Bread Winners: Best Sandwiches in Austin
Welcome to Austin, a city crammed with sights, sounds... and sandwiches.
The Woodland: Whip In
Whip In’s owners have created a true Austin original, bringing together a convenience store, brewpub and Indian fusion restaurant and tucking them all neatly under one roof — then tacking on outdoor seating, to boot. The pints and live music performances may get customers in the door, but the food keeps them coming back again and again. Skip the entrees and go straight for the sandwiches, especially the Woodland, a subcontinental take on pulled pork featuring humane slow-braised meat from Richardson Farms plus mango chutney, feta and slaw.
La Frito Loco: La Barbecue
Barbecue sandwiches are typically more barbecue than sandwich — so if you want to settle for smoked meat between bread, any number of the city’s great 'cue joints will do. But if it’s a beyond-basic sandwich that you’re after, La Barbecue pulls out all the stops with La Frito Loco. Essentially a Frito pie on a bun, this sandwich comes stuffed with two of La Barbecue’s oak-smoked meats (pulled pork and chopped beef), along with a show-stealing chipotle slaw, black bean salad and a handful of Fritos. It’s perhaps the only sandwich in town worth an hour-long wait.
Grilled Cheese: 24 Diner
The measure of a great grilled cheese isn’t just the landslide of melted dairy. 24 Diner’s mix of cheddar and fontina on sourdough bread (which is baked at their sister restaurant Easy Tiger) may not be as gooey as some other grilled sandwiches in town — but what it lacks in melted mass, it makes up for in a perfect pairing of sharp and salty cheeses. Add a burst of char from the roasted tomatoes, plus the optional bacon and fried egg, and you’ll forget you’ve ever tasted a processed cheese slice.
The Boss Hogg: Capitol Sandwich
When the short-lived Republic of Sandwich closed, Rosedale's lunch options took a bit hit. Thankfully it reopened as Capitol Sandwich in a trailer just around the corner from the original spot. The new place has patio seating — and a menu that puts most of the city's other sub shops to shame. A standout option is the Boss Hogg, a massive Italian sandwich loaded with ham, salami, arugula, charred onion, tomato, cherry peppers and provolone. This tasty beast is best consumed alongside a side of kimchi Brussels sprouts.
Pastrami: Dai Due
Austin may be short on traditional Jewish delis, but the city still gets down with whole-hog cooking. Take a step inside Dai Due and you’ll know just what we mean. Lauded as one of the most forward-thinking restaurants in the country, this spot is a sleeper pick for an indulgent lunch. The pastrami is as rich as it gets, tasting more like an entree than just a mere cold cut. Add locally produced cheddar cheese, savory sauerkraut and Beet 1000 Island dressing to the house-baked sprouted rye bread and you have a sandwich that’s sure to impress even the most skeptical New Yorker.
Vegetarian: Little Deli
Little Deli ties with Avenue B Grocery for the most adorable sandwich shop in Austin, but wins best in class for vegetarian deli fare. The Crestview neighborhood institution harks back long before cranes, gentrification or even the tech boom. The owners added a pizza oven in 2009, but the sandwiches are still the move, particularly for the veggie-centric crowd. Built on a kaiser roll slicked with olive tapenade, Little Deli’s vegetarian sandwich comes stacked with eggplant and artichoke, plus three kinds of cheese and avocado — proving you don’t need meat to satisfy.
The Italian: Home Slice Pizza
Although it’s almost criminal to visit Home Slice without ordering pizza, the joint makes a massive Italian that’s as satisfying as any pie. Granted, it may take a week off one’s lifespan, but there’s no denying that the quartet of cured meats combined with provolone cheese, a slathering of mayo and the requisite lettuce, tomato and onion is the stuff of deli dreams. Given Home Slice’s obsessive approach to crust, the bread receives as much attention as the fillings, with a crisp exterior to contain the party but doughy insides to soak up all that mayo. When it comes time to order, here’s something to consider — the six-inch option is big enough to break any diet, but the leftover half of the foot-long gets even better after a day in the fridge.
Roasted Turkey: Texas French Bread
University of Texas students know a good sandwich when they see one. For a quick bite between lectures, Fricano’s is a solid freshman choice (especially the pastrami). But with age comes wisdom — just ask the upperclassmen. They’ve learned that the best sandwiches within a hike from campus are served at that classic Austin institution: Texas French Bread. This bakery has been turning out some of the city’s best loaves since 1981, and has grown with the times to incorporate local produce and proteins. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but the roasted turkey on wheat sourdough showcases what makes this place such a gem: traditional flavors on bread that you’ll want to take home. Thankfully, you can.
