They were once no-brainers that you shoved into your mouth when there was no time to sit down to a proper meal. But sandwiches have evolved into a food group that is now savored—admired, even. Here are some of our favorite handhelds (and a few knife-and-fork beauties) that have stepped out of the lunch bag and into the light!
Ray’s 1969 Hoagie
Greiner’s Sub Shop
2126 S. Shelby St., 317-783-4136; 1738 E. 86th St., 317-659-3354
The cold-cut headliner at Greiner’s Sub Shop has a multi-generational fan base. It includes the business’s original devotees, who trailed shredded lettuce home from founder Ray Greiner’s Shelby Street shop during the Nixon administration, and current owner Lisa Moyer’s jaw-unhinging customers. The sandwich has a core of Genoa salami, beef salami, ham, and provolone cheese, and shines when given the “Old School” garnish of thin-sliced tomatoes, onions, olives, pepperoncini, and the requisite iceberg confetti, followed by oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and a dried oregano finish.
Pickle Brined Fried Chicken Sandwich
Grindstone Public House
101 N. 10th St., Noblesville, 317-774-5740
As billed, this crispy fried-chicken favorite at Grindstone Public House has a distinctively pickle-forward flavor that is a shock on first bite, since there is not a cucumber chip in sight. A crisscross of thick bacon slices, cheddar, and a dripping pool of ranch dressing build on the flavors in this robust sandwich that holds its own among the fancy house-ground burgers on the menu.
Fat Dan’s Deli
Nothing at Fat Dan’s Deli is good for you (a big part of its charm), but you can twirl your index finger in the air three times, point somewhere on the grease-stained menu, and find a great sandwich, like the Smoked Reuben. One bite and both your heart and ankles will swell. Aside from the introduction of Chicago dog–style neon-green relish in the Thousand Island dressing, this version sticks with traditional trimmings, including fat slabs of corned beef. But this is Fat Dan’s. Even the meat smokes.
1106 Prospect St., 317-426-3048
The surprise breakout menu item at Turchetti’s Salumeria is its most unassuming handheld: a simple fried-egg sandwich. The bright-yellow yolk is cooked to the perfect degree, a slow-moving lava that rolls over your breakfast meat of choice—house bacon or a sausage patty—with nothing more complicated than a slice of American cheese and a swipe of savory-sweet jam to get in the way. Containing it all is a split 4 Birds Bakery English muffin toasted just enough to provide some stability.
Evan’s IPA Braised Beef
Joe’s Next Door
111 W. Main St., Carmel, 317-846-8877
Patience isn’t part of the recipe, but you won’t get this sandwich’s mouthwatering star ingredient without it at Joe’s Next Door. It takes 12 hours for the simply seasoned chuck roast to braise, resulting in tender shredded beef that would be irresistible on its own. Here though, a creamy, fondue-like Havarti cheese sauce, peppery arugula, and both caramelized onions and a Cabernet reduction for sweetness adorn it. Yes, good things do come to those who wait.
Cochinita Pibil Torta
334 Massachusetts Ave., 317-635-6962
Since Bakersfield is a taco joint, it’s understandable if you gravitate toward that portion of the menu. But don’t miss the terrific tortas. The Cochinita Pibil Torta, featuring achiote-braised pork, black beans, guacamole, a hint of pickled red onion, cilantro, and queso fresco packed into a telera roll, is so delicious, you may devour it before realizing there’s a cilantro-buttermilk dressing for dipping.
The Lomo Saltado
Don Juan V’s
3720 E. Raymond St., 317-377-4677
To simply call this Don Juan V’s effort a steak sandwich is to dismiss the complexity of the world. Chinese laborers first arrived in Peru at the end of slavery in the mid-19th century, bringing with them cultural influences such as stir-fried meats. The Peruvians, in what can only be described as early fusion cuisine, adopted the dish as their own. Come for a tender, char-grilled history lesson with a side of yuca fries.
