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Epic Chicago Sandwiches to Eat Before You Die, 2017 Edition

There's something magical about eating a good sandwich

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Like many citizens of any great hard-working city, Chicagoans thrive and rely every day on the dependable sandwich. They're perfect to eat on the go, in the car, and great for a pick-me-up when you need to leave the office. This following represent some of the best in the city, many of them woven into Chicago's history. No, hamburgers, Polish sausages, and hot dogs weren't considered —though there are a few exceptions.

This year's list, in alphabetical order, adds a number of spots such as Irazu and Au Cheval. Do you have a favorite that we missed? Sound off in the comments.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Au Cheval: Fried Bologna Sandwich

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800 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 929-4580
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The cheeseburger gets all the hype at Chicago’s favorite modern diner in West Loop. But don’t sleep on the equally sinful fried bologna sandwich. It’s definitely no run-of-the-mill Oscar Mayer lunch sandwich you might’ve had as a kid. House-cured mortadella is crisped on a griddle and piled high with melted American cheese on brioche buns to create an upgraded nostalgic throwback. Like most dishes at Au Cheval, it’s a gutbuster.

2. The Bagel: Francheezie

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3107 N Broadway St
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 477-0300
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Here's the hot dog exception. This classic Chicago dish isn't for the faint of heart, and the menu at The Bagel lists it as "a special treat." Take a hot dog, then stuff it with cheese, wrap it with bacon and deep fry the sucker. It's full of love.

3. Ba Le: Banh Mi

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5014 N Broadway St
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 561-4424
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The bread gives Ba Le an advantage over other banh mi peddlers, as the bun gives new life to any of the variety of options at the Argyle spot. The lemongrass pork is a highlight, but really there's not a loser in this bunch of Vietnamese goodness.

4. Boeufhaus: Boeuf on Weck

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1012 N Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 661-2116
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The steaks and service are impeccable at this Humboldt Park gem. But more diners should take advantage of the restaurant's lunch, when they serve delectable sandwiches made from the same meat as its steaks. The Boeuf on Weck is stacked with melt-in-your mouth slow-roasted beef. Don't forget to squeeze some horseradish sauce from the bottle and use that jus.
Nick Fochtman

5. Borinquen Lounge: Jibarito

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3811 N Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 442-8001
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Chicago continues to innovate in the sandwich sciences, and the jibarito is a clear example. Popular in Puerto Rican neighborhoods, nosh on crisp plantains masquerading as bread, then topped with mayo, cheese, and lettuce. Pick steak or crispy roast pork.

6. The Budlong: Nashville Hot Chicken

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1008 W Armitage Ave
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 270-9005
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The Budlong's Nashville hot chicken is crispy and juicy, no matter how spicy diners ask staff to make it. The brioche bun and house-made pickle perfectly complement the heat.

7. Cemitas Puebla: Cemita Atomica

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1321 E 57th St, Chicago
IL, 60637
(773) 420-3631
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A crowning achievement in sandwich engineering, the Cemita Atomica uses the on-site baked bread to the best of its ability. The shredded cheese helps balance the carne enchilada, milanesa, and jamon. There are locations in Fulton Market, Logan Square, and Hyde Park.

8. The Duck Inn: Hamburger Sandwich

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2701 S Eleanor St
Chicago, IL 60608
(312) 724-8811
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Poultry stars at Kevin Hickey's lauded Bridgeport restaurant but the hits don't end there. His menu of elevated comfort foods includes a mouthwatering hamburger sandwich made with Tallgrass Beef, Brun Uusto cheese, and Dijonnaise. Dining solo? No worries; enjoy it at the bar with a cold beer.

9. Fabulous Freddies: Big Breaded Steak

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701 W 31st St
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 808-0147
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The breaded steak sandwich is a gift from the South Side of Chicago and enemy to diets with crisp deep-fried beef slathered with marinara and topped with melted mozzarella.

10. Fat Johnnie's: Mother In Law

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7242 S Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60636
(312) 737-6294
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Sure, that name is pretty cringeworthy. With that out of the way, imagine a cornmeal tamale drowning in chili, placed in a hot dog bun and topped with lettuce and tomatoes—most of the toppings found on a Chicago-style hot dog.

