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A plated lamb sandwich with a side of tzatziki.
The roasted lamb sandwich at Kiosk is a messy-but-delectable mouthful.
Kiosk

Chicago’s Essential Sandwiches to Try

The city’s diversity is on full display

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The roasted lamb sandwich at Kiosk is a messy-but-delectable mouthful.
| Kiosk

Everyone is more than familiar with the sandwich. It’s a simple construct that involves assorted meats, cheeses, vegetables, and condiments in between two slices of bread. Chicago's sandwich scene is particularly strong, with both simple classics and gourmet options available.

The latest additions to the following list include Big Kid’s collard greens melt, the roasted lamb sandwich from virtual Balkan restaurant Kiosk, and egg sandwiches courtesy of breakfast specialist Smack Dab. Note: Burgers, hot dogs, and sausages on buns are excluded from consideration.

As of June 11, Chicago restaurants have fully reopened and the city has lifted restrictions on capacity and social distancing. However, on July 30, the city issued guidance recommending that everyone wear facial coverings while indoors. For updated information on coronavirus cases, please visit the city of Chicago’s COVID-19 dashboard. Studies indicate that there is a lower exposure risk when outdoors, but the level of risk involved with patio dining is contingent on restaurants following safety guidelines. The latest CDC guidance for vaccinated diners during the COVID-19 outbreak is available here; dining out still carries risks for unvaccinated diners and workers. Find a local vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

New York Bagel & Bialy

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Whether it’s 3 p.m. or 3 a.m., Chicagoans can head to Lincolnwood for some of the area’s best bagels. This 24-hour spot, conveniently located in a strip mall just off I-94, offers an assortment of Jewish delights. The lox sandwiches are the real deal, featuring brined salmon, cream cheese, onions, tomatoes, and capers. To-go service only; be prepared to wait in line on Sundays.

Smack Dab

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Start the day off on a scrumptious high note with a “life changing” breakfast sandwich from Rogers Park cafe Smack Dab. The aptly named “Best Seller” features one egg scrambled in butter, garlic chive mayo, and bacon jam on a cheesy housemade biscuit. Guests also have the ability to fully customize their sandwiches with extras like sausage and bacon pieces or swap the biscuit for a bagel or sourdough bread. Online ordering is available here.

Nhu Lan Bakery

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Hungry lunch crowds have long swarmed this Lincoln Square treasure for its Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches. The house-baked baguettes give a pleasing crunch and are paired with meats, seafood, or tofu plus sweet pickled daikon, fresh cucumber spears, and lots of cilantro. A second Nhu Lan outpost is located in Uptown.

Hagen's Fish Market

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Fish sandwiches don’t get quite the same attention as their chicken counterparts but they should. At this Portage Park fish market, the staff prepares hot food items in addition to the selection of fresh seafood. The crispy fish fillet sandwich is a menu standout made with fried pollock, lettuce, tomato, housemade tartar sauce, and American cheese (optional) on a brioche bun. Although there’s no seating except for a few tables outside, enjoying the sandwich as soon as possible is highly recommended.

J.T.’s Genuine Sandwich Shop

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Irving Park shop JT’s pulls on Midwestern influences for much of its menu, which includes options like a breaded pork tenderloin sandwich and a Coney dog. Owner Christopher Cunningham’s finest creation, however, is a riff on a Philly favorite, the Italian roast pork sandwich. His version consists of thinly-shaved pork in a honey and garlic glaze, served on a sesame roll with provolone, grilled rapini, Calabrian chili aioli, and jus. Al fresco dining is available on the restaurant’s patio when the weather permits. Online ordering is available here.

Kiosk Balkan Street Food

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Chef Nemanja Milunovic delivers traditional Balkan flavors at this virtual restaurant in Avondale. The menu focuses on street food and provides hits like fried chicken and cevapcici sandwiches. The can’t-miss sandwich, though, is the roasted lamb. Tender, juicy slices of meat are topped with onions, roasted peppers, cucumbers, and tzatziki sauce. The ingredients are all tucked in fluffy housemade somun bread. Online ordering is available here.

A plated lamb sandwich with a side of tzatziki sauce.
Enjoy Balkan specialties at home courtesy of this virtual restaurant.
Kiosk [Official Photo]

Mr D's Shish-Kabobs

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The Northwest Side is home to the most superb shish kabob and steak sandwiches in the city. Owners Mike and Ann Antonopoulos opened their beloved Montclare restaurant in the late ‘60s and have built a reputation on their grilled meats. The namesake shish kabobs are cubes of marinated pork tenderloin served with onions, tomato slices, and a splash of jus on a French roll. An equally impressive steak sandwich uses thinly sliced marinated rib eye. Every order also includes impeccably crisp fries.