His Place Eatery
6916 E. 30th St., 317-545-4890
Even in its most austere state, a fried bologna sandwich has a lot going on—the crispy caramelized bits, the squish of processed meat, the salty nostalgia. At His Place Eatery, a thick-cut disc of lunchmeat is all sizzle on the top and bottom, holding up a tectonic slide of tangy Memphis barbecue sauce and creamy rough-cut coleslaw on a soft onion bun. With a side of fries, this three-napkin big guy is the best thing to happen to bologna since the Charlie’s Angels lunchbox.
With sandwiches, proportion matters, and nothing has been as well-balanced and for as long as the corned beef at Shapiro’s Delicatessen. The esteemed icon of Indy lunch fare begins and ends with perfectly trimmed-and-brined brisket (not too salty, not too fatty) so good, the rest of the sandwich might be inconsequential. Cheese? Unnecessary. Spicy mustard or yellow—who cares? Seeded rye or pumpernickel? Pffft. Bonus points for cafeteria-style dining and New Deal–era-propaganda-meets-Liberation-theology wallpaper at the original location depicting sandwich-making as salvation—because it’s true.
Bánh Mì of the Day
501 Virginia Ave., 317-737-2293
Whether it involves a slab of fried Spam, green-curry sausage, salmon rillettes, or tofu marinated to a smooth saltiness in soy and Calamansi lemon juice, the daily Vietnamese sandwich at Rook is a worthy distraction from chef Carlos Salazar’s other clever options. Though the key ingredient explores a range of Asian flavors, Salazar’s bánh mì dresses the $10 lunch-only option in the traditional way, with a sour Asian slaw, mayo, cilantro, and fresh jalapeño, carefully stacked inside a toasted French roll with the essential crunchy tug.
877 Massachusetts Ave., 317-384-1102
Whether topping a waffle or squished between biscuits, pork belly is a perennial feature on the changing menu of this Mass Ave eatery. Love Handle found the sweet spot, though, when pairing the salty and fatty lightly charred bits of meat with a generous swipe of housemade raspberry jam, earthy blue cheese crumbles, and crunchy radish sticks. The unexpected combination of textures and flavors will likely leave you plotting a return trip.
Mile High Club
Rock-Cola 50s Café
5730 S. Brookville Rd., 317-357-2233
The Mile High Club at Rock-Cola 50s Café is not your standard club sandwich. Casting a shadow and true to its name, this colossal behemoth—stacked with thick-cut hickory-smoked bacon, honey-baked ham, smoked turkey, American cheese, and the classic lettuce and tomato—arrives with a support system in the form of a steak knife to hold it all together.
Big Lug Canteen
1435 E. 86th St., 317-672-3503
Turkey gets an unconventional tweak at Big Lug Canteen, a joint that lowers expectations with menu modesty (“We make some decent food for you”), and then delivers a better sandwich than more boastful bistros. Take this one, where fried buffalo turkey gets chopped and mixed with spinach, mozzarella, and alfalfa sprouts into a water-chestnut dip without ever losing sight of its poultry DNA.
Fitzgerald’s Lunch House
9130 Otis Ave., 317-762-0500
The famished faithful of Lawrence flock to Fitzgerald’s Lunch House, where they are greeted by name and offered thoughtful, hearty sandwiches steeped in classic preparation techniques. The Rooster features sliced chicken breast—tangy from an overnight brine—stacked in harmony with avocado, sharp cheddar, pickled onions, and smoked bacon atop a chipotle cream cheese–dressed French baguette.
The slapdash addition of mayonnaise to the original born more than 100 years ago at the Central Grocery of New Orleans is a head-scratcher and would be a deal-breaker if not for Oca’s use of world-class cured meats from parent Smoking Goose and crusty sesame-seed Italian bread from Gonnella. Mayo aside, the rest of the components stand up to anything available in the French Quarter and beyond.
Vegetarian Bánh Mì
920 Virginia Ave., 463-221-3669; City Market, 317-403-5867
See if you don’t feel healthier just by walking into Three Carrots, the Fountain Square vegetarian restaurant that branched off from a City Market booth. Then bite into one of the biggest hits, the bánh mì—a squishy baguette slice from Circle City Sweets, packed with housemade seitan marinated in ginger and lime juice, then topped with pickled carrots and daikon, cilantro, and avocado mayo.