11. The Fat Shallot: Grilled Cheese

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125 S Clark St
Chicago, IL 60603
(773) 893-0826
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The Fat Shallot finally found a docking space within Revival Food Hall, and downtown workers can sample the food truck's marvelous grilled cheese with Muenster, caramelized shallots, and sautéed spinach.

12. Gio's Cafe & Deli: Ribeye Sandwich

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2724 S Lowe Ave
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 225-6368
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This Bridgeport restaurant consistently cranks out great Italian fare. That extends to its sandwiches, especially the rib eye, full of chunks of steak with tomatoes and lettuce.

13. Happy Lobster Truck: Lobster Roll

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(312) 485-0342
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Fresh, quality seafood is in short supply in the Midwest so it should come as no surprise that a good lobster roll is often hard to find. Do some homework, though, and you can catch this food truck that makes up for its elusiveness with an exceptional sandwich. Make lunch a happy one by scarfing down sizeable hunks of Maine lobster meat served on a burger bun. For an extra kick, get it "angry"-style with spicy mayo and hot giardiniera.

14. Home Of The Hoagy: Steak Sweet

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1312 W 111th St
Chicago, IL 60643
(773) 238-7171
Over in Morgan Park, diners can't get enough of that steak sweet. The sandwich, with sweet sauce, has even garnered a shout out from R. Kelly.

15. Hopleaf Bar: CB&J

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5148 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 334-9851
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Sandwiches aren't just for carnivores, and the Hopleaf's twist on a grilled cheese mixes sweet and savory notes that everyone will enjoy. Between sourdough there's house-made cashew butter, fig jam, and raclette.
Hopleaf

16. Irazu: Pepito

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1865 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 252-5687
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This Costa Rican knockout has been bringing Latin flavors to Bucktown since 1990. You can’t go wrong with any of the hearty plates but the pepito is a definite highlight. It’s packed with rib eye steak or chicken, sautéed onions, cheese, beans, and Lizano sauce. Pair it with an oatmeal milkshake for a winning combo.

17. J.P. Graziano Grocery Co.: Mr. G

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901 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 666-4587
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Walk into a time warp when entering this more than 70-year-old grocer. Order to the right when you come and ask for the Mr. G. That's an Italian sub stuffed with sharp provolone, hot sopresatta, prosciutto, salami, marinated artichokes, fresh basil, oregano, and a truffle mustard balsamic vinaigrette.

18. Johnnie's Beef: Italian Beef

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7500 W North Ave
Elmwood Park, IL 60707
(708) 452-6000
Make the trip to Elmwood Park or Arlington Heights to try the quintessential Italian beef. Whether you choose wet or dry, or hot or sweet peppers, it's worth the drive. Al's, Jay's, and Portillo's also get honorable mentions.

19. Manny's Cafeteria & Delicatessen: Corned Beef

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1141 S Jefferson St
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 939-2855
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If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Manny's corned beef's been satisfying Chicagoans for generations, so make a pilgrimage ASAP.

20. Maxwell Street Depot: Pork Chop

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411 W 31st St
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 337-0000
It's been around for decades, but Maxwell Street Depot makes its pork chop sandwiches available to customers 24 hours a day. The sandwich features a tender, juicy, bone-in pork chop that's thrown between a bun and loaded with mustard, grilled onions, and hot peppers.

21. Monti's: Cheesesteak

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4757 N Talman Ave
Chicago, IL 60625
(773) 942-6012
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Chicagoans love a good beef sandwich and these cheesesteaks are as authentic as any you’ll find outside the City of Brotherly Love. Owners Jennifer Monti and James Gottwald are Philly expats who do right by the famed sandwich, using Black Angus rib eye and Amoroso rolls and offering melted Wisconsin cheddar sauce. In addition, there are also variants such as “The Rocky” (grilled onions, smoked provolone, jalapeno, scotch bonnet, charred serrano, spicy mayo).

22. 90 Miles Cuban Cafe: Bistec Palomilla

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3101 N Clybourn Ave
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 248-2822
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There are three spots to find 90 Miles' sandwiches like the Bistec Palomilla, starring thinly-sliced and marinated steak, grilled onion, romaine, tomato, and chimichurri.

