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Central Standard

Food Critics: The Best Sandwiches In Kansas City

Jen Chen/KCUR

Sandwiches — they’re portable, and practically anything can go between two slices of bread (or even atop just one piece of bread).

From banh mi to Cubans to Reubens, local restaurants are offering traditional versions and riffs of the good ol’ hand-held.

On Friday's Central Standard, the owner of Best Regards Bakery & Café showed us live in the studio how to make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich, then we visited a kitchen that makes all kind of pickles in-house.

Then, KCUR’s Food Critics uncovered the best sandwiches in and around Kansas City.

Here are their recommendations:

Jenny Vergara, Feast Magazine:

  • D’BronxSpecial Sub. Turkey, ham, genoa salami, Swiss and provolone cheese with lettuce, tomato, onion, black olives on a submarine roll, with a little bit of vinaigrette. The bread is crunchy, and it really stands up to the wet, crunchy vegetables marinating in vinaigrette sauce. If I am craving a hearty submarine sandwich, nothing but D’Bronx on Bell will do.
  • Pork tenderloin sandwich from Christine’s Firehouse. The pork tenderloin is hand-pounded to the size of a small dinner plate, then battered and fried and served with a bun, lettuce, tomato and onion. For a few bucks extra, you can order an extra bun and fixings to split the sandwich with a friend (and you’ll still have some to take home). It’s just crispy, crispy, crispy and the pork is so tender. It’s delicious.
  • BBQ pulled pork sandwich at Pigwich. Slow-smoked, locally-raised pork with hot sauce, crème fraiche and fennel-apple slaw on a toasted brioche bun. This is an occasional sandwich that makes a special appearance, so you have to watch for it
  • Reuben sandwich at Martin City Brewing Company. Slow-roasted corn beef in chunks (not slices), house-made sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing on toasted rye bread
  • Fried chicken sandwich from Howard’s Grocery, Café and Catering. Tender chicken breast, breaded and fried then put on a potato bun with fire-roasted red peppers, fresh basil, pea shoots and barbecue mayo.

On my list to try:

  • Beef on Weck at BLVD Tavern. Shaved prime rib on a kimmelweck roll with horseradish.
  • Kentucky Hot Brown at Genessee Royale: Carved turkey, Webb City bacon, roasted tomato and Mornay sauce on toast.
  • Lobster roll at The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange. It’s a seasonal sandwich that is legend at this point. Everyone raves about Howard Hanna’s lobster roll.

Still looking for:

  • A place to get a simple pimento cheese sandwich on white bread.

Mary Bloch, Around the Block:

  • Overall favorite sandwich shop:Pigwich. Each sandwich is made with meats from the Local Pig butcher shop next door. I love the Cuban and the Reuben, and they usually have unique specials. Each sandwich is served with homemade salty potato chips.
  • Succotash has a ton of really good sandwiches, like tuna melts, short rib French dips, caprese sandwiches and monte cristos. The Cuban is fabulous; it uses pork carnitas that they use in their hash.
  • I also love the sandwiches at The Bite; they have a lot of really interesting sandwiches. Some are similar to a banh mi (i.e. Kickin’ Chicken and Senor Chang). They use a really good bread, which I think is essential to a really good sandwich.
  • Bella Napoli has a number of Italian deli-type sandwiches: Tomato caprese and Italian meat sandwiches. They do a really nice job.
  • Best Cuban: Succotash, Local Pig, The Sundry and Plantain District.
  • Best Reuben: Summit Grill & Bar, Gram & Dun, Café Europa, Café Sebastienne, Webster House. Summit Grill has an excellent one; it’s really thick with great corned beef. Gram & Dun also uses really good meat.
  • Genesee Royale puts Brussels sprouts on its Reuben instead of cabbage. It’s not really a Reuben but it’s a fun riff on one. It’s really good.
  • Best BLT: It’s all about heirloom tomatoes, so I usually recommend just having them in the summer from Happy Gillis, Bluestem, Webster House and Genessee Royale. In the winter, Bluestem puts tomato jam on its BLT, and that’s a really nice substitute.
  • Rye serves its BLT with pork belly and crisp bacon.
  • Best banh mi: Local Pig and Happy Gillis (when they have it on the menu).Local Pig does a riff on a traditional banh mi; they use Thai pork meatballs instead of the grilled pork or pate, and it has a kick to it.
  • Favorite non-meat sandwiches: Asian Marinated Grilled Salmon sandwich on a bun with Asian slaw and wasabi aioli at Blanc Burgers. Also, Blanc’s curried lentil burger with spiced yogurt.
  • Old favorite: The Magic Mushroom sandwich from Classic Cup. Portobello mushroom, roasted red peppers and goat cheese aioli. It’s more like a sauce than an aioli.
  • For pimento cheese sandwiches: Char Bar has one with fried green tomatoes and avocado, and Happy Gillis serves one with chile and almonds.