Big Kids

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The hottest sandwich shop in town is the brainchild of former Blackbird chef Ryan Pfeiffer and Mason Hereford of celebrated New Orleans destination Turkey & the Wolf. Drawing on ‘90s nostalgia, the pair create unique and playful items like a fried bologna sandwich and a vegan taco tot melt. The collard melt, a Turkey & the Wolf original, also makes an appearance here. This intriguing sandwich, which boasts braised collard greens, Russian dressing, coleslaw, and Swiss cheese on rye bread, is short on meat but big on flavor. Online orders can be placed here.

La Bomba

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It’s not as nationally famous as other iconic Chicago dishes but the jibarito deserves recognition. Originally created at the late Borinquen by Juan Figueroa, the Puerto Rican sandwich is defined by thinly sliced steak, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and cheese between fried plantains. Today, it’s available at many Latin American restaurants like La Bomba, where the recipe remains unchanged. Online orders can be placed here.

Hermosa Restaurant

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Ethan Lim’s Pan-Asian sandwich shop charms diners by riffing on classics, such as a bulgogi cheesesteak. But the best of the bunch is the fried chicken sandwich that embraces Cambodian flavors with pickled papaya, long beans, Asian herbs, and garlic mayo. Order online here.

Folks will find an exceptional sandwich at Irazu, a Bucktown cafe with a large enclosed patio that's been serving up Costa Rican fare since 1990. The pepito, which has garnered the attention of Food Network and is also billed as a "Chicago favorite," features rib eye steak or chicken, sautéed onion, seasoned black beans, and melted Muenster cheese between freshly-baked French bread. It’s finished with salsa lizano, a Costa Rican brown sauce. Place online orders here.

Johnnie's Beef

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The Italian beef is perhaps the most iconic sandwich in all of Chicago. Although it’s hotly contested, a large chunk of people think the best one is found at Johnnie's Beef out in Elmwood Park. Order it the traditional way: Topped with spicy giardiniera or sweet peppers, and dipped in jus. Picnic tables are set up outside for dining. A second location is in Arlington Heights.

Tempesta Market

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Father-and-son duo Agostino and Tony Fiasche’s cured meats market in West Town has earned rave reviews since opening at the end of 2017. Nduja, a spreadable cured sausage from the Calabrian region of Italy, is the favorite here and for good reason as the family is also behind Nduja Artisans salumeria. Diners should try the Dante, an Italian sandwich holding six layers of nduja, soppressata, mortadella, finnochinoa, coppa, and porchetta as well as giardiniera, nduja aioli, lettuce, and tomato. Order online here.

Manny's Cafeteria & Delicatessen

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Hailed as "Chicago’s Finest Deli," Manny's Cafeteria & Delicatessen remodeled and expanded its space a few years ago but the food is still as good as when it opened in 1942. Taste a bit of that history with Manny’s famous corned beef, sliced thinly to perfection and served on bread or a roll along with a pickle spear. Outdoor seating is available. Online ordering is available here.

Xi'an Cuisine

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Focusing on the cuisine of China’s Shaanxi province, this Chinatown eatery presents a terrific sandwich lineup. The kitchen bakes soft and airy flatbread daily and fills it with ingredients like fragrant cumin lamb and marinated pork. The best part: Each one is only $5. A second outpost is in the West Loop. Order online here.

A flatbread sandwich.
Taste flavors from China’s northwest region at Xi’an Cuisine.
Xi’an Cuisine [Official Photo]

Ricobene's

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When USA Today called the breaded steak sandwich at this South Side pizzeria the best sandwich in the world, it unsurprisingly caused a bit of a stir. Whether folks agree or not, the article made the combination of breaded steak, tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and hot giardiniera a must-try. Save time be ordering ahead here.

Maxwell Street Depot

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"Every visitor to Chicago should experience a pork chop sandwich," writes Mike Baruch in Street Food Chicago. Legend has it that Jim's Original was the first to serve the sandwich in 1941, but Maxwell Street Depot is also known for offering it to customers 24 hours a day. Unique for having a "bone on a bun," 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.

Mom’s

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Former Politan Row vendor Mom’s has found a home in Bridgeport. Chefs Randi Howry and Kelly Ijichi are now slinging their take on Japanese comfort food out of Marz Community Brewing, so drop in for a beer and get acquainted with options like chicken karaage, spam musubi, and a photo-friendly katsu sando. The crispy fried pork sandwich is dressed with cabbage, chili mayo, pea greens, and pickles and placed between two slices of Japanese milk bread. Mom’s is open for business Fridays through Sundays and patio seating is available.