23. Nonna's: Chicken Parmesan

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925 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 690-7323
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The cramped sub shop, the little sibling of Formento's, goes heavy on the meats. The chicken parm may be the star of the bunch, exactly what a sandwich should be.

24. Pastoral: Blue Pig 'N Fig

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2945 N Broadway St
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 472-4781
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Pastoral has locations in the Loop, Lakeview, and Andersonville, and owner Greg O'Neil has a real commitment for the finest meats and cheeses he can find. Try the Blue Pig 'N Fig (jamon Serrano, blue cheese, local fig and black tea preserves, whole grain Dijon mustard, field greens).

25. Roister: Fried Chicken Sandwich

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951 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
Roister is the only casual member of the Alinea Group, and the boisterous restaurant has a popular $13 fried chicken sandwich during lunch hours. The perfectly fried breast comes from birds that are fed scraps from fine dining restaurants.

26. Silver Palm: Three Little Pigs

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768 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60642
(312) 666-9322
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The sandwich Anthony Bourdain called the best in America continues to deliver porcine goodness with fried pork tenderloin, pork shoulder, bacon, fried egg, onion ring, and cheddar.

27. Smoque BBQ: Brisket Sandwich

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3800 N Pulaski Rd
Chicago, IL 60641
(773) 545-7427
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There are countless places to go for barbecued meats in the city and this popular spot on the northwest side stands among the best. The moist and tender brisket is the finest around, rubbed with two layers of spices and smoked for 14 hours. Order it sliced or chopped on a bun and see why there’s always a line out the door.

28. Sultan's Market: Falafel Sandwich

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2057 W North Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 235-3072
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In 1995, nearly a decade after the Ramli family immigrated to Chicago from Jordan, they opened Sultan’s Market near the Six Corners intersection in Wicker Park. Today, it has flourished into a vegetarian’s paradise and their signature dish, the falafel sandwich, is one of the best in Chicago.

29. Taurus Flavors: Steak Supreme

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8534 S Stony Island Ave
Chicago, IL 60617
(773) 374-1872
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Steak hoagies are a bit of a South Side staple and for the last 60+ years, Taurus Flavors has been serving up its version, the Steak Supreme. Unlike the Italian beef, this is more like a Philly cheesesteak (without the cheese), coming with sweet peppers and Taurus' signature sweet sauce.

30. Xoco: Milanesa Torta

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449 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 661-1434
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It's always a tough choice at Rick Bayless' sandwich shops. But the fried chicken and pickled veggies gives the milanesa an unbeatable texture and flavor combination.

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1. Au Cheval: Fried Bologna Sandwich

800 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607
The cheeseburger gets all the hype at Chicago’s favorite modern diner in West Loop. But don’t sleep on the equally sinful fried bologna sandwich. It’s definitely no run-of-the-mill Oscar Mayer lunch sandwich you might’ve had as a kid. House-cured mortadella is crisped on a griddle and piled high with melted American cheese on brioche buns to create an upgraded nostalgic throwback. Like most dishes at Au Cheval, it’s a gutbuster.
800 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60607

2. The Bagel: Francheezie

3107 N Broadway St, Chicago, IL 60657
Here's the hot dog exception. This classic Chicago dish isn't for the faint of heart, and the menu at The Bagel lists it as "a special treat." Take a hot dog, then stuff it with cheese, wrap it with bacon and deep fry the sucker. It's full of love.
3107 N Broadway St
Chicago, IL 60657

3. Ba Le: Banh Mi

5014 N Broadway St, Chicago, IL 60640
The bread gives Ba Le an advantage over other banh mi peddlers, as the bun gives new life to any of the variety of options at the Argyle spot. The lemongrass pork is a highlight, but really there's not a loser in this bunch of Vietnamese goodness.
5014 N Broadway St
Chicago, IL 60640

4. Boeufhaus: Boeuf on Weck

1012 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
Nick Fochtman
The steaks and service are impeccable at this Humboldt Park gem. But more diners should take advantage of the restaurant's lunch, when they serve delectable sandwiches made from the same meat as its steaks. The Boeuf on Weck is stacked with melt-in-your mouth slow-roasted beef. Don't forget to squeeze some horseradish sauce from the bottle and use that jus.
1012 N Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60622

