The Best Sandwich From Every State
One of the best things about the sandwich—aside from your first bite—is its versatility. It can be as simple as a PB&J, or you can put everything in your refrigerator on a ciabatta bun and create an epic mountain of sandwich goodness. Follow along as one sandwich lover takes you on an American tour.
Pulled Chicken with White Sauce
While some form of barbecue sandwich is popular in most southern states, Alabama has a unique take in the form of a pulled chicken sandwich with white sauce. The mayo-based sauce is tangy and mildly spicy thanks to cider vinegar, horseradish and a potpourri of other spices. A surprising runner-up? The simple tomato and mayo on white bread. (Find tons more slow cooker sandwich recipes here.)
While salmon sandwiches are especially popular in the largest state in the union, I’m going with something a bit more unexpected here, and perhaps a bit more troubling for Rudolph fans: the reindeer sandwich. Served variously as sausage, burger, or in cheesesteak format, you’ll have plenty of options for reindeer sandwiches if you visit The Last Frontier. Just don’t tell the kids what they’re eating.
Fry Bread Taco
When I took a poll among my Arizona associates for their state’s best sandwich, none of the answers I received were, in fact, sandwiches. In keeping with the heritage of this southwestern border state, I’m giving the nod to the fry bread taco, which—to further confuse things—isn’t actually a taco either, but a flatbread piled with pulled meat, beans and cheese. You can make something like it with this recipe.
While fried bologna sandwiches are popular here, I just couldn’t bring myself to list bologna anywhere on a list of best sandwiches (sorry, not sorry). Instead, I was told by a veteran Arkansas food writer to go with The Garden, a no-meat sandwich at Jimmy’s Serious Sandwiches in Little Rock made with spinach, alfalfa sprouts, mushrooms and more. It’s an Arkansas icon.
The French Dip
California is a big place with a diverse array of cultures, and it would be easy to pick any number of sandwiches to represent our most populous state, including the fish taco and the avocado club. In the end though, I have to go with the French Dip, traditionally made with roast beef on a French roll and dipped in its own juices. Which L.A. eatery invented the sandwich is a matter of some dispute.
There’s no waffling among Colorado experts on the state’s most iconic sandwich: It’s the Denver omelet sandwich. The traditional omelet was first a sandwich, and features eggs, ham, cheese, peppers and onions. If you can’t find it in sandwich form on a menu, just order the omelet with toast and assemble it yourself. At home, you can even make the non-sandwich version in the oven!
Fried Clam Roll
While the hot lobster roll is popular here, we’re going to give lobster rights to another New England state later on. (Yes, I know you made it first, Connecticut. We’ll get through this together.) Instead, I’m picking the fried clam roll. Fried clams are a simple and comforting delight, and no state does them better.
This is one of the few times I’m picking a sandwich from a particular restaurant, and surprisingly this one is from a fairly large chain. That’s how good The Bobbie from Capriotti’s is. Founded in 1979, the company has since moved operations to Las Vegas, but their signature sandwich will always belong to Delaware. Made with turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce, this hoagie is Thanksgiving dinner on a bun.
District of Columbia
A friend who should know says the “Half Smoke” is the very best sandwich to be found in the nation’s capital, even though it isn’t really a sandwich. It’s basically a grilled sausage split down the middle and served like a hot dog (ignore its misleading name, the origin of which no one seems able to agree on). My friend quizzed his pupils at George Washington University and they agree that Ben’s Chili Bowl has the best.
With a large Cuban population, it’s no surprise the Cubano is the Sunshine State’s most iconic sandwich (and in full disclosure, a well-made Cuban is among my favorite dishes). The panini-style sandwich is stuffed with Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and ham, salami and/or pork. I have a friend in Florida who claims to have had a religious experience eating the Cubano at Drago’s in Bradenton.
Pimiento Cheese Sandwich
This simple blend of cheese, mayonnaise and pimientos (a sweet red pepper) on white bread is so iconic to Georgia (and the entire South), it’s even served at the Masters golf tournament every April as the tournament’s official sandwich. You can easily make some at home to enjoy while you watch the big event this spring; ill-fitting green jacket optional.
