The Takeout's fantasy food draft: Best sandwiches

Illustration for article titled The Takeout's fantasy food draft: Best sandwiches
Photo: Camrocker (iStock), Graphic: Natalie Peeples

Welcome, dear readers, to The Takeout Draft, our recurring feature that combines our love of food, fantasy sports, and arguing on Slack.


Every week, we will select a topic of conversation from the food and drink world. Takeout staffers will then field a team via the snake draft format. After five rounds, The Takeout commenteriat will vote on who they believe was victorious in that week’s draft. At the end of the year, the staffer with the most weekly victories will select a charity of his/her choice that The Takeout will make a donation towards.

The winner of last week’s Takeout Draft: Best Fast Food Item, as voted by readers: For the second straight week, Kevin Pang!

Illustration for article titled The Takeout's fantasy food draft: Best sandwiches

This week, our draft deals with a classic dish with interpretations the world over: Sandwiches! (Note: For purposes of this draft, we are excluding hamburgers and hot dogs—not because we’re taking a stance on whether it can be designated a sandwich, but that in this instance for this specific draft, we’re placing those two dishes on a seperate pedestal.)

Returning this week is Takeout contributor Allison Shoemaker. And us luck would have it for Allison, the randomizer spat out our participants in this order:

  1. Allison Shoemaker
  2. Kevin Pang
  3. Kate Bernot
  4. Gwen Ihnat

Round 1

Kevin Pang: Allison, you’re on the board with the No. 1 selection!

Allison Shoemaker: My god, the pressure.

Okay, this is a really tough call, but I just have to go with my favorite sandwich, the Reuben.


KP: Oooh, not what I expected!

AS: I love a good Reuben. Frankly, I love a mediocre Reuben. Just the perfect blend of flavors, the right amount of messy, not overwhelming but not wimpy, an amazing lunch.


I’ve had many great reubens and no truly bad ones.

Kate Bernot: Hard to argue with a great Reuben.

KP: I never expected this to fall to the No. 2 position, but I’ll take the gift: the BLT. Is it a perfect sandwich. Good bacon + in-season tomatoes + crisp lettuce + mayo + buttered toast cannot be beat by any other sandwich.

Illustration for article titled The Takeout's fantasy food draft: Best sandwiches
Photo: Fudio (iStock)

KB: When you have good tomatoes, nothing better.

Though a wide gulf exists between good and bad BLTs, much as it does for other sandwiches.


AS: Well I can explain your surprise: I don’t care for BLTs, really.

KP: Which part do you not like?

AS: Hard to pin down, just something texturally about the combination of bacon and tomatoes specifically. It makes me wish there was something more substantial anchoring it all together.


Gwen Ihnat: Ugh, chewy bacon.

AS: But maybe butter is what I’m missing?

KB: Alright, harkening to my NJ roots, I choose Italian Sub.

Oil, vinegar, all the meats and cheeses, hoo baby.

No other sandwich craving hits me as hard as Italian sub pangs.

Illustration for article titled The Takeout's fantasy food draft: Best sandwiches
Photo: iStock

KP: Do you have a particular spot?

KB: Massimo’s in Kenilworth, N.J., probably.

KP: Gwen, you now have picks 4 and 5. Let’s hear your first rounder:

GI: Mine are directly traced to my mom status, I’m afraid.

First: Grilled Cheese

It’s so versatile. My personal favorite right now is tomato and avocado and cheddar, but you can put anything I there (and I have). A delicious staple.


KB: Grilled cheese is unimpeachable.


Round 2

AS: Rats

Good pick, Gwen

You’re about to take my second pick right from under me, I can feel it

GI: Doubt it Allison, unless your second pick is:

Peanut Butter & Jelly 

AS: Nope, that was it.

GI: hahaha

AS: I congratulate you on selecting the perfect sandwich.

GI: Like s’mores, PB&J is one of those things that actually tastes better as an adult. The kids are on to something. Skippy, strawberry jam, white bread? Perfection.


KB: Oh, see I like a whole-wheat PB&J.

