4500 SE Stark St., Italianmarketpdx.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
Some people have a problem with Philadelphia. How anyone could dislike the city that gave us Questlove and the Allen Iverson “practice” speech is beyond me. Maybe it has to do with booing Santa Claus. Or maybe it’s the cheesesteak. While no one can deny the genius of slopping fistfuls of sliced beef, cheese and onions onto a bun and calling it a sandwich, a picture of Chip Kelly with cheesesteak juice dribbling down his chin is a pretty good symbol of our country’s obesity problem.
Consider the Italian Market a small attempt at rehabilitating the image of Philadelphia cuisine. Even if the name conceals its origins, the cart—conjoined to Belmont Station—doesn’t hide its aggressive Philly-ness: the Phillie Phanatic is spray-painted right onto its doors. But instead of the city’s chief culinary cliché, transplanted Philadelphians Erin Callahan and Andrew Vidulich serve up what they refer to as the true street food of South Philly. This includes the Federal ($8), an Italian sub Vidulich says is a staple of his hometown. Densely packed with shredded roast pork and provolone, the meat is offset by broccoli rabe, giving the sandwich a distinctly earthy flavor. Or there’s the Passyunk ($8), a similarly weighty eggplant sub with fresh housemade pesto and mozzarella. Both sandwiches are served on thick Italian bread from Southeast Portland’s Alessio Baking Co., which, unlike a typical cheesesteak, keeps them from being disintegrated by grease.
The Italian Market should go a long way toward repairing Philadelphia’s relationship with some of its local haters. Then again, some folks will never let their rivalries go. It’s their loss. MATTHEW SINGER.
128 NE Russell St. and other locations, 328-2865, bunksandwiches.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
Bunk Bar Wonder is the most hidden member of what’s now a Bunk sandwich dynasty. Below street level, the bar serves beer and slushy margaritas amid the thumps of sound-check for the band upstairs. But you won’t be distracted for long from the sandwiches. The menu includes a monthly vegetarian special, but the most popular and notably best item on their menu—available at every location—remains the Pork Belly Cubano ($10), a mouthwatering toasted-to-perfection sandwich loaded with pork belly, ham, melted cheese and pickles. They can open spots on Alberta Street or the moon; that sandwich still tastes new every time you eat it. SAVANNAH WASSERMAN.
1711 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 236-8067, devilsdill.com. Dinner and late night Tuesday-Sunday. Delivery.
If you’re not from the Midwest, you might wonder why anyone would keep a sandwich shop open until 3 am. But drunken college kids without much to do require massive sandwiches to soak up the booze—and Devil’s Dill delivers. The prize of Devil’s nine-item menu is the five-spice pulled pork ($9.50), served with sesame slaw and a chili-garlic barbecue sauce that’s sweet with a mild bite. The pork is soft and smoky, perfectly complemented by the slaw on top. The sesame flavor was lost in the slaw, but served as a textural counterbalance. This is the kind of sandwich you eat while walking backward lest you want a drippy red mess all over your trousers. PETE COTTELL.
Grant’s Philly Cheesesteak
15350 NE Sandy Blvd., 252-8012. Lunch and dinner Monday-Friday.
Sure, places like Shut Up and Eat have shown the mettle of a high-end cheesesteak, but as our friends in Philly would say: Fack that. The best Broad Street bomb comes from way the fuck out on Northeast Sandy, where Grant’s fills its tiny shack with the sweet aroma of grilled steak and onions with a side of brotherly love and, for good measure, Tastykakes. Cheesesteaks come piled into an Amoroso bun, with the option to go for a half-pound torpedo ($11) or a quarter-pound gut bomb ($6.25). You can load it with Tillamook cheese or stick with the Whiz, and sub steak for chicken or vegan steak…but only if you want to ruin your life. AP KRYZA.
Ken’s Artisan Bakery
338 NW 21st Ave., 248-2202, kensartisan.com. Breakfast, lunch and early dinner daily. Pizza night on Monday.
Tech-guy turned bread-geek, Ken Forkish, saved his best for first. Ten years in, stellar loaves still issue from the bakery space that dominates a nondescript Northwest Portland storefront. In the tightly packed seating area out front, the same breads form the foundation for about a dozen sandwiches described on a big blackboard overhanging cold cases filled and topped with a theme park of pastries, each silently shrieking “eat me!” Grab a banh mi ($6.50) on Ken’s signature baguette or classic (meaning ridiculously rich) croque monsieur ($9). Finish with a cannele or chocolate croissant, and fergodsakes, try to be patient with the tourists. MICHAEL C. ZUSMAN.