Hawaiian Pulled Pork
While half the states on this list could claim a pork barbecue sandwich as their own, the good people of Hawaii enjoy whole hogs slow-cooked in an underground oven, sometimes with a tangy sweet sauce that features pineapple. Perfect for a barbecue on the beach, or—if you live in the landlocked Midwest like I do—a barbecue you’re pretending is on the beach.
Peanut Butter and Jam
I was so afraid we were going to go through this list and not find a spot for the sandwich most of us grew up with in our school lunches, the classic PB&J. Fortunately, Idaho is here to save us from that fate. They don’t make just any peanut butter and jelly in this mountainous state, however. Idaho is known for using huckleberry jam with Idaho huckleberries to add some style to this classic.
Chicago-Style Hot Dog
My wife’s whole family is from Chicago. If I get this wrong, I’m in trouble. Relatives have said I need to pick Italian beef, Polish sausage, or The Horseshoe. My wife, however, has told me to do the right thing and pick the Chicago-style hot dog, because, in her words, “If any one state on your list gets to claim the hot dog, it’s us.” Just make sure you skip the ketchup—it’s verboten on a Chicago dog.
County fairs light up the Indiana countryside all summer long, and you can bet you’ll find pork tenderloin sandwiches sold at each and every one of them. These flat, breaded pork sandwiches are approximately the size of dinner plates, and if I ever find one put on a bun even half the size of the patty, I’ll be amazed.
Loose Meat Sandwich
In Iowa, the loose meat sandwich is king. They invented the Sloppy Joe, and while that messy miracle of meat and sauce is certainly venerated in the Hawkeye State, its sauceless cousin is actually more popular. Made famous by regional chain Maid-Rite, the loose meat is a subtle but delightful treat. I bet you can’t eat just one.
Brisket Burnt Ends
If I picked anything but some form of barbecue for Kansas, I would fully expect a mob of angry Kansans with torches and grilling tongs to march up to Ohio and give me what-for. The trouble is choosing between the state’s many barbecue sandwich options. Brisket, perhaps my favorite cut of beef, has a grand reputation in Kansas, where the burnt ends of the cut are used for a particularly fine sandwich.
Few states have a sandwich more iconic and legendary than Kentucky’s Hot Brown. Created and still available at Louisville’s Brown Hotel, the Hot Brown features turkey, bacon and tomato with Mornay sauce on toast, all browned in a broiler.
While the Po’ Boy is certainly popular in Louisiana, it’s not unique to the state. The Muffuletta, however, is. Invented by Sicilian immigrants in New Orleans over a hundred years ago, the sandwich stuffs a loaf of the eponymous bread with olive salad, ham, salami, various cheeses and a few other goodies for a taste of The Big Easy like no other.
Maine has some of the country’s best seafood, including lobster, so it’s only right they offer the country a road trip-worthy lobster sandwich. The sandwich is pretty simple—it’s mostly just fresh cooked lobster on a roll—but tourists and foodies line up for miles to grab a lobster roll from Red Eats in Wiscasset, Maine, which sits right on the ocean. You’ll never have lobster so fresh.
Fried Soft Shell Crab
One of my Maryland friends opened this question up to his social media community, and a lively debate broke out over the sandwich merits of crab cake and fried soft shell crab. They laughed, they cried, they fought, they learned something about themselves and each other. In the end, fried soft shell crab won out, and because they’re only available for a short period of time each year, they’re a bit of a delicacy.
In Massachusetts, there is a thing called a fluffernutter, which is a white-bread sandwich with peanut butter and marshmallow fluff, and actual adults in the state eat it. The adults, in fact, invented it. About 10 years ago, the state legislature even devoted some time to arguing about whether this should be the state’s official sandwich. I just have to ask… Is everything OK, Massachusetts?
The state sandwich of Michigan might depend upon whether you believe that pasties—the European hand pies so popular in the Upper Peninsula—qualify as sandwiches. Fortunately, Michigan has a second option to save us from controversy: the classic ham sandwich. Popularized as a lunch item for Detroit auto workers, the sandwich is most commonly topped with pickles and mustard on a poppy seed bun.
