Mount Rushmore – Sandwich Edition

[Mount Rushmore is a new weekly series wherein I propose a category and then nominate four items from that category to stand atop a hypothetical Mount Rushmore.  The goal here is to foster some good-natured debate in seeking to answer an unanswerable question.  Feel free to use the comments to propose your own  quartet, discuss the merits of my own choices, and tell others just how wrong they are.  I often no guidance on what criteria ought to be applied in answer the question other than that which I choose for myself.  Half the fun is in debating the methodology itself.  So without further adieu, let’s get it on!]

Oh, the sandwich.  One of the culinary world’s greatest inventions.  So versatile, so convenient.  But which four reign supreme?  I’ll tell you…

Peanut Butter and Jelly: A classic.  If you think the PB&J is just for kids, you’ve got another thing coming.  And, no, I’m not talking about some fancy, deconstructed PB&J made with thousand marmalade made from hand-picked whatever-marmalade-is-made-froms.  I’m talking about the original.  Two pieces of white bread, peanut butter on one side, grape or strawberry jelly on the other, smushed together.  It has just the right combination of salty and sweet.  If you use crunchy peanut butter (as any true American should), you also get some nice texture contrast.  Finish it off with a glass of milk and all is well in the world.

Cheeseburger:  “Wait just a gosh darn minute, Kazzy!” you’re probably thinking.  “A cheeseburger is not a sandwich!”  Well, Google defines a sandwich as “an item of food consisting of two pieces of bread with meat, cheese, or other filling between them.”  Last I checked, a cheeseburger is just that.  You want to argue with Google?  Be my guest.  I’m pretty sure they have drones and billions of dollars and the entire internet on their side.  So, yes, a cheeseburger is a sandwich and it absolutely belongs on Mount Rushmore.  A well made cheeseburger stands on its own.  But it also serves as a canvas.  Want bacon? Go for it.  Lettuce, tomato, and onion?  Sure.  Chipotle aioli?  Be my guest.  Why a cheeseburger and not a hamburger?  Because you’re stupid if your answer to, “Would you like cheese on that?” is no.  Or your lactose intolerant.  Which is probably worse than being stupid.  An ancillary benefit of including the cheeseburger on the mountain is that it reminds us of the bevy of hot but oft-neglected hot sandwiches out there.

Grilled Cheese:  Another classic with a world of potential.  True story: A diner in my hometown had a dish called the Happy Waitress, which was a classic grilled cheese with tomato and bacon.  My friends and I frequently this place regularly after long nights of drinking.  One such evening, we asked if we could modify the Happy Waitress.  “Can you throw some sausage on there, too?”  With each successive night, another addition was made.  Ham.  A burger patty.  Inspired by the grease trucks at Rutgers, chicken fingers and French fries worked their way into the mix.  It was a sight to behold, capable of making even the most sober of men vomit uncontrollably.  It was dubbed the Horny Waitress (“Because it just can’t get enough.”) and can still be ordered by that name if you get the right waiter.  Anyway, such is the potential of the grilled cheese.  Though it can also be just as delicious in its most basic format.  Ingredients matter… don’t skimp on the quality or quantity of cheese.  But you’re pretty much guaranteed a great experience.

Italian Hero:  Yes, it’s a hero.  Not a wedge or a hoagie or a sub or a grinder.  It’s a hero, goddamnit!  And the Italian hero is the hero of heroes.  Ham, salami, capicola, pepperoni, provolone cheese… an amazing mix of meatiness and saltiness and spiciness.  Top it with lettuce, tomato, onion, hot peppers, oil-and-vinegar, salt, pepper, and oregano.  Make sure you have good quality bread.  Boom.  You’re reading to rock.  This will fill you for the better part of the day.  Mind your ratios and, again, use quality ingredients.

There it be.  What ya got?

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122 thoughts on “Mount Rushmore – Sandwich Edition

  1. 1. The Roast Turkey Sandwich from Arguello Market on a Dutch Crunch Roll with mustard, lettuce, porvolone, tomato, and pickle.

