Denver's 10 Most Sensational Sandwiches

By Ruth Tobias  |  March 31, 2014
Credit: Jessica Nguyen

We ruled out burgers. We nixed hot dogs. And still the sheer multitude of stellar sandwiches in Denver - from classics to originals - seemed endless. So for this list of our favorite handheld concoctions, we narrowed the scope even further to Denver proper. We'll cover Boulder and the suburbs soon. Stay tuned!

  • Credit: Ruth Tobias

    Chicken Shawarma at Amira Bakery & Deli

    Why We Love It: We recently named this Lebanese cafe in University Hills our Gem of the Week for its incredible, pizzalike manaeesh and puffs of fresh-baked pita. But the cooks behind the counter use a thinner, lavoshlike flatbread to assemble their sandwiches, piling in chicken shawarma they shave off the upright spit in plain sight, along with cubed fried potatoes, pickles and plenty of fragrant garlic sauce. Tightly rolled, the result isn't as big as some versions, but the juicy and smoky flavors are huge.
    Price: $4.75
    Insider’s Tip: We can't explain it, but in addition to crowds of the owners' compatriots, Amira attracts a diverse mix of customers that makes for serious people-watching: a group of towering basketball players chest-deep in food at one table, kids whose banter seems ripped from the script of Clerks at another. 

    4101 E. Evans Ave.; 303-756-7700

  • Credit: Christopher Cina

    Crab Cake en Fuego at Cap’n Crabby’s

    Why We Love It: Maryland native and food truck captain Dmitri Sotiriou blends two traditions from his home state to yield this delight. It starts with a crab cake that’s admirably light on filler, then it borrows from pit beef with a healthy drizzle of tiger sauce (horseradish mayo), sliced onions and cherry peppers (or “hots”). Brioche adds a touch of class; the mess you make wolfing it all down will not. 
    Price: $14
    Insider’s Tip: Sotiriou has spent the past week off the road to outfit his mobile kitchen with a three-ft. grill; in the next few days, he’ll be back in business with a new menu that showcases his Greek heritage as well as his East Coast roots. Get ready for charbroiled calamari, pork-shoulder gyros and more.

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  • Egg Salad at Masterpiece Deli

    Why We Love It: No sandwich roundup would be complete without a creation from Justin Brunson’s two-branch go-to. While daily specials like deep-fried bacon with pimento cheese and Alabama-style barbecue sauce or duck confit with Brussels sprout kimchi are prime showcases for his mastery of meat, this trusty signature deserves its due, with capers and white-truffle oil adding extra punch. 
    Price: $9.50
    Insider's Tip: The aforementioned bacon comes from Brunson's own company, and it's also available for sale on-site; watch Masterpiece's Facebook page for the deals they sometimes run on one-pound packages.

    LoHi: 1575 Central St., 303-561-3354; Uptown: 1710 Sherman St., 

  • Credit: Christopher Cina

    Fleischkäse at Continental Deli

    Why We Love It: The name translates, amusingly enough, as “meat cheese,” but the definition of this German classic may be even more surprising: ground veal, pork, bacon and onions that are shaped into a loaf and baked until it develops a crust. At this beloved Cherry Creek market and deli, run by the owners of decades-old Continental Sausage, the fleischkäse is then grilled and served atop a bun from a fellow institution for European fare, Wimberger’s Old World Bakery in Colorado Springs. Think of it as a flattened frankfurter - only much better.
    Price: $4.50; $6.50 with choice of side
    Insider's Tip: Don't come here in a rush. The opportunity to browse shelf after shelf of pantry goods imported from all over Europe, as well as German-language dime-store reads, is all part of the charm. 

    250 Steele St.; 303-388-3354

  • Credit: Jessica Nguyen

    Greggers at Olive & Finch Eatery

    Why We Love It: We’ve been raving about this one since the week Mary Nguyen’s Uptown cafe opened back in December, and we're not stopping now. If you think of tongue as too tough or funky for your tastes, think again: here, after a six-hour braise, it’s meltingly rich and combined with roasted garlic and peppers, caramelized onions and tarragon aioli on a baguette.
    Price: $12.50
    Insider's Tip: Housemade blueberry lemonade is just the thing to cleanse your palate between bites. 

