After fifteen months of reviewing sandwiches, it's time to take a step back, time to consider what has passed between many, many slices of bread, time to take a break from sandwiches and offer a countdown of the ten best I've had.
It's easy to pick twenty good sandwiches, but narrowing those down to ten is hard. Still, eating all those sandwiches has given me some stomach fortitude, so here, in reverse order, are my favorite sandwiches of the past fifteen months.
10) Spanish Ham and Cheese Fisher Clark Deli 723 South University Boulevard, 303-722-2091 Nine bucks is a lot to spend on a sandwich, but the ingredients used here are so good and so fresh that I always find a stop is worth it. On this sandwich, I'm not sure what I like better -- the incredible, tangy-sweet onion and pear jam, or the ham and chorizo, or the soft, fresh focaccia made Bluepoint Bakery-style. Fair warning: Try to take small bites, as the meat is piled high. Yes, just try to take small bite - if you can.
9) Chrysler Building Deli Zone Multiple locations After a trip to NYC, pastrami on rye was on my mind all the time, so when I returned, I headed for Deli Zone, which celebrates the Big Apple deli tradition with authentic sandwiches, and treats like black & white cookies and whole mini cheesecakes. The Chrysler Building was a half pound of pastrami - straight from Carnegie's - with Swiss cheese and mustard on grilled marble rye (with sauerkraut). Deli Zone does everything well, and this sandwich was no exception.
8) Crostone Parisi 4401 Tennyson Street, 303-561-0234 If Italy is like Disneyland for adults, then Parisi is like the Disney store at the mall, except that the sandwiches here live up the magic and fantasy. The warm, olive oil-doused bread was light and soft and criss-crossed with smoky grill marks. The pesto was perfectly understated and the non-spicy red peppers and tomatoes gave the sandwich a rich, full taste. The real hero here, though, was the fresh mozz. It's a small world after all, and Parisi makes the ride worthwhile.
7) Bronx Bomber Heidi's Brooklyn Deli Multiple locaions Pastrami and Egg Salad. The words go together awkwardly like Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe, Lyle Lovett and Julia Roberts, Michael Jackson and Priscilla Presley. But unlike the other three pairings, the deli world's odd couple belongs together. The Bronx Bomber is stacked so high with pastrami and egg salad that you have to use a fork to eat everything that falls out. I had mine with lettuce and tomato on two thick slabs of chewy sourdough bread that helped move this creation beyond the level of ordinary sandwich into the realm of near-perfect finds.
6) Aye Conyo Buchi Café Cubano 2651 West 38th Avenue, 303-458-1328 I would like to tell you about the awesome Cuban bread that Buchi Café Cubano uses for its stylish sandwiches, but I can't. Why? Because it's a secret, so secret that the proprietress of this elegant little café wouldn't even tell me where she gets it. But I can tell you about the Aye Conyo, described on the menu as "the mother of all Cuban mixes," and combining the typical Cubano ingredients -- roast pork, ham, cheese, pickles, onions and mustard -- with pepperoni, turkey and peppers. Don't tell anyone else, though. It's a secret!
5) Panama Red Cheba Hut 1531 Champa Street, 720-974-1880 Cheba Hut calls itself America's only "counter-culture" themed deli, and it's worth going to just for the artwork -- ´60s-style music posters and such -- the colorful decorations and the hilarious menu, which includes about thirty sandwiches named for pot. There's the Magic Mushroom, Endo, Afghani, Schwag and Pacific Blue, just to name a few. But if you can get beyond the smoke, the sandwiches are fantastic. The Panama Red had chunks of chicken drenched in a rich, spicy marinara sauce and then covered with two kinds of cheese. You can add any number of pizza-related toppings to give this one an extra punch; I had mushrooms and tomato. It was some seriously good grub, and I was stone-cold sober.
4) Roasted Veggie Hi*Rise 2162 Larimer Street, 303-296-3656 No bitter black olives, unripe peppers or wilty sprouts here. The Roasted Veggie came with mushrooms, fennel, tomato, hummus, radish sprouts and balsamic vinegar on rosemary yam focaccia, and it was freakin' delcious. I'm not sure if I've ever had fennel on a sandwich, but I should have. The sweet, licorice-y flavor smelled and tasted terrific and fresh with the chunky mushrooms and tomato. And the hummus provided the perfect complement for keeping the sandwich light.
3) Cubano Masterpiece Delicatessen 1575 Central Street, 303-561-3354 The concept of a Cuban sandwich, or Cubano, is a strange one: pork and pickles, pork and pickles, pork and pickles. It sounds like the name of a Hollywood production company that makes porno flicks. And Masterpiece does pork and pickles right. Start with the weighty chunks of soft pork, slow-roasted and marinated beyond what you'd find in a typical sandwich. Then layer on the ham and Swiss and pickles. Add to that the rich garlic aioli and mustard, and you have a delicious combo, happily nestled in a round brioche that was flaky on top, soft and sweet underneath.
2) Corned Beef Brisket and Swiss Snarf's 1001 East 11th Avenue, 303-832-9999 Hey! Who put the hot peppers on my corned beef brisket? Hey! Who put the corned beef brisket in my hot pepper relish? Yeah, I had a Reese's moment at Snarf's, the Boulder-born chain with a new link in Capitol Hill. This sandwich was innocently described on the menu as corned beef brisket and Swiss cheese. But when you add some hot pepper relish, things get Snarf-tastic, and fast. In fact, everything combined well on this awesome sandwich, including the beautifully toasted bread, and I'd swear there was some other ingredient not listed on the menu. I've now had several Snarf's sandwiches, and the names of all of them are tattooed on my forearms.
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1) Greenwich Village Mendelson's New York Delicatessen 600 17th Street, 303-996-5555 If sandwiches were movies, then Mendelson's triple-deckers would be the Lord of the Rings trilogy, a massive, three-part blockbuster, praised both for its scope and mass appeal as well as its artistic interpretation and the technical skill involved. The place starts with Boar's Head meats of an unbelievable variety, and layers them on so thick it's hard to open wide enough. In between, they load up all the other ingredients that make for classic, NYC-style sandwiches. The the Greenwich Village had two massive layers of turkey seasoned with pastrami -- one of four kinds of turkey on the menu. In between was a heaping helping of fresh coleslaw, Swiss cheese and, of course, the requisite Russian dressing. It was bigger than any sandwich I've tried so far. Now, here's the really dangerous part: Mendelson's Triple Decker Club. If you eat all 21 triple-deckers offered at this deli, you get a free Mendelson's jacket or sweatshirt and the honor and pride that go along with it. We're talking about a blockbuster here. You'll laugh, you'll cry. You'll be full for the rest of the day.
See all the rest of the sandwich reviews in the Our Weekly Bread archive.