    2. A Proper Pastrami on Rye with Mustard

    3. Meatball Heroes especially the Super Mario from Ike’s Place

    4. PB and J.

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  2. French dip. Invented entirely by accident in Los Angeles, the French dip combines hearty flavorful roast beef with hot, moist, salty jus. If you’ve got it on a nice, fresh roll, lean forward when you eat it, because that sucker is getting the juice all over the place. I generally prefer mine without cheese, but sometimes some melted Swiss on there is just the thing. Others really like some horseradish in the mayonnaise, for some heat and bite back. I’ve heard that there are those who put mustard on their French dips, but to me this is apostasy. Also, there are some places I’ve heard that put grilled onions in there, but that seems a lot like…

    The Philadelphia cheesesteak. Another hot beef sandwich, this one with lots of the thin beef mixed in with onions and peppers, and melted cheese. Oh yeah. When I was in Philadelphia, they put cheese whiz out of the spray can in there. When I first heard of this it sounded awful. But it worked quite nicely. Most other places, they put the beef and the peppers and onions on a griddle and then towards the end they know the slice or two of American or cheddar or Swiss and then that goes on the roll. A former friend once put ketchup on his Philly cheesesteak, but how could I stay friends with him after that?

    In the world of cold sandwiches, conspicuously absent from your list was the club. If you ask me, the best club sandwiches come with three slices of bread. This makes them pretty tall, so you have to kind of squash them to get them to fit into your mouth. That’s part of the fun, feeling the crunch of the bacon as you squeeze the sandwich. For my money, the best meat to accompany the bacon is chicken, although more often you find turkey. The restaurant attached to the local driving range where I live puts in ham, turkey, and bacon as well as the vegetables and bread. Fantastic! And for those of you who must have your condiments, a club sandwich seems to acceptably take just about any kind of goo that you want to smear on there. Note that I am calling the club sandwich a cold sandwich despite the fact that the bread is to be toasted, because the meat is cold.

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    • For my fourth sandwich, I shall pick the McDonald’s sausage McMuffin with egg. It is the summit of all breakfast sandwiches. There can be no greater. Sure, the original Egg McMuffin is pretty darn good. Let’s swap out the Canadian bacon for that sausage, and you get extra flavor, extra salt, extra grease, extra delicious. The fact that the egg has been quasi-poached on the griddle, and the melty McDonald’s cheese-like substance is used as a substitute for hollandaise sauce, makes this the skanky-but-hot second cousin of an Eggs Benedict. Sure, you can get a sandwich made with sausage and cheese like substance on a biscuit, served atop some folded scrambled eggs from Hardees/Carl’s, and I admit that’s probably pretty good too. But why would you, when you can get the real thing right across the street?

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    • I order the club sandwich all the time, but I’m not even a member, man. I don’t know how I get away with it. How’d it start anyway?
      “I like my sandwiches with three pieces of bread.”
      “So do I!”
      “Well, let’s form a club then.”
      “Alright, but we need more stipulations.”
      “Yes we do; instead of cutting the sandwich once, let’s cut it again.”
      “Yes, four triangles, and we will position them into a circle. In the middle we will dump chips. Or potato salad.”
      “Okay. I got a question for ya, how do you feel about frilly toothpicks?”
      “”I’m for ’em!”
      “Well, this club is formed; spread the word on menus nationwide.”

      “I like my sandwiches with alfalfa sprouts.”
      “Well, then you’re not in the fuckin’ club!”

      – Mitch Hedberg

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    • My top two, as well, counselor. You’re a lawyer after my own heart. (Especially these days, as you’re on my mind a lot due to the fact that we’re evicting a deadbeat tenant.)

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      • In North Jersey, the best sandwich is the Sloppy Joe.

        This has nothing to do with the sandwich that goes by that name in the rest of the country. Instead, our version is sliced deli meat (I prefer pastrami), swiss, cole slaw, Russian dressing, and brown mustard on rye bread.

        It is heaven.

        Rutgers is famous for its grease trucks, which sell hot sandwiches in various combinations. The original is the Fat Cat, which is a double cheeseburger with french fries, lettuce, tomatoes, mayo, and ketchup all on a long hoagie roll.

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    • Also received consideration. How do you take yours? I’m a pastrami/swiss/kraut/mustard guy. I know some people put Russian dressing on it. I hate those people.

      Coloring my perception here might be that the last Reuben I had was at Artie’s Deli in Manhattan, which is kind of a shticky, over-the-top Jewish Deli. The reuben is monstrous, such that I felt sick after eating it.

      Then again, when you sit down, they give you a bowl of pickled vegetables. Not just pickles, but also pickled tomatoes and carrots. Delicious. And their cole slaw is top notch as far as northern varieties go.