5. Borinquen Lounge: Jibarito

3811 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60618
Chicago continues to innovate in the sandwich sciences, and the jibarito is a clear example. Popular in Puerto Rican neighborhoods, nosh on crisp plantains masquerading as bread, then topped with mayo, cheese, and lettuce. Pick steak or crispy roast pork.
3811 N Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60618

6. The Budlong: Nashville Hot Chicken

1008 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60614
The Budlong's Nashville hot chicken is crispy and juicy, no matter how spicy diners ask staff to make it. The brioche bun and house-made pickle perfectly complement the heat.
1008 W Armitage Ave
Chicago, IL 60614

7. Cemitas Puebla: Cemita Atomica

1321 E 57th St, Chicago, IL, 60637
A crowning achievement in sandwich engineering, the Cemita Atomica uses the on-site baked bread to the best of its ability. The shredded cheese helps balance the carne enchilada, milanesa, and jamon. There are locations in Fulton Market, Logan Square, and Hyde Park.
1321 E 57th St, Chicago
IL, 60637

8. The Duck Inn: Hamburger Sandwich

2701 S Eleanor St, Chicago, IL 60608
Poultry stars at Kevin Hickey's lauded Bridgeport restaurant but the hits don't end there. His menu of elevated comfort foods includes a mouthwatering hamburger sandwich made with Tallgrass Beef, Brun Uusto cheese, and Dijonnaise. Dining solo? No worries; enjoy it at the bar with a cold beer.
2701 S Eleanor St
Chicago, IL 60608

9. Fabulous Freddies: Big Breaded Steak

701 W 31st St, Chicago, IL 60616
The breaded steak sandwich is a gift from the South Side of Chicago and enemy to diets with crisp deep-fried beef slathered with marinara and topped with melted mozzarella.
701 W 31st St
Chicago, IL 60616

10. Fat Johnnie's: Mother In Law

7242 S Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60636
Sure, that name is pretty cringeworthy. With that out of the way, imagine a cornmeal tamale drowning in chili, placed in a hot dog bun and topped with lettuce and tomatoes—most of the toppings found on a Chicago-style hot dog.
7242 S Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60636

11. The Fat Shallot: Grilled Cheese

125 S Clark St, Chicago, IL 60603
The Fat Shallot finally found a docking space within Revival Food Hall, and downtown workers can sample the food truck's marvelous grilled cheese with Muenster, caramelized shallots, and sautéed spinach.
125 S Clark St
Chicago, IL 60603

12. Gio's Cafe & Deli: Ribeye Sandwich

2724 S Lowe Ave, Chicago, IL 60616
This Bridgeport restaurant consistently cranks out great Italian fare. That extends to its sandwiches, especially the rib eye, full of chunks of steak with tomatoes and lettuce.
2724 S Lowe Ave
Chicago, IL 60616

13. Happy Lobster Truck: Lobster Roll

Chicago, IL
Fresh, quality seafood is in short supply in the Midwest so it should come as no surprise that a good lobster roll is often hard to find. Do some homework, though, and you can catch this food truck that makes up for its elusiveness with an exceptional sandwich. Make lunch a happy one by scarfing down sizeable hunks of Maine lobster meat served on a burger bun. For an extra kick, get it "angry"-style with spicy mayo and hot giardiniera.

14. Home Of The Hoagy: Steak Sweet

1312 W 111th St, Chicago, IL 60643
Over in Morgan Park, diners can't get enough of that steak sweet. The sandwich, with sweet sauce, has even garnered a shout out from R. Kelly.
1312 W 111th St
Chicago, IL 60643

15. Hopleaf Bar: CB&J

5148 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60640
Hopleaf
Sandwiches aren't just for carnivores, and the Hopleaf's twist on a grilled cheese mixes sweet and savory notes that everyone will enjoy. Between sourdough there's house-made cashew butter, fig jam, and raclette.
5148 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60640

Related Maps

16. Irazu: Pepito

1865 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647