Pan-Fried Cornmeal-Crusted Catfish at Matt's in the Market
Image: Olivia Brent
The Cat in the Matt Pan-Fried Cornmeal-Crusted Catfish at Matt's in the Market

No, not lightly toasted with aioli—just suddenly available at every turn. Thank the emergence of artisan butcher shops, the rise of food trucks (for which sandwiches make the ideal portable specialty), the institution of high-tech ghettos—South Lake Union, Pioneer Square—whose preponderance of male employees mysteriously correlates to the number of nearby sandwich shops, and the global obsession with pork, which from the Caribbean to the American South to the Jersey Shore to Asia has become to the sandwich what beef is to the burger.

Here are the 25 best. 


The Cat in the Matt Matt’s in the Market

Between soft slices of potato bread arrive catfish filets, cornmeal-crusted to an epic crunch, with a slather of feisty sambal mayo and a field of greens. All eight sandwiches on Matt’s lunch menu are proven winners from years’ worth of field research—as are a couple dinner stunners across the hall at Matt’s little sibling, Radiator Whiskey—but the Pan-Fried Cornmeal-Crusted Catfish combo juxtaposes textures and flavors with particular brilliance. No takeout—but who would want to leave the charming aerie with the Pike Place Market view anyway? 94 Pike St, Ste 32, Pike Place Market, 206-467-7909; mattsinthemarket.com


Grinder Than Thou Grinders Hot Sands

Amid the strip-mall wastes of north Aurora sits this tidy shrine to great live music and perfect sandwiches. Though the meatball and cheesesteak have their defenders, the Ciabatta best exemplifies classic grinder greatness: stacks of hot capicola, Genoa salami, mortadella, and house-roasted pork loin mortared with artichoke aioli, caramelized onions, and beguilingly sweet roasted tomatoes. All on ciabatta bread that holds up to this excess better than you might. 19811 Aurora Ave N, Shoreline, 206-542-0627; grindersshoreline.com


Meaty Masterpiece Dot’s Deli

As LeBron is to ordinary ballers, Dot’s Reuben is to sandwiches. Starting as pristine brisket (darling Dot’s is a butcher shop), the house-smoked meat arrives all pink and sliced thick on grilled rye, melted over with gruyere, spread with Russian dressing, and topped with just enough mild sauerkraut for a restrained complement. Enjoyed with a snappy pickle, it’s a masterpiece. 4262 Fremont Ave N, Fremont, 206-687-7446; dotsdelicatessen.com


A Legend Reborn Lottie’s Lounge

Sandwich scholars recall the days when the Georgia Gold reigned—from miniscule Roy’s Barbecue—as the pride of Rainier Avenue. Roy’s is gone but a new generation of the legend has popped up across the street at friendly Lottie’s Lounge. The Columbia City Gold is Georgia for the middle-aged—same crisped bun, same crisp coleslaw, same indescribable, palate-throbbing mustard barbecue sauce…only now with slices of lean loin in place of the unctuous pork shoulder. Is it as good? Hell no. But thanks to that sauce, it’s close.  4900 Rainier Ave S, Columbia City, 206-725-0519; lottieslounge.com


fried chicken sammy skillet diner
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Put a Bird in It Fried Chicken Sammy at Skillet Diner

Put a Bird in It Skillet Diner

Is it the tenderness of the chicken? The intrigue of its crunchy, gently fennel--flavored crust? The fact that great heaps of it are piled inside the soft potato roll or that it’s so winningly accented with pickled jalapeno aioli and ruffles of fresh kale? Who knows and who cares—the Fried Chicken Sammy is a stunner, one of this nouveau diner’s finest hours, and ridiculous with fries. 2034 NW 56th St, Ballard, 206-512-2000; skilletstreetfood.com


Eighth Wonder Paseo

The pair of shacks that kicked off Seattle’s sandwich mania gets away with 45-minute lines, a cash-only policy, and occasionally overroasted meat, thanks to one life-changing recipe: the marinade for its Caribbean Roastsandwich. Pork shoulder gets bathed in this magic potion, then roasted and packed into a lightly toasted baguette spread with perfect aioli, sprigs of cilantro, pickled jalapenos, and fat pieces of caramelized onion. It all adds up to a whole-versus-sum-of-the-parts situation, a mystery of craveability, and one of the genuine wonders of the Seattle gastronomosphere. 6226 Seaview Ave NW, Ballard, 206-789-3100 and 4225 Fremont Ave N, Fremont, 206-545-7440 paseoseattle.com


Porktastic World Tour Xplosive Mobile Food Truck 

Okay, wouldn’t have been my first choice for a food truck name either. But this clean, efficient, friendly operation brings vivid Filipino-Vietnamese flavors (adobo banh mi, anyone?) to SLU and beyond. The lemongrass pork banh mi is our favorite—its shredded pork pulses with flavor; its vegetables are fresh and crisp (though not pickled); its bread is crackle fresh; its sauce is brisk and plentiful. Cash only. 206-612-4739; xplosivemobilefoodtruck.com


picard sandwich georgetown brewing company
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Veggie Beast Picard at Georgetown Liquor Company

