are all of the other sandwiches; nothing on the menu is priced higher) were hearty pleasures – pork on the former and lean if slightly stringy pastrami and sauerkraut on the latter, both served with Havarti on fine artisanal ciabatta from Mesa’s PROOF Bread, which provides the baked goods for all of Worth’s sandwiches. Since sides are important in sandwich-eating, try the daily soup ($3) – on my visit, a clean, salubrious-tasting veggie and white-meat chicken – or the house-made sea salt potato chips ($2), which crumble very nicely into the soup.
Must try: The only dessert offered is house-made banana pudding ($5), creamy and yummy and studded, as is traditional, with busted-up Nilla Wafers. Nor is another choice needed.
218 W. Main St., Mesa, 480-833-2180, worthtakeaway.com
Of course, bread isn’t the only slab o’carbohydrates that can be used to make a sandwich. The orderly rows of square-peg holes in waffles also serve as an efficient delivery system for meats, cheeses, veggies and other good stuff, as demonstrated at Crave in Glendale. These are light, crispy specimens, though the lightness and crispness don’t always support the structural integrity required of a sandwich. I had to resort to the use of a fork on my Sweet Caroline ($9), as the juicy, spicy pulled pork turned the waffles soggy. It was delicious, mind you – just too flimsy to be picked up like a proper sandwich. The also-tasty BLT ($8) held up better, despite the waffle-weakening influence of herb cream cheese. The heartiest of the lot: Nom-Nom Nutella ($7) from the “Sweet” menu – bananas, hazelnut spread and almonds – which remained hand-holdable throughout its brief tenure at the table.
Must try: If you don’t order the Sweet Caroline, but still want to make the acquaintance of the pulled pork, a side of the pork fries ($7) will bountifully introduce you.
9380 W. Westgate Blvd., Ste. D-103, Glendale, 623-772-0622, icravewaffles.com
The Lunch Bag
Of all the sandwich joints I toured, none was as purely traditional and basic as this nook, sandwiched – forgive me – in a strip mall not far from the 101 in Scottsdale. The interior is clean and friendly albeit very small, and though the outdoor seating would be pleasant, weather permitting, one gets a distinct grab-and-go, run-to-the-bus-stop vibe from the place. The menu is extensive, full of standard, unpretentious sandwiches: tuna, egg salad and the like, each for $7.95. The Turkey Cran piles sliced breast on grain, with cranberry sauce on one side and cream cheese – a great touch – on the other, while Mom’s Hot Meatloaf comes with lettuce, tomato and mayo on sourdough. The Italian Stallion stacks a sub roll with enough ham, salami, turkey, Provolone and thick tomato and lettuce to satisfy Dagwood Bumstead. All are available as half-sandwiches ($4.50), recommended so you can partake of the house-made soups ($2.50 and up). On my visit I had a sumptuous but not heavy navy bean.
Must try: The Lunch Bag folks also bake their own big, crumbly, fall-apart-in-your-mouth cookies ($1.50). Try the peanut butter. With one of these in your bag, all that’s missing is a note from Mom telling you she loves you.
8989 E. Via Linda, Scottsdale, 480-860-6659, thelunchbagaz.com
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