There so many delicious meals wrapped, stuffed, and layered between carbs here in Phoenix that you literally have no excuse to go for the same old sliced-bread sandwich, hoagie, or even burger this weekend. Switch things up at lunchtime with these five out-of-the-bread-box sandwiches around Metro Phoenix.
If the folks behind the counter at Woodlands Vegetarian South Indian Kitchen think you're a first-time diner and you try to order the Chettinad Dosai, they're probably going to try to dissuade you. "It's spicy," the man behind the register warns. To be fair, it is a pretty spicy meal. The dosa is a staple dish in South India, an extra-crispy crepe made with rice and lentil batter. It can be stuffed with any number of ingredients at the Chandler restaurant and, in the case of Chettinad dosa, the filling includes onion, cauliflower, tomato, and Chettinadu spice. That last ingredient is what makes this dish so hot. The flavor of the vegetables is both pungent and rich, and can be complemented nicely by any one of chutneys provided by the restaurant's free chutney bar.
King of all Falafel Sandwiches
The Shawarma King rendition of falafel is exceptional, and a sort of marvel of contradictions: densely built, yet light enough to snack on by the handful. It’s crunchy on the outside, with a surprisingly springy, spongey interior. It's rich with the flavors of ground, spiced garbanzo, yet also suffused with the fresh, bracing flavors of pureed herbs. The wraps are enormous, torpedo-shaped meals, which come stuffed with your choice of slow-cooked meat or falafel encased in a sturdy, somewhat stiff flatbread. Other than falafel, the specialty here — as illustrated by the name of the restaurant — is shawarma, the traditional Levantine-style meat whose irresistibly tender texture is achieved by having the meat rotate on a spit for hours. There are only two shawarma options — beef or chicken — and both are excellent, although the chicken shawarma wins by a hair. The thin, extremely tender shavings of meat are subtly flavored with cloves and cinnamon and shaved off the rotating spit moments before they land inside your wrap.
The Guadalajaran specialty, which literally means "drowned sandwich," takes torta eating to another, albeit messier, level. And at Tortas Ahogadas Guadalajara, this fried pork dish is served between two slices of toasted bolillo bread and drenched in piping hot chile de arbol, a light-but-spicy sauce that may or may not set your tongue on fire.
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Pear and Brie Grilled Cheese
How much you love Perfect Pear Bistro will depend, in part, on how you feel about pear in dishes like tacos and quesadillas. The house grilled cheese — called the Perfectly Grilled Cheese — is an extra-buttery, Brie-infused sandwich made on pear-inflected grilled bread. It’s a sophisticated take on grilled cheese, skillfully evoking the classic Brie-pear pairing. Sandwiches, in general, are very good at Perfect Pear, including signature creations like the Quad City Melt, which is stuffed with thinly sliced sirloin, caramelized onions, and mushrooms, and sluiced with melted cheese and a lovely chipotle aioli.
The "Fat Stack" East-Coast 'Hoodwich
Owner Aziz Othman describes the fairly expansive menu at Outta Bronx as "extra cheesy," and that's not much of an exaggeration. Locating a menu item that isn't lovingly smothered or glued together with cheese is no small challenge. The Fat Stack is emerging as one of the restaurant's most popular options. Its main appeal is derived from the fact that it's so jam-packed with salty-rich components, your palate doesn't even know where or how to start processing it. The thinly sliced beef is generously lubricated with melted Swiss and pepper jack cheese, and the sliced-up hot dog gives it some more salty punch. Some thin, crispy fries are glued into the delicious mess with even more melted cheese. You get the sense that this is something some bored, ravenous teenager, left to his own devices, would invent something like this, stuffing every favorite and available snack food into a single hot, fluffy French roll. So, yeah, it's pretty great.