Veggie Beast Georgetown Liquor Company

Our city has more than its share of worthy vegetarian and vegan sandwiches, in joints like Plum Cafe and Bistro or Pizza Pi. But to this omnivore the noblest lives in a boozy, countercultural Georgetown shrine to Atari video games and Field Roast sandwiches—of which the Picard is the justified frontrunner. Slices of the firm lentil-sage roast arrive on toasted ciabatta along with roasted red onions, creamy roast garlic spread, and melted mozzarella (vegan rendition available). Dipped into vegan jus, this beast is damn near the best French dip in town. 5501B Airport Way, Georgetown, 206-763-6764; georgetownliquorcompany.com



Waiting for Muffo Salumi

Which sandwich at Seattle’s legendary salumeria best rewards the inevitable 25-minute wait in the rain? You’ll hear passionate arguments for the porchetta and the meatball—but cured meats are Salumi’s raison d’etre, after all, and Muffo, its version of the cold muffuletta, is a stunning showcase for them. Chewy ciabatta gets spread with peppery tapenade early, for soaking, then layered with provolone and Salumi’s own cotto and (outstanding) hot soppressata for an uncommonly sweet and rich creation. 309 Third Ave S, Pioneer Square, 206-621-8772; salumicuredmeats.com


Biscuits Nouveau Serious Biscuit

Biscuit sandwiches, people: made on golden biscuits, flaky-crispy on the outside and fluffy-creamy within. The whole list of nine or so is like a tour through the gastronomic theme park that is Tom Douglas Inc.—but the hands-down winner combines thin slices of uncommonly flavorful housemade ham, sweet apple mustard, a lid of melted Beecher’s cheddar, and streaming egg yolk. The interplay of sweet and salty has never been more delectable. 401 Westlake Ave N, South Lake Union, 206-436-0050; seriouspiewestlake.com

 

santa maria tri tip martinos smoked meats
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Holy Smokes Santa Maria Tri-Tip at Martino's Smoked Meats

HOLY SMOKES Martino’s Smoked Meats

Seattle’s latest sandwich Hall of Famer is the Santa Maria Tri-Tip, a smoky, beefy, gloriously greasy masterpiece from a tidy Phinney Ridge takeout paying reverent homage to the signature barbecue style of California’s central coast. Juicy slices of grass-fed tri-tip sirloin smoked in red oak, big ragged hunks of crunchy red onion and tomatoes and roasted poblano salsa, bright chimichurri trailing herby garlic all over the big crusty Macrina baguette—this mouthfiller is one of the greats. 7410 Greenwood Ave N, Phinney Ridge, 206-397-4689; martinosseattle.com


I Ate the Sheriff HoneyHole

We love everything about the Pike/Pine indie sandwich hole—the red walls, the candlelit tables, the unboring veg sandwich selection, the sandwiches named for movie characters—but we love the Buford T. Justice most, for its gentle take on the classic pulled pork, all refreshing coleslaw and light barbecue sauce. 703 E Pike St, Capitol Hill, 206-709-1399; thehoneyhole.com


KING CREOLE Roux

It’s Where Ya At Matt gone bricks-and-mortar, in a classy Fremont room that’s all fancified Creole by night, po’boys galore by day. Off a list of a dozen or so you can’t go wrong—but you’ll go rightest with the Fried Oyster Po’Boy, in which the flattened bivalves are coated in cornmeal, packed into a crackling French roll, and lavished with a mess of shredded lettuce, mayo, and Louisiana secret spices. The sweet pickle fixings against the metallic finish of the oysters…sublime. Save room for the best beignets in town. 4201 Fremont Ave N, Fremont, 206-547-5420; restaurantroux.com


Caribbean Porker La Bodega

Out of this wee color-splashed storefront tucked into the Yesler end of Prefontaine comes huge Dominican flavor in the form of a sandwich so iconic it sustained a following (in popups) before the restaurant even opened. The Puerco Asado comes on a Macrina roll heaped with a mess of slow-roasted pork shoulder, beautifully marinated, then decorated with pickled red onions, shredded cabbage, aioli, and a kick of radiant chimichurri. 100 Prefontaine Pl S, Pioneer Square, 206-682-2175; labodegaseattle.com


fried pacific oyster roll westward
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Life Aquatic Fried Pacific Oyster Roll at Westward

Life Aquatic Westward

So much of the spotlight shines on the freshly shucked oysters at this beachy North Lake Union destination, a person could miss the crispy ones in the Fried Pacific Oyster Roll, plump inside a housemade roll along with tomato slices, wild greens, fetching fried pickles, and a sassy slick of remoulade. The homemade chips alongside, dusted with a riff on Old Bay, make the perfect foil. Lunch and happy hour only. 2501 N Northlake Way, Wallingford, 206-552-8215; westwardseattle.com


Katsuperstar Marination Ma Kai

When you’ve got the wide-angle panorama of Seattle skyline splayed out before you, and all you can stare at is your Pork Katsu Sandwich, you’re at Marination Ma Kai. The Macrina ciabatta roll with the huge panko--breaded pork katsu flapping out the sides comes loaded with coleslaw and tangy tonkatsu sauce. You’d better stare at it; otherwise you’ll be wearing it. Booze and shave ice too! 1660 Harbor Ave SW, West Seattle, 206-328-8226; marinationmobile.com