    1552 E 17th Ave.; 

  • Credit: Christopher Cina

    Jimmy’s Favorite at Drew’s Denver Deli

    Why We Love It: Coast-to-coast raves met this monster when it debuted back at the now-closed Jimmy & Drew’s in Boulder. The location has changed since then, but the sandwich has not. It’s a rare bird in a town where East Coast-style deli grub comes scarce, layering the makings of a Reuben - house-corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing - between two giant, glistening latkes.
    Price: $8.79
    Insider’s Tip: Get Drew Marx’s backstory in David Sax’s juicy 2009 read Save the Deli.

    988 Lincoln St.; 303-832-7999

  • Credit: Ruth Tobias

    Juan at Torta Grill

    Why We Love It: Denver’s lucky to have a slew of swell Mexican-sandwich specialists, including Las TortasLas Tortugas and Socorro's. But there’s just something so satisfyingly vital about this City Park storefront’s take on the torta, be it the generosity of the fillings or the way the relatively thin bolillo roll soaks up all their drippings. The Juan - with steak, pork loin, cheese and avocado - gets us every time.
    Price: $7
    Insider’s Tip: You have a choice of three sides - chipotle sauce, jalapeño jelly or chopped jalapeños. Go for the latter: they enhance the flavors of the sandwich the most while altering it the least.

    1818 E. Colfax Ave.; 720-420-0964

  • Credit: Christopher Cina

    Meatloaf at Hutch & Spoon

    Why We Love It: With the feel of a country kitchen but the savvy of an urban coffeehouse, Tracy Zimmer’s RiNo fixture is home to a sandwich very dear to our hearts: the French Onion, a grilled cheese made with loads of Gruyère and deeply caramelized onions on rye. So when it disappears from the menu come spring, only one thing can console us: the all-beef, onion-studded roasted meatloaf, grilled with sharp cheddar on City Bakery sourdough.
    Price: $8
    Insider’s Tip: Pair it with a housemade soda in evocative flavors like almond-pear and mango-jasmine.

    3090 Larimer St.; 303-296-2317

  • Credit: Ruth Tobias

    Vegan de la Saison at Vert Kitchen 

    Why We Love It: It’s a tight squeeze, but devotees of this wee Wash Park West lunch counter go through the necessary contortions for the sake of the all-organic goodies it turns out daily, including this seasonal beauty. It’s simple enough on paper: white-bean hummus, lemon-marinated zucchini, pickled shallots and spring greens on a Grateful Bread baguette. But in your mouth, it’s a garden bursting with earthiness and sunshine.
    Price: $9
    Insider’s Tip: Your choice of salad comes on the side; if the kale with quinoa, butternut squash, Chioggia beets and celery is available, don’t pass it up. Sounds like a farm-to-fork cliché; tastes flat-out delicious.

    704 S. Pearl St.; 303-997-5941

  • Credit: Ruth Tobias

    Xó Xiu Banh Mi at Vinh Xuong Bakery

    Why We Love It: A sweet mom and pop run the original shop in the Far East Center on Federal Boulevard; they prepare all the meats. Their son runs the offshoot a few blocks away, where all the baking is done. Put them together and you get a textbook banh mi with all the trimmings - crusty, chewy baguette; pickled carrots, daikon and cucumbers; jalapeños and cilantro sprigs; a squirt of mayo and a touch of soy sauce. Of six varieties, our favorite’s the one piled high with sliced barbecued pork and smeared with pâté.
    Price: $3.50
    Insider's Tip: While the flagship has more character, it’s got no seating and no credit-card machine. So if you want amenities with that lunch of yours, hit the Alameda branch.

    2370 W. Alameda Ave., 303-922-0999; 375 S. Federal Blvd. #112, 303-922-4968