Where To Eat When You Just Want A Sandwich
16 places where the only thing that matters are the sandwiches.
You never know when it’s going to hit you. Maybe you’ll be at the dentist, or driving up Barham, or hiding in the bathroom at work. But suddenly it happens - your body needs a sandwich. Not a sandwich, a few appetizers, and a compliment from the waiter. Just meat, toppings, and some form of bread. And you’re in luck - because there’s a lot of great places where you can get that in this town. Whether it’s a bagel shop in Silver Lake or a Vietnamese cafe in the back of a Playa del Rey convenience store, here are 16 great places to go when you just want a sandwich.
There isn’t a sandwich more synonymous with the city of Los Angeles than The Godmother at Bay Cities. And for good reason - it’s incredible. Prosciutto, ham, capicola, mortadella, salami, and provolone all stacked between crunchy Italian bread and topped with “the works” - a heaping pile of mild and spicy peppers. That said, whether it’s a caprese or a turkey pastrami, this Italian deli is loaded with excellent sandwiches, and you need to try all of them. Tip: Bay Cities is always busy, so if you want to skip the line, be sure to call-in your order and head right to the counter.
ASAP Phorage is permanently closed
If you start thinking about ASAP Phorage’s washugyu beef pho the moment your plane begins its descent into LAX, we have that in common. But the real secret at this tiny Vietnamese shop in the back of a convenience store in Playa del Rey are the banh mi sandwiches. The lemongrass pork and jidori chicken are both excellent, but it’s the ground beef curry with shaved coconut and red curry aioli that keeps us up at night. Or should we say, while we’re trying to get some sleep on the plane.
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Plain and simple, you won’t find a better top-to-bottom sandwich menu in LA than the one at Wax Paper. Located inside a shipping container next to the LA River in Frogtown, this tiny shop is nothing more than a counter and a side patio, but when the sandwiches taste this incredible, you don’t need any bells and whistles. All the sandwiches are named after NPR hosts, and while you truly can’t order a bad one, if it’s your first time, the bologna-and-salami-packed Larry Mantle is a must.
Philippe The Original
Open since 1908, Philippe is one of the oldest restaurants in the entire city and - as its name implies - is the home of the original French dip sandwich (though the folks at Cole’s would beg to differ). Frankly, we don’t care if they were the first, second, or 50th place to make it, we come to this deli in Chinatown because their version is still our favorite. Perfectly cooked roast beef in a baked French roll that’s been double-dipped in the gravy from the roast. Add the house mustard that sits on every table and you’ve got one of the most iconic sandwiches in LA.
The Oaks Gourmet Market
Situated amongst the screeching improv actors and Scientology centers of Franklin Village, Oaks Gourmet is one of our favorite spots for a quick lunch in Hollywood. While this order-at-the-counter market/cafe is best known for their burger, their sandwiches are almost as good. If we’re there in the morning, we always go for the Italian Breakfast sandwich with crispy pancetta, but at lunchtime, it’s all about the Ultimate BLT with brie. If you’re heading to the Hollywood Bowl, they do excellent picnic baskets as well.
Let’s cut to the chase - this Venice bakery is a chaotic mob scene nearly every day of the week, and if they had Xanax on their menu, we’d order it. That said, the sandwiches are worth every ounce of stress and anxiety you’ll inevitably experience. Whether it’s the bialy egg breakfast sandwich, the tuna conserva, or the porchetta melt, these are easily our favorite sandwiches in Venice, and Gjusta is an essential pit stop after a day at the beach.
Larchmont Wine and Cheese
When you first walk into Larchmont Wine and Cheese, you’ll wonder why you’re standing in the middle of a fancy wine shop. Don’t worry - you’re here for the tiny sandwich counter in the back. There, you’ll find simple, fantastic sandwiches that will completely change what you fantasize about during your lunch hour. Our favorite is the #5 (Italian prosciutto, arugula, mozzarella, and olive oil), but the homemade tuna salad shouldn’t be missed either. Just make sure you show up early - once they sell out for the day, they’re done.
