25 of the Best Sandwiches in Columbus
A definitive round-up of hoagies, lobster rolls, global sammies, regional faves and more
What is a classic Columbus sandwich? The Reuben from Katzinger’s Delicatessen, perhaps. Or Fox in the Snow’s Souffléed Egg Sandwich. Maybe Katalina’s Mazatlán Slow-Roasted Pork & Egg. You can already add to that list The Cold Cut from newcomer Wario’s Beef and Pork, which honestly doesn’t have a weak link on the menu.
We spent the spring rounding up the area’s best sandwiches, some well-known and some new to our tastebuds. You won’t find any burgers in these pages—we took on that challenge a couple of years ago, choosing Preston’s: A Burger Joint as our No. 1. Instead, you will find where to get a Buffalo-style beef on weck and a killer lobster roll.
Anderson Farms Whole Hawg, Ray Ray’s Meat + Three
Whole-hog barbecue is a rarity in Central Ohio, but Ray Ray’s founder and James Beard nominee James Anderson has recently filled that void. To make whole-hog barbecue at his new Granville restaurant, Anderson sources heritage hogs from his own farm a couple of miles away. The pork gets both wet rub and dry rub treatments and cooks for 24 hours. It’s then chopped—offal and all, though Anderson cooks the skin separately, turning it into pork rinds. While being “processed” or chopped, the meat is seasoned and given generous doses of hot sauce and vinegar “just like they would in North Carolina,” Anderson says. To build the Whole Hawg, Ray Ray’s uses a seeded roll baked by Matt Swint of Matija Breads, then tops the chopped pork with house-made coleslaw and chow-chow, a Southern relish. (Anderson couldn’t decide on one, so he kept both.) Pork rinds add crunch on top. You can order whole-hog barbecue as a sandwich or on its own with three sides, but it’s only available after 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday until it sells out. If you miss the boat, there’s good news: Ray Ray’s brisket and jerk chicken sandwiches are also hard to beat.
Mazatlán Slow-Roasted Pork & Egg, Katalina’s
If we weren’t careful, Katalina’s (along with Wario’s) would dominate our sandwich guide. Flavor, creativity, thoughtfully sourced ingredients, a fun atmosphere—owner Kathleen Day’s popular café (now with two locations) delivers it all. Along with its breakfast tacos and pancake balls, Katalina’s Mazatlán Slow-Roasted Pork & Egg is one of those menu items you must order at least once. The restaurant combines slow-roasted Beeler pork, two fried eggs, Amish provolone, roasted red peppers, avocado and aioli on delicious, toasty bread. Prefer your pork in bacon form? Go for the Pueblo BLT or Katalina’s Latina Sandwich with fried eggs and Sweet-N-Spicy bacon.
Baguette Sandwich, Fox in the Snow Café
When you think of Fox in the Snow, its famous egg sandwich or one of co-owner/baker Lauren Culley’s delicate pastries probably come to mind. But hear us out. If you want to close your eyes and feign that you’re Emily in Paris (look, we know you watched it on Netflix), this scary-simple sandwich will do the trick. Sliced country ham, sharp cheddar and a slather of butter go between a split house-made baguette—what more do you want in life?
Breakfast & Brunch
Egg & Cheese with Pastrami, The Lox Bagel Shop
A few days shy of the New Year, you may have heard a collective wailing among Columbus eaters when The Lox Bagel Shop announced that its walk-in cooler had gone kaput, taking with it the entire stash of house-made pastrami. It would be a couple weeks before the briny meat would be ready once again, the owners shared. That communal groan came from a deep love of the Short North bagel shop’s signature deli meat, which takes center stage on its egg, cheese and pastrami sandwich. The concoction has earned accolades right and left, from its starring role in Instagram posts to a formal nod in Food & Wine’s 2021 list of best bagels across America. And rightfully so: The thick-cut pastrami positively melts in your mouth, highlighted by gooey cheese, egg and the perfect chewy-to-crusty ratio from a house bagel. You can’t go wrong with any of the wood-fired beauties, but we recommend a salty everything bagel.
Croque-Monsieur, Pistacia Vera
This German Village landmark knows how to marry delicate construction with French decadence, and nowhere is this more evident than in its croque-monsieur. The sandwich is a true knife-and-fork affair, a rich blend of aged Emmentaler cheese, smoked cottage ham, Mornay sauce and Dijon mustard, all layered between square slices of buttery brioche.
Souffléed Egg Sandwich, Fox in the Snow Café
The beloved Fox in the Snow is practically synonymous with its egg sandwich. Its textures and layers are a study in sandwich construction: crisp slices of ciabatta encasing a creamy square of souffléed eggs, candied bacon, bitter arugula, melty Swiss cheese and a tart Dijon mustard to complement it all. You can find the sandwich at its three coffee shops in Italian Village, German Village and New Albany.
Classic Breakfast Roll, Cravings Café
Cravings’ Downtown eatery puts its fluffy house-made brioche to work in several different sandwiches and burgers. Leading off the breakfast menu is the classic breakfast roll, sliced in half and stuffed with an over-medium egg, cheddar and rosemary aioli, plus your choice of thick-cut bacon or a sausage patty—or both!