Stony Sub

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The origins of the “Gym Shoe” sandwich are unclear. Eaters, though, couldn’t care less because the delicious South Side creation at Stony Sub arrives packed with a heaping pile of roast beef, gyro meat, and corned beef and mixed with giardiniera, sweet peppers, onions, tzatziki sauce, tomatoes, Swiss cheese, and mayo. It’s quite the mouthful and certainly leagues better than the odd name implies.

Home of the Hoagy

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Italian beef gets all of the hype but sweet steak is Chicago’s true variant of the Philly cheesesteak. Popularized on the South Side, the sandwich sports coarsely chopped rib eye, sweet peppers, tomatoes, and a signature sweet sauce on a sub roll.

New York Bagel & Bialy

Whether it’s 3 p.m. or 3 a.m., Chicagoans can head to Lincolnwood for some of the area’s best bagels. This 24-hour spot, conveniently located in a strip mall just off I-94, offers an assortment of Jewish delights. The lox sandwiches are the real deal, featuring brined salmon, cream cheese, onions, tomatoes, and capers. To-go service only; be prepared to wait in line on Sundays.

Smack Dab

Start the day off on a scrumptious high note with a “life changing” breakfast sandwich from Rogers Park cafe Smack Dab. The aptly named “Best Seller” features one egg scrambled in butter, garlic chive mayo, and bacon jam on a cheesy housemade biscuit. Guests also have the ability to fully customize their sandwiches with extras like sausage and bacon pieces or swap the biscuit for a bagel or sourdough bread. Online ordering is available here.

Nhu Lan Bakery

Hungry lunch crowds have long swarmed this Lincoln Square treasure for its Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches. The house-baked baguettes give a pleasing crunch and are paired with meats, seafood, or tofu plus sweet pickled daikon, fresh cucumber spears, and lots of cilantro. A second Nhu Lan outpost is located in Uptown.

Hagen's Fish Market

Fish sandwiches don’t get quite the same attention as their chicken counterparts but they should. At this Portage Park fish market, the staff prepares hot food items in addition to the selection of fresh seafood. The crispy fish fillet sandwich is a menu standout made with fried pollock, lettuce, tomato, housemade tartar sauce, and American cheese (optional) on a brioche bun. Although there’s no seating except for a few tables outside, enjoying the sandwich as soon as possible is highly recommended.

J.T.’s Genuine Sandwich Shop

Irving Park shop JT’s pulls on Midwestern influences for much of its menu, which includes options like a breaded pork tenderloin sandwich and a Coney dog. Owner Christopher Cunningham’s finest creation, however, is a riff on a Philly favorite, the Italian roast pork sandwich. His version consists of thinly-shaved pork in a honey and garlic glaze, served on a sesame roll with provolone, grilled rapini, Calabrian chili aioli, and jus. Al fresco dining is available on the restaurant’s patio when the weather permits. Online ordering is available here.

Kiosk Balkan Street Food

A plated lamb sandwich with a side of tzatziki sauce.
Enjoy Balkan specialties at home courtesy of this virtual restaurant.
Kiosk [Official Photo]

Chef Nemanja Milunovic delivers traditional Balkan flavors at this virtual restaurant in Avondale. The menu focuses on street food and provides hits like fried chicken and cevapcici sandwiches. The can’t-miss sandwich, though, is the roasted lamb. Tender, juicy slices of meat are topped with onions, roasted peppers, cucumbers, and tzatziki sauce. The ingredients are all tucked in fluffy housemade somun bread. Online ordering is available here.

A plated lamb sandwich with a side of tzatziki sauce.
Enjoy Balkan specialties at home courtesy of this virtual restaurant.
Kiosk [Official Photo]

Mr D's Shish-Kabobs

The Northwest Side is home to the most superb shish kabob and steak sandwiches in the city. Owners Mike and Ann Antonopoulos opened their beloved Montclare restaurant in the late ‘60s and have built a reputation on their grilled meats. The namesake shish kabobs are cubes of marinated pork tenderloin served with onions, tomato slices, and a splash of jus on a French roll. An equally impressive steak sandwich uses thinly sliced marinated rib eye. Every order also includes impeccably crisp fries.

Big Kids

The hottest sandwich shop in town is the brainchild of former Blackbird chef Ryan Pfeiffer and Mason Hereford of celebrated New Orleans destination Turkey & the Wolf. Drawing on ‘90s nostalgia, the pair create unique and playful items like a fried bologna sandwich and a vegan taco tot melt. The collard melt, a Turkey & the Wolf original, also makes an appearance here. This intriguing sandwich, which boasts braised collard greens, Russian dressing, coleslaw, and Swiss cheese on rye bread, is short on meat but big on flavor. Online orders can be placed here.

