Critic's Notebook

25 Superb Seattle Sandwiches

Winter is coming, folks. You need a sandwich.

By Kathryn Robinson November 21, 2016

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Skillet Diner's Fried Chicken Sammy. Oh yes.

Image: Olivia Brent

Seattle is one sandwich adoring town. Below, in no meaningful order, are our picks for the top 25 and the reasons why: 

Dot’s Butcher and Deli

Back in Dot’s original Fremont locale, the Reuben snagged all the headlines. Now that Dot’s has relocated to Pike Place Market it’s that same iconic sandwich, only modified for the restrictions of its smaller quarters. The Corned Beef uses the same cured brisket, only not smoked into pastrami---served on Grand Central ciabatta bread rather than marbled rye, topped with mustard sauce rather than Russian dressing, then topped with the same melting Gruyere and the same housemade sauerkraut. Verdict? Same flippin’ ecstasy.

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. 

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. 

Lottie’s Lounge 

Sandwich scholars recall the days when the Georgia Gold originated—within the miniscule Roy’s Barbecue—as the pride of Rainier Avenue. Roy’s is gone but the legend has re-emerged, across the street at the friendly, slightly rough-around-the-edges Lottie’s Lounge. Think pulled pork, smoked at Bob’s Meats across the street, then piled high on a crisped bakery bun with crisp coleslaw and that unbelieveable, indescribable palate-throbbing mustard barbecue sauce. 

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. 

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The Lobster Roll at Bar Harbor.

Image: Bar Harbor

Bar Harbor 

One bite and directly into the Hall of Fame goes the quintessential lobster roll at this little splash of Down East in the progressive-lunch-of-a-lobby at the 400 Fairview. Yeah, it’s a little hifalutin’—Pottery Barn decor, market-pricing (putting that diminutive lobster roll somewhere around $20), schmancy cocktails—but this toasted buttery roll spilling meaty lobster chunks is one for the ages, dressed in your choice of mayo, celery, and chive, or just mayo, or just butter. Choose the former for the real Maine article—nevermind the average potato chips and slaw on the side—and finish with a Whoopie Pie.

Georgetown Liquor Company

Our city has more than its share of worthy vegetarian and vegan sandwiches. 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 non-meat beast is damn near the best French dip in town. 21+ only.


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 the 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. 

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. 

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, but the pan-fried cornmeal crusted catfish 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? 


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. 

Manu’s 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. Also served at Manu’s Bodegita, a sidewalk stall on Madison near Seattle U.


This classy Fremont room is all fancified Creole at night, po’boys galore at brunch. Our fave is the Peacemaker, in which oysters are flattened, cornmeal dredged, fried crispy, then packed into a crackling French roll with bacon, cheddar, mayo, a mess of shredded lettuce, and Louisiana secret spices. The sweet pickle fixings against the metallic finish of the oysters…sublime. Save room for the best beignets in town. 

Un Bien 

The sons of the original Paseo founder opened Un Bien to mad acclaim and epic lines thanks to one life-changing recipe: their dad’s marinade for his Caribbean Roast sandwich. Pork shoulder gets bathed in this magic potion, then roasted and packed into a lightly toasted baguette spread with aioli, sprigs of cilantro, pickled jalapenos, and shingles of caramelized onion. It’s moist, messy, exquisitely flavored, messy, craveable in the extreme, messy…and boy, is it messy. Two locations bookend Ballard. 

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Fried Pacific Oyster Roll at Westward.

Image: Olivia Brent


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. 

Marination Ma Kai

When Marination Ma Kaiyou’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! 


A second outpost of the manly Pioneer Square sandwich deli brings its signature variety and quality of ingredients uptown, to Benaroya Hall. Real innovation lives in these sandwiches, like in 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 Sandwichtown.

Saigon Deli

A Little Saigon 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. The price has gone up; might be approaching $4 now. Better hurry.

Pam’s Kitchen

The most original creation on our list, the Trinidadian Jerk Chicken sandwich comes from Pam’s, the newer Wallingford iteration of the late 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.  

Smarty Pants

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. 

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The Predator at Mammoth.


The tidy sandwiches-and-beer-taps pit stop on Eastlake offers some 16 sandwiches and 30 beers on tap, along with plenty more in the cold case. We favor the warm sandwiches, like the Predator: a French roll slicked with caper aioli, then overstuffed with warm fried chicken leg, hunks of pork belly, swiss cheese, roasted red peppers, and a fistful of arugula.

The Swinery

The jaw-busting Swinery Spectacular 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. 

Rain Shadow Meats Squared

The Pioneer Square outpost of the Melrose Market meatery runs a butcher-block-and-subway-tile sandwich cafe—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. 


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. 

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 a bonafide East Coast metropolis. 

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