OVER THE PAST YEAR, I regularly found myself staring down at some new concoction tucked between two slices of bread. From my perspective, hovering expectantly over many a plate, I believe 2009 is notable for Portland's sandwich glut.
I'll admit there were times fatigue set in. I'd balk at the thought of eating another fucking sandwich, sitting down to review with a sigh and a grumble. Then, usually, something wonderful would happen: The food arriving at my table would lift my spirits. I'd realize, yet again, what an incredibly versatile medium John Montagu (the fourth earl of Sandwich) invented so long ago.
Below, you'll find my top three sandos, sammies, and hand-meals from the past year of reviews. Messy, heavenly, and lovingly crafted, I continue to crave the following sandwiches. They'd make old Montagu proud.
BUNK CONTINUES to be one of the best sandwich shops in town, with an ever-changing roster of filling, sloppy, over-the-top good lunch delights. I'm a particular fan of the so-wrong-it's-right pork belly Rueben, which puts a beautiful fatty, porky spin on the deli classic.
However, for me, Bunk is best in the quiet hours of the morning when the lunch hordes have not yet crammed themselves in front of the register, their eyes filled with sandwich desperation. In that calm before 11 am, you can find a seat at the counter, pick up the paper, chat with the hard-working fellas prepping for the day, and tuck yourself into a Bunk breakfast sandwich—runny egg, sharp cheddar, poppy-seed roll, and optional bacon. Perfect really. Especially with a Bunk-mosa (Miller and OJ) and a cup of strong coffee.
PETISCO IS A RESERVED little shop that could easily be overlooked amid the hustle and bustle of NE Broadway. That's unfortunate considering their menu holds one of the best sandwiches I've ever eaten.
Normally, a roast beef sandwich does not excite me, but biting into one at Petisco is a wonderful thing. The roast beef is perfectly prepared, and wonderfully tender. But that's not enough. Add manchego cheese, roasted red peppers, and a particularly assertive horseradish and your senses are firing on all cylinders. It's amazing something so simple could be so delicious. Order a great big glass of sangria to go with it and call the office to let them know you'll be out to lunch for the rest of the afternoon. If they've ever had this sandwich, they'll understand.
HERE'S ANOTHER FINE MESS that Ken "Kenny" Gordon and Nick "Zuke" Zukin have gotten us into. While their SW Portland deli is known for sandwiches as big as your head, those found at SandwichWorks are relatively "normal" size. They make up for it by packing as much flavor into their creations as possible, often to the detriment of your Liz Claiborne casual business attire.
On the top of my list is the Super Torta Puebla, a sandwich that runs hot and cool with chilled, creamy avocado offset by heat from chipotle and chorizo. Throw in some smoke from roasted pork, the earthiness of black beans, and round the whole thing off with cheese, and you've got yourself one helluva lovely, dynamic sandwich.
The Rest of the Best
IF YOU FIND the Gallego on the menu at Evoe (3731 SE Hawthorne, 232-1010), snatch one up. The beautiful blend of anchovy, fennel, red pepper, and a slow spicy heat are truly sublime.
And if you've got what it takes, reach for the YouCanHasCheeseburger at Brunch Box (SW 5th & Stark, 477-3286). It takes fortitude to eat the entire delight, made from two Texas toast grilled-cheese sandwiches harboring a cheeseburger with all the fixin's.
Finally, the year's sandwich list would not be complete without mentioning EaT: An Oyster Bar's (3808 N Williams, 281-1222) oyster po' boy. Try one, if only to get a chance to taste how an oyster should really be fried.