The 21 Best Sandwiches In Chicago

By now, you've probably heard about the hype surrounding Chicago's Italian beef sandwich made even more famous by the hit Hulu series The Bear. The beloved sandwich is one of the most iconic foods of Chicago and can trace its roots deep into the city's formative years. Although the exact history of the Italian beef isn't fully known, it first showed up in the early 1900s and was probably created by Italian immigrants that slow-roasted the tougher cuts of meat, then piled it up on Italian bread.

But to say the Italian beef is the only worthwhile sandwich the Windy City offers would be a massive understatement. The incredible food scene in Chicago provides some of the best sandwiches you can find anywhere, from jibaritos to tortas to fried chicken sandwiches to chicken parm subs. If you're a sandwich fiend, Chicago has everything you need. Luckily for you, we've compiled a list of some of the best sandwiches you'll find in Chicago.

1. J.T.'s Genuine's Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwich

One of the most universally loved sandwich shops in the city can be found at J.T.'s Genuine Sandwich Shop on North Elston Avenue in Irving Park. The sandwich shop was created by owner Christopher Cunningham who grew up near the Iowa border while his wife grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. "In general, we're pulling from the best of the Midwest region," he told Eater Chicago.

The menu in question features more than 10 sandwiches as well as a few rotating seasonal specialties, all of which are carefully crafted down to the last ingredient. You'll have to plan several trips to the restaurant if you want to try everything, but the standout here is the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich. It comes with an incredibly crispy pork loin on top of a buttery bun, with dill pickles, red onion, and lettuce, finished with seasoned breadcrumbs. The pork tenderloin sticks out on all sides of the sandwich, ensuring more than enough crunchy bites of heaven. 

2. Hermosa Restaurant's Cambodian Fried Chicken Sandwich

One of the hottest sandwiches in the city can be found in a tiny fusion restaurant called Hermosa. Named after the word "beautiful" in Spanish (as well as the neighborhood you'll find it in), Hermosa restaurant was created by Ethan Lim, who takes a thoughtful approach to his Cambodian background and applies flavors in unique, modern ways. "I wanted to find out how Cambodian food would evolve if the war had not happened," Lim told Eater, referring to the tragic Cambodian genocide that happened in the late 1970s, which directly affected his family.

At night, Hermosa acts as a Cambodian tasting menu that is booked out for months, but during the day, it's a sandwich shop. The most famous item to drop from the restaurant is the Cambodian fried chicken sandwich. It's built from a marinated skin-on chicken thigh combined with spices like lemongrass, turmeric, and garlic, as well as soy sauce and fish sauce. After it is deep fried, it's stacked with a sweet pickled papaya salad, herbs, and long beans. The result is an incredibly unique take on the fried chicken sandwich featuring a variety of textures and flavors.

3. Tempesta Market's Dante

Tempesta might look like a small, humble Italian deli and grocer, but it serves up some of the best sandwiches in the city. Created by the father-son team of Agostino and Tony Fiasche, Tempesta (meaning strong wind gusts or storms) features some of the highest-quality cured meats, sandwiches, salads, gelato, and gourmet pantry items. The team is also behind the famous Nduja Artisans Salumeria, which is well-known for its spreadable cured sausage, 'nduja.

The Dante is probably the most popular sandwich here. It features a wild variety of meats, including hot soppressata, finochinoa, mortadella, porchetta, and hot coppa. It's also stuffed with provolone, giardiniera, lettuce, tomato, and the famous 'nduja aioli, all on top of a baguette. Although this one might be the most talked about, other potential combinations are endless. Apparently, the deli has around 841 different ingredients used to create some of the most delectable sandwiches around.

4. The Reuben at Manny's Cafeteria & Delicatessen

If you're looking for an old-school experience that's practically ingrained into Chicago's history, look no further than Manny's Deli. Walk into this classic restaurant and you'll feel like you're transported right back to the '50s. The family-run diner can be traced back more than 70 years when a Russian-born chef who specialized in Jewish cooking named the restaurant after his son, Emanuel. The restaurant was passed down from generation to generation, but the legendary sandwiches have stayed the same.

