The good old-fashioned sandwich is one of our most malleable meal staples, ranging from grab-and-go combos of bread and cold cuts to multi-layered gourmet offerings. Our favourite sandwich shops showcase the many flavours and textures one can fit on a bun or between two slices of bread.
Banh Mi Boys
A recent arrival to Toronto’s stuffed sandwich scene is Banh Mi Boys, which serves the eponymous Vietnamese sandwich in several incarnations—veal meatball, spicy beef or grilled chicken. Request your sandwiches traditionally styled, or get creative with pickled vegetables and kimchi. Taste test the tacos and steamed Chinese buns, too, and supplement your spicy sammie with a refreshing cherry or vanilla Coke. 392 Queen St. W., 416-363-0588.
This loose meat sandwich joint brings Midwest flavor to Rosedale. Pick your poison: roasted beef brisket or pulled pork shoulder; sauces such as charamoula mayo; toppings like sautéed cremini mushrooms, roasted sweet red peppers and fontina cheese. The finished product is a generous heap of slow-cooked meat in a soft bun that’s sure to satisfy your hunger pangs. Seating is limited, so expect to order and dash. 4 Crescent Rd., 416-929-7518.
Schwartz’s in Montreal rightly takes the Canadian smoked meat crown, but many consider Caplansky’s to be hot on its heels. The menu here is a love letter to classic delis, with burgers, mac ‘n’ cheese and all-day breakfast. But chef-owner Zane Caplansky has drawn a dedicated following with his straightforward smoked meat sandwich. Dainty eaters intimidated by the hunk of meat might request a slice of tomato or a leaf of lettuce, though you might want to prepare for a bit of good-natured ribbing. 356 College St., 416-500-3852.
St. Lawrence Market is a paradise for gourmands seeking fresh ingredients for their own cooking, but a few vendors do offer ready-made options. Most notable is Carousel Bakery, a long-standing Toronto favourite thanks to its famed peameal bacon on a kaiser bun. Canada’s signature bacon preparation, the pork loin is pickled in brine, generously slathered in cornmeal and then cured slowly. Carousel knows not to mess with a good thing—it provides only a few standard condiment packets as accompaniment. Otherwise, opt for a breakfast sandwich, which adds cheddar and a fried egg to the mix. 91-95 Front St. E., 416-363-4247.
Grilled cheese sandwiches are a childhood favourite, but Cheesewerks offers grown-up goodness—artisan Ontario cheeses, bread from local St. John’s Bakery, and Flying Monkeys beer to quench your thirst. At odds with the local mindset are the sandwiches themselves, named after international cities and inspired by the flavours associated with them: the Houston is piled high with pepper jack cheese and smoked pulled pork on Texas toast, while the Toronto-centric Danforth comes with feta and olive tapenade. 56 Bathurst St., 416-243-3327.
The Fish Store
You’ll find this sandwich shop, reminiscent of an old-school fish market, along a varied stretch of Little Italy. The tiny space is home to a grill, a small counter, an expanse of ice housing fresh fish and four first-come, first-served seats. Whether you’re hankering for grilled grouper, buttery bass or spiced salmon, The Fish Store has your catch of the day—set on a Portuguese bun and accented with romaine and a hint of tomato. 657 College St., 416-533-2822.
Murray’s Sandwich Emporium
True to its name, Murray’s is devoted solely to sandwiches. Though sides of soup, pulled pork chili and sweet potato fries may distracted you for a second, the main runs the gamut from a Polish-inspired breaded veal with eggplant sadwich to a chicken sandwich brimming with tzatziki and fries. For something a little sweeter, try the deep-fried Nutella with whipped peanut butter, or channel childhood with straightforward peanut butter and jam. 671 Queen St. W., 647-345-7644.
Porchetta and Co.
For all intents and purposes, the porchetta sandwich is the only item on the menu at this busy shop. Its journey begins with an unassuming piece of pork shoulder, marinated in spices for 24 hours, then wrapped in prosciutto and cured pork belly, slow-cooked, and, finally, carved and placed in a sourdough bun worthy of its contents. Rapini, truffle sauce and mushrooms are well-chosen (if mildly sacrilegious) toppings, while roasted potatoes and baked romano beans are available as sides. 825 Dundas St. W., 647-352-6611.
Sky Blue Sky Sandwich Company
Vegetarians and carnivores can break bread together at Sky Blue Sky—the menu features many meat-free options alongside smoked turkey, black forest ham, piquant capicola and more. Try the cucumber and baba ghanoush sandwich, or portobello mushrooms with avocado and slow-cooked onions. Substitutions and additions are welcome, so the sky is, indeed, the limit. And for what it’s worth, the shop is named after a Wilco album. Pop culture cred! 605 Bloor St. W., 647-351-7945.
Many dishes are offered at this intimate eatery, but by far the most inventive and rewarding are the “deconstructed sandwiches,” served Ethiopian-style on a platter with bread, meat, spreads and a generous heap of lightly dressed arugula in the center. The clove-spiced tourtiere sausage and the free-range chicken with savoury-sweet bacon jam are highly recommended. Sample the nicely curated wine list or enjoy a carefully steamed cappuccino, too. 1426 Bloor St. W., 647-342-1567