Manwich Central Delicatus

A dozen each “Traditionalist” and “Progressive” sandwiches fill the chalkboard of Pioneer Square’s manliest hipster-brick deli; choose among the latter for the smartest innovation. Like the glorious ShankLamb: lightly toasted sesame bread oozing braised lamb shank and chive aioli, ruffled with lettuce and tomato and the occasional thrilling detonation of hot pepper. Staffed by the sweetest gents in the Sandwich District. 103 First Ave S, Pioneer Square, 206-623-3780; delicatusseattle.com


Nam Nom Nom Saigon Deli

An International District dive takeout with a crammed parking lot and a language barrier also has Banh Mi Thit Nuong, the best grilled pork banh mi maybe on earth: crusty baguette, just-right glaze of mayo, brightly pickled vegetables for crunch, fresh cilantro and jalapeno—and tender hunks of marinated grilled pork lacquered with that heady Vietnamese potion of fish sauce, garlic, lemongrass, chili, and magic. For $3. 1237 S Jackson St, International District, 206-322-3700


Fire Fry Pam’s Lunch Kitchen

The most original creation on our list, the Trinidadian Jerk Chicken sandwich comes from Pam’s Lunch Kitchen, the newer Eastlake iteration of the cheerful U District classic. A round of fried coconut bread provides the fragrant and bewitchingly crunchy wrap for fire-breathing morsels of moist white and dark meat in jerk spices, gussied with cabbage and peppers. Insanely flavorful.  609 Eastlake Ave E, South Lake Union, 206-420-2320


Image: Olivia Brent
Triple Trouble Troublemaker at Smartypants

Triple Trouble Smartypants

Amid the bikers and day drinkers in this brick-lined Georgetown bar lurk bona fide sandwich connoisseurs, and the Troublemaker is why. A hoagie roll is stuffed with tender grilled chicken and heaps of grilled onions, melted over with monterey jack, spangled with bacon, and spread with Trouble sauce—a swoony mayo sparked with habanero and salsa. Bring your veg friends: Any
of its 22 sandwiches go brilliantly herbivorous, gratis Field Roast. 6017 Airport Way S, Georgetown, 206-762-4777; smartypantsseattle.com

 

 

terra cole traditional pastrami sandwich
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Mother of All Pastramis Traditional Pastrami at Terra Cole

Mother of All Pastramis Terra Cole

The newest among Seattle’s emerging genus of butcher-shop-sandwich joints is this white-on-white storefront in the West Seattle Junction. Folks come for the meats, marinades, rubs, sauces, and sausages—but more and more they’re also grabbing one of its half dozen astonishing sandwiches. Our favorite is the traditional pastrami on lightly toasted sour rye heaped with the curly-edged meat, deeply smoky and edged with sweetness and dressed merely with a smear of grainy mustard. Simply the finest pastrami sandwich in Seattle. 4541 California Ave SW, West Seattle, 206-258-2475; terracolebutchery.com


Mile-High Meatwich The Swinery

The jaw-busting Swinery Spectacularrrr from West Seattle’s longtime artisan butcher is a masterpiece of meatiness, supplying all the proof you need that big sauces aren’t necessary where the meats are this fine. Inside a crusty Macrina roll find shreds of pulled pork, sheets of fine ham, and chunks of crisped pork belly for texture, accoutered simply with swiss cheese, a few pickles, and a light wash of dijon. 3207 California Ave SW, West Seattle, 206-932-4211; swinerymeats.com


Meat Treat Rain Shadow Meats Squared

The Melrose Market meatery has opened a butcher-block-and-subway-tile sandwich stop in (where else) Pioneer Square—and of its dozen or so Euro sandwiches our favorite is the exquisite Porchetta. Generous chunks of belly and loin adorn a fine, sturdy French roll, minimally accented with a big-flavored sauce verte bright with garlic and anchovies. Celery soda pairs beautifully. 404 Occidental Ave S, Pioneer Square, 206-467-4854; rainshadowmeats.com


Simple Pleasure Homegrown

The most beloved sandwich at this bright, ecologically pristine local chain layers fresh turkey, chewy bacon, greens, lush avocado slices, local gouda, and roasted garlic aioli between slices of bread toasted to crispy on the outside and pillowy within. Like all things Homegrown, the Turkey, Bacon, and Avocado sounds too simple to be extraordinary—then pulls off both. Multiple locations, eathomegrown.com


Taste of Jersey Tat’s Delicatessen

The headliner in this crammed East Coast deli is the Tat’strami, a sweet-meets-savory mess of pastrami and Russian dressing and coleslaw and melting swiss: the unholy spawn of a pastrami sandwich and a cheesesteak, served hot and goopy inside an Italian roll. For the two of you who don’t like the sound of that, Tat’s offers nearly 30 other sandwiches—bountiful riffs on cheesesteaks, hoagies, subs, and grinders—that make Seattle feel like Jersey. 159 Yesler Way, Pioneer Square, 206-264-8287; tatsdeli.com