My own personal preference from Minnesota would be the walleye sandwich made with the state’s delicious freshwater fish, but too many sources told me I had to go with the Juicy Lucy. This simple variation on a cheeseburger finds the cheese melting out from within the beef patty, and it’s as much a part of Minnesota life as digging into hotdish.
As appetizing as the state’s pig ear sandwich sounds, I’m going to go with royalty: the Elvis sandwich, named for Mississippi’s famous son. This curious layering of peanut butter, fried banana and bacon can be had at his hometown of Tupelo’s annual celebration of the King. Another solid pick? The shrimp Po’ Boy.
The St. Paul
The story goes that the St. Paul was invented by Chinese immigrants to the Show-Me State (explain this name to me, Missouri) prior to 1950 to lure American diners to their establishments. Whether that’s true or not, the St. Paul is unique enough to catch anyone’s attention, featuring hot egg foo yong with mayo, pickles, lettuce and tomato on white bread.
Pork Chop Sandwich
Pork chop sandwiches have plenty of fans in Big Sky Country, and I feel much better about this now that I’ve discovered these are boneless chops (that was a confusing and alarming couple of minutes for me). The sandwich’s popularity centers around Pork Chop John’s in the town of Butte, though it’s not the only place you can find this hearty dish.
Along with the Cubano, the Reuben is my favorite sandwich when made well. The bread is everything, and if the bread can’t stand up to the moisture of the sandwich, a disaster quickly ensues. The sandwich was invented in Omaha, and Nebraskans definitely know how to make a disaster-free Reuben. Served on rye bread, the famous sandwich features corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing.
Nevadans might not like me giving The Bobbie to Delaware now that Capriotti’s has moved to Las Vegas, but the sandwich was invented in Delaware and that’s where I’m leaving it. Instead, we’re giving Nevada the patty melt, a grilled cheese sandwich with a beef patty and grilled onions. It was invented in Nevada.
I was only recently introduced to the Monte Cristo, a curious creation that finds ham and cheese nestling between slices of French toast. That’s not all though—the whole thing is often deep fried and given a touch of honey, syrup, or preserves, making this the ultimate brunch hangover sandwich, and a delight that New Hampshire specializes in any time of day.
Taylor Ham, Egg & Cheese
Italian hoagies are quite popular in New Jersey, but a ham, egg, and cheese sandwich gets the nod here because it’s traditionally made with Taylor ham, a variety unique to New Jersey. The sandwich is often served on a hard roll.
Green Chile Cheeseburger
I went into this list avoiding burgers, but in a couple cases, it’s been irrefutable that a state’s most iconic food to put between two pieces of bread is a beef patty. In New Mexico, that means the green chile cheeseburger. Green chiles spice up just about everything in New Mexico, and that means a burger with a bit of a kick.
Pastrami on Rye or Beef on Weck
When it comes to most things in this state, you have New York City and you have everywhere else. The country’s largest city is practically a state unto itself, so we’re giving the Big Apple its own pick here with the pastrami on rye, which has been perfected by Katz’s Delicatessen. Outside NYC, we’ll nod to beef on weck, a western New York classic that finds sliced, rare steak and horseradish on a German kaiser roll.
Barbecue Pulled Pork
Practically every state south of the Mason-Dixon could lay claim to some form of barbecue pork sandwich, but North Carolina takes the crown with their chopped pork. Tossed in the state’s trademark tangy, vinegar-based barbecue sauce and served with classic Southern sides, it’s hard to find a better summer sandwich.
While Iowa invented the Sloppy Joe, North Dakotans have made it their own. Made with loose meat typically mixed with a tomato-based sauce, this messy treat is a staple of North Dakota life, providing a simple but satisfying option for dinners at home, at community get-togethers, or in numerous mom-and-pop restaurants. Make one of these awesome sloppy Joes at home and see what your family thinks.
For a good many of my 36 years on this Earth, I’ve lived within walking distance of one of the world’s best sandwich shops, thank you very much. Every single day, a long line of cars waits to go through the small diner’s drive-thru to order their eponymous loose meat sandwich. Polish boy sandwiches are better known in the Buckeye state, but this is my list, and the Maid-Rite wins.