Nutty bread somehow factorially multiplies the PB. (I was not a math major.)

For my next pick:

I choose a Tuna Salad.

I know it’s divisive, but I can’t deny it.

To deny my love of tuna salad would be to deny a deep, true part of me.

AS: I am very partial to them myself, especially if celery is involved.

KB: It’s creamy but with a little crunch, some good seasonings in there.

On toasty bread? Perfection.

KP: A lot of y’all are going the kid-friendly sandwich route, so I’m happy to stay in my adult lane: I’m choosing a Po’boy.

Illustration for article titled The Takeout's fantasy food draft: Best sandwiches
Photo: Getty Images

KB: Kids don’t like po’boys?

KP: It’s not something they typically pack for a school lunch

Specifically I have to cite the one at Domilise’s in New Orleans, where their fried shrimp po’boys are drenched with roast beef gravy. It may be the best sandwich I’ve ever tasted.


GI: My kids love po’boys if our recent trip is any indication.

AS: Okay. Well, in keeping with a mini theme here, I’m going to go with the mighty Lobster Roll.


KB: A king among sandwiches.

AS: Really a triumph. Not an everyday sandwich but a super special one, especially on a warm, crusty roll


KB: A destination sandwich, much like a po’boy.

KP: The key for me when it comes to lobster roll is how delicate it is. The only thing that should have “texture” is the buttered exterior of that split-top bun. Everything else—the soft white crumb, the lobster meat, the mayo—should be fluffy as a cloud.


KB: We should not have scheduled this draft for lunch time. I have nary a lobster roll in sight.

Round 3

AS: And for my next pick I’m going with another roll-based sandwich, which I’m sort of shocked is still available: the Philly Cheesesteak.




AS: Sorry man, gotta follow my heart, and my heart wants onions and whiz


KB: It is a sandwich whose cheese is its own state of matter.

AS: Here’s a thing about me, I generally prefer warm sandwiches (though not always and I sincerely hope no one takes my cold sandwich pick before I get there)


Because they are often gooey, and I love gooey

And the cheesesteak is the gooiest

KP: It’s the only beef-based sandwich where you can taste the beef at its beefiest


With my beloved Philly Cheesesteak gone, I’m going for another beloved regional sandwich: the Cubano.

It’s that very specific assemblage of ingredients: ham, roast pork, Swiss, mustard, pickles, and that incomparably crisp/crunchy bread.

Photo: bfohack2 (iStock)

AS: It’s a gem

KP: It’s one of the most perfectly engineered sandwiches there is.

KB: Alright, curve ball: Sausage-Egg-Cheese Biscuit

I will eat a breakfast sandwich any hour of day.

AS: Such a good choice

Maybe enough for a victory

KB: And a really good biscuit is something I can’t bake for myself, so it is extra special.


Buttery biscuit, gooey cheese, runny egg, savory sausage... there’s a lot packed in there without being too scattershot.

Ambitious but focused, I say.

GI: Okay! Going with the Joey special: the Meatball Sub.

Need excellent red sauce, perfect meatballs, some melty cheese, and crusty bread.


KB: God I love a meatball parm.

AS: A solid choice (hot sandwiches forever)

Round 4

GI: For my next pick, going with another classic: the Club Sandwich.

KB: Diner special

KP: And clubs

GI: Kinda retro, but I like the toothpicks, the triangles, the crunchy lettuce and delicate tomato, and me imagining I know how to play golf.


KP: If it’s not cut into triangles and served pointing outward (with potato chips in the square pocket) then it’s not a club.

Kate, back to you.

KB: Can’t believe this one’s still on the table: Nashville Hot Chicken.

There’s no hot chicken place in Missoula (shocking to one, perhaps) and I crave these on the regular.

Illustration for article titled The Takeout's fantasy food draft: Best sandwiches
Photo: bfohack2 (iStock)

KB: What’s the bread of choice?

Biscuits, standard bun, white bread?

KB: I actually like a bun rather than just the single bread slice, but maybe I’ll offend purists with that.


