Maybe it sounds funny, but there are memories fused into Todd David’s bologna sandwich. He prefers it the old- fashioned way: Three-ish slices slapped onto white bread (the squishy, misted-with-whatever-chemical-that-makes-it-last-for-decades kind) with a swirl of spicy-sweet mustard. The best way to devour this version is in front of the open door of the refrigerator with the speed of the rapture — quickly disappearing the entire sandwich in the middle of the night.
In college, it wouldn’t be weird at all to find Todd David spearing a hot dog — which is essentially a tube of bologna — and lift it up to the hot lights in his room until the hot dog screamed and charred. He'd slide the dog into a bun and, voila, he had his first meal of the day.
Now, David's process is slightly more sophisticated: Cattleack runs wagyu brisket trimmings through a grinder until it's velvety and shakes in dry spices. It cures for a day or so, “getting happy” and firetruck red. The encased bologna gets a cold smoke bath, followed by hot smoke, and it's sliced novella-thick to order. A couple of circles of raw white onion and a quick maze shape of barbecue sauce are all you’ll need. Plump with smoke and unmistakably bologna-salty juices run through the slice. A scoop of pimento cheese, with thick shreds of cheddar, is pure Southern luxury.
Halve the sandwich and dive in. Your mind will instantly file away the memory into a folder marked "wagyu bologna sandwich." It's both new and nostalgic: You've never had a bologna sandwich like this, but it's still, somehow, familiar. It’s a sandwich to anticipate beyond the first time it's ordered. Here are five more to put on the list in 2020:
Del Sur Tacos
A great torta has checks and balances. Salty, porky juices, under a mattress of milky cheese, stays in line from the puckering tang of peppers. Grilled onions decked with slices of avocado. Del Sur masters all the sensations: Their Cubana comes with layers of roasty, tender pork — oh yes, charred bits of good pastor — and beaming queso Oaxaca. Shredded lettuce, tomato, onions, avocado and jalapeños are fresh rain in the heat. Crema Mexicana, an impossible-to-replicate creaminess, meets enormous, toasted bread.
Del Sur Tacos, 720 E. Jefferson Blvd. (Oak Cliff)
Roast Porchetta HeroCarbone’s
Porchetta is a Michelangelo painting — it docks a breathtaking amount of time to complete, but, once finished, is a religious experience. The key to this sandwich is the crunchy bits: After the rolled pork roasts for six hours with ornamental herbs, they fry a slice in the cast iron pan. Provolone is draped over everything, as it should be. Cherry pepper relish, three words that go very well together, join the porchetta on a bun. It tastes like a damn Roman vacation.
4208 Oak Lawn Ave. (Oak Lawn). The porchetta sandwich is available on Thursdays and Fridays only.
The CubanCivil Pour
Pulled pork from Pecan Lodge warms under the shell of bread in what’s easily the oldest machine in Civil Pour. This is a coffee shop with the latest in technology — machine-learning Poursteadies that likely read my retinas and knew I wanted a Cubano before I did. That’s fine — the panini press sends the silky oil of pulled pork into the bread. Whole grain mustard seeds explode outward, protecting you from the heaviness of ham and supremely melted Muenster cheese. Pickles are the way you want them, sheared thin like it was done with a Samurai sword. This Cuban’s got a helping of mayo, which knocks it out of the running of “authentic.” You won’t care.
Civil Pour, 8061 Walnut Hill Lane, Suite 924 (North Dallas)
The OMGNew York Sub
Chef and owner Andrew Kelley wields the specials board with a bit more charm than the average sandwich shop. His creamy soups and new entries at this decades-old joint across from SMU are not weird experiments that sound like they were invented by a college student who uses a coffee maker as a panini press. The OMG has toasty jalapeño bread, marked with shreds of cheddar that bookends thick slices of bacon, ham and good provolone. More smoky ham, a few griddled tomatoes and a creamy secret sauce meet, and you’ve got a foot-long classic in your hands.
New York Sub, 3411 Asbury St., University Park
Torta De CarnitasJosé
"Garlic, bay leaf and patience. Lots of it," says chef Anastacia Quiñones-Pittman. The carnitas cooks with these three ingredients. Patience is a noticeable flavor — along with butter and a good bolillo roll, Jose's torta is a shining gem. AQ's menu doesn't need a sandwich, but it's there nonetheless: Black beans, avocado, onion, a little bit of crema, lightened by tomato and lettuce, are a good team. There's a hearty richness to this sandwich. Pickled veggies on the side tart things up; this is a wonderful meal.
Jose, 4931 W. Lovers Lane
Dau Hu Gu'ng Bánh Mì
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This may disrupt our comfort levels, but it’s more important than ever to reduce the pressure on the beef and chicken industry. Impossible Foods is throwing lightning with plant-based burgers, which is a fine meat substitute. A far tastier order is Sandwich Hag’s flavorful-down-to-the-bones, memory-packed banh mi: meaty panels of tofu, crunchy-charred, hum with ginger. They meet with the power of crackle and garlic and cream: garlicky aioli that smooths out the edges of hot prickly things and pepper and grassy herbs. The bread crackles so loudly that you’ll have to speak up while you cut it. It is, like all on this list, an unforgettable sandwich.
Sandwich Hag, 1902 S. Lamar St. (the Cedars)