Honey Pastrami Chicken
303 E. Main St., Westfield, 317-804-9780
Thick slices of toasted sourdough made with the spent grain at Field Brewing are yummy bookends for this elaborate chicken sandwich. The meat soaks overnight in corned-beef brine, giving it a good salty punch. But it’s not even the dominant flavor in the mix of ingredients that include gooey Gruyère, both pickled jalapeño and giardiniera, and a smear of whole-grain mustard.
Short-Rib Grilled Cheese
Turf Catering + Kitchen
8155 Castleway Court, 317-288-0173
Some sandwiches are worth going the extra mile, and at Turf Catering + Kitchen you can make that trip and get an oil change. Buried in Castleton strip-mall sprawl, behind an Arby’s and next to a Meineke, the small-but-mighty menu features a killer Short-Rib Grilled Cheese. We recommend one at least every three months or 5,000 miles.
The Lobster Roll
Caplinger’s Fresh Catch
As far as Indy is from New England, Caplinger’s “Almost Famous lobsta roll” brings a true taste of Maine to landlocked Hoosiers. Yet unlike the iconic split-top rolls of Red Sox country piled with delicate pearls of lobster bits, Caplinger’s version is a two-handed affair where rustic hunks of lobster mix with tender shreds and just the right crunch of celery on a crusty sub bun.
534 Virginia Ave., 317-986-5131
Milktooth’s grilled cheese is decidedly more sensual than sophisticated, a decadent fork-and-knife sandwich where two lusciously melted cheeses—Gouda and stretchy raclette—ooze from the crisp cranberry-walnut bread. Topped with a silky sunny-side-up duck egg and christened with black-truffle honey that upends this gluttonous experience from delightful to debaucherous.
Limiting yourself to the pizzas on the extensive menu at Napolese locations would be a mistake akin to considering pineapple a proper topping. The Old Major—garlicky Sicilian sausage, sweet roasted onions, earthy spinach pesto and melted provolone—is hardly an afterthought. Special care went into the spongy focaccia bun that holds everything in its place and proves the upper-crust pizzeria understands sandwiches, too.
1015 Virginia Ave., 317-737-2653
Gourmet fave Wildwood Market makes good use of the fresh, organic, and specialty food items found on its own shelves to free-form some of the city’s best sandwiches—like a Smoking Goose City Ham croissant with piquillo peppers, Manchego, tomato jam, and Duke’s mayonnaise. The menu changes daily, but Wildwood’s mastery of ingredients at its fingertips is consistent.
St. Elmo Prime-Rib Sandwich
Harry & Izzy’s
For a prime-rib sandwich that tastes completely of itself, the specimen at Harry & Izzy’s will not disappoint with shaved slivers of beef inside an onion ciabbata with a wilting layer of white cheddar. Those simple flavors are enough to make this sit-down sandwich a winner, but the two condiments that arrive on
the side put it over the top: a silky horseradish sauce and a small dish of beefy au jus for dunking.
The One & Only
Ralph’s Great Divide
743 E. New York St., 317-637-2192
“Good Things Made Better” reads the sign at Ralph’s Great Divide, a downtown mainstay in the shadow of I-65/70. Case in point: a ham sandwich graced with papery slices of bourbon-basted bliss that have been baked for hours to let the flavor develop. Nothing on the sandwich—lettuce, tomato, mayo, optional cheese, wheat bread (we recommended switching to rye)—gets in the way. Except, perhaps, the knowledge that a housemade pie follow-up is in the on-deck circle.
Goose The Market
2503 N. Delaware St., 317-924-4944
An ode to owner Chris Eley’s time spent casing ethnic delis in Chicago and named for famed Seattle salumist Armandino Batali, little about this sandwich has changed since its inception over a decade ago. Goose The Market’s signature hero boasts layers of hearty Italian meats, preserved tomatoes, provolone, and giardiniera, which intensify in flavor if left in the fridge overnight. Not that you’ll want to wait.