Editor's note: This story was originally published on December 13, 2016. It was updated on March 14, 2019.
The saintly Liz Lemon shared her worldview on an episode of 30 Rock: “All of humankind has one thing in common: the sandwich. I believe that all anyone really wants in this life is to sit in peace and eat a sandwich.”
We couldn’t agree more.
What follows is a list of Phoenix’s fantastic sandwich shops, delis, eateries, and lunch spots — some busy, some swanky, one even a cellphone-free zone (from that aforementioned sit-in-peace part) — featuring some of the best sandwiches the Valley has to offer. Enjoy.
Crispy Chicken at Worth Takeaway
218 West Main Street, Mesa
Stroll down downtown Mesa’s quaint Main Street and you’ll spot Worth Takeaway. This modern, sleek restaurant offers coffee and craft sandwiches – including the Crispy Chicken. This $9 sandwich (they’re all $9) includes battered chicken strips soaking with a Sriracha honey spread, mayonnaise, and juice from the house-made sweet and spicy pickles. Those pickles and Bibb lettuce top the protein, and it all comes between two slices of ciabatta from Proof Bread – also a Mesa business. Worth Takeaway is open from 8 a.m. to 9:05 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4:05 p.m.
Green Chile Tuna Melt at Chula Seafood
After trying Chula Seafood's version, you realize the tuna melt you know is no tuna melt. The folks at Chula put an aggressive press on your sandwich, ridging the bread with the grooves of the grill. It results in outer bread with some brown splotches, some burnt spots, and a crisp character that, with another minute of toasting, would be a genuine crunch.The tuna in the middle, though, is soft. It has been cooked confit-style. That means cooked immersed in fat, a method that yields fall-apart tuna. This tuna melt speaks with a strong Southwestern accent. Green chiles provide low heat, a mere candle flicker of cool burn. You can still get the mild flavor of albacore and the dreamy quality of melted cheese, sprinkled on with a restrained hand. The cheese is queso Oaxaca and the toasted vehicle is Noble Bread.
Meatball at DeFalco’s Italian Eatery
2334 North Scottsdale Road, Suite A133, Scottsdale
DeFalco's Italian Eatery – also a boutique grocery store and deli – has been around since 1972, and this south Scottsdale Italian restaurant is known for its appetizers, pasta, and sandwiches. The hot sandwiches section of the menu features the meatball – complete with handmade meatballs, sauce, and melted cheese. Choice of bread includes a sub or wheat roll, seeded sub roll, marble rye, sourdough, nine-grain, focaccia, or crispy baguette. Your get your choice of half ($5.59) or whole ($7.99) – 12-inch or six-inch. DeFalco’s is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays.
Chicken Sandwich at Cotton & Copper
1006 East Warner Road, #113, Tempe
Entrees at Cotton & Copper are mostly refreshingly original. That is why, though you may have eaten hundreds in your life, you should order the chicken sandwich. Chef Tamara Stanger bakes English muffins from dough she ferments for more than a day. A thick, dark muffin with a trace of tang and chew grudgingly yields to the juicy bird inside, fried in a coarse sheath of Ramona Farms heirloom Pima corn. The chicken is juicy, continuously warm, and enclosed in a shattering jacket. A yolky gush from a fried duck egg comes with the first bite, and there's a slow-burning thanks to the chile de arbol hot sauce.
Mom’s Homemade Hot Meatloaf at The Lunch Bag
8989 East Vía Linda, #116, Scottsdale
Serving midday items in Scottsdale, and around since 1981, The Lunch Bag offers a number of signature sandwiches at $7.95, including the popular Mom’s Homemade Hot Meatloaf. The concoction consists of hot meatloaf on toasted sourdough, complete with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise. Grab a homemade sandwich from the Lunch Bag from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday (closed on Sundays). They also offer free delivery in the area.
Ridgeview Farms Chicken Salad at Pane Bianco
If you were waiting for Pane Bianco, you can exhale now. The Chris Bianco sister restaurant has been a sandwich spot and a half since opening in 2005 — and it's pretty impossible to pick just one sandwich. Therefore the market sandwich at Pane Bianco changes every day. When you enter the oven-side of Pane Bianco from North Central Avenue, you will see, on a board, the market sandwiches featured that week. Each day’s sandwich surrenders its identity to the whims of the seasons. One day you might get wood-roasted eggplant with Parmesan. Another you might get a beautiful Caprese with goat cheese and balsamic vinegar. Either way, the bread is baked in the restaurant’s wood-fired oven.
Colita de Pavo at Tortas Manny
845 West Southern Avenue
Tortas Manny in south Phoenix produces the kind of tortas that are soft everywhere except the interior, toasted to a thin layer of crispness. The Colita de Pavo, or deep-friend turkey torta, works by warping the softness quotient. Shreds and bits of turkey — dark red, fry-brown, or lobster-pink — have chew and crisp depending on how exactly, if at all, skin clings to morsels. The turkey is succulent, with that deep, homey flavor that good turkey has. Each bite is a little different. A decent piquant salsa gooses the bird.
