More Than Just Bread and Stuff: It's a Lifestyle
It has been said that nature abhors a vacuum, and in the 1990s, that’s exactly what the sandwich scene in Portland had become. Portland's famous Rose’s Delicatessen had shuttered its original location, and the satellite stores had been sold off (they were never as good anyway), leaving Portland without much to take pride in sandwich-wise.
Thankfully, in the two and a half decades since, many talented chefs have opened many amazing food carts, and brick and mortar restaurants to fill the city’s one-time sandwich void. In fact, there are so many places offering so many great sandwiches, that it truly can make a person dizzy. Here’s a breakdown of some of Portland’s finest offerings, by way of the once-humble sandwich.
Las Primas Peruvian Kitchen
Over on North Williams, Las Primas offers customers the finest in Peruvian street foods. Our sandwich of choice: The Butifarra - pepper-rubbed sliced pork, mild chili pepper mayo, lettuce, and salsa criolla (lime-marinated red onion with cilantro).
Meat Cheese Bread
Whether you’re looking to stuff your face at breakfast or lunch, Meat Cheese Bread on SE Stark has you covered. Our sandwich of choice: Hot Asparagus - Grilled asparagus, bacon relish, soft-boiled egg, Parmesan, and aioli.
Michael’s Italian Beef and Sausage Company
Michael’s, on Sandy a block from where it crosses Burnside, has been around for years, serving Chicago-style sandwiches to Portlanders who might not understand how lucky they were to get Chicago beef this good, this far from the City of the Big Shoulders. Our sandwich of choice: Chicago Style Italian Beef - Top round, gravy, peppers, and onions.
Having grown from a pretty standard food cart to three brick and mortar locations in the last five years, no rise in PDX may be as meteoric as that of the fantastic sandwich temple known as Lardo. Whether you find yourself on SE Hawthorne, Downtown, or on North Williams, the sandwich of choice is the Griddled Mortadella - thinly sliced Mortadella, provolone, Mama Lil’s pickled peppers, and mustard aioli.
No list of Portland sandwich greatness would be complete without at least one bahn mi. Feel free to argue for another bakery or sandwich shop, but it’s hard to find one that offers the quality, value, and variety of Best Baguette at 82nd and Powell. Our sandwich of choice: The Best Baguette Special - pate, ham, pork roll, and head cheese with pickled carrots and daikon, cilantro, jalapeno, and soy sauce.
Kornblatt’s deli has been a mainstay of the 23rd Avenue strip in Northwest Portland since it opened in the early nineties. You can’t go wrong with either the corned beef or the hot pastrami. And don't forget to order a New York-worthy Chocolate Egg Cream as well, to wash it down. The chocolate sauce is actually imported from NYC, so the taste is spot on.
Tails and Trotters
It may not have much in the way of ambiance, because it’s basically just a butcher counter and a couple of cold cases over off NE Sandy on 24th. But what Tails and Trotters lacks in comfort and seating, it more than makes up for in quality, hazelnut-finished pork and other meats. Our sandwich of choice: The Smoked Chop - brined & smoked pork chop with Swiss cheese, mustard aioli, frisee, and a sherry vinaigrette.
With five locations in Portland (and another in NY) you don’t have to go far to get a bit of Bunk. On SE Water Ave. or below the Wonder Ballroom on N Russell, on SE Morrison, NE Alberta, or Downtown, Bunk’s quality is consistently a cut above. Sandwich of choice: The Muffaletta (Bunk Bar on Water) - ham, Olympia Provisions salami cotto and Mortadella, with provolone and olive salad.
Urban Nest Agents Pick the Best PDX Sandwich Spot
Munir Henry - Bunk Sandwiches are always delicious!
Haley Overton - Brass Tacks on Vancouver. THE best sandwiches and they're local, woman-owned, offer good meats, homemade vegan options, and they're right in the UN hood.
Holly Burton - Bunk Meatball Parmigiano Hero, Lardo Pork Meatball Banh Mi, Laurelhurst Market #3 (like an Italian Hoagie).
Ray Massini - Too hard! Not fair!....but I think I have to buddy up with Holly!
Liz Getty - Lardo - fried chicken; Also love Foster and Dobbs for a quick prosciutto on fresh bread when stuck running in NE.
Susan Zazzetti - I love Brass Tacks on Vancouver too! Women owned & really great sandwiches wrapped in the paper you get at a butcher shop!
Elizabeth Wren Shiffler - I love Brass Tacks Sandwiches! Their vegan Meatball Sub is to die for -- and I'm not even vegan! They make all their delicious pickles in-house, too! A very close second in my heart is the Muffaletta sandwich at Eastside Deli! SOOOOO GOOOD!
Daniel Blachowski - I'm down with Lardo and the Italian Tuna Melt or the Korean Pork Shoulder on occasion, very decadent.
Rachel Freed - Since I don't eat gluten anymore (insert sad face here), I don't do sandwiches. But I used to love the Reubens at Kornblatts!
So Many Sandwiches, Only So Many Lunch Hours
Well there you have it – eight of Portland’s best. And we didn’t even have the room left to get Big Ass Sandwiches on NE Glisan, Chop or Tabor (the food cart) downtown, any of the city’s torta shops and barbecue joints, or even Pine State Biscuits on SE Division and NE Alberta! Truth is, on any given day, there must be as many as twenty great places to get a fantastic sandwich in Portland. Happy eating!
[Photo Credit to Each Restaurant]