Vancouver’s sandwich scene is booming if the daily lineups at two of the city’s newest shops are any indication. On a quest to find the best sandwiches in town, we checked out these hot places as well as established delis.
Hands down, the city’s current “it” sandwich has to be the porchetta beauty at Meat & Bread (370 Cambie Street). Co-owners Cord Jarvie and Frankie Harrington, who have worked together in Vancouver and Ireland, were inspired by the carved-to-order sandwiches they ate in Dublin. Every morning but Sundays, chef Joseph Sartor fills the oven with “logs” of pork from Two Rivers Specialty Meats’ free-range, grain-fed pigs. Each log, made from a loin of skin-on pork and pork belly, is dusted with herbs and the shop’s special salt rub, then rolled and roasted. The meat is carved to order and piled high into a fresh-baked ciabatta bun with a dab of salsa verde and a liberal sprinkling of crackling. This succulent sandwich ($8) arrives on a paper-lined cutting board with dollops of house-made mustard and sambal. About 100 are served each day, and the ever-present line moves quickly.
Running neck and neck in popularity is Re-Up BBQ’s pulled-pork sandwich ($6.75). This compact food cart is easy to spot with its perpetual lineups from about 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Saturday at Hornby and Georgia Streets. The cart travels on Sundays, so track it on the go at www.reupbbq.com. When the Straight visited, co-owner Michael Kaisaris said that the pasture-raised, nonmedicated pork is sourced from three Chilliwack farms. The slow-roasted pork is piled into a warm Portuguese bun, doused with Re-Up’s special smoky, chili-flecked BBQ sauce, and topped with coleslaw made with a yogurt, mustard, and mayo mixture.
If you’d prefer that the meat in your sandwich was vegetables, there are excellent options out there. “Today’s special. And so are you,” was chalked on the sandwich board of Finch’s Tea & Coffee House (353 West Pender Street) when the Straight stopped in. We’d missed that day’s special, but no matter: we had come for the swoon-worthy Full Vegetarian sandwich. Available on an eight-inch crusty baguette ($7.75) or toasted whole-grain bread ($7.25) and made to order, the Full Veg overflows with buttery crescents of avocado, crisp cucumber rounds, red onions, tomato, masses of ultrafresh red-leaf lettuce, Cheddar, and Dijon mayo. It’s snugly wrapped in brown paper and tied with string. Owners Jamie Smith and Sheryl Matthew source their ingredients from small local shops like La Grotta del Formaggio, Fratelli Bakery, and Bosa Foods. The menu doesn’t change much. “I like the places that are consistent, where you can get the same things all the time,” Smith said.
For Asian sandwiches, if you haven’t tried Golden Garden’s banh mi ($4), you’re missing some of Vancouver’s best. At this smart little operation (509 Main Street) run by sister and brother Kim and Melvin Quach, you’ll find the Vietnamese sandwich counter right inside the doors—the restaurant proper is beyond the curtain. Kim makes five kinds of banh mi to order. Our money is on the #1, a “cold cut” sandwich. Using chopsticks, she deftly smears a warm eight-inch crusty baguette with mayo, then liver pí¢té, and adds ham, cucumber, pickled daikon, and carrots, then crams in generous bunches of fresh cilantro before wrapping it in paper and securing it with an elastic band.
Love Montreal smoked meat? Step out of your rye-bread comfort zone and try Siegel’s Bagels’ Montreal smoked meat bagel sandwich. The bagelwich sees a hefty mound of steamed smoked meat dabbed with mustard and piled into a sliced bagel ($8.95 or $10.45 for a large), and accompanied by a Kosher pickle spear. Purists shouldn’t knock the bagel version until they’ve tried it. Siegel’s bagels roll out of the wood-fired oven at 1883 Cornwall Avenue around the clock, and they don’t crumble under a load of hot meat. Owner Joel Siegel, a former Montrealer, worked in a bagel shop while growing up, and opened the Vancouver shop years ago when he couldn’t find a real Montreal-style bagel in Vancouver. Smoked meat was an obvious add in. The sandwich is also available at the Granville Island outlet.
Other sandwiches worth a bite? The design-your-own versions from the vast array of cheeses and cured meats at La Grotta del Formaggio (1791 Commercial Drive); the vitello tonnato (cold veal with tuna sauce) at La Ghianda (220-2083 Alma Street); any panini du jour at the Dirty Apron Delicatessen (540 Beatty Street); and the grilled-salmon sandwich at Go Fish (1505 West 1st Avenue). Remember to roll up your sleeves.