Despite its apocryphal aristocratic origins, the sandwich is a humble beast. The Earl of Sandwich might have used bread to shield his playing cards from his meat, but these days, the sandwich is more often the go-to lunch for busy office dwellers, eaten at oneís desk between e-mails.
The lowly sandwich is often eclipsed by its flashier cousins: the burrito, the wood-fired or gourmet-topped pizza, the carb-watchers wrap. But itís the simple sandwich (So portable! So dependable!) we keep coming back to again and again.
Here are seven under-the-radar sandwiches (which also happen to be under the noses of Hill denizens) that deserve some love:
• In-the-know Senate staffers (and sometimes a Senator or two) head to the basement of the Senate side of the Capitol for the Baby Gourmetís BLT ($4.95), one of the best BLTs in town. The bacon is always crisp and plentiful, the bread toasted evenly, and the smear of mayo perfectly proportioned.
• Inside Gandelís Liquors, this unassuming House-side liquor store (211 Pennsylvania Ave. SE), a small deli counter turns out some unexpectedly good lunch fare. The Gandelís Special ($4.98) lives up to its moniker, with layers of capicola, mortadella and Genoa salami laced with tangy vinaigrette.
• Taylor Gourmet, the Philadelphia-style deli at 1116 H St. NE and 485 K St. NW, makes a case for the notion that the cheesesteak is Phillyís second-best sandwich. The Pattison Avenue ($7.20 for a 6-inch) is a version of the roast-pork hoagie made famous at iconic spots such as DiNicís in the City of Brotherly Loveís Reading Market: Hunks of slow-roasted pork shoulder, spicy broccoli rabe and tangy shards of provolone cheese are piled on a bun from famed Philly deli Sarconeís.
• How do you know thereís a great sandwich around? Take a cue from the contractorís trucks that pull up to Mangialardo & Sons, an old-school deli at 1317 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. Many a working manís lunch is the classic Italian sub called the G-Man ($6). The traditional array of meats (ham, bologna, pepperoni, salami, mortadella and turkey) is elevated by the bread on which itís served ó Mangialardoís gets theirs from the nearby Catania Bakery. Aficionados swear by the hard rolls, all the better to hold in the generous portions.
• When Eastern Market (225 Seventh St. SE) burned in 2007, Hill residents not only feared a local landmark would be lost, but they also worried about the disappearance of the marketís signature dish, the crab cake sandwich ($8.85) doled out at the Market Lunch. Fat discs of fresh crab, crisp on the outside and held together by a bit of binding, the delicacy hardly needs the soft bun that carries it. A ladle of the pickle-laced tartar sauce is a must.
• A pricier option is Art and Soulís Country Pastrami Reuben ($16), a heaping mound of rye bread, pastrami, chow chow (a homemade pickle relish) and swiss cheese, served with house-made chips. Art and Soul (415 New Jersey Ave. NW) takes Southern dishes and gives them a modern flair. The result is both chic and satisfying.
• The Napolitano meatball sub ($9) at Toscana, the tucked-away Senate-side takeout spot (there are a few tables upstairs and on the patio, 601 Second St. NE) is a find. The braised all-beef meatballs are the star: dense but not tough, and well-seasoned with ground pepper and flecks of parsley. Provolone and a tangy sauce provide delicious backup, while a house-made ciabatta roll soaks up just enough to keep the sub from getting too messy. Which, come to think of it, the Earl of Sandwich himself might applaud.
Visitors get their first look at the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, which opened to the public on Monday, Oct. 6, 2014. The new memorial is located off Independence Ave. SW between the Rayburn House Office Building and HHS. Buy photo here.