Sandwich Guide

By Erik Allgood

Eating out is a luxury, but, like many things, it can be made affordable. My advice? Order a sandwich. Sandwiches are available all over the city in a variety of styles from radically different venues. We’ve done the hard work of trying most of them for you.

To be included in our guide, sandwiches have to meet the following criteria:

1) Fit the definition in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary: “two or more slices of bread or a split roll having a filling in between.”
2) Not be considered first and foremost a hot dog, wrap, burrito, etc.
3) Not be filled with barbecue. (That’s another guide.)
4) Be served at a local restaurant.
5) Cost under $15.

These are listed in alphabetical order by restaurant. You may do your own rankings.

Belmont Grill
East Memphis

French Dip

Amongst all the upper-middle-class frippery that is Poplar east of Highland, there sits a small grill with fresh food, unpretentious atmosphere and a little sign visible from the street that tells you if the kitchen is open. This bar and grill feels as if someone took a midsize three-bedroom, two-bathroom house, papered the walls with memorabilia, decked the halls with colored lights, closed off the kitchen, turned the dining room into a bar and put up a big neon sign out front. It’s a great place to grab a drink and a basket of cheese sticks before your movie next door, but don’t sleep on their sandwiches. Belmont’s French Dip is served on a toasted, buttered roll with a generous piling of beef and provolone cheese. The sandwich comes with horseradish sauce and coleslaw (a distinctly Southern feature). Pile both on and dip every bite in the au jus for the single best bite in Memphis cuisine. Get some fries or something too—you work hard.

Elwood’s Shack
East Memphis


Tucked away on Summer Avenue, Elwood’s is hardly a secret anymore. Trust the vibes you get from the stuffed baby gator on the fountain drink machine and the suspicious abundance of other Creole options on the menu and order the Muffuletta. The key to a successful muffuletta is the bread. Elwood’s has the perfect bread-to-meat ratio. The bread is savory and toasted. You can see the generous piling of ham, salami, mortadella and mozzarella cheese. It would be a total grease bomb if it was not undercut with the delightful acidity of the giardiniera and olive tapenade. The sour-sweet-salty mix of black and green olives, red peppers, carrots and onion complicates the richness of the meats and cheeses. This sandwich is moist without being soggy; this isn’t a knife-and-forker—you can pick it up. Bring a few of your friends, get a whole muff, and eat well for about $5 each.



Italian Roast Beef

Fino’s has been a Midtown institution for three decades, so the recent preservation by Kelly English of this little piece of local history is a beautiful thing. The Italian Roast Beef is a hot mess, and that’s a compliment. Some people give Fino’s guff for having hard bread. Nah. The Italian Roast Beef’s French roll comes decked out with butter and garlic and develops a pleasant crunch when toasted. It’s also very moist from the mounds of slow-cooked beef. This sandwich is reminiscent of a Chicago beef, dipped, with peppers that someone had the creative insight to cover in marinara meat sauce and two types of cheese (Provel down below and a generous caking of Parmesan on top). This sandwich is a savory, acidic trip with just enough integrity in the bread to keep it from falling apart when you pick it up. If you’re not a messy sandwich expert and value your clothes, you should still use a knife and fork.

Hi Tone


The Hi Tone is a good place to see a punk show, and for the past year or so it has been an excellent place to get a sandwich. The Hi Tone kitchen operates under Joshua McLane, a local comedian and musician who named the best sandwich on the menu after his popular two-piece band, HEELS—and, yes, that is a reference to professional wrestling. This is Memphis. The sandwich is aptly named because, like the band, it’s a complementary partnership between two different things. It’s part PB&J, part bacon melt, and pressed between buttered bread slices. The genius of this sandwich is the way the ingredients work together. The jam is infused with jalapeño, which complements the savory ingredients, and both provolone and bacon have sweet elements which complement the peanut butter and jelly. An excellent way to avoid a hangover or, if you don’t live the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle, a pleasant break from the beaten path.


Jack Pirtle’s Chicken
Various locations

Chicken Sandwich

Jack Pirtle’s is a Memphis institution. When KFC tried to buy them out a few decades ago, Jack Pirtle’s promptly told them to “get on somewhere” and stayed in business. While KFC is covering their once-proud recipe with nacho cheese sauce and snack chips, Pirtle’s gives you the option to buy extra gravy by the ounce. Their chicken sandwich is perfection. Dress it like their famous steak sandwich with slaw, pickles, cheese and gravy, or like a more traditional chicken sandwich with lettuce, tomato, mayo and pickle. Theirs is not some reconstituted pink slurry—this is a whole, marinated, fried chicken breast. The slaw and pickles provide sweetness and acidity, while the richness of the gravy and the American cheese enhances the fatty, chicken-fried meat; the soft, absorbent bun causes the whole thing to melt in your mouth.