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    • I used to have a big thing for Reubens, but I had too many bad ones, I think.

      Getting the balance right without putting on too much kraut, dressing, or pastrami is tough. The proprietor of the place always seems to think 2x too much of one ingredient is the right way to make one.

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  3. Let me first say that you cannot have a sandwich without a side. The side is critical.

    Let me then say that lettuce makes many sandwiches better, but nearly all uses of lettuce are the nuclear option. One or two leafs of very crisp lettuce are more than sufficient.

    First sammitch is a Roast Beef and Swiss on Rye. Horseradish or a spicy mustard is required. Thinly sliced tomatoes are nearly a must. Bread, mayo, tomato, swiss, meat, mustard, bread. Peppers optional. For the side, salted kettle chips.

    Second is the Hot Dog, which I include because Kazzy included the cheeseburger. There are three ways to have a Hot Dog: bacon-wrapped, with chili, and ballpark style (mustard, onions, relish). For the side, of course, fries.

    Third is a California Club, because a regular club is a good sammitch, but throw some avocado on there and you’ve got yourself a miracle. Side is a pickle.

    The last is an Italian Sausage and Peppers Sandwich. The side is fried potatoes and onions.

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    • I don’t know why, but focusing on sides is always comedy gold.

      Cartman: “Am I to understand there will be no side dishes?”

      Smoove B: “Finally, my dinner of lobster, shipped to me that morning in only the coldest of ice from the finest lobster region in all of Maine, will be completed and placed on the table. Along with the lobster will not only be melted butter, but also side dishes.”

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    • Now hang on just a minute there partner. I thought we established that a sandwich is meat between two (or more) slices of bread. If you have meat around which bread has been wrapped, like a burrito, that’s a wrap, not a sandwich. So can we properly call a hot dog or other sausage on a bun a “sandwich”?

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    • Well said, Patrick.

      I will nominate the Vienna hot dog, with mustard and onions. Specifically, the one you get from Gene and Jude’s hot dogs whose fries are the ultimate side. Or in this case, top. Yep, they come right on top of the dog, and are gloriously greasy and salty, and plentiful. If you ever get to Chicago, I can’t emphasize strongly enough how much you need to go here. And don’t ask for ketchup!

      Next is an Italian beef, dipped. With or without peppers, your choice. No side necessary because the things are so damn big.

      I’ll second the roast beef mentioned above, but on pumpernickel. And the chips have to be salt and vinegar.

      Lastly, the sliced brisket from Smoque. Everything else is a pale imitation. Side: slaw, but not theirs. Cole slaw should be creamy. The other kind is just cabbage in vinegar.

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      • My wife and I had a long fight once about salt and vinegar chips. She insisted no one ate them. I argued that they caught a bad wrap because most young people are turned off by them but adults can appreciate the flavor. She continued to insist that no one ate them. Then I did some research and found that they were among the top (if not THE top) selling flavored chip varieties. Because I’m the sort of asshole that researches a question about chip flavors to shove in his (wrong!) wife’s face.

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      • My kids are fiends for salt and vinegar chips. And they like the stronger brands, like Kettle Chips, over the more toned-down type put out by, say, Lays. If you feel the need to further shove it in your wife’s face (which I don’t recommend, mind), I can make you a video of them snarfing the things down like hungry wolves.

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      • Your children have well-refined palates. Well done.

        And I’ve become decidedly less obnoxious to my wife as I’ve moved into my 30s and fatherhood. Which means I’ve probably become more obnoxious to the rest of y’all. Sorry, I guess.

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      • There was a point in my life where there wasn’t a hill I wouldn’t die on.

        Which is ironic given that one of the most important pieces of advice I dole out to others is “Pick your battles.”

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  4. 1. The Reuben – corned beef, rye, sauerkraut, russian dressing; a god among mere mortals

    2. The Muffaletta – all the perks of your italian hero plus olive salad

    3. The Cheeseburger – ditto all you said

    4. Stepping outside the box here, just to give a little variety: a Fried Chicken Biscuit with honey. I knew that I wanted to do some form of biscuit sandwich, and I think a very well done buttery flaky biscuit with some fried chicken breast, well-seasoned with a touch of cayenne, topped off with honey is the apex of breakfast sandwiches.

    I could talk for days about sandwiches. Really, I could. I understand your inclusion of PB&J and a grilled cheese, but I wouldn’t take them before any of the above. And while a grilled cheese is great, it’s not even the best form of a cheese-based sandwich. That accolade has to go to the pimiento cheese sandwich.

