A sandwich is a portable feast — to take to the beach, to the park or just back to your desk. It can be as simple as tuna with mayo or jambon beurre — a ficelle or baguette spread with good butter and a slice of ham. It can be dainty, as in cucumber finger sandwiches, or heroic, as in the magnificently appointed Italian submarine. That said, there are plenty of ordinary sandwiches out there, but you don't have to settle for one. Walk or drive that extra block or mile for a sandwich from a cook who takes it seriously.
The first time I ordered the O.G. pastrami sandwich at Wexler's Deli in Grand Central Market, I stood in line maybe 10 deep as shoppers swirled around me. By the time my sandwich came, no seats at the counter were free, so I took it over to a table and opened up the packet. Thick, juicy slabs of deep red spice-rubbed, cured and smoked beef were piled a mile high between two innocent-looking slices of caraway-studded rye. I couldn't resist. Some atavistic meat frenzy kicked in, and I devoured the sandwich, completely forgetting my mission to photograph it. If there's a pastrami heaven, Wexler's is certainly there along with the historic Langer's.
Grand Central Market, 317 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, (213) 624-2378, wexlersdeli.com. Pastrami sandwich, $10; sides, $2 to $4.
Wheat & Sons
Two chefs from the Bay Area, Ashly Amador and Nate Overstreet, started this impressive butcher/rostisserie in the new Anaheim Packing House. All their meats are local and sustainably raised. Their bestselling sandwich is the house-made porchetta with chermoula (a Moroccan spice rub), pickled radish and watercress. But if you see Overstreet threading a spit with a whole suckling pig, you're in for a treat, because soon he'll list suckling pig Cuban on the board. And it's a stupendous version of the familiar sandwich, with chunks of luscious suckling pig, thinly sliced top-quality ham and, of course, a veil of cheese, all piled on a bun that's crunchy on the outside, tender within.
Anaheim Packing House, 440 S. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 603-7860, www.wheatandsonsbutcher.com. Sandwiches, $9 to $13.
The Little Jewel of New Orleans
A little piece of New Orleans has moved into Chinatown. It's part grocery store (get your Blue Plate mayo, chicory coffee and crawfish boil seasoning),and part sandwich shop. Marcus Christiana-Beniger, who grew up in New Orleans and owns the deli with his partner Eunah Kang, says he wouldn't ever have opened the Little Jewel of New Orleans if he couldn't get the right bread (he has it flown in from New Orleans). And for anybody homesick for authentic po' boys, this is the place. Get them in 5- and 10-inch versions, including the classic fried oyster, fried shrimp (or half oyster, half shrimp — with remoulade sauce), house-made andouille sausage and cochon de lait — the most tender pulled pork, smoked over pecan wood.
207 Ord St., Los Angeles, (213) 620-0461, littlejewel.la. Po' boys, $7 to $16.