Here we are in Week 2 of my own Super Bowl of Sandwiches and we are down to the final eight sandwiches, four hot and four cold, for the Division Championship matchups.
Cold Sandwich Conference matchups: Pastrami/Corned Beef on Rye versus Banh Mi; and then Po Boy versus Lobster Roll.
In the first matchup, Pastrami/Corned Beef on Rye has a strong regional fanbase. Places like Slyman’s Deli in Cleveland and Katz’s Delicatessen in New York made it famous. It is a heavyweight, for sure. I absolutely love Slyman’s. However, the Banh Mi comes into the matchup as a much slimmer and perhaps more sophisticated sandwich. With its French baguette, sliced marinated pork, pickled veggies, cucumbers, fresh cilantro and other herbs, daikon radishes, pate, mayo and jalapenos as one popular combination, this diverse Banh Mi lineup comes through as the winner and moves on to the Conference Championship.
The second matchup has favorite the New Orleans, the Po Boy, facing off against the Lobster Roll, pride of New England. The Po Boy, served as a hot or cold sandwich and, like a Banh Mi, is a loose classification of sandwich that can have many versions. Also, like the Banh Mi, it comes on a French baguette. Fried shrimp and oysters dressed with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayo with hot sauce and melted butter as options is a common version. The Po Boy is tasty and has a huge following, but fares poorly when matched up against the Lobster Roll. While the Lobster Rolls is a very simple sandwich, served on a slightly toasted New England style hot dog bun with just a hint of lettuce and mayo, it features the most expensive player in the sandwich game, lobster! Lobster Roll wins!
So for the Cold Conference Championship, we have the Lobster Roll matched up against the Banh Mi. This is a tough matchup: most expensive ingredient in the sandwich game, lobster, versus the sophisticated and nicely balanced, light lineup of the Banh Mi. Both sandwiches have huge followings, but the Lobster Roll comes in second to the Banh Mi for one reason and one reason only: some people are just not seafood fans. While I personally love a good Lobster Roll, especially from the Dog Haus in Cape Cod, the price combined with the inability to get a good one in many areas of the country makes the Banh Mi my Cold Conference Champion!
Hot Sandwich Conference matchups: Reuben versus Italian Beef; and then Cuban will face Cheesesteak.
Reuben versus Italian Beef is as tough a matchup, as you will see! Italian Beef, popular in Chicago, is the essence of a hot juicy stacked sandwich, made famous by places like Portillo’s. Served on an Italian roll dipped in the au jus, it is stuffed with thin sliced seasoned beef, dripping with us jus, and topped with roasted sweet peppers and Chicago style (hot) Giardiniera (pickled carrots, cauliflower, celery, peppers). This is the “lean over so you don’t ruin your shirt” type of sandwich and it is so very delicious. But, the Reuben, well, that is a solid contender with a massive fan base. Corned beef, stacked high, swiss cheese, Russian dressing and sauerkraut grilled between slices of rye bread. This contest is over; I’m calling it as a Reuben victory. Sorry, Chicago, but the Reuben has a national fan base.
And finally, we have the Cuban versus the Cheesesteak. The Cuban is practically the official sandwich of Tampa, but it is made in cafes all over the country. It is a sophisticated combination of lightly buttered Cuban bread smeared with yellow mustard, layered with mojo marinated sliced roast pork, glazed ham, swiss cheese, thinly sliced dill pickles and, sometimes, Genoa salami. This is all pressed and heated in a flat sandwich press. I, for one, am a major fan, especially if it comes from The Columbia Restaurant in Tampa! Unfortunately for the Cuban, it was paired against the Cheesesteak, America’s sandwich. Thinly sliced and quickly grilled ribeye steak, with provolone cheese (at Gino’s) or cheese whiz (at Pat’s King of Steaks) melted over it, served on an Amoroso roll and topped, if you like, with grilled onions and peppers. Sorry, Cuban, but Cheesesteak wins!
So, we have the Super Bowl of Sandwiches matchup of Cheesesteak, the Hot Conference winner, versus Banh Mi, the cold conference winner. The sophisticated, light and refreshing Banh Mi puts up a masterful battle, but Cheesesteak wins with pure yum factor.
The Cheesesteak is our champion. Whiz wit!