    The only reason I didn’t include pimiento cheese is that I typically prefer my pimiento cheese with crackers, rather than in a sandwich form. That being said, those of you not from the South should try it if you haven’t: grated very sharp cheddar cheese, mayo, cracked black pepper, a dash or three of hot sauce to your liking, pimientos. Do not, under any circumstances, use pre-shredded cheese. That stuff is never high quality and it screws up the texture. Add just enough mayo to give the pimiento cheese a pasty consistency. Too much liquid and it throws off the flavor and texture. I like to drain off much of the juice from the jar of pimientoes, and then squeeze them out in my hand before I toss them into the cheese. That prevents the pimiento cheese from getting too liquidy, and prevents the pimiento juice from overpowering the cheese. Some add more than these basic ingredients. They get fancy with minced onion, or different cheeses. That’s all fine, but you can’t go wrong with this basic recipe. I can’t give amounts. I just eyeball it. Again, your goal is a pasty consistency, firm enough to break a saltine if you try to dip it in there, but with enough give to spread with a knife. Enjoy.

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  5. I’ll second the Ruben and the Cali Club. Both are excellent.

    Peanut butter and Jelly (ONLY apricot jam will do)

    Panera Bread: Asiago Roast Beef sammach. Tasty Have a Cobblestone as a side :)

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  6. Meatball, Philly Cheesesteak (though the kind that Philadelphians scoff at, from what I understand), turkey-cheddar-mayo, and Wendy’s Spicy Monterrey Chicken Sandwich.

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  7. The best sandwich I’ve ever had was grilled cheese (havarti) with fresh pears slices, spinach, and a honey mustard sauce. I have dreams about it (and try to get one every time I’m home). I have no idea what that’s called, but we can easily put an image of one on a mountain, right?

    Second, a jibarito.

    Third, a Cuban (you know, with pork).

    Fourth, hmm… a Reuben with egg salad.

    And the sides for these, since some people think that’s important, are chips, maduros or tostones, maduros or tostones, and potato pancakes, respectively.

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      • We went to brunch in JC last weekend and Zazzy orders a burger benedict: a grilled patty with her choice of meat, a fried egg, and hollandaise on a butter bun. Fantastic.

        And good call on tostones. I’m not the biggest fan of Cubanos moreso because I find other Cuban dishes far superior. I rarely order it because there is usually something else I prefer on the menu. Pork-based, of course.

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      • From the menu of a place down the street:

        HAIR OF THE DOG 6.79
        Deep-fried bacon-wrapped beef frank, chili, cheddar, fried egg & Tabasco sauce – add a Budweiser for $1.00

        It’s better without the Budweiser.

        That place also has this:

        CARTOON DOG 3.99
        Beef frank, peanut butter, grape jelly & Cap’n Crunch cereal

        I ate that once. I couldn’t finish it. It was just… I still occasionally have nightmares.

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  8. Monte Cristo – I’m not talking about those grotesque creations you find in some restaurants, with the french toast or some other desert bread that has no business in a proper sandwich. One of the best sandwiches I ever had was piles of hot ham and turkey and swiss and russian dressing and egg bread, grilled individually then together until everything was nice and hot and melty. Half of one of those used to fill me up (and I can put away the food, mind you.) Sadly, what the restaurant nows offers is but a mockery. Not only is the bread smaller, there’s not even enough meat to cover the whole sandwich and you end up with just bread.

    French Bread Pizza sandwich – When I was a kid, my friends and I used to go to local pizza joint and get french bread pizzas. Then we’d fold them over and eat them as sandwiches. The bread was great and a little crunchy on the outside and nice and soft in the middle, with all the cheesy goodness.

    Pulled pork – Always delicious, varies greatly depending on sauce used. I tend to prefer the slaw on the side instead of on top, but I can eat either way.

    Cheeseburger – Ubiquitous, hard to screw up, and when it’s done well (but not necessarily well-done), it’s hard to beat.

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      • Agreed. Some smokey pulled pork on a soft bun with a vinegar based slaw and some sweet-heat BBQ sauce is a thing of beauty. I’d probably take it over any of the sandwiches on my own Mount Rushmore. But notability matters. Many of the people I associate with don’t even know you can make a pulled pork sandwiches. I’ve had to give tutorials. That matters.

