With so many popular cuisines and food trends bombarding the dining scene, has the sandwich industry hit a plateau? Shockingly, the answer is no. The bread-enclosed convenience food was created in the 1700s by John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, and it has evolved over centuries to become a classic American staple. Since then, restaurants and delis have become accustomed to serving everything from Italian cold cut concoctions to more robust options like the baked chicken parmesan. In 2020, we’re seeing new cuisines make their mark on this traditional dish. Take a look at some of the creative sandwich trends sweeping the restaurant industry. We guarantee you’ll want to venture away from the traditional BLT.
Maybe subs are nothing new, but the restaurant industry’s recent inclination to “go big or go home” has incorporated a lot of variety into the sub sandwiches we all know and love. For the sandwich enthusiasts who simply can’t decide on a protein for their sub, Sal, Kris & Charlie’s Deli in Astoria have them covered. They’re famous for their unique take on the Italian sub called “The Sandwich King of Astoria.” It’s packed with nearly much any meat you can think of plus all the fixings. For hungry customers looking to indulge in a sub made with a French baguette (also known as a Po ‘Boy) plus some wacky fillings, look no further than Sugar Freak’s “Sugar Freak Special.” This Astoria favorite packs fried chicken and macaroni and cheese between two perfectly toasted pieces of bread.
Katsu Sando is a popular Japanese sandwich made by delicately placing a piece of deep-fried pork (katsu) in between two fluffy pieces of shokupan (Japanese milk bread). Katsu is commonly served as a main dish with rice at sushi restaurants, but more and more NYC eateries are offering Katsu Sando. In fact, one of the most beloved katsu sando-selling spots called Ferris isn’t even a Japanese restaurant! This “New-American” establishment serves a drool-worthy cut of Ibérico fried to perfection and placed between two slices of bread for a tender sandwich. With various restaurants placing their own spin on the traditional Japanese cuisine, it’s been settled that you can “katsu” just about anything to make a “sando.” Try chicken, steak or vegetables as a base for your next flavorful katsu sando order.
Torta, which translates to cake or sandwich in Spanish, is a Mexican street food packed with flavorful meats, cheeses and veggies held together by a pillowy bun. With similar flavors to a traditional taco, the torta steps up its spice game by incorporating unique spreads like refried beans or hot salsa. Steak, carnitas, and chicken are all popular meats to stuff a torta with, but vegan options can be found, too. Tacos Cuautla Morelos is a torta hot spot in the East Village. Stop by for a melt-in-your-mouth Barbacoa sandwich complemented by a smoky chipotle mayo spread.
Banh Mi is the Vietnamese word for bread, explaining why this Asian sandwich opts for an abundantly crispy baguette. Between the two slices, you’ll find a layer of piquant meat, crunchy veggies and a tangy, Sriracha-like spread for taste. Banh Mi Zon is an East Village favorite praised for its house special – a sandwich stuffed with “pork floss”, AKA shredded pork. Chinatown’s 8th Avenue is lined with multiple spots to get your Banh Mi fix, and if you’re feeling adventurous enough to spread some Vietnamese pâté on your bread, stop by Ba Xuyên. Grub Street called this joint the best place for Banh Mi in town, with sandwiches at an affordable price of $5.
It’s safe to say that America loves a good sandwich, and the current draw to fusion foods makes dishes like tortas, banh mi, and katsu even more appealing. Whether or not your restaurant uses this trend as inspiration for new menu items is up to you, but there’s something to be said about reviving a simple dish like the sandwich as a foundation for up and coming flavors.