Kwik Chek

The Ninja

To call Kwik Chek a combination Korean restaurant and neighborhood deli minimizes it, since it is really Memphis’s first and best fusion food. This little deli inside a convenience store is cheap, unpretentious and still haute cuisine. The Ninja is one of their signature sandwiches and has the best meat-to-bread ratio of any sandwich in the city. Piled high with roast beef, turkey, provolone, bell pepper, onions, mushrooms, sprouts and spices, this sandwich packs a big punch in a compact package. Order it toasted with their special garlic habanero sauce. The final product elevates a turkey and roast beef club to a masterwork of fusion cuisine that you can eat with your hands. This is a sandwich that you pick up on your morning commute and look forward to all morning long.

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La Guadalupana
East Memphis/Berclair

Torta Cubana

It’s no secret that Summer Avenue is the spot for Mexican food in Memphis and has been for some time. Of all the taquerias on the strip, the best is La Guadalapana. The interior is modest but spacious with futbol playing on all of the TVs. It looks like a typical, modest Mexican restaurant, but it is gourmet if you know what to order. Their best sandwich is their Torta Cubana. The marinated pork is served carnitas style (fried and spicy) with a tender, blackened ham steak and an engagingly spicy chorizo. Like any torta, the sandwich is loaded down with plenty of avocado, Chihuahua cheese, a wonderfully larded bean spread, and lettuce and tomato. You can see the grill marks on the sweet roll, which contains this expanding universe of a sandwich that’s best with a little green salsa.

RAWK’n Grub
Olive Branch

Philly-delphia Freedom

This former food truck has a fun, unpretentious menu with music-themed entrées like the fried chicken sandwich called “Stevie Chicks” and the grilled cheese called “Cheesy Like Sunday Morning.” A standout is the “Philly-delphia Freedom.” The cheesesteak’s hoagie is deliciously buttery and crisp—blessed are the sandwich shops that don’t treat the bread as an afterthought. There were a lot of smart decisions involved in this sammie: the choice to use a quality meat like the tender, juicy ribeye; the way the tartness of the beer cheese complements the smoky sweetness of the onions. However, the one thing that most elevates this Philly is the use of poblano peppers instead of the traditional green bell peppers. Poblano is a meaty, earthy pepper with just enough heat to accentuate the other flavors instead of mask them.


Vietnam Restaurant

Special Banh Mi

Vietnam Restaurant is located along that stretch of Cleveland between Madison and Jackson with many Vietnamese institutions and plenty of delicious food. There’s really only one sandwich though: banh mi. It is a complete meal on its own, but try ordering it with pho. The sandwich is served on a baguette with pâté, mayonnaise, barbecued pork, pickled daikon, carrots, cilantro, serrano peppers and cucumber. The surplus of flavor-forward fresh vegetables gives the sandwich some vibrancy while the sour pickled veggies bring out the pork a bit. Pro tip: Try dipping your banh mi in the pho broth. It’s delicious.

Various locations

Steak, Egg, and Cheese Sub

Yum’s is one of those places that, if you don’t know better, you drive right by. It has locations all over Memphis and serves both excellent hot subs and Chinese food. They even serve a cheeseburger sub-style. This is a place that doesn’t so much blend Chinese and American cuisine as serve them simultaneously with inspiring competence. They are also super cheap! The steak, egg and cheese sub comes complete with mayo, pickle, onion, lettuce and tomato in a hoagie bun. Half of this sandwich can make a complete meal. If you eat both halves, you’ll waddle out of there. Yum’s is comfort food at its most comfortable. This is a good meal to take home for a streaming binge if you’re living that bachelor life—or three or four of these bad boys will definitely make a happy family.

Erik Allgood is a freelance journalist, teacher, writer, producer and performer who has lived in the Mid-South for almost a decade and loves it. He resides in Memphis with his girlfriend and will gladly take any food recommendations, sandwich or otherwise, especially around the downtown area. He can be reached for inquiries via a direct message on his social media accounts, Erik Allgood on Facebook and @erikallgood on Instagram, or through an email to