1212 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 234-7786; 1205 SW Washington St., 241-2490, lardopdx.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
Funny thing about Lardo: Despite the shop’s fatback name and its consistently solid sourcing, the best parts of their sandwiches are rarely the meat. Indeed, one of the better ’wiches on the menu sports none at all. The rapini ($9) is an oily-spicy salad of hearty greens, with the deep notes of the rapini leavened by the sweet vinegars of a red-pepper agrodolce; there’s a similar play in the tuna melt ($10), choc-a-bloc with Mama Lil’s peppers, tapenade and shaved fennel. But still, have you had the pork-belly gyro? It’s fat on fat on fat, like big ol’ elephants in love, and every bit as emotional. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
939 NW 10th Ave., 208-3113, lovejoybakers.com. Breakfast, lunch and early dinner daily.
Like Dwell magazine, this Pearl cafe seeks the finer things in simplicity. The lamb meatloaf sandwich ($9) is like a patty melt with its pinky up: warm and hearty, with the surprise snap of green beans. Alongside fresh takes on classics, inspirations from global cuisine include duck confit banh mi ($9) and a smashed chickpea sandwich ($7.25). The Lovejoy salad ($13.50) has three meats and an egg, while the complex roasted-beet salad ($7.75) features frisee, grapefruit and chevre. They’ve also just started a dinner-to-go ($18) for three to four people; call for the daily selection. But if you prefer, you could just get a breakfast sandwich for dinner—they’re available all day. LYLA ROWEN.
Meat Cheese Bread
1406 SE Stark St., 234-1700, meatcheesebread.com. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
Meat Cheese Bread flies consistently under the radar, and the name is perhaps to blame: It bespeaks a European austerity of good sourcing and little imagination, streetside Italian shops of crisp baguette and dry salami. That’s all well and good, but it’s not what’s going on here. Meat Cheese Bread’s sandwiches are fun. Their BLB ($9) cuts the freezer-trucked weak link in the classic BLT in favor of the delightfully sweet crispness of a winter beet, while their Cuban pulled pork ($9) is textured with apple-soaked jicama slaw. That’s not even counting the overlooked breakfast menu that includes a sandwich with bread pudding, sausage, cheddar and fennel ($7.50) that would make your English grandmother cry because she’s no longer needed. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Shut Up & Eat
3848 SE Gladstone St., 719-6449, shutupandeatpdx.com. Breakfast, lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday.
Everyone knows Shut Up & Eat makes a mean cheesesteak: The Broad Street Bomber has a well-deserved reputation as one of the city’s best messes of top round steak, fried onions, cheddar, provolone and peppers. But this little Creston-Kenilworth diner is perhaps even more impressive at breakfast. Beginning at 9 am every day, housemade biscuits and English muffins are topped with runny fried eggs plus roasted butternut squash and housemade maple sausage or caramelized onions, arugula, asiago, provolone and grilled mortadella. All that and hash browns with zucchini, house-squashed apple sauce or the best potato chips in town. Potato chips for breakfast? Withhold judgement until you’ve tried them. MARTI CIZMAR.
4529 SE Division St., 971-373-8267, thewoodsmanmarket.com. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
I was fuzzy on the details of the best sandwich I’d eaten in the last year. I know it had runny fried egg on it because my jeans were stained with yellow drips. I recall fluffy ciabatta bread, something roasty and pungent cheese. I remember the intense feeling of warmth. And I remember where I got it: the Woodsman Market. Luckily, the detail-crazed personnel running this ever-so-precious grocery nook between the original Stumptown Coffee and the upscale Woodsman Tavern remember everything about their short, tight menu. The special from January 4? There were two eggs, that cheese was fontina and the roasty things were red peppers, the bread was Roman Candle ciabatta and they don’t even make the sandwich anymore but, hey, they’ll put in a word. I’ll be back either way—after picking up a box of Shout wipes. MARTIN CIZMAR.