You'll find plenty of Jewish staples here, like the lox and bagel, matzo brei, baked whitefish, and beef brisket. But Manny's is best known for its corned beef. You can grab a Reuben stacked with your choice of pastrami, turkey, or corned beef, along with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and thousand island dressing. If you really want to get wild, you can get the "What Am I, Chopped Liver?" that throws chopped liver into the mix with the corned beef, or the "My Four Kinder," which houses four types of meat: corned beef, pastrami, brisket, and turkey pastrami. Come hungry, leave happy.

5. The Cubano at TriBecca's Sandwich Shop

TriBecca's Sandwich Shop is the brainchild of chefs Becca Grothe, Josh Kulp, and Christine Cikowski. After several flings with sandwich pop-ups around the city, the trio finally landed a brick-and-mortar store. On the menu, you'll find incredibly creative sandwich offerings like the Tofu Horseshoe (tofu and cheese served open-faced), the Crispy "Frosted" Cauliflower (a panko-crusted cauliflower on a buttery bun) or the MaidWrong (a juicy loose-meat sandwich with onions and steak sauce), but the sandwich that stands out is the one that started it all for this shop: TriBecca's Cubano.

The shop's unique take on the Cuban classic involves a stack of mojo pork, ham, chipotle aioli, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard butter, carefully pressed into a neat package on ciabatta. As a bonus, Kulp's Tubers Donuts is located right in the same restaurant, so you can snag some unique potato donuts to top off the meal.

6. Mr. G at J.P. Graziano

If you're from Chicago, you've no doubt heard of J.P. Graziano — the legendary grocer that's been serving the West Loop since 1933. As legend has it, a young Sicilian man named Vincenzo Graziano came to America chasing a girl he was in love with but was heartbroken to find she was already engaged. He ended up arriving in Chicago anyway and built a thriving grocery store to serve the booming Italian population of Chicago. The store began distributing Italian specialty items like Moroccan snails and oil-cured olives and even sold its own olive oil under the name Victoria. 

Although the history of J.P. Graziano goes far back into Chicago history, it wasn't until 2007 that the store opened a sub shop. Word of mouth grew quickly, and the shop soon cemented itself as one of the best sandwiches in the city featuring super-fresh ingredients. The house specialty to pick up when you're in the area is the Mr. G. It features prosciutto di Parma, genoa salami, hot soppressata, truffle mustard, balsamic vinaigrette, artichokes, fresh basil, lettuce, and imported sharp provolone. It may sound like a lot, but the combination creates an incredible amount of flavor without going over the top.  

7. Italian Beef at Johnnie's Beef

What's better than getting the most iconic sandwich in Chicago? Getting arguably the best version of that sandwich at Johnnie's Beef. Although it's hotly contested, a lot of people will swear that Johnnie's Beef in Elmwood Park houses the best Italian beef around. If you head to the location without any previous knowledge of the spot, you might think you ended up in the wrong place. The humble restaurant resides in an old building with a single counter and looks like it's straight out of the '60s. 

The line moves fast so don't dither when it comes time to order. Order a "beef, juicy" (which means you'll get au jus poured over it) as well as which peppers you want (sweet peppers and spicy giardiniera). You'll be rewarded with a magnificent, sopping sandwich stuffed full of marinated beef in gravy-soaked bread — quite possibly the best Italian beef sandwich found in the city.

8. The Special at Ba Le Sandwiches

Ba Le Sandwiches is a popular spot in Uptown that features delicious bánh mì that can be quickly picked up from the casual counter-service restaurant. The story of Ba Le can be traced all the way back to the 1950s when founder Le Vo began selling his sandwiches on the side of the street. He eventually closed down shop and came to America in 1972. He opened his first Ba Le bakery in San Jose in 1982, and finally the legendary Chicago location in 1988. Today, his daughter Thuy runs the shop that features some of the most beloved sandwiches in the city. 

On the menu, you'll find several variations of the bánh mì, all of them served with pickled daikon, carrot, onion, cilantro, and jalapeño, all on top of crusty French bread. You can choose from a variety of proteins, such as BBQ pork, shrimp, and Vietnamese chicken, but the one to get here is the Special. This sandwich mirrors the same style found in Saigon, featuring ham, pate, head cheese, and pork roll. The result is a tasty, light sandwich perfect for a quick lunch break. 