La Bomba

It’s not as nationally famous as other iconic Chicago dishes but the jibarito deserves recognition. Originally created at the late Borinquen by Juan Figueroa, the Puerto Rican sandwich is defined by thinly sliced steak, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and cheese between fried plantains. Today, it’s available at many Latin American restaurants like La Bomba, where the recipe remains unchanged. Online orders can be placed here.

Hermosa Restaurant

Ethan Lim’s Pan-Asian sandwich shop charms diners by riffing on classics, such as a bulgogi cheesesteak. But the best of the bunch is the fried chicken sandwich that embraces Cambodian flavors with pickled papaya, long beans, Asian herbs, and garlic mayo. Order online here.

Irazu

Folks will find an exceptional sandwich at Irazu, a Bucktown cafe with a large enclosed patio that's been serving up Costa Rican fare since 1990. The pepito, which has garnered the attention of Food Network and is also billed as a "Chicago favorite," features rib eye steak or chicken, sautéed onion, seasoned black beans, and melted Muenster cheese between freshly-baked French bread. It’s finished with salsa lizano, a Costa Rican brown sauce. Place online orders here.

Johnnie's Beef

The Italian beef is perhaps the most iconic sandwich in all of Chicago. Although it’s hotly contested, a large chunk of people think the best one is found at Johnnie's Beef out in Elmwood Park. Order it the traditional way: Topped with spicy giardiniera or sweet peppers, and dipped in jus. Picnic tables are set up outside for dining. A second location is in Arlington Heights.

Tempesta Market

Father-and-son duo Agostino and Tony Fiasche’s cured meats market in West Town has earned rave reviews since opening at the end of 2017. Nduja, a spreadable cured sausage from the Calabrian region of Italy, is the favorite here and for good reason as the family is also behind Nduja Artisans salumeria. Diners should try the Dante, an Italian sandwich holding six layers of nduja, soppressata, mortadella, finnochinoa, coppa, and porchetta as well as giardiniera, nduja aioli, lettuce, and tomato. Order online here.

Manny's Cafeteria & Delicatessen

Hailed as "Chicago’s Finest Deli," Manny's Cafeteria & Delicatessen remodeled and expanded its space a few years ago but the food is still as good as when it opened in 1942. Taste a bit of that history with Manny’s famous corned beef, sliced thinly to perfection and served on bread or a roll along with a pickle spear. Outdoor seating is available. Online ordering is available here.

Xi'an Cuisine

A flatbread sandwich.
Taste flavors from China’s northwest region at Xi’an Cuisine.
Xi’an Cuisine [Official Photo]

Focusing on the cuisine of China’s Shaanxi province, this Chinatown eatery presents a terrific sandwich lineup. The kitchen bakes soft and airy flatbread daily and fills it with ingredients like fragrant cumin lamb and marinated pork. The best part: Each one is only $5. A second outpost is in the West Loop. Order online here.

A flatbread sandwich.
Taste flavors from China’s northwest region at Xi’an Cuisine.
Xi’an Cuisine [Official Photo]

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Ricobene's

When USA Today called the breaded steak sandwich at this South Side pizzeria the best sandwich in the world, it unsurprisingly caused a bit of a stir. Whether folks agree or not, the article made the combination of breaded steak, tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and hot giardiniera a must-try. Save time be ordering ahead here.

Maxwell Street Depot

"Every visitor to Chicago should experience a pork chop sandwich," writes Mike Baruch in Street Food Chicago. Legend has it that Jim's Original was the first to serve the sandwich in 1941, but Maxwell Street Depot is also known for offering it to customers 24 hours a day. Unique for having a "bone on a bun," 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.

Mom’s

Former Politan Row vendor Mom’s has found a home in Bridgeport. Chefs Randi Howry and Kelly Ijichi are now slinging their take on Japanese comfort food out of Marz Community Brewing, so drop in for a beer and get acquainted with options like chicken karaage, spam musubi, and a photo-friendly katsu sando. The crispy fried pork sandwich is dressed with cabbage, chili mayo, pea greens, and pickles and placed between two slices of Japanese milk bread. Mom’s is open for business Fridays through Sundays and patio seating is available.

Stony Sub

The origins of the “Gym Shoe” sandwich are unclear. Eaters, though, couldn’t care less because the delicious South Side creation at Stony Sub arrives packed with a heaping pile of roast beef, gyro meat, and corned beef and mixed with giardiniera, sweet peppers, onions, tzatziki sauce, tomatoes, Swiss cheese, and mayo. It’s quite the mouthful and certainly leagues better than the odd name implies.

Home of the Hoagy

Italian beef gets all of the hype but sweet steak is Chicago’s true variant of the Philly cheesesteak. Popularized on the South Side, the sandwich sports coarsely chopped rib eye, sweet peppers, tomatoes, and a signature sweet sauce on a sub roll.

Related Maps