At its core, a sandwich consists of two slices of bread and filling in between. It’s a go-to meal that transcends cultures, from Cuba’s medianoche to Vietnam’s bánh mì. But taking the world’s favorite handheld snack from good to great involves the perfect balance of flavors and textures and the right bread to make the ingredients shine.
These Miami eateries know the formula, displaying their own flair, complexity, and versatility while still retaining the fundamentals of a sandwich. Sure, a homemade PB&J sometimes hits the spot, but try a stacked-bread behemoth from any one of these spots that are pushing the envelope of sandwich construction.
1. Enriqueta's. Located in Wynwood, this beloved hole in the wall serves the best Cuban sandwiches in the 305. Enriqueta's lures in regulars with mainstays such as pan con bistec ($5.75) and the sandwich cubano preparado con croquetas ($7). The latter takes the standard Cuban — ham, roast pork, melted Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard between two pieces of bread — and adds a welcome twist, croquetas. Grab a stool at the counter, enjoy an authentic cubano, and see why Enriqueta's makes even first-time visitors feel like family. 186 NE 29th St., Miami; 305-573-4681.
2. Football Sandwich Shop. If you want to win at lunch, score a touchdown of a meal at Football Sandwich Shop. Nestled between El Portal and Little Haiti, this brightly colored eatery, equipped with a drive-thru, has been serving delicious sports-themed deli creations since 1972. Choose from signature cold subs, nine-inch hot sandwiches, wraps, and pitas. Come with an appetite of a pro athlete and order the famous Zonker ($9.35), named for the legendary Miami Dolphins running back Larry Csonka. This monstrous sammie piles salami, ham, provolone cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, oil, and mayo onto a soft hoagie roll. 8484 NE Second Ave., Miami; 305-759-3602; footballsandwichshop.com.
3. Josh's Delicatessen & Appetizing. Priding itself as “a Jewish deli done wrong,” Josh’s Deli does just about everything right. Josh Marcus turns traditional Jewish deli staples into unorthodox works of art. Ten-day-aged Angus brisket, pastrami, turkey, pork, corned beef, and a repertoire of other meaty delicacies come perfectly cured, smoked, and/or roasted in-house. Try the oh-so-Miami "Jewban" ($13.95), a double-decker hodgepodge of rich, flavorful pastrami, slow-roasted pork, house-made pickles, mustard, Swiss cheese, and Cuban bread, all pressed together. 9517 Harding Ave., Surfside; 305-397-8494; joshsdeli.com.
4. Stephen’s Restaurant. Hialeah’s best sandwich shop has been offering guests a simple but standout menu of New York-style deli sandwiches and specialty creations since 1954. Although the hand-cut corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, tuna melt, and chicken salad club are on the list of must-try items, the pièce de résistance is arguably the grilled Rachel ($11.95), made with thick-sliced pastrami, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing. Order a side of unbelievably tasty potato pancakes ($4.50), and you’ll see why Stephen’s Restaurant still reigns as the place to go for a weekday lunch. Note: The eatery is open only Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. 1000 E. 16th St., Hialeah; 305-887-8863.
5. Zak the Baker. It’s no surprise that the man behind the best bread in Miami is also the mastermind of one of Miami’s best kosher delis. Drawing influence from Eastern European-style cooking and sourcing local ingredients, Zak the Baker's Zak Stern and chef Melissa Sosa churn out specialty sandwiches and savory platters for every taste and hunger level. Fuel your morning with the breakfast sandwich, boasting ZTB’s fresh sourdough multigrain bread cradling a vegetable omelet with sharp cheese, heirloom tomatoes, slices of fresh avocado, sprouted alfalfa, and house-made chili aioli drizzled on top. Other sandwich specialties, including herring tartine, corned beef, tuna salad and smoked fish salad, round out the menu. 405 NW 26th St., Miami; 786-347-7100; zakthebaker.com.
6. La Sandwicherie. The original La Sandwicherie in South Beach has remained a haven for hoagie aficionados since 1988. And with a second location in Brickell, this French-owned gem draws in locals across the Magic City via a myriad of sandwich combinations that come on your choice of fresh bread: French baguette, croissant, or wheat. Although sandwiches such as the smoked salmon and pâté hit all the right notes, the signature Frenchie ($9.70) is beautiful music. It’s a simple melody of fresh salami and Brie, but it’s one that should be savored with each harmonic bite. 229 14th St., Miami Beach; 305-532-8934; lasandwicherie.com.
7. Sarussi Cafe. Three words: "Man vs. Food." That’s the must-order at Sarussi Cafe, Calle Ocho’s go-to spot for Cuban sandwiches for more than 50 years. It’s the sammie that was featured on Adam Richman’s Man v. Food. This colossal $26.49 creation packs in double-baked ham, double-roasted pork, mozzarella cheese, pickles, and the café's secret spicy sauce. Other fillings include churrasco, pierna de cerdo, chorizo, tuna, and mushrooms, all stuffed into a 16-inch loaf of homemade Cuban bread brushed with a touch of butter and garlic. 6795 SW Eighth St., Miami; 305-264-5464; sarussisubs.com.
8. Ms. Cheezious. Before there was Ms. Cheezious, grilled cheese joints were almost nonexistent in Miami. When the food truck turned brick-and-mortar, locals breathed a sigh of relief knowing they had a permanent place to indulge in artisanal renditions of everyone’s favorite childhood snack. Feeling seafood-centric? The crabby cheese melt — fresh crab salad and sharp cheddar cheese on sourdough bread — hits the spot. Plus, sandwiches such as the barbecue pulled pork and the prime chuck and brisket patty melt are mouthwatering options carnivores can sink their teeth into. 7418 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-989-4019; mscheezious.com.
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9. Hungry Bear Sub Shop. Hungry Bear's subs begin with homemade bread that's pillowy yet substantial. When it’s packed with Buffalo chicken, teriyaki chicken, veggies, fajita steak, or meatballs, it results in an unmatched lunchtime experience that fulfills the appetite of, well, a very large animal. Located across the street from Miami Dade College’s Kendall campus, this small sandwich shop is usually filled with students and South Miami-Dade denizens yearning for one beastly midday meal, after which a nap (or hibernation) might ensue. 10521 SW 109th Ct., Miami; 305-595-8385.
10. Publix. The best Publix sub is a hotly debated topic in the Southeast. Each heavenly creation is full of flavor and freshness — something you wouldn’t expect from a supermarket chain. Those qualities shine in the Boar’s Head Ultimate, made with ham, turkey, and roast beef; the Philly cheese; and the iconic chicken tender sub, which has amassed a cult-like following. Picky eaters can create their own combo that satisfies all sorts of cravings. Simply put, Pub subs never fail. Multiple locations; publix.com.