Charles Ferruzza, The Pitch:

For banh mi:

  • IPho Tower. I love it I think it’s a great sandwich. It’s always fresh-tasting. It’s not a skimpy; it’s a well-laden banh mi. It just works all together.
  • The Vietnam Café in the River Market is one of the oldest Vietnamese restaurants in the city, and they have one of the best and least-expensive banh mi sandwiches in town. I don’t know where they get their baguette bread, but it’s perfect.

For pork tenderloin sandwiches:

  • The Tenderloin Grill sells a great breaded pork tenderloin sandwich — and it’s cheap.
  • Christy's Tasty Queen. This soft-serve ice-cream shop receives raves for its hand-breaded tenderloin sandwiches. Get sandwich inside and sit outside at the picnic tables.
  • I think the best pork tenderloin is at Kitty’s Café. It has sort of a tempura crust.

Other sandwiches:

  • The charcoal-grilled Italian sandwich with onions and peppers at Marco Polo Italian Market (adjacent to Jasper's Restaurant). I think they’re really famous for this; the sausages are grilled outside the front door. Get it with onions and peppers, which, of course, is the only way to eat it. It’s freshly-grilled on a good and chewy bun, and it doesn’t need a condiment — in fact, a condiment, I think, would be scandalous. It’s a meal in itself, which I think a good sandwich should be.
  • The lobster roll at Vivilore is a really good lobster roll.

Listener Recommendations:

  • The Better Cheddar has a few sandwiches that are not illustrious, but they are just very good. The smoked turkey with cranberry sauce is just lovely. The Better Cheddar isn’t a place where you sit down and eat it; it’s to-go.
  • The Reuben at Rheinland: It’s served with mounds and mounds of shaved corned beef and a Swiss cheese that was aged enough that you could actually taste it. It came with a very pungent German hot potato salad.
  • The Englewood Caféhas a wonderful tenderloin, available either on a plate or on a sandwich.
  • Thomas has the best fried green tomato BLT! It’s my favorite.
  • One of the best Italian sandwiches I had was at Carollo’s. I like it because I imagine that’s what sandwiches tasted like before the franchises came in and homogenized sandwiches for us. Carollo’s uses high-quality meat, cheese, oil and vinegar. But the bread is what’s special about it; fantastic flavor.
  • Schnitzel sandwich at Werner’s, heated up so that the cheese gets so gooey and good. And, it’s reasonably priced.
  • Geo’s Pizza for a muffaletta sandwich.
  • Ollie’s Local has an amazing BLT with spicy garlic aioli and eight slices of bacon. You can also upgrade to 16 slices of bacon.
  • Koehn Bakery in Butler, Missouri serves amazing panini on fresh homemade sourdough bread. The roast beef panini and a couple of others are just really, really good.
  • The banh mi at Evergreen Market is by far the best.
  • For Italian subs, Carollo's is the real deal!
  • Nguyen Pho+Grill has great banh mi.
  • The lengua (beef tongue sandwich) and the Philly at Pigwich.
  • My favorite sandwich in KC is the Il Parma (#3) grilled at Bella Napoli.
  • The muffaletta at Jason's Deli. The olive spread is great.
  • At The North End: The Italian sausage sandwich and the Italian steak sandwich.
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