The Franklin, Boxwood Biscuit Co.
This Short North newcomer originated as a pandemic pop-up, and its sandwiches are every bit as photogenic as they are delicious. For instance: The Franklin, a golden and flaky buttermilk biscuit towering with savory delights—a square of creamy baked eggs, American cheese, bacon, caramelized onions, tangy “fancy sauce” and a hearty dollop of pork-miso gravy.
One-Handed, Emmett’s Café
Emmett’s riff on an Egg McMuffin proves that sometimes simple is best. At this Brewery District café, the nicely composed breakfast sandwich layers a fried egg with cheese, crispy bits of prosciutto and a creamy rosemary aioli on an English muffin. Its compact nature lets you balance a sandwich in one hand and an Aussie cappuccino in another.
Latin-Style Turkey Breast Club, Sí Señor Peruvian Sandwiches & More
One of Sí Señor’s best sellers is the No. 4, the Latin Style Turkey Breast Club, which employs the restaurant’s signature oven-roasted turkey breast, applewood bacon, lettuce, tomato, fresh jalapeños, melted provolone cheese and avocado mayo on a ciabatta roll from Cleveland’s Orlando Baking Co. It’s simple yet still manages to defy the stereotype that turkey sandwiches are boring. Owner Guillermo Perez says he prefers the No. 6, aka the Turkey Breast al Jugo. “That’s something that you would absolutely find in Peru,” he says. “You get the saltiness from the turkey and acid from the [pickled] red onions, and a little bit of sweetness from the [rocoto] pepper in the mayo.”
Village Addiction, Brown Bag Deli
It’s hard to order wrong at this German Village landmark, which offers an interesting mix of signature sandwiches as well as soups, leafy salads, deli salads (such as egg salad and potato salad) and house-made desserts. But there’s one ’wich that stands above the rest in our book: the Village Addiction (aka No. 7). Smoked turkey, Havarti cheese and cranberry mayonnaise are smashed between slices of grilled sourdough. It’s Thanksgiving on a sandwich—minus the sage dressing.
Club Sub, Dave’s Cosmic Subs
Since starting in 1997 in Chagrin Falls, this Northeast Ohio cult favorite has expanded its sandwich universe across Ohio and into Vermont, Georgia, Florida and California. The Club Sub features turkey, smoked ham, bacon, lettuce, tomato and Swiss with mayo and Dave’s Cosmic Sauce, the chain’s riff on Italian dressing. The 8-inch sub is served hot on a crispy Italian roll. This psychedelic-themed sub joint now has two locations in Central Ohio, near the Ohio State campus and in downtown Mount Vernon.
Beef on Weck, Hailing from: Buffalo
Find it locally: Club 185, 185 E. Livingston Ave., German Village, 614-228-3904
Every Thursday, Club 185 offers a beef on weck special until it sells out. Weck is short for kummelweck, a Kaiser roll topped with salt and caraway seeds. Club 185 sources its rolls from Resch’s Bakery, the East Side institution. The split roll gets a slather of horseradish and a healthy portion of thinly sliced roast beef. Be sure to ask for a side of jus for dipping. More good news for Buffalo natives: Club 185 offers Anchor Bar wings daily.
Italian Beef, Hailing from: Chicago
Find it locally: Pam’s Market Popcorn & Windy City Eats, 955 E. Johnstown Road, Gahanna, 614-222-1850
Chicago transplants who are missing this quintessential sandwich—thinly sliced beef on a squishy bun topped with spicy, vinegary giardiniera—should pay Pam Tylka a visit. Tylka, an Illinois native and the longtime owner of Pam’s Market Popcorn in the North Market, left the market in the fall of 2016 and less than a year later opened a standalone shop in Gahanna. There, you can find her signature popcorn mixes (cheddar and caramel, anyone?) as well as a savory menu featuring Chicago dogs, Bavarian-style soft pretzels
and a wonderfully messy Italian beef sandwich. It’s a steal at $5.75.
Polish Boy/Polish Girl, Hailing from: Cleveland
Find it locally: The Pit BBQ Grille, 4219 N. High St., Clintonville, 614-674-6991; 6750 Longshore St., Dublin, 614-824-1879 (coming soon); 1542 Parsons Ave., South Side, 614-824-1879
Now with two locations and one on the way, The Pit BBQ Grille doesn’t merely do barbecue well. The growing Black-owned business, founded by four friends from Ohio State, earns equal praise for its Polish Boy, a sausage sandwich native to the ’Land. The Pit’s version features an all-beef polish sausage topped with fresh-cut fries, coleslaw and house-made sauce on a bun. The Polish Girl, meanwhile, replicates its sibling sammie but has the added decadence of pulled pork, pulled chicken or brisket on top.
