A sandwich is a sandwich is a sandwich, right? Wrong! At least, that’s what these 20 concepts would argue. Each one, as it looks to expand regionally and nationally, is setting itself apart from the competition. To do so, some focus on sustainability. Some focus on nailing one ingredient. And others are catering to a specific audience—like Cheba Hut catering to those with the munchies in states where marijuana is legalized. Click through for more sandwich-spirations.
With 27 locations here and coming, Mendocino is on a mission to sell as many chef-driven, locally sourced sandwiches as possible, or “sell happy,” as the company puts it. Sandwiches at this California-based brand range from “Not So Fried” Mary’s Chicken with roasted chicken breast, krispies, and herb aioli to Mendo’s Smokehouse Tempeh Sandwich with barbecue-smoked organic tempeh.
At the 20-unit mark, Even Stevens is a company-owned, socially conscious sandwich concept born out of Salt Lake City. For each sandwich bought, the company donates—essentially—a sandwich back to one of its local nonprofit partners (there are four partners per shop). The design of the stores is all unique, as it is dictated by the neighborhood around it. And the menu includes veggie-friendly Jackfruit Torta alongside the meat-loving Pot Roast Dip, with salads, bites, and breakfast in between.
After a facelift two years ago, ‘Wichcraft’s bold new branding and fresh-ingredient focused design has prepped the New York-based brand with five locations to take on the market once more. House-made condiments, locally baked bread, sustainable seafood, and superfoods make ‘Wichcraft’s classic sandwiches like the BLT, Southwest, and Open-Faced Avocado stand out.
Top Round Roast Beef
Roast beef is the star at this fast-casual, which was started in Los Angeles, but—only four locations in—has already tackled Kentucky (Louisville) and Texas (Dallas). Winning hand-breaded fried chicken, hand-cut curly fries, and frozen yogurt can also be found at this nostalgia-driven concept.
Dedicated to sustainability, this concept has its own farm that serves as a model for sustainable agriculture and sources to its ten Seattle and San Francisco restaurants during high season. Sandwiches include the Charred Broccoli sandwich that marries its namesake ingredient with feta, caramelized onions, and chermoula aioli for the veggie-lovers. And, for the meat lovers, guests will find everything from Smoked Pastrami, to Grass-fed Steak & Blue, to Chicken Pesto.
Kneaders Bakery & Cafe
Looking to keep on keeping on with opening six to 12 locations per year, Kneaders has grown from one location in Orem, Utah in 1997 to 60 locations over eight states in 2018. It is still run by the founders Gary and Colleen Worthington, and the menu extenuates the concept’s artisans breads in sandwiches like the Provolone Muenster Cheese Melt, the Turkey Cranberry Croissant, and the Turkey Artichoke, alongside breakfast, pastries, soups, and salads.
East Hampton Sandwich Co.
This Texas-based brand has not yet explored the market outside of the Longhorn State, but, within it, the concept is doing pretty well, opening 10 locations since 2012. The focus here is on scratch-made ingredients and local bread to create a menu split by protein, Chicken, Turkey, Ocean, Beef, Pork, and Vegetable. Diners can find everything from a Sweet Chicken Parm, to a Lobster Roll, to a Lemon Caprese sandwich.
This brand started with a noble pursuit to simply create a sandwich for real turkey lovers (like Thanksgiving-roasted) back in 1976 and now has over 100 franchised locations. Most recently, the concept went through a tech-driven transformation, making it ever more easy to get guests’ hands on sandwiches like the original The Bobbie with turkey, cranberry sauce, and stuffing, the Cheese Steak, or the Slaw Be Jo.
Victory Sandwich Bar
In Atlanta and Decatur, Georgia, Victory is the sandwich king, serving hip takes on favorites like the tea bird—chicken, ghost pepper jack, tomato, and sweet tea mayo—and the VLT with bacon, lettuce, heirloom tomato, chips, lemon mayo, and basil vin. Guests wash these down with a whiskey coke slushie, a spiked soda cocktail, or a Vic’s Picks cocktail. All for a surprisingly reasonable price.