9. Amy & Nettie at Big Kids

If you're looking for an incredibly fun, unique, and nostalgia-packed sandwich experience, look no further than Big Kids. The shop is the brainchild of Ryan Pfeiffer (former chef of the critically acclaimed Blackbird, sadly closed) and Mason Hereford. One step into the restaurant and you'll understand the theme: '90s nostalgia. You'll find fun foods reminiscent of your childhood, like deviled eggs, corn dog "nugz," and "tots" tossed in "boom boom spice" and "chz."  

The biggest reason to come is the sandwiches, though. You can grab a grilled cheese, a "Chicago Philly Chee," (the shop's take on the Italian beef), or an "Original Shiddy Burger" — that's "city" intentionally misspelled for comedic purposes, of course. But the sandwich we opt for here is the Amy and Nettie, which comes with a crispy fried chicken patty, roasted tomato chimichurri arugula, and provolone all stuffed into a French roll. The sandwich shop has rotated in and out other fun menu items like a fried bologna sandwich and a collard greens melt, so keep an eye on its menu. 

10. Ricobene's Breaded Steak Sandwich

Any sandwich that's been called "the best sandwich in the world" is worth checking out, which is what one writer for USA Today said about Ricobene's breaded steak sandwich. Even Anthony Bourdain featured Ricobene's monstrous sandwich on his show, Parts Unknown. Ricobene's is a casual pizza joint in Bridgeport that has served its community with high-quality pizza, sandwiches, and hot dogs since 1946 when the business was nothing more than a produce cart. When people weren't lining up to buy vegetables in the winter months, Rosario Ricobene decided to serve up hot meatball-and-sausage sandwiches. The sandwiches were a hit, but it wasn't until 1976 that the breaded steak sandwich hit the menu. 

Today, the massive sandwich has become an icon in the area. Order a breaded steak sandwich and you'll be awarded a huge crispy fried steak topped with plenty of melted cheese, sweet tomato sauce, and giardiniera. The result is a hot mess of flavors and textures that you'll probably end up spilling on your shirt.

11. Chicken Parmesan Sub at Nonna's Pizza & Sandwiches

Locals likely know Formento's, a staple for Italian cuisine in the West Loop neighborhood. Nonna's, however, is the little sister restaurant that slings sandwiches, pizza, and homemade desserts over the counter. Although it might be a little bit harder to find than the flashy Formento's, it's well worth it. Chef Tony Quartaro was inspired by the old-school Jewish and Italian neighborhood delis he saw during his New York upbringing, and he sought to bring those ideas with his own personal flavors to Chicago.

The sandwich to get here is the chicken parmesan sub. Although it's a classic staple you'll likely find at many Italian restaurants, Nonna's does it better than most. You'll get perfectly breaded and fried crispy chicken topped with gooey mozzarella and heaps of marinara, perfectly housed in Italian bread that is neither too soft nor too firm. The only thing that can make it better is asking for an extra serving of Nonna's giardiniera to perfectly balance the hearty flavors of this sub.

12. The Popular at Panes Bread Cafe

In a city packed to the brim with sandwich shops, it can be hard to stand out against the competition. But Panes Bread Cafe is one of the best places in the North Side of Chicago to grab a delicious, freshly prepared sandwich. As the name would suggest, the foundation of these great sandwiches starts with top-quality bread baked in-house. The sandwich menu is pretty extensive, which means there's a sandwich for just about every kind of person here, and they're all good. 

Some examples include the Oaxacan pork (pork loin, caramelized onions, and roasted red peppers) and the turkey (smoked turkey breast, avocado, roasted red peppers, on tomato bread), but the clear winner is aptly named the Popular. It all starts with the cafe's famous tomato bread that resembles focaccia. The bread is topped with chicken breast, spinach, caramelized onions, roasted peppers, and provolone cheese. The sandwiches aren't anything out of this world, but the freshness of the ingredients and bread make these sandwiches some of the best in the city. 

