Rarely will you find a bad sandwich. If the bread is decent and the fillings fine, it's hard to go wrong. There is, however, a big difference between a passable sandwich and a sublime one. When the elements of a sandwich come together in complete harmony, it's a beautiful thing.
I love that sandwiches aren't linked to a specific time of day. They can be eaten at any meal and are, for the most part, easy to eat and easy on the wallet. Following are some of my favorites that I could enjoy during breakfast, lunch or dinner.
My absolute favorite sandwich can be bought with spare change. A Vietnamese sandwich, or bahn mi, is a wonderfully simple but intensely flavored Asian version of a sub. Served on a baguette-style roll that would put a lot of French bakeries to shame with its excellent crispy crust and soft interior, Bale Sandwich Shop's bahn mi costs roughly $2.50, so you can afford to treat yourself and your friends to a picnic-in fact, if you buy five sandwiches, you get one for free. The tastiest version is loaded with slices of sweet barbecued pork, crunchy pickled carrots and turnips, fresh slices of cucumber and jalapeño and a tangle of cilantro. The same vibrant veggie mix tops all 14 bahn mi varieties, some filled with tofu, egg, fish or meat. The sandwiches are healthy but by no means bland: Each bite of crusty bread, savory meat and crisp veggies is a delicious contrast of flavors and textures. Bale Sandwich Shop, 6937 Linda Vista Road, Suite C, Linda Vista, 858-565-8057.
Sometimes it's the bread that makes a sandwich great, and Bread on Market's focaccia is just about perfect. Its big, golden slabs of house-made rosemary and olive oil-scented bread are sliced into soft, spongy pillows and generously slathered with sweet mustard for the homey and comforting Classic Turkey sandwich, one of my weekly must-eats. The Tuscany sandwich, dressed with fresh mozzarella, roasted peppers, olives and arugula is almost enough to lure me to vegetarianism but I'm pulled back over to the dark side by the thick-cut, maple-cured bacon in the irresistible BLT. Bread on Market's cubby-sized outdoor patio is a great sunny lunch spot for people-watching and work-avoiding. Bread on Market, 730 Market St., Gaslamp Quarter, 619-795-2730.
Grab & Go Subs has outposts all over town, but the best location is the little orange house in Little Italy and its best sandwich is the Tunisia tuna salad sandwich. I can say this because it's the only tuna sandwich I enjoy and even crave. It's probably because Grab & Go's version of the tuna sandwich isn't adulterated with tons of gloppy mayonnaise, which can turn the tuna into bland fish paste. Instead, the tuna is mixed with an oil-and-vinegar dressing, a medley of red peppers, capers, chives and olives and heaped onto toasted fresh Italian bread. It's simple, light and supremely tasty. Grab & Go Subs, 2102 India St. Little Italy, 619-238-5353.
When I have a sandwich for dinner, I want something warm-maybe oozing with melted cheese or dripping with a rich, thick sauce-something really satisfying that doesn't leave me wishing I'd sprung for a real dinner. Someone at Capriotti's Sandwich Shop in Hillcrest must be in my head because its signature Capistrami sandwich is what would happen if my two favorite hot sandwiches, the Ruben and the Pastrami, got it on and made one very delicious baby.
Hot and tender pastrami is piled on a warm Italian roll and topped with melted Swiss cheese, coleslaw and tangy Russian dressing to create a hearty and gratifying meal. And anyone looking to revisit Thanksgiving dinner without any family awkwardness will be happy with The Bobbie, which includes turkey, cranberry sauce and stuffing. Capriotti's regular turkey subs are better than most, thanks to the addition of a hot pepper sauce and carved homemade turkey. For non-meat-eaters, Capriotti's offers soy versions of a lot of its sandwiches, including veggie-friendly Philly cheesesteaks or salami and turkey subs. All sandwiches are made to order and come in three sizes depending on your hunger level. Capriotti's, 646 University Ave., Hillcrest, 619-692-0100.