The sandwich is without question humankind's crowning culinary creation. Self-contained for easy eating no matter the situation, built on bread, the cornerstone of civilization, and available in a mind-boggling variety of configurations for every taste, the sandwich is so all-encompassing that it can't even be defined by one name. Call them hoagies, grinders, subs or po'boys, or hop to another locale for tortas or banh mi — the sandwich has the ability to transcend cultural differences. Here's our list of the twelve best sandwiches shops in Denver, in alphabetical order.
1644 Platte Street
Culinary all-stars Steven Redzikowski and Bryan Dayton opened this Platte Street joint in January 2016, and fans of the duo's highly acclaimed full-service ventures (Oak at Fourteenth and Acorn) will recognize elements that run like swoon-worthy motifs across their menus. That means the meatballs we know and love, this time snuggled on ciabatta in the best meatball sandwich you'll ever eat, but it also means a porchetta-and-kimchi sandwich and other stacks built from rotisserie meats. This isn't a poor man's Acorn; it's exquisite (fan)fare for the common man, dished up in a fun, mod fast-casual space where sandwiches are treated with the same respect as plated entrees.
City & Country Deli & Sausage Co.
2393 South Downing Street
Owners Coy and Rachael Webb opened City & Country just two doors down from their popular barbecue joint, Roaming Buffalo Bar-B-Cue, in summer 2016. The shop is small and dominated by a deli case stocked with the likes of elk bologna, pastrami, corned beef, slow-roasted eye of round, bacon, molasses ham, pecan-smoked andouille and other fresh sausages — all made in-house. If you're craving an old-school deli sandwich, there's a roster of sandwiches stuffed with pastrami, corned beef, roast turkey or egg salad, each given a working-class name like the Store Clerk, the Plow Hand and the Barnyard Brawl.
Curtis Park Delicatessen
2532 Champa Street
Classic deli sandwiches are the selling point of Curtis Park Deli, but somehow they up the game with the freshest ingredients and loving touches like housemade aiolis and the best cheeses. Vegetarians flock here, too, for meatless masterpieces that satisfy sandwich cravings. Lunches are always busy and sandwiches often sell out, so it's good news that the deli is soon opening a second location on East Sixth Avenue.
5307 Leetsdale Drive
At Las Tortas, the only thing louder than the thumping of the music is the sizzling from the griddle, so you'll need to lean closer to the person across the table and shout just to be heard. But once your sandwiches come, there's no time for talking, much less shouting, because food this good — and this messy — demands to be eaten quickly. Put down your suiza (chicken, ham and cheese) or norteña (steak, Milanesa, cheese) and you risk losing all the other toppings — refried beans, mayonnaise, onions, tomatoes, avocado and chipotle sauce — pressed between the bread. Don't miss the tortas ahogadas, a Guadalajaran specialty with griddle-crisped chunks of carnitas spilling out of baguette-like bolillos. Soften the crust with a smother of spicy, vinegary tomato sauce, and you'll wonder why you ever ate turkey with avocado.
Il Porcellino Salumi
4334 West 41st Avenue
Denver's first full-service salumeria, with everything from pâté to pig-stamped chocolates made in-house, opened in Berkeley in 2016 with a deli case full of pork products and plenty of slow-agers curing in the back. But before you load up with salami, coppa, chorizo, country ham and other expertly made meats to go, hang out for a while with a sandwich so good you may never want to leave. There are several to choose from, and they're all stuffed with Il Porcellino's housemade meats. Perhaps the best is called simply the Bacon, with layers of thin-sliced bacon (cooked soft, not crunchy), tomato, apple butter and a heady fondue made from Italian cacio pecora cheese, all swaddled between slices of jalapeño-cheddar bread. For a more traditional grinder, order the Hoggie, piled thick with coppa cotta, ham and Genoa salami cotta. Go ahead: You have our permission to pig out.
1575 Central Street
You can get a sandwich just about anywhere, but if you want to wrap your muzzle around a monument, then you need to go to the master of sandwich-making. And that's Masterpiece Deli, the spot that Justin Brunson opened ten years ago in Lower Highland, before this part of town was a hot restaurant neighborhood. The come-to-Jesus white-truffled egg salad is the best in the city, but you can say the same for the Italian and the roasted vegetable, the pastrami special and the braised beef brisket on a baguette. This shop sticks to a simple formula: Use the best ingredients you can get your hands on (Brunson's own bacon, for example) — and the result is inevitably a masterpiece.