Jackson Market and Deli
Culver City is full of neighborhood restaurants, but nothing quite matches the atmosphere of Jackson Market. This grocery and deli is located on an entirely residential street, and if you didn’t look closely you’d probably assume it was just another house on the block. Order any of their tremendous sandwiches (we like the Italian sub or Jackson Club panini), head to the hidden back patio with an actual pond, pull out a good book, and pretend you’re Diane Keaton in a late-in-life romance movie.
It’s easy to assume the Pier is the center of all things Malibu, but one trip over to the Country Mart will prove you wrong. The upscale outdoor mall is a scene cut right from a Kate Hudson lifestyle blog, but once you navigate through a seemingly endless row of L’Occitanes, you’ll find John’s Garden. The 40-year-old sandwich shop/window is a Malibu classic, serving simple and excellent sandwiches at decent prices ($8-12 a sandwich). Lines get long during peak weekend hours, but if you’re looking for some post-hike nourishment, John’s is where you go.
This Eastside bagel pop-up is now a full order-at-the-counter shop in Silver Lake, and it serves our favorite bagel sandwiches in town. Open only until 2pm on weekdays (it’s closed on Tuesday), you definitely need to get here early before things start selling out, but if you’re eating bagels and lox past 1pm, you either work a morning shift or are on a very special kind of bender. Either way, order the smoked whitefish and labneh bagel with za’atar and cucumber.
Eastside Market Italian Deli
We love Eastside Market because even after more than five years, this Italian deli on the outskirts of Downtown still feels like a secret. Their sandwiches are the messy, red sauce-covered variety that are hard to find anywhere else in LA. The #7 (roast beef, pastrami, and cheese) is probably our favorite, but if you’re feeling ambitious, the D.A. Special (sausage, meatball, roast beef, and pastrami) is your one-way ticket to an all-day nap.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
E Stretto is a tiny sandwich counter at the front of Bar Clacson and the Slipper Clutch in Downtown, and a great option when you don’t feel like dealing with the hordes of tourists and power-lunchers at Grand Central Market. The menu has about eight sandwiches on it (plus some salads that you don’t need to order), and we tend to go for the chorizo-and-manchego-filled Ill Papa or the roast beef that comes with a cup of melted cheese on the side.
This is an Italian supermarket with hard-to-find cheeses, imported pastas, and - for the purposes of this list - a nameless sandwich you’ll find pre-wrapped and stacked on the deli counter. It’s as simple as a sandwich can get, just a couple slices of provolone and some cured meat (specifically capicola, mortadella, and salami) on a freshly baked roll. But with ingredients this excellent, it’s all a sandwich really needs. You, along with 37 other people on their lunch break, will grab it, pay $5.50 for it, and revel in the fact that you’re eating something this fantastic on the hood of your car in a Pasadena parking lot.
Wexler’s Deli started as a tiny stall in Grand Central Market and has since expanded to include locations in Santa Monica, DTLA, Century City, and Palm Springs. Regardless of which location you end up at, know you’re going to be getting tremendous Jewish deli-style sandwiches. The MacArthur Park is their ode to the Langer’s famous #19 and is already a top-three pastrami sandwich in LA, they have an excellent egg salad sandwich, and the Uncle Leo (bagel, lox, onion, and egg) has saved our lives on multiple hazy Sunday mornings.
Tarzana Armenian Deli And Grocery
In case you haven’t been keeping up with the Kardashians, LA has one of the largest Armenian populations outside of Armenia itself - and that means we have some of the best Armenian food around. One place you need to immediately check out is Tarzana Armenian Deli, the family-run Valley institution operating since 1972. They claim to be the originators of the pita wrap, and in the spirit of generosity, we’ll give it to them. Because either way, those babies are delicious.