As I’ve stated, I love pickles, so this sandwich’s pickles + heat—when the heat stops just as my eyes start to water—that’s a dreamy combo.

KP: I’m gonna rep the Asians with my next pick: Banh Mi.


KP: Yet another sandwich that requires a specific set of ingredients. The pate. The ham. The pickled daikon. The mayo and the cilantro. It’s amazingly complex for an everyday sandwich.


Shoutout to Nhu Lan #5 pork belly Chicago peeps

KB: Doesn’t this just make you realize how many good sandwiches there are?

Like even these latter-round picks are all bangers.

KP: Okay Allison, your last two picks of the day!

AS: My god, being first is terrible, this is so stressful

KP: But you’ve never been first — and you got your wish!

AS: Lesson learned

All right, this is breaking my heart a little, but let’s go with the French Dip

KP: This is my favorite song

AS: There are few sandwiches I won’t dip in something—whatever condiment is on the plate, gravy, sauce, soup, all kinds of things—and the FD comes with its own dip!


I love it.

KB: I do respect a sandwich that comes with a separate vessel of sauce/dip.

AS: I love it when you order a fancy grilled cheese and it comes with a little tomato soup on the side.


Round 5

AS: Okay, I am assuming one of you will take one of the terrific sandwiches I have remaining on my list and assuage my guilt for abandoning them, but I’m going with the most satisfying of all sandwiches:

The Thanksgiving Leftovers Sandwich



AS: Hot or cold

Frankly, turkey or no turkey

KB: Stuffing. On. A. Sandwich.

KP: I’m not the biggest Thanksgiving turkey fan, but I love frying the leftover pieces in a pan with gravy, then piling it high on a toasted roll. It’s drippy and delicious.


I’m a fan of frying meats in gravy, in general.

AS: I recognize that, like the Cadbury egg, this is a seasonal pick, but I don’t care if that dings me


It is not always the best sandwich I have of the year, but I look forward to no sandwich more.

No sandwich is more satisfying.

KP: I think my last pick is just as satisfying, and it’s not limited to the end of November:

Pastrami sandwich. From Katz’s. I’ll have what I’m having.

I can never justify a sandwich that costs more than $20—except from Katz’s Delicatessen.


That’s the only exception to my rule.

KB: Does your affection apply to pastrami sandwiches generally?

KP: I love all manners of pastrami sandwiches, but the one from Katz’s ruined everything else.


Fumare from here in Chicago is excellent

Schwartz’s Deli in Montreal calls their “Smoked Meat” but it’s essentially pastrami


Kate, your last pick!

KB: Alright, I’m gonna go Gyro.

Again, it’s flavor and texture synergy: Squishy at times, crunchy at times, creamy. Savory but with some refreshing crunch.


KP: The gyro is incredibly delicious when done right—and also the sandwich that gives you the longest-lasting bad breath when done right

KB: And I could eat tzatziki by the gallon, which esteems this sandwich in my rankings.


GI: I hereby close out this draft round with: Sloppy Joe.

A delicious throwback from my ‘70s childhood. Preferably homemade on a toasted bun, but will also take the Manwich can, I’m not picky when it comes to the deliciousness of Sloppy Joes


AS: Well played, everyone.

KB: There are so many good sandwiches, is what this proves.

Illustration for article titled The Takeout's fantasy food draft: Best sandwiches

Your vote matters. Please vote now!


Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.

Kevin Pang was the founding editor of The Takeout, and director of the documentary For Grace.

Contributor, The A.V. Club and The Takeout. Allison loves TV, bourbon, and overanalyzing social interactions. Please buy her book, How TV Can Make You Smarter (Chronicle, 2020). It’s short!

Kate Bernot is a freelance writer and a certified beer judge. She was previously managing editor at The Takeout.



Now as Kevin has pointed out more than once, the comments section has the unfair advantage of “choose your five favorite sandwiches”, unfettered by such considerations as draft strategy, and while sometimes that just flat doesn’t matter (I refer you to my comment in the fast-food item draft last week, which I would absolutely put up against anything the Takeout crew put together as a team and which hewed the the rule “nothing that got picked in the article), this is going to send me far further afield in my efforts to follow that same rule. And you may look at me like I’ve gone round the bend, but...

