According to lunchtime lore, the sandwich was invited by John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich. Legend has it that Lord Sandwich was an avid gambler and didn’t want to leave the gambling table for a meal. Instead, he asked his servants to bring him slices of meat between 2 slices of bread. Soon, other gamblers at the table began asking for, “the same as Sandwich,” and thus, the on-the-go lunch staple was invented.
Celebrate the Sandwich
Much like Lord Sandwich, Salvatore Lupo’s sandwich invention was born out of necessity. In 1906, he was running a grocery store in New Orleans and watched the Sicilian immigrants struggle to eat their lunches. Italian salami and ham, cheese, and olive salad aren’t easy to eat off of your lap. Lupo combined all of those ingredients, added a bit of garlic, and put it all in on a sesame round loaf. The muffuletta was born. Central Grocery and Deli, home of the original muffuletta, is still open and run by Lupo’s descendants. The grocery hasn’t changed much over the years. They’re still slicing all of their meats in house, sourcing their bread locally, following the family recipe for olive salad, and stocking the shelves with imported pasta and sauces.
Pastrami on Rye
Anyone who has seen When Harry Met Sally is familiar with Katz’s Deli. The iconic scene with Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal helped bring Katz’s to the American consciousness outside of New York City. Katz’s Delicatessen serves more than 15,000 pounds of pastrami each week! Since their pastrami and rye sandwich is considered the best in the city, it’s easy to see how they go through so much. Their beef pastrami is brined and seasoned, sliced thin, stacked high between 2 pieces of rye, and served with a Kosher pickle. They’ve been serving it that way for more than 100 years. And why not? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
I’d like to have my sandwich with a side of healthy competition, please. In 1930, South Philly hot dog vendor Pat Oliveri threw some beef on the grill and put it on a bun. Passing taxi drivers followed their nose to the sizzling source and started ordering their own. Pat’s King of Steaks still claims to be the Philly cheesesteak’s inventor, but their rival, Geno’s Steaks, claims to have added the cheese, making the sandwich the icon it is today. Pop into Pat’s or walk across the street (yep, right across the street) to Geno’s for a long, crusty roll loaded with thinly sliced ribeye beef, Cheese Whiz, and maybe some fried onions or hot peppers if you’re feeling fancy.
As fun to say as it is to eat, fluffernutter sandwiches are traditionally Marshmallow Fluff and peanut butter on white bread. Simple, sweet, delicious. Marshmallow Fluff was invented in Sommerville, MA in 1917 and fluffernutters officially became the state sandwich of Massachusetts just under a century later in 2014. Boston’s Local 149 deep fries their fluffernutter and serves it with Nutella. Don’t be worried if you don’t see it listed with the other sandwiches. Local 149 has tucked their fluffernutter with the desserts instead of amongst its savory sandwich brethren on the main menu.
Nashville Hot Chicken
Nashville hot chicken is another sandwich whose origin story is steeped in lore. Supposedly, a spurned lover added a ridiculous amount of hot peppers to her fried chicken batter, hoping to burn her man from the inside out. Unfortunately for her (but fortunately for us), Thomas Prince loved the palate burning, violently red chicken and made it the star of the show at Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack. Hattie B’s serves her Nashville hot chicken recipe in sandwich form with coleslaw, Nashville Comeback sauce, and a kosher pickle.
The name may suggest the Cuban sandwich, or any of its central ingredients for that matter, originated in Cuba but that isn’t the case. It’s more of a nod to the cultural fabric that makes up the city of its invention, Tampa, Florida. Columbia Restaurant, the oldest restaurant in the state, created the sandwich in 1915 (originally called a mixto) using Genoa salami, Spanish ham, mojo-marinated pork, Swiss cheese, German pickles, and mustard on fluffy bread. It’s a delicious melting pot in sandwich form.