The USDA reports that 47% of U.S. adults eat a sandwich on any given day. The agency does include burgers, hot dogs, and breakfast sandwiches (on biscuits, croissants, and bagels) in their calculations – which many observers would probably say renders that percentage highly inaccurate (the subject of whether or not burgers and dogs are sandwiches is strongly contested nationwide).
But when you consider that some people eat not one but two and maybe sometimes even three sandwiches in a day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) – and that children and teens are major consumers of them – that number makes sense. So do the estimates from various sources that collectively we eat somewhere between 200 and 300 million sandwiches a day.
Merriam-Webster defines “sandwich” as “two or more slices of bread or a split roll having a filling in between.” Within those terms, there are endless possibilities – classics like grilled cheese (the most popular sandwich in America, according to numerous surveys), peanut butter and jelly, the BLT and the club; meat-and-cheese-heavy subs (aka heroes, hoagies, grinders, etc.); eggy breakfast sandwiches; deli concoctions involving smoked fish, pastrami, or corned beef; international specialties (including Mexico’s torta, and Vietnam’s bánh mì), and many more. (If you’re getting hungry right now, see this list of 24 iconic sandwiches you can make at home.)
By one metric, sandwiches of the non-burger variety are more popular than burgers themselves: The largest fast food operation in America, in terms of numbers of locations, is Subway, with close to 21,000 outlets around the country – compared with a mere 13,500 or so for second-place McDonalds.
In fact, whether it’s a Subway or not, chances are pretty good that there’s at least one sandwich chain doing business near you – if not the leader, then maybe Quizno’s, Jimmy John’s, Arby’s, Jersey Mike’s, Panera Bread…
But there are also independent sandwich shops all across the land, and they offer some advantages the big guys don’t. For one thing, they probably spend more time (and money) sourcing their raw materials. For another, they offer greater variety, perhaps creating delicious but unusual specialties that no chain could sell to the masses. And while a cold cut combo at Subway will likely taste the same from Seattle to Miami, every Italian deli version will be a little bit different and probably better.
To identify the best independent sandwich shop – including delis, diners, or cafés that make sandwiches a specialty – in every state, 24/7 Tempo consulted reviews and ratings on a wide range of culinary and general interest websites, including Thrillist, The Daily Meal, Eater, Delish, Far & Wide, and Yelp, as well as local and regional sites. While a few of the places chosen may have more than one location, none are chains, even on a modest local level. (If you’re a deli fan, see this list of the best deli in every state.)
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