The Tenderloin, Hailing from: Indiana
Find it locally: Delaney’s Diner, 6150 E. Main St., Reynoldsburg, 614-626-2006; 5916 Westerville Road, Westerville, 614-776-5788
Head about 100 miles west of Columbus and you’ll enter tenderloin sandwich country, aka Indiana. Believed to have originated at Nick’s Diner in Huntington, Indiana, the tenderloin consists of a breaded and fried slab of pork that often overlaps the sides of a hamburger bun. (Some might call it Wiener schnitzel, but not in the Hoosier state.) The sandwich is so ingrained in the state’s food culture that the Indiana Foodways Alliance offers three culinary tours dedicated to the fried delicacy. Locally, both locations of Delaney’s Diner serve a thinly pounded Hoosier tenderloin with an impressive pork-to-bun ratio.
Bonus Regional Tip: Craving a great Philly cheesesteak? Order The Steak at Wario’s Beef and Pork, where chef Stephan Madias combines shaved rib-eye with grilled onions and house-made cheese whiz.
Maine Lobster Roll, Coastal Local Seafood
It’s one of life’s hard decisions: Should you order the Maine or the Connecticut lobster roll at Coastal Local? Cold or warm? Mayonnaise or butter? Given that it’s summertime, we’re going with Maine: a cool combo of fresh, slightly sweet Maine lobster claw meat, lemon, dill, celery, cucumber, parsley and a bit of mayo to bind it together. This spendy $19 treat is served on a butter-toasted, split-top roll from the North Market’s own Omega Artisan Baking. Coastal Local also offers a rotating handful of sauces such as Sriracha aioli and avocado crema that you can add to your roll. If you’re at the Downtown North Market, don’t forget to order a side of garlicky french fries, some of the best in town.
Fish Sandwich, Northstar Café
Yes, the Northstar Burger is famous and the café’s chicken and avocado sammich is delightful, but Northstar’s fish sandwich is a star in its own right. A nicely sized, grill-marked barramundi falls over the edges of a perfectly toasted bun. Lettuce, tomato, red onion and herb aioli complete the package. At $17.50, it’s a splurge, but its consistently high quality keeps us coming back.
Shrimp Po’boy, Way Down Yonder New Orleans Finest Restaurant
For a taste of Louisiana, head down yonder on South High Street to this festive establishment run by chef Yonder Gordon, who was born and raised in NOLA. The shrimp po’boys are a standout, with a generous helping of well-seasoned fried shrimp accompanied by mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions and banana peppers. For an extra kick, order the Who Dat, a shrimp po’boy with mustard-based Carolina gold sauce. Other po’boy varieties include whiting, perch, catfish and hot sausage.
Kati Roll, Service Bar
The sandwich is not solely a Western phenomenon, as Top Chef contestant and Service Bar executive chef Avishar Barua is keen to demonstrate. To this effort, he brings 28 distinct spices, four custom sauces, a house-made Indian-style paratha flatbread (with egg fried onto it), and a chopped lamb patty that he painstakingly assembles into his version of the traditional South Asian street food known as a kati roll. As with many of Barua’s creations, the complexity of this dish melds into a singularly enjoyable dining experience, one that has garnered a devoted following among those with a keen eye for high-quality takeout. While the kati roll is worth every penny of its $18 asking price, it represents only one of the wide range of unique and desirable sandwiches from all across the globe found in Central Ohio.
Banh Mi, Mi Li Café
Few sandwiches have received more foodie attention in recent years than the Vietnamese banh mi, and nobody in Central Ohio does it better than Mi Li Café on the North Side. Starting with a delicate, toasted Vietnamese baguette, Mi Li adds paté, three kinds of pork cold cuts, garlic mayo, shredded carrots, radish, cilantro and hot peppers.
Falafel on Pita, Mediterranean Imports #2
Vegetarians seeking global flavor will do well at Mediterranean Imports #2 (Bethel and Godown), where the kitchen at the back of this small market puts out top-notch falafel sandwiches. The falafels are formed and fried to order before they’re placed in house-baked pitas alongside lettuce, pickles, tahini and tomatoes.
Lamb Sandwich, Jiu Thai Asian Café
This standout Chinese restaurant on Bethel Road boils the sandwich concept down to its essence: bread and meat. Both pork and lamb versions are available and both come on a Northwestern Chinese-style crusty pancake bun. Unsurprisingly, the meat is the hero here, with the marinated and stir-fried cumin lamb version edging ahead as a favorite.
Torta Oaxaqueña, La Super Torta
This West Side eatery has been making Mexican-style sandwiches for more than 20 years, first from a taco truck and then for the last 12 at its restaurant on Georgesville Road. A customer favorite is the Torta Oaxaqueña, filled with steak, ham, black beans, Oaxacan cheese, mayonnaise, tomato, avocado and pineapple.
El Cubano, Pablo’s Havana Café
Pork, cheese, pickles and mustard may not seem like the makings of a memorably unique sandwich, but when they come from Pablo’s Havana Café in Powell, they become something special. Pablo’s not only nails the Cuban sandwich, but also settles the rift between partisans of the Miami and Tampa styles by offering both and doing them well.