Sacks Overture at WM SACKS
Known for the “art of sandwicherie,” WM SACKS is a four-location, lunch-focused casual eatery established more two decades ago by Wanda Morrow. The sandwich menu – for which the restaurants are known – features an array of signature sandwiches, including the Sacks Overture. The Overture includes a fragrant stack of prime beef accompanied by sweet and red onion, tomato, lettuce, and mild horseradish sauce on an eight-inch baguette for $6.49. Hours for each location are 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, with most locations open for lunch on Saturdays.
Nooner at Duck and Decanter
1651 East Camelback Road
Duck and Decanter has been around Phoenix in one place or another since 1972, and has billed itself as “your original sandwich and beverage experience.” You can build your own "nooner," or you can pick from the restaurant's menu of signature sandwiches. The Duckling is a house favorite, a sweet-savory sandwich that conjures a small autumnal feast. It's packed with a couple solid inches of smoked duck breast and smoked turkey breast, which are skillfully paired with a sweet, tangy cranberry-walnut relish. The whole thing is buttressed by two thick-cut, fluffy slices of country bread. It's as beautiful as it sounds.
The Doughboy at Cheese N' Stuff
5042 North Central Avenue
A central Phoenix staple, the Cheese N' Stuff deli has been around for more than 60 years, and management here asks you keep phones on silent and take your calls outside. For those who love turkey sandwiches, the Doughboy is a real treat for $6.95 – especially if you enjoy your lunch in the restaurant. The Doughboy consists of turkey, yes, plus bacon, Swiss cheese, avocado, and mayonnaise. This lunchbox-friendly square sandwich is served on tangy sourdough (other options include rye, whole wheat, and a sub roll) and warmed, which you can feel through its tinfoil wrapping. The iconic neon sign at Cheese N' Stuff is humming from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday (closed Sundays).
The Straw at Miracle Mile
4433 North 16th Street
What started as Herman’s Corned Beef Junction became Miracle Mile – a New York-style sandwich joint serving the Phoenix area since 1949. Among its menu of breakfast, lunch, and dinner items sits the Straw, consisting of a pile of hot pastrami with melted Swiss cheese and sauerkraut, stacked high on bread choices including rye, sourdough, Kaiser, or onion roll for $11.50. Additional items like lettuce, tomato, onion, and mayonnaise are available upon request. Order the Straw at Miracle Mile from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Vegetable Sandwich at Noble Eatery
4525 North 24th Street
For a protein-free 'wich, Noble Eatery has a filling answer for those looking for a vegetable sandwich with a little substance and weight. Known for its midday meals, Noble Eatery is an Italian spot offering grains, legumes, salads, soups, small bites, and sandwiches through the ever-changing chalkboard menu manned by chef Zach Flynn and baker Jason Raducha. The vegetable sandwich is served on the well-known, freshly baked bread from Noble Bakery, and includes a stacked array of seasonal and local vegetables. Noble Eatery is open from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday through Friday – but do expect more than a few fellow sandwich lovers in this small lunch spot.
What the Cluck? at Nocawich
77 South College Avenue, Tempe
A spinoff of the late Noca restaurant’s quick lunch menu, Nocawich is found just north of Arizona State University’s Tempe campus serving breakfast and lunch items — and, obviously, sandwiches. At $9, the What the Cluck? is like not having to decide between fried chicken and a good sandwich on your lunch break. For this dish, the chicken breast is brined in seasoned buttermilk overnight, and dredged in a flour and cornmeal mix. Find a crispy, juicy fried chicken breast accompanied by slaw and B&B pickles – all covered in a honey Dijon sauce. A house-made Parker roll holds the delicious mess together, and that’s all you really need to know. Get messy at Nocawich from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday.
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Chompie’s Mile High Hot Pastrami at Chompie's
With numerous Valley locations, Chompie’s offers something like 10 variations of the pastrami sandwich on its menu. Chompie’s well-known Chompie’s Mile High Hot Pastrami piles the New York pastrami at skyscraper level, or so it would seem when you try to take the first bite. Their well-known New York-style pastrami baked with a house secret blend of spices, then steamed. It's sliced to order, and plated with care (lest it topples over).
Mekong Special at Mekong Sandwiches
66 South Dobson Road, Mesa
Asian dining destination Mekong Plaza is home to Mekong Sandwiches, which tracks. They serve banh mi — the sandwich love child of France and Vietnam — and they serve it well. The Mekong Special is a sandwich filled with pork, pork belly, paté, and headcheese (the cold cut made by boiling the head of a cow or pig, which we know sounds scary but the flavor is great). Compared to other banh mi, the Mekong Special sandwich has the perfect amount of meat, veggies, and bread, making for one of the most satisfying banh mi around.