If the fourth Earl of Sandwich could only only see what his cravings hath wrought. Legend has it that the English nobleman, who died in 1792, inspired the sandwich by demanding a meal that he could eat while gambling.
Whatever its real origins, there’s no doubt that the sandwich has conquered the world. Here’s a look at a half-dozen great versions we found right here in Wichita.
BOCCO BLT Bocco Deli, 3010 E. Central. I’d been hearing about this sandwich ever since Bocco opened in late 2010. Don’t wait as long as I did to check it out. It features sweet pepper bacon, tomato, romaine lettuce and a garlic aioli sauce on homemade foccacia. While BLTs are to my mind usually about the quality of the tomatoes, the bacon is clearly the star of this combination, and there’s plenty of it.
HAMBURGUESA SUPER EL PAISA El Paisa, 2227 N. Arkansas. It’s a hamburger. No, it’s a hot dog. No, it’s a ham and cheese. Actually, it’s all of these plus avocado, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise served on a big toasted bun. The menu claims it’s a “flavorful twist to an American tradition,” and if that tradition is over-the-top gluttony, I guess that’s true. Check it out when you’re really, really hungry and have time for a nap afterwards.
THE MARINELLO Caffee Moderne, 300 N. Mead. Anybody can make a tuna fish salad sandwich, but not like the folks at this bustling eatery in Old Town Square. Tuna dressed with a lively basil-lemon vinaigrette, topped with earthy kalamata olives, luscious white bean spread, tomato and fresh greens on wheat bread. We went looking for a definition of “marinello” and came up empty. We think it means “really, really good tuna salad.”
HELL HATH NO FURY The Anchor, 1109 E. Douglas. This is basically a Philly cheese steak topped with grilled jalapenos and Sriracha sauce. But that’s like saying Conan O’Brien is a guy with red hair. The combination of jalapenos and Sriracha (an Asian hot sauce) shoots the spiciness of the sandwich to somewhere around 5,000 points on the Scoville heat index. All I can say is that my dining companion, a lover of all things hot, was feeling the burn in a good way.
FALAFEL SANDWICH College Hill Deli, 3407 E. Douglas. Just to prove that all sandwiches don’t have to be belt and diet busters (although admittedly that’s how we prefer them), we ventured to this popular neighborhood cafe to try a — gasp — vegetarian entree. The falafel (seasoned ground chick peas and fava beans formed into patties and fried) is served in a spinach tortilla wrap with sliced tomatoes, pickles, onions and a creamy dressing. Light and delicious.
FRIED EGG BAHN MI Saigon Bistro, 3123 E. Pawnee. Another reasonably healthy entree, and the one on our list that offered the biggest flavor explosion of all. Bahn mi is a Vietnamese sandwich served on French bread (a nod to that country’s colonial past) that usually contains roast pork or other meat plus cilantro, jalapeno, daikon, carrots and crispy fried shallots. This one, though, comes with a couple of lightly fried eggs whose yolks burst deliciously open and mix with the rest when you bite into the sandwich. Make sure to ask for a bowl of nuoc cham to make the experience even more memorable.
Joe Stumpe is former food editor of The Wichita Eagle.