13. Nhu Lan Bakery's Roasted Pork Banh Mi

Over in Lincoln Square, you'll find lines swarming for Nhu Lan's famous bánh mìs that cost less than $10. Walk into the counter-service restaurant and you'll find yourself in a casual, grab-and-go environment. Depending on who you ask, Nhu Lan provides one of the best bánh mìs in the city. The first thing you'll notice when you walk in is the potent smell of fresh baguettes waiting to be filled with perfectly complementary ingredients to create the Saigon-style sub. Apparently, the bakery makes around 1,000 of them every single morning.

What makes the sandwiches here so special? Freshly baked baguettes, several different protein variations like pork belly, ham head, lemongrass chicken, meatballs, or even vegetarian options like tofu. Our favorite is the #2 bánh mi heo quay, otherwise known as the roast pork sandwich. The sandwich also comes with flavorful pate, sweet pickled daikon, cucumber spears, and plenty of cilantro. 

14. Fried Shrimp Po-Boy at Daisy's Po-Boy and Tavern

The infamous New Orlean's-style po-boy probably isn't the first sandwich that comes to mind when one thinks of Chicago but try a sandwich from Daisy's Po-Boy and Tavern and that's likely to change. Chef Erick Williams was directly inspired by his family's love for Cajun and Creole food and worked hard to bring those flavors up North. The restaurant follows a casual counter-service format where you can order several different types of po-boys, like spicy sausage, fried oyster, catfish, and even alligator. 

The classic to get here is the fried shrimp po-boy. It comes with lettuce, tomato, mayo, and pickles, perfectly layered between two slices of bread. Get your po-boy with a side of boudin balls (balls made of pork liver and rice), some biscuits, and finish it off with some vanilla ice cream, and you've got a meal that you'll be coming back for time and time again.

15. Prime Rib Melt at Wyler Road

Wyler Road is a sandwich shop that takes on two identities: a chill cafe where you can work and grab a coffee during the day, and a local dive bar with top-notch service at night. The owners of Wyler Road are the same people behind the popular dive bar The Burlington, but here you'll find the menu focused on fantastic sandwiches. 

On the menu, you can find plenty of classic favorites, like a fish sandwich with beer-battered cod or the classic Reuben. You'll also find plenty of vegetarian options, like a veggie version of a fried chicken sandwich or even a veggie Reuben. But the star of the show here is the prime rib melt, crammed full of shaved prime rib, balsamic shallots, melted provolone, in between two pieces of sourdough slathered with dijonnaise. It also comes with a hearty bowl of au jus for dipping. Oh, and don't forget to pick up some crispy cheese curds, as well. 

16. Bari's Italian Beef

Bari was opened back in 1973 by Joseph and Grace Pedota, two Italian immigrants. They opened the store to serve other Italian immigrants in the area with the highest-quality ingredients and great service, but what the shop came to be known for the most is its top-tier subs as well as its Italian-style sausages. 

At first glance, Bari is just a simple corner grocery store, but head to the back and you'll find the deli slinging some of the best sandwiches around. You'll find plenty of classics expected at an Italian deli, like a prosciutto and fresh mozzarella sandwich, a meatball sub, and an eggplant parm, but the standout here is the Italian beef. The beef comes out incredibly juicy and tender and is served with pickled veggies. The jus-soaked beef permeates into the bread to create that real Chicago beef experience. Get your Italian beef in a 9-inch or 12-inch sub. If you're feeling crazy, you can actually get a 3-foot sandwich from the shop as well.

17. Cafecito's Cubano

Cafecito is a delightful cafe serving up some of the best Cuban eats in the city featuring super-fresh ingredients. The cafe sets itself apart with the incredibly flavorful marinades used on its meats.

Although the cafe has an incredibly long menu of sandwiches, soups, and salads, you have to get Cafecito's rendition of the Cubano. In this sandwich, you'll find a simple stack of roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard, perfectly pressed in between two slices of bread that are crispy on the outside and pillowy on the inside. 