1. Indiana Pork Tenderloin

Kate had a humorously tongue-in-cheek take on the Midwest’s favorite sandwich (OK, one of its favorite sandwiches, and that is totally foreshadowing) as enjoyed in Iowa, but I am a great appreciator of the pig in all its delicious culinary forms, and when you take what basically amounts to a fried pork chop on a bun, you are off and running to Flavor Town where every meal comes with a free cardiologist referral. The style in the Hoosier State is the perfect realization of this concept.

2. McRib

You excluded hamburgers and hot dogs. You said nothing of the delightful ribwich.

And sure, McDonald’s is the gold standard for barbecue sauce-slathered excellence in this category, but I was on the road last week and there was a gas station near my hotel room that sold a hot-box ribwich that made me perk up a little because dear gods, do I ever love me a gas station ribwich on the road.

Stop looking at me like that.

But seriously, I probably manage to eat 50 McRibs during the month-and-change they’re around in the fall, and between the sandwiches and the ancillaries, they easily manage to squeeze well over 500 bucks out of me, a guy who normally almost never eats at McDonald’s since I prefer just about every other fast food burger joint over it.

3. Loose Meat Sandwich

Perhaps best known thanks to its prominence on the original run of Roseanne, I would contend that the loose meat sandwich is far superior to the sloppy joe that inhabits Gwen’s team.

But then again, I ate some truly awful sloppy joe, slop-a-sloppy joes in Lunch Lady Land growing up in New England. It’s not the concept of the slob-o-riffic meat mash I object to (hell, the loose meat sandwich’s city cousin, in essence, is the Philly cheesesteak), it’s the execution.

Philly cheesesteaks are divine. Loose meat sandwiches down home and delicious and arguably the sandwich that tastes the most like flyover country. And since there was no way in hell the staffers were missing the cheesesteak, I’m taking my answer to it and putting it on my team with pride.

4. Veal Parm Sub

I was born and raised in a little slice of suburban Boston called Wakefield, Massachusetts. There is a place right in the middle of town called Center House of Pizza. And every time I’m back in my hometown I seem to find my way there for a veal parm, as delicious today as it was when I was a drug-addled teenager eating one with my loser stoner friends in high school.

The veal parm sub also served as a useful gatekeeper food when I was in my early 20s. I’d order veal on dates just to see what kind of girl I was up against. Saved myself a lot of “I can’t believe I’m dating someone who...” arguments.

5. Meatloaf Sandwich

My mother made what could be fairly argued to be the worst meatloaf ever barfed into a casserole dish by the twisted minds of any human cook.

She’d buy the 73/27 Purina Prole Chow ground beef on manager’s special, put too many eggs and too many bread crumbs into it, and then cook it in the microwave I wish I were kidding I am not kidding dear gods *shudder*

To eat such a thing hot would be a mistake.

But a bizarre thing happened to that amalgamation of poverty when it sat in the fridge overnight.

The egg proteins set. The bread absorbed all the excess fat that hadn’t rendered off in the science oven. A rich mouthfeel developed that was absolutely perfect for any meat eaten cold (I contend this is also at the root of my belief that fried chicken is better cold than hot, a belief in which I have such strong fundamentalist zeal that I will buy fried chicken and stash it in the fridge before I eat it.)

Anyway, on a good hearty bread (OK, who am I kidding, we were poor. On Wonder Bread) with some A-1 sauce, even my mother couldn’t believe that her firstborn would willingly consume such a thing, and there wasn’t a soul in Greenwood Elementary who would dare trade lunch with me, not that I’d be willing to do so...

Sure, I’ve left 73/27 ground beef in the past where it belongs and I don’t dare re-create Mom’s recipe, but I’ll be damned if I don’t think back and insist to myself that sandwich was amazing.

So that’s my team. The staffers pulled most of the easy pickings off the board, but I still say I’d ride or die with my starting five.