Top Sandwiches of 2009

In this economy, sandwiches are a guy's best friend. Even when it's a torta.

Tâm Deli & Cafe
Tâm Deli & Cafe (Photo by John Anderson)

With the economy being in the dumps this past year and my having even less free time than normal, I found myself eating more sandwiches than usual. The examples below, in no particular order, prove you don't have to sacrifice flavor to save a little money and get portable eats.

1) TÂM DELI & CAFE (8222 N. Lamar Ste. D-33, 834-6458) Rich, spiced, grilled lemongrass beef; cucumber; jalapeño slivers; pickled carrot; cilantro; and tart mayo, all wrapped in crispy, crusty fresh bread for $4.99. The best banh mi in town. Available in many other delicious versions also.

2) SPEC'S (4978 Hwy. 290 W., 366-8260) The Reuben-to-Die-For and the muffa­letta and the Texas BLT and the Hermenater Burger (1-pound patty on a muffaletta bun for $8.99) are all freakin' deelish! The biggest selection of booze in town also comes with great eats.

3) FLYING FALAFEL (2001 Guadalupe Ste. A-1, 494-1400) With family roots sprouting directly from the Middle East and New Orleans, you know that both sides of the menu rock, but the Cajun-style roast beef po'boy with extra "debris" and the crawdad-and-oyster po'boy are both so over the top.

4) FRICANO'S DELI (104-C E. 31st, 482-9980) Picture a Reuben Dog: a quality frank wrapped in corned beef, topped with sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing, and Swiss cheese. How about the Jonah: a grilled Italian club with spinach, onions, pepperoncinis, and olive tapenade. A small, very friendly spot with huge, quality sandwiches.

5) LONGHORN PO-BOYS & FALAFEL (2901-B Medical Arts, 495-9228) With its huge menu, these can't help but stand out: the Puerco Manchego, with roasted and pulled pork tenderloin, jamón serrano, Manchego cheese, green-apple slices, paprika aioli, sautéed shallots, and mesclun mix, and its first cousin, the Don Corleone Burger, with a half-pound patty, jamón serrano, roasted shallots, roasted tomato, fresh mozzarella, and arugula.

6) PHOENICIA BAKERY & DELI (2912 S. Lamar, 447-4444) Ed Ward had it right years ago, this is (still) the best chicken sandwich on the planet. The roasted chicken shawarma features moist, spicy chicken; tomatoes; and lettuce in the freshest of warm flatbreads, all of it literally dripping with Malek's amazing garlic sauce. Superb, and it could be the least expensive of the whole list.

7) FOODHEADS (616 W. 34th, 420-8400) Quirky FoodHeads offers two must-have faves: garlic-and-herb-roasted leg of lamb (toasted ciabatta with lettuce, tomato, grilled eggplant, feta cheese, and tzatziki) and the spicy apple pork tenderloin sandwich (grilled pork tenderloin on a toasted baguette with smoked Gouda, spinach, spicy apple relish, and honey dijon).

8) COUNTER CAFE (626 N. Lamar, 708-8800) This place has a great burger, but we love the grilled pimento cheese (toasty nine-grain bread, a mix of cheeses and roasted peppers, topped with tomato, red onion, and lettuce), perfect with a side of its excellent sweet spud fries.

9) LITTLE DELI & PIZZERIA (7101-A Woodrow, 467-7402) Great hot and cold sammies and dynamite pizza too, but when I want to get my veggie on, this is it: the Vegetarian (avocado, artichoke hearts, roasted eggplant, mozzarella, Swiss, provolone, cheddar, Parmesan, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, and tapenade, served on a toasted kaiser roll).

10) EL PRIMO TACO TRUCK (2101 S. First, north of Live Oak, in the convenience store parking lot) Tacos be damned! Go here for the al pastor torta: a bolillo roll sliced open, slathered with some mayo and refried beans, and topped generously with sweet and spicy al pastor pork and then avocado, queso, lettuce, tomato, onion, and cilantro. Messy and mucho sabroso.

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Tam Deli & Cafe, Spec's, Flying Falafel, Fricano's Deli, Longhorn Po-Boys & Falafel, Phoenicia Bakery & Deli, FoodHeads, Counter Cafe, Little Deli & Pizzeria, El Primo taco truck

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