Chicken-Fried Steak Sandwich
The chicken-fried steak sandwich might have a confusing name (no chickens are harmed in the making of this sandwich), but there’s nothing confusing about its appeal here in cowboy country. A thin steak cutlet gets breaded and seasoned and then fried to a golden crisp before getting slapped on a bun with lettuce and tomato. Yeehaw!
Fried Chicken Biscuit or The Oregonian
A lot of cultural influences come together in Oregon, and when put together with Portland’s open-minded food and drink scene, it can be tough to pin down this state’s best sandwich. So I’m going to let you pick your own between two favorites: PBJ sandwich shop’s The Oregonian (marionberry jam, blue cheese and hazelnut butter on challah) or the fried chicken biscuit from Pine State Biscuits.
The Philly cheesesteak is so iconic to the City of Brotherly Love that I really have no choice here. Get thee to Philadelphia for the state’s most famous sandwich, or try this copycat. Or try a sandwich from the other side of the Keystone State: a meaty meal with tangy coleslaw, French fries and tomatoes piled between thick slices of Italian bread. This one’s named after the sandwich shop that invented it.
This sub sandwich gets all the classic Italian deli fixings, including pepperoni, salami, capicola, provolone cheese and Italian dressing. By the way, nobody’s sure where the name came from. It could do with all the chewing you have to do to enjoy one (and enjoy you will).
I am fully prepared for South Carolina readers to riot because I gave pulled pork to their northern neighbors, but relax, South Carolina, because you get BACON. The classic BLT finds a worthy home in South Carolina with the state’s love for pork and its home-grown Southern tomatoes.
While simple and comforting hot beef sandwiches are popular in South Dakota, I couldn’t pass up the chance to go with something unique. Pheasant sandwiches are quite popular in the land of Mount Rushmore. Served traditionally similar to chicken salad, pheasant salad typically includes some combination of apple, cranberry and pecans and is served on rye with melted Swiss cheese.
The hot chicken might sound like a honky tonk dance move, but it’s actually a legendary sandwich in the Volunteer State. Spicy fried chicken gets topped with nothing but pickles and served on white bread, allowing the bird’s heat to shine through.
Brisket is so good it gets two states on this list. This savory meat is usually served sliced on its own, but in Texas, it just as often gets chopped like pulled pork and served on a toasted bun. The meat is falling apart from a long, slow roast over wood, and the flavors are as big as the state itself.
What’s the first food that comes to mind when you think of the Utah desert? Ocean fish, right? Obviously. Since we already used the Navajo Taco (fry bread) for Arizona, let’s go with a Utah icon, the halibut sandwich from Arctic Circle. The western chain (think Steak ‘n Shake, Midwesterners) is centered in Utah and is celebrating its 70th anniversary soon. (Try halibut or one of these grilled fish recipes at home!)
States with their own titular sandwich make lists like this really, really easy. The Vermonter is a deli sandwich typically made with sliced turkey or ham, layered with sharp cheddar cheese, crisp green apples and honey mustard. I’ve never been to Vermont, but my mouth is watering just thinking about this sandwich. A road trip might be in order.
Washington’s population of Vietnamese Americans has brought a southeast Asian touch to many of the state’s menus. The Bánh Mì (try this wrap version!) is served in a baguette roll and includes some form of pork with pickled veggies, cilantro, and jalapeno, often with other fixings thrown in depending on the mind of the maker. Another great Washington pick? Salmon sandwiches!
True story: I was once fed a breakfast sandwich in West Virginia called something like Galloping Horses, which, in retrospect, should have served as a warning. No matter. There are plenty of excellent sausage biscuit sandwiches in this mountainous state, and no one does buttery biscuits like West Virginia.
While bratwurst are extremely popular in this heavily German-influenced state, I would be remiss not to acknowledge Wisconsin’s mad dairy skills by picking the classic grilled cheese. The state even hosts an annual grilled cheese competition. If you need judges, hit me up, Wisconsin.
My final notes for Wyoming read “bison reuben, trout, buffalo meatball,” which should tell you this rugged pioneer state does things a little bit differently. While I’d happily try any of those options, I am partial to fresh fish, and you’ll never find fresher trout than in Wyoming. You can find it served in a variety of ways around the state, and if you’re into fly fishing, you can even catch the main ingredient yourself.