With that said, you'll need to make multiple trips to find all of the diamonds in the rough on this menu, with delicious Cuban offerings like shrimp ceviche, crema de pollo, or the choripan — a chorizo sandwich layered with chimichurri sauce. You can also try a Cafecito — a Cuban espresso with a bit of sugar dropped in.

18. Corned Beef Sandwich at Moon's Sandwich Shop

If you're looking for a sandwich that is really ingrained in Chicago's storied history, look no further than Moon's Sandwich Shop. Ever since 1933, Moon's has been serving up inexpensive food to the working class. Back then, it was known for selling very inexpensive hamburgers served "Italian style" with breadcrumbs and Italian spices.

This old-fashioned diner has been feeding its community staples including juicy hamburgers, fluffy pancakes, chopped steaks slathered in gravy, and classic patty melts on rye bread. According to the Chicago Sun Times, the diner still cracks open more than 200 dozen eggs every week. One popular invention by Moon's is the "Jumpball Scramble" — a breakfast sandwich stuffed with Italian sausage and scrambled eggs with onions and potatoes.

But the must-get at this historic diner is the corned beef sandwich. It comes with an intimidatingly big stack of Vienna corned beef, lettuce, pickles, tomato, and mustard on rye bread.

19. Phodega's Viet Dip

The first thing you'll notice when you walk up to Phodega is the sign reading, "Don't Try It, You Won't Like It." The second thing you'll notice is it looks exactly like what the name promises: part pho restaurant, part bodega. The name itself seems to imply the spot strives to travel beyond the limits of a normal pho shop. On the restaurant's website, you'll find the owners are mostly inspired by Vietnamese and Singaporean dishes because, in their words, "That's where our moms came from," but check the menu and you'll find other goodies like Korean-style dumplings, pizza puffs, and Phodega fries.

As promised, most of the main features of the menu are different types of pho noodle dishes and Singaporean dishes like Hainan-style chicken rice. But the real magic lies in the Viet dip, a fun and unique twist on the Chicago beef (or French dip, depending on how you want to look at it). It comes with shaved ribeye, onions, jalapeños, and cilantro on French bread. It also comes with a dip of pho jus to get the sandwich nice and moist.

20. Kasama Combo Sandwich

Trivia question: What restaurant is the only Michelin-starred Filipino restaurant in the entire world? Answer: Chicago's own Kasama. When owners Genie Kwon and Tim Flores first started the idea for Kasama, it was only supposed to be a humble bakery serving pastries and sandwiches. However, the restaurant blossomed into a full 13-course dinner service featuring a fine dining tasting menu.

During the day, however, Kasama still fulfills the owners' vision of being a casual, over-the-counter pastry shop during lunch hours. You'll find a long list of pastries, from banana bread to chocolate ganache croissants to ube cakes. There are also Filipino favorites like lumpia, chicken adobo, and Filipino breakfast — a fried egg on garlic rice with either tocino or longanisa sausage.

But if you come, get the Kasama combo sandwich. This sandwich is Chef Tim Flores' ode to Chicago's famous Italian beef. It comes with shaved slices of pork dunked in adobo jus, house-made longanisa sausage, and giardiniera.

21. Ahogada Torta at Xoco

Rick Bayless is many things: accomplished restaurateur, cookbook author, cooking competition winner, Mexican product line entrepreneur. But most importantly for the sake of this article, he's the creator of one of the tastiest sandwiches in Chicago. Right next to his iconic flagship restaurant Frontera in River North, Rick opened a casual restaurant called Xoco, which appropriately translates to "little sister." 

Here, you'll find plenty of delicious street food and snacks from Mexico, like crispy fried churros dipped into chocolate sauce, the chorizo-egg torta, and a rich red pozole. But the most popular item here is the Ahogada torta — a "drowned sandwich" filled with rich, crispy chunks of golden pork carnitas, tangy pickled onions, and black beans, all resting in a deep red tomato-arbol chili broth.

The sandwiches here don't reinvent the wheel, but the difference is in the quality of ingredients. The bread is specially developed for Xoco at Labriola Baking Company, the ingredients come straight from farmers at the Green City Market, and the sandwiches are constructed with absolute precision down to the last ingredient.