Prosciutto and Mozzarella Tartine: Blue Dahlia Bistro
With the wealth of shiny new restaurants glimmering on the East Side, it’s easy to forget about the humble European bistro that’s anchored the East End District since 2007. But don’t sleep on the Blue Dahlia — a tartine eaten on the casual patio can’t be beat for a breezy lunch. This menu mainstay serves as an ideal lighter sandwich that doesn’t skimp on bold flavors. The prosciutto and mozzarella option, with its light swipe of pesto and burst of sun-dried tomatoes, makes for a refreshing Mediterranean lunch that still satisfies Texan tastes.
Popcorn Tofu: Wheatsville Food Co-op
Vegetarians in the UT campus area seem to subsist solely on Wheatsville’s legendary fried popcorn tofu. Even soy haters can’t front; this breaded meat substitute is as filling as most chicken nuggets. Add a freshly baked ciabatta roll with the works to the equation and one of Austin’s most unique snacks is suddenly transformed into a hearty (and healthy) meal. Another plus? This sandwich provides the perfect excuse to go grocery shopping, seeing as it’s sold at one of the city’s most beloved co-ops.
The Lucy: Austin Daily Press
After an appearance on The Great Food Truck Race, Austin Daily Press graduated from trailer to brick-and-mortar status — and its menu got an upgrade to match. Headlining the expanded selection is the Lucy, which has fast become one of East Austin’s most popular lunch options. Brimming with lemongrass braised pork, the sandwich is surprisingly balanced for a fusion dish, with doses of spice (sriracha), cream (aioli) and sour (hot and sweet pickles) in equal measure. Pro tip: Bring a friend to share an order of the fluffy jalapeño hush puppies.
Banh Mi: Tam Deli
Burnet Road is the banh mi hub of Austin, with a half dozen choices for cheap Vietnamese sandwiches straddling the street. The options in the Chinatown Center are great, but the overwhelming local favorite is a few blocks away in a nondescript strip mall that’s easy to miss. It’s worth taking the time to seek out, though, as Tam Deli’s banh mi hits all the right supporting notes: a crisp exterior crunch to the baguette, fresh carrot shreds and spicy bites of jalapeno. But what sets Tam Deli apart from the rest is its fried shrimp. This memorable substitution replaces the traditional pork slices and pate with a crunchy burst of garlic that will linger with you for the rest of the day.
Chilanga Torta: Mi Tradicion
Austin’s identity as a taco town means tortas rarely receive enough love, but a great Mexican sandwich is just as deserving of stomach space. Authentic Mexican bakery Mi Tradicion (with locations both north and south) serves one of the city’s very best on a wide bolillo that can barely contain a trio of breaded steak, chorizo and ham. Score it at either of the bakery’s locales — just be sure to save room for a fresh pastry, too.
Beef Tongue: Noble Sandwich Co.
When the guys behind Noble Sandwich Co. opened their shop (then called Noble Pig Sandwiches) on Ranch Road 620 in 2010, it was as far north as most Central Austin foodies had ever ventured. Since then, the area has filled in with outposts from local franchises like Torchy’s Tacos and Verts, but Noble remains a favorite (given the shop’s popularity, the owners have opened a second location off Burnet Road). There are no bad moves on the menu, but the sandwich that put the shop on the map is the seared beef tongue. A flip on the Mexican lengua often found at taco trailers, the sandwich is topped with smoked green onions and red pepper relish, which only serve to amplify the inherent funk of the offal-y delicious protein.
Muffaletta: Mr. Mc’s (Temporarily Closed)
Despite its proximity to New Orleans, Austin had long been lacking in NOLA’s signature sandwich. That is, until the folks behind Launderette took over the neighboring convenience store: Mr. Mc’s. They left the name unchanged, but gave the shop’s offerings a bit of an overhaul by adding a short menu of Louisiana-influenced eats. And the star of the menu is — you guessed it — the muffaletta. Slices of mortadella, ham and hard salami are piled along with provolone and mozzarella cheeses on authentic Big Easy bread (yes, it’s imported straight from New Orleans), then finished with a generous layer of homemade olive tapenade. This meaty muffaletta also boasts the distinction of being the only sandwich in town that’s filling enough to be sold in quarters instead of halves.