Noble Sandwich Co.
Another small chain—just two locations out of Austin, Texas—Noble is not messing around with flavor. Its menu is full of treasures like the Smoked Duck Pastrami sandwich with Russian dressing and rye pickles or the Seared Beef Tongue with smoked green onions, red pepper relish, and aioli buddied up to more comfort fare like Pimento Cheese and the Turkey Chop.
Pork & Mindy's
Pork & Mindy’s calls itself “Creative BBQ,” but it is so much more than pork. Think, Buffalo Cauliflower sandwiches with slow-smoked cauliflower, in-house Buffalo sauce, and the trimmings on brioche, or the Hot Chicken & “French Toast” with mulberry-smoked chicken and a Apricot Habanero Sauce, served on a vanilla maple bourbon “french toast” bun. The brand has three Chicago locations, one in Minneapolis, and four more coming soon. Look out, Denver.
The sauces are made in shop, the veggies and meats and prepped and cooked in-house, and the rolls are delivered fresh daily for a list of sandwiches nearly a page long. The brand can be found in Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Maryland—where the bulk of the brand’s business represented by 17 stores—and also Chicago, where the brand has two stores.
This concept dominates the Houston market with five locations spread throughout the city. Gourmet sandwiches prepared with local ingredients range from Roast Beef with curried cauliflower and kale to “Crunchy” Chicken with nut crumble and crushed chips on a pretzel bun. Following cue from farm-to-table, full-service restaurants, Local Foods lists the farms the restaurants’ source from on the website.
Following the chicken and waffle craze, this brand offers the original fried chicken and waffle sandwich—with chili honey and cider slaw—at its eight locations in California, Nevada, and Seoul, Korea. There are also bun sandwiches.
Cheba Hut Toasted Subs
On a mission to cure the country’s munchies, Cheba Hut can now be found today in over 20 locations across seven states, mainly in the western U.S. It was founded in 1998 and, with marijuana becoming legalized in more and more states, the concept is becoming all the more relevant. Its menu features everything from Thai Stick teriyaki chicken subs, to a host of veggie varieties like the Magic Mushroom sub, to Munchies like a Rice Krispie Bar, and Cotton Mouth Cures like Kool Aid.
Offering comfort food made the best ingredients, fresh-baked bread, and the best cheese around, Melt Shop set out to, “make the best damn sandwich on the planet. Period. Better than our Mom’s (sorry, Mom). Better than your Mom’s,” its website says. That translates to approachable sandwiches like the French Onion Beef and Buffalo Chicken served alongside a range of tots at the brand’s 11 locations in New York, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Kuwait.
Num Pang Kitchen
Founded in 2009, Num Pan—which means sandwich in Cambodian—has seven locations today in New York and Boston serving up bold flavors of Southeast Asia in sandwiches, bowls, soups, and salads. Graffiti art adorns the walls, and golden-era hip hop and reggae are played in the shops. Sandwiches include Peppercorn Catfish with sweet soy glaze, Coconut Tiger Shrimp with toasted coconut flakes, and Pulled Duroc Pork with spiced honey.
With four locations in the Portland market, this sandwich shop is also a bar, offering house drinks like the Typhoon Shandy with tequila, lime, grapefruit, and beer. The sandwiches made from quality ingredients include fares like the Pork Belly Cubano and Roasted Carrot with white bean hummus, harissa aioli, feta cheese, and jalapeño.
With nine locations in California, The Melt offers a selection of grilled cheeses from the Mac Daddy with mac ‘n’ cheese inside to the Queso de Mayo with avocado, pickled jalapeños, pepper jack, and bacon. The brand also offers chicken and burger melts, all made with quality ingredients like angus and wagyu beef.