It is no accident that this has been a stellar year for sandwiches in Dallas. From the boom of bars to skyrocketing construction, the city inflates with restaurants as if we're inside a bubble made of butter.
The byproduct of our little food boom is a growing movement throughout the city, a slash that cuts through the pretentious fluff — food that harkens back to the simplest, purest stuff we ate before there were celebrity chefs. There are hearty and massive patty melts, a sandwich you’d have ordered in diners in early America. One bar in Deep Ellum serves a shaved bologna sandwich that will enter your dreams like the Ghost of Christmas Past. In other words, for every slice of gentrification in our city, there is one sandwich that counters it with some heart.
These are the great sandwiches of 2017 in Dallas.
One90 Smoked Meats
10240 Northwest Highway
On the eighth day, there is drying time. Eye of round beef bathes for a week in brine, then dries out for a few days. One90 gives the beef a winter coat of coriander and handfuls of spices and smokes it for six hours. Then there will be pastrami. Two slices of Swiss cheese melt into toasted rye bread; there’s a pancake of sauerkraut and a housemade Thousand Island sauce that will ruin you on Thousand Island sauce; and the week’s prep of pastrami, sliced thin, is layered until even, nearly spiraling in the the sandwich like tree rings. It is, without a doubt, one of the best new sandwiches in the city.
1217 Main St.
Everything you need to know about Commissary sits in a small bowl on the side of your shaved French dip sandwich. The aroma piping from the broth is nutmeg, earth and pinecone of five spice, jalapeño and cilantro. The side is a rich, lip-smackingly fatty pho broth for dipping. It’s good on its own, but you’ve never had a French dip like this. Dipping a wedge of the sandwich into the broth, softening the bread and washing the meat makes it pop and zap with flavor. Its competition on the menu comes in the form of a blistering log of porchetta, crackling pig skin against arugula, the fattiness of pork broken by salsa verde.
2816 Elm St.
The best fried chicken sandwiches are a high-wire act of heat, crackling skin, creaminess and sweetness. Some don’t quite nail the walk, and they topple with overdone, bone-dry chicken or a pool of store-bought mayonnaise. Hide’s fry is light and thin with a buttermilk bath and coat of seasoned flour. Pickled Fresno peppers are faintly sweet. After a few bites, they’ll introduce some mind-slicing heat.
Zephyr Bakery Cafe
4001 Cedar Springs Road
It’s been a hard year, and you deserve the warmth of this sandwich. You deserve Grandma’s sandwich. At Zephyr Bakery Cafe on Cedar Springs, the stupendously good meatloaf sandwich is a recipe from Fannie Loeb, the great-aunt and grandma, respectively, of Lisa Loeb and co-owner Daniel Sikora. Grandma’s meatloaf is Angus chuck bound by egg, cracker crumbs, salt, pepper, a little minced onion and garlic. It gets a ceramic-like glaze with a house Roma tomato sauce that glistens with garlic. The kicker is thin onion strings that are floured, dusted with salt and pepper, and flash-fried solely for the meatloaf sandwich. It will warm you from the core outward.
1902 S. Lamar St.
The smoky char of pork on the grill hits the air. Trucks roar down Lamar. Crackling French bread is studded with carrots and fresh cilantro. Sandwich Hag is doing sandwiches the way sandwiches were meant to be eaten. They’re made to order (you may need to wait a few minutes as your pork is grilled) and screamingly fresh. Food tastes better when you’re outside, so there’s a tray and a Topo Chico, and suddenly, you’re eating one of the best sandwiches in the city.
333 W. Jefferson Blvd.
At Small Brewpub, happiness fits into the palm of your hand. A roll that's like a scoop from a cloud (from pastry chef Maricsa Trejo) bookends beef belly, house pickles and an aioli that's as comforting as any mayo could be. An order comes with two sliders, which you'll want to quickly double down on. There are few things better than salty beef, melt-in-your mouth fat, pickles and beer. This is real, true pub food.
5629 SMU Blvd.
The first bao to land in front of you at Sumo Shack is the Angry Bird. The chicken is brined in soy sauce, peppercorns, salt, sugar and vinegar and tossed in follow-up marinade, then given a coat of panko and flash-fried. Dill pickles, the ones that like to sit in your fridge for months, surround the chicken. The thing that'll cause a lightning storm in your head: there's a heavy drizzle of molten American cheese. One bite in, and it's obvious that chef Dien Nguyen is on to something here.
New York Sub
3411 Asbury St.
New York Sub makes all its soups, sauces and pickles. The deli meats have been renovated, and each is free of unpronounceable chemicals. Delaware Punch, an eye-opening, deeply purple juice with cane sugar and Delaware grapes, churns alongside wonderful, sweet lemonade. New York Sub has returned to University Park, and it’s sure good to see it again. It’s been revitalized with real food that sticks to the spirit of the place that long fed SMU students with pizza subs (a pizza on a bun). The No. 5 — ham, cheese and capicola — is a part of a numbered menu of nostalgic sandwiches. Roll the dice, and you’re likely to come up warmed with satisfaction. Get a black cherry soda and let the fattiness of capicola, sharpened by the oil-vinegar wash, hit you. It’s simple and honest food, often handed to you by the chef who rebooted this old-is-new-again restaurant.