Olive & Finch
1552 East 17th Avenue, 303-832-8663
3390 East First Avenue, 303-955-0455
Olive & Finch is so much more than a sandwich shop, but chef/owner Mary Nguyen builds such amazing meat-and-bread constructions that most sandwich-only spots pale in comparison. Many of the choices are named after Nguyen's friends and family, so choose from the Luca, an Italian stack; the Bennett, a veggie mix with sweet basil pesto; or the Cashman, which combines roast beef and caramelized onion with Brie and horseradish aioli. Our favorite is the Greggers, a messy pile of beef tongue cooked for six hours and then topped with garlic, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers and tarragon aioli. In a stroke of pure sandwich genius, Nguyen puts many of the sauces on top of the meats and veggies instead of underneath, so the bread doesn't get soggy and the flavors come to the forefront. Get to know these creations on a first-name basis.
Rosenberg's Bagels & Deli
725 East 26th Avenue, 720-440-9880
2501 Dallas Street, Aurora, 303-955-0466
When Joshua Pollack moved to Colorado from the East Coast, he lamented the lack of good bagels. Years later, after a short-lived career in the mortgage business and other entrepreneurial ventures, he decided to change that, and opened Rosenberg’s. Pollack is so obsessed with correct bagel-making technique that he reconfigures his water, adjusting the mineral content so that it more closely mimics New York City tap. And the rest of the bagel-making process at Rosenberg’s, from proofing to boiling to baking, is just as exacting. Load those bagels with housemade lox and gravlax — or house-cured pastrami, which Pollack rolled out when the Five Points location reopened after a fire. A word of warning: Prepare for a line, whether you're patronizing that original restaurant or the new outlet in Stanley Marketplace.
Salt & Grinder
3609 West 32nd Avenue
Restaurateur Frank Bonanno has built his reputation on singular dishes — like the lobster macaroni and cheese at his flagship eatery, Mizuna — and fine-dining experiences that strike a balance of fun and elegance. But beneath the chef's coat beats the heart of a New Jersey kid raised on Taylor pork roll and meatball subs. So it's not surprising that when he decided to open his own sandwich shop, Bonanno hit the mark with East Coast classics piled high onto soft rolls. Housemade sausage and rare-cooked roast beef highlight a menu that also features pitch-perfect egg salad, Luca marinara and fresh burrata. While many of the ingredients aren't fancy — grinders are adorned with thin tomato slices and iceberg lettuce — the combination of simplicity and a few key bursts of flavor and originality makes each sandwich an exercise in nostalgia and comfort.
Snarf's Sub Shop, the beloved sandwich spot with a hippie vibe, got its start when Jim Seidel opened his first sub shack in Boulder in 1996. Then, as now, Snarf's knew to do a few things really right: It has a good filling-to-bread ratio, uses high-quality meats and vegetables, and relies on a broiler to give the outside of each sandwich an excellent, toasty crunch. But what really sets Snarf's apart is its housemade giardiniera, a spicy mix of marinated carrots, celery and peppers that can — and should — be added to anything you order. The Colorado-based chain has since crossed state lines, with locations in Chicago and St. Louis, but whether in a shack or a sexy condo complex, Snarf's makes a solid sub.
1300 Pennsylvania Street
The sandwiches at Sub-Culture bring in a lot of pick-up business on their own merit: Everyone knows that when it comes to sandwiches, it's the little things that count, and this shop nails them. The bread is the perfect blend of chewy and crusty; the ingredients are fresh, high-quality and plentiful, with plenty of vegetarian options available. However, it's also an excellent place to sit and pass some time if you're so inclined. There's a patio with a perfect view of the intersection of 13th Avenue and Pennsylvania Street (great for summertime people-watching), and sports fans who don't want to deal with brosephian machismo, terrible food and light beer will enjoy Sub-Culture's indoors with its big television and punk-rock-meets-indie-cinema aesthetic. There are scores of sandwich combos — both hot and cold — to choose from, but you can't go wrong with a hefty meatball sub.
Vinh Xuong Bakery
2370 West Alameda Avenue, 303-922-0999
3501 Wazee Street (inside Zeppelin Station)
If there's one secret to understanding Denver dining, it's that the best food is often hiding out in a nondescript strip mall. Vinh Xuong Bakery II is tucked into one such mall, and the bright and airy coffee shop not only makes some of the best sandwiches around, but it's kind on the wallet, too. At lunch you can grab a grilled pork banh mi on a flaky hunk of French bread, pair it with a Vietnamese iced coffee and a mildly sweet and chewy sesame ball, and come away with change from a ten-dollar bill — even after tipping. From the baguettes to the cured and pressed deli meats, everything is made in-house, so this steal of a meal is consistently good on every single visit. And Vinh Xuong just opened a second sandwich counter at the shiny, new Zeppelin Station, bringing banh mi to a whole new audience.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.