“Shake Shack’s real standout is its burgers.David Bee/LightMotive Films
While the sandwich may have started out as a humble, affordable meal, today even the world’s foremost chefs and restaurateurs have taken their, uh, slice of the action, too. Here’s a look at some of the most esteemed sandwiches on the planet:
Thomas Keller/Bouchon Bakery
Most of us don’t have $295 to fork over for dinner, as is the cost per head at Per Se, Thomas Keller’s four-star restaurant in Manhattan, or the resources and wherewithal to travel to Napa Valley to dine at the American chef’s other high-end restaurant, French Laundry. While those establishments are considered among the best in the world, that’s not to say regular folk can’t enjoy Keller’s culinary genius—in a more modest, affordable setting, of course. Bouchon Bakery, a mini-chain with locations in Manhattan, Las Vegas, Beverly Hills, and Yountville, Calif., serves up what they call “delicious ingredients between excellent bread”—dry-cured ham or Emmenthaler cheese, for example. For a peanut butter and jelly done the Keller way, Bouchon has a playful twist: cashew nut butter and homemade apricot jam.
For fans of Bravo’s Top Chef cooking competition, Tom Colicchio, the show’s executive producer and head judge, is a household name. Off screen, the noted okra hater has built Craft Restaurants, an enormous empire with locations spanning the country. Last year, the former New York TImes restaurant critic Sam Sifton, in reviewing the three-star American restaurant Craft, wrote, “There is no overt theatricality to the food at Craft. Its presentation is simple, even plain. But such simplicity belies a truth about the restaurant’s cooking.” Such a philosophy extends to ‘Wichcraft, Colicchio’s affordable sandwich chain, too. By combining seasonal and often locally sourced ingredients, Colicchio has managed to turn the sandwich into “a robust and balanced meal,” as the company’s mission states. More creative offerings include goat cheese, avocado, celery, walnut pesto, and watercress on multigrain bread; blackened flank steak with romesco, grilled red onions, and aged cheddar on grilled country bread; and smoked ham with poached pears, dijon mustard, and cheddar on grilled cranberry pecan bread.
Danny Meyer/Shake Shack
Danny Meyer is as known for his stable of excellent high-end restaurants—including the famed Gramercy Tavern and the four-star Eleven Madison Park, both in Manhattan—as he is for establishing the modern-day gold standard of restaurant hospitality. Whether you step into Union Square Cafe or Shake Shack, Meyer’s line of fast-casual burger joints, you’re guaranteed to experience the restaurateur’s unique breed of customer service. The original Shake Shack opened in Manhattan in 2004 and has since expanded to 14 restaurants, including locations in Miami Beach, Washington DC, Westport, Conn., Philadelphia, and, most recently, New Haven, Conn. And while the frozen custards are sort of like a blissful hybrid of frozen yogurt and gelato, Shake Shack’s real standout is its burgers, which are widely considered among the best out there: the classic ShackBurger combines a patty made from a proprietary blend of Angus beef, lettuce, tomato, and special “ShackSauce,” all piled on a perfect bun.
Mario Batali/Pizzeria Mozza
Mario Batali may have opened Babbo in 1998, but even today it’s nearly impossible to get a table at the Italian spot in Manhattan’s West Village. The chef and former Food Network star, who owns a number of high-end restaurants around the world, is as famous for his love of orange Crocs as he is for applying his classical French culinary training to Italian fare. Perhaps the $145 prix fixe menu at Del Posto is a bit out of reach, but a panini at Batali’s Pizzeria Mozza, in Los Angeles, is a reasonable—and delicious!—compromise. Here, Batali offers classic Italian sandwiches with a modern spin: there’s mortadella, prosciutto, salami, and provolone; buffalo mozzarella, peperonata, tapenade, and arugula; and albacore tuna, a hard-cooked egg, capers, and anchovies, all for about $15 a pop. Just be sure to get there early: many consider Pizzeria Mozza the best pizza in L.A., so there’s always a line.
Believed by many to be the best restaurant in the world, Noma is Danish chef Rene Redzepi’s inventive, experimental temple to Nordic cuisine in Copenhagen. The location may be remote, and the restaurant’s reservations policy may very well require a Ph.D., but it’s estimated that 20,000 people try to book a table when the lines open on reservations day each month. For the lucky ones, a meal like no other awaits; Redzepi is one of the world’s foremost leaders in molecular gastronomy, and Noma is known for its clean, beautiful, and truly memorable food. That’s not to say the humble sandwich can’t find a home here: while the menu changes daily, earlier this year Redzepi served a potato sandwich with duck liver mousse and black trumpet mushrooms.