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      • I would have had a pulled pork sandwich on my list, but several years ago now, the restaurant with the best pulled pork sandwich on the planet closed (in part because of city government… maybe I should be a libertarian), so I remain too sad to include it on my list.

        Requiescat in pace, Herbert’s, rest in peace.

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  9. In no particular order

    1. Classic grilled cheese with whole wheat
    2. Grilled cheese with sundried tomato pesto and olives on wheat
    3. Panini with grilled haloumi, avocado and olives
    4. Vege-burger with lentil/soy patty, provolone cheese, onions, pickles, spicy brown mustard, no ketchup.

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  10. 1. The classic Reuben. Accept no substitutes.
    2. Chicken salad on a wheat roll with just enough lettuce to make it crunch,
    3. The club, with the four triangle surrounding a dollop of potato salad.
    4. The patty melt: burger, cheese, and lots of onion on rye bread, all grilled.

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    • There used to be a place in Austin that had amazing chicken salad sandwiches. They used some sort of spice (I don’t know spices well, but I think it was taragon or something that started with t or s) that put it over the top. That place, too, is out of business, and all other chicken salads disappoint me relative to that one. But a good chicken salad makes for wonderful comfort food.

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      • I find that chicken salad is the most variable of all the sandwiches. Roast beef is pretty much the same no matter where you go, but chicken salad is all over the map, from great to terrible. When it’s great, though, it’s really great, and would be a strong contender for my personal Mt. Rushmore. Ultimately, that would be:

        1. Cheeseburger
        2. Grilled Cheese
        3. Chicken salad
        4. PB&J

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  11. While there are some contenders for the crown, such as a true pulled pork (pork, slaw, sauce on wonder bread) or a tasty cubano (preferably with hot dogs, pork and eggs) the king is obivous…

    The true Rueben. (No spicy mustard)

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  12. I personally despise PB&J but I would never contest it’s place on the mountain. It is fundamental. Grilled Cheese I heartily endorse, another fundamental. I am unsure of the Italian Hero but I reject entirely the Cheeseburger’s place on the mountain. I just feel that burgers are in of themselves a distinct category than cannot be squished into the term sandwich. You don’t call it a Cheeseburger sandwich do you?

    No, I would eliminate the cheeseburger and in its place put up the indispensable BLT. The incredible combination of bacon, lettuce and tomato with the handmaiden of mayo is a towering monument of the sandwich world. Also it contains bacon. I rest my case.

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  13. Have you people not heard of breakfast!

    If the Rushmore concept is to mean anything, it must be representative of the pillars of the sandwich world. Surely a toasted everything bagel, generous cream-cheese and fresh lox deserves a place just as much as the lowly PB&J. I’d also be willing to accept The Super Heebster or similar extensions of the concept as an alternative.

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  14. I agree on the PB&J, but the one on my list is the fancy crap that you are against. Fresh ground peanuts, locally made, chemical free jam, absolutely nothing jelly like, and homemade whole wheat bread. Mmm. I have similar feelings about the cheeseburger (vegetarian bean burger, of course), and the grilled cheese.

    My fourth would be the panini or the pita.

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  15. My list:

    1. The spicy chicken sandwich at the Four Shadows bar in Chicago. It’s hard to describe, but if you like spicy (grilled) chicken sandwiches, I recommend it.

    2. Italian beef sandwich with hot peppers.

    3. Maybe an Italian hero, but it depends on what’s in it. I’m not a big fan of ham, but if it has pepperoni, then count me in. (The spicy Italian that Subway stores in some markets offer is what I have in mind, which is the Italian BMT without ham, I think.)

    4. Thin-sliced corned beef on rye with mustard.

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  16. My personally favorites:

    1. The PB&J but using raspberry or strawberry jam rather than grape jelly. The peanut butter must be Jiff’s extra crunchy.

    2. The reuben.

    3. The classic bagel with cream cheese and lox.

    4. The french dip.

    5. Cubano.

    6. Ban minh. (spelling?).

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  17. 1. Hot dog mit kasekrainer. Unconfirmed reports indicate that an American family has spent the last several days cornering the global market on this.

    2. philly cheese steak from Jim’s on South St.

    3. Grilled cheese.

    4. Burgers.

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  18. I heartily commend the inclusion of PB&J, grilled cheese and cheeseburger.

    Hero sandwiches are fine, but they ain’t got nothin’ on the reuben. Or pastrami on rye with a really hearty mustard.

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