The Best of Food in 2007
Top 10 Sandwiches of 2007
Garlic and Herb Roasted Leg of Lamb, FoodHeads, 616 W. 34th, 420-8400. This essential Austin lunch spot is well-known for loaded and tasty sammies, which include design-your-own deli combos and grilled specialty sandwiches. The No. 1 draw for me is the luscious, garlicky, herby roast-lamb sandwich with slices of grilled eggplant and feta cheese, dressed with lettuce, tomato, and cucumber mayonnaise on a toasted ciabatta.
Soft Shell Crab Po'boy, Ms. B's Authentic Creole Restaurant, 1050 E. 11th, 542-9143. I'm a sucker for a fried-oyster po'boy, and there are good ones all over town, but Ms. B's lunchtime soft-shell crab po'boy trumps even the finest fried oysters. The crusty Louisiana-style bread roll is bursting with two crispy-on-the-outside, juicy-on-the-inside whole crabs, lettuce, tomato, and tartar sauce. Crab heaven on a bun.
El Cubano, Cafe Mangu, 15200 FM 1825, Pflugerville, 512/990-3121. A pan-Caribbean riff on an old Spanish standard, the Cuban sandwich was immortalized in Tom Russell's story-song of the same name: "It's got two kinds of pig, ham and roast pork, a slice of white cheese as long as your fork." Cafe Mangu's Dominican-born Alex Fernandez and Rafael Montes de Oca offer a terrific version served on the traditional oblong white roll, pressed and grilled on the plancha, with a side of addictive plantain chips. (The restaurant's name derives from "man, good!" – purportedly exclaimed in 1916 by invading American Marines about Dominican food.)
Gourmet Banh Mi, Lily's Sandwich, 10901 N. Lamar, 973-9479. Lily's in the new Chinatown Center does the Cuban sandwich one better. This Vietnamese baguette sandwich includes three kinds of pork cold cuts on a 10-inch roll, dressed with sliced fresh jalapeño, pickled carrot, daikon radish, cucumber, and cilantro, all for an astonishing $2.75. Bang for the buck? Best deal in town.
Prosciutto Panini, Enoteca Vespaio, 1610 S. Congress, 441-7672. It's almost impossible to order something that isn't exceptionally satisfying at the informally Italian Enoteca Vespaio, but for something quite different, try the hot-pressed panini of thinly sliced prosciutto, melty fontina cheese, arugula, and a softly sautéed egg, with just a hint of truffle. Decadent? Yes. Rich? Yes. Divinely delicious? Oh my, yes.
Vegetariano Panini Caldi, Mandola's Italian Market, 4700 W. Guadalupe, 419-9700. Mandola's at the Triangle serves some of the best hot paninis around, and the Vegetariano leads the pack of good choices. A variety of warm sliced and grilled Mediterranean vegetables in a pressed ciabatta rests under an oozy layer of mozzarella, singing a beautiful medley with the spicy additions of pepper relish, artichoke spread, and garlic aioli.
American Wagyu Corned Beef Reuben, Jasper's, 11506 Century Oaks Terrace, 834-4111. When you shell out $14 for a sandwich, it better be pretty special. It's a splurge, but Jasper's in the Domain delivers with the meltingly tender and deeply flavorful Wagyu corned beef on rye bread adorned with real Russian dressing and slow-cooked choucroute instead of the standard, more strident sauerkraut. This is your classic deli Reuben puttin' on the ritz.
Shrimp and Avocado Tartine, Blue Dahlia Bistro, 1115 E. 11th, 542-5942. Tartine is French for open-faced sandwich, a specialty at Blue Dahlia, where each tartine is artfully presented on a wooden platter. Of the several arresting combinations, I'm particularly fond of the one with whole shrimp and avocado that's graced with tomato, mango salsa, and a little toasted nori for crunch, served on très fresh slices of whole-wheat bread from Mandola's bakeshop.
Fajita Ranchero Torta, Habanero Mexican Cafe, 501 W. Oltorf, 416-0443. In our local love affair with Mexican food, we tend to overlook tortas – sandwiches served on bolillos, small, white crusty rolls inspired by French baguettes. Habanero Cafe serves theirs with any of the delectable fillings that are available for their tacos – carnitas, barbacoa, tripas, lengua, carne guisada. It's hard to decide which is best, but the fajita ranchero torta is a great sandwich: a winning contrast of the white roll with very spicy beef skirt steak grilled with strips of onion and plenty of jalapeños. Not for the faint of palate – it's fiery.
Korean Bulgogi Burger, Burger Tex II, 2912 Guadalupe, 477-8433. I know I'm stretching the definition of sandwich here, but the bulgogi "burger" at Burger Tex II on the Drag is just too tasty to leave out. A hefty pile of thin-sliced beef marinated in soy and sesame oil is grilled and heaped on a toasted bun. It's perfect as is, with no additional condiments except maybe a pickle or two.