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The best sandwiches in Austin right now, from French dip to falafel

Matthew Odam
Austin American-Statesman
Chicken bacon ranch burger at Hold Out Brewing.

Someone in the newsroom recently asked if sandwiches were my favorite food. Of course not. Don't be ridiculous, I thought. But ... maybe he had point. I love the versatility of their flavor profiles — you can get tastes from all over the world served between two pieces of bread — ease and price point. 

Austin has dozens of great sandwiches. Below are 10 of my favorite of the past few months. 

French dip at Bartlett's.

French dip at Bartlett’s ($24)

Tim Bartlett opened Houston’s in Austin in 1990 after helping open the American grill’s first location in Nashville. He changed the name in 2010, but he wisely did not change much else — same warm service and consistent execution (the spinach artichoke dip and smoked salmon are perfect every time).

When Bartlett died in 2013, his partner and longtime general manager, Alan Thomas, who arrived at the restaurant in 1989, continued the service and culinary traditions, including the restaurant’s famous French dip sandwich. As Arik Skot Williams, Thomas’ business partner and Bartlett’s longtime chef, says: “We’ve been roasting bones and mirepoix and simmering it for hours long before bone broth was cool.” 

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That’s the sandwich’s eponymous broth, which gives an added depth of beefy essence to a half-pound of velvety ripples of roasted prime rib that are so supple they almost melt inside the toasted New World Bakery roll that's brushed with mayonnaise, because one more touch of fat ain’t gonna hurt you. (2408 W. Anderson Lane. 512-451-7333,

Apricot chicken salad sandwich at Chicken Salad Shoppe.

Apricot chicken salad at Chicken Salad Shoppe ($8.49)

The pandemic hit just as husband-and-wife duo and catering veterans Ivan and Molly Mills were preparing to launch their new concept. But they turned the crisis into an opportunity. The couple has operated Vanilla Orchid Catering since 2009, and when the coronavirus pandemic effectively leveled catering and event business across the city, the Mills opened their new Chicken Salad Shoppe as a takeout-only operation, serving out of the front of their catering kitchen. The name says it all: The business exclusively serves chicken salad on sandwiches and salads (OK, there also are some vegetarian options and a cookie), with about a dozen varieties on the menu.

Anyone who remembers the old apricot chicken salad sandwich from Central Market knows how great that sweet and savory blend can be. Hunks of white meat are tossed with dried apricots and almond pieces that give the creamy mixture nutty crunch. The sweet, salty, crunchy and tangy jumble spills from lithe sourdough bread. (7433 Burnet Road. 512-790-7790,

Ham and beurre at Hopfields.

Jambon beurre at Hopfields ($13)

The first time I backpacked across Europe, I looked for fast, easy snacks that I could grab from a market and eat on a train. A baguette with sliced ham and butter was simple, filling and delicious, and when in France had the added benefit of serving up a sense of place.

Hopfields delivers a refined version of that traveler’s treat, with lush, carnation-pink ham folded into a crusty baguette slathered with creamy butter. If you want a touch more dimension, add Emmental cheese for nutty and mildly sweet notes.

As recently reported in these pages, Hopfields will open a location on South First Street in July. Hard to imagine this classic sandwich not making the move south of the river. (3110 Guadalupe St., No. 400. 512-537-0467,

Bacon, egg and cheese at Paperboy.

Bacon, egg and cheese at Paperboy ($13)

It’s pretty great watching an Austin hospitality business come full circle. Paperboy started as a trailer on this East Austin lot more than five years ago and now has its own building to call home.

It has greatly expanded its menu since the early days to include more pastries, bowls, sandwiches and composed dishes, but one of the early stalwarts remains. Golden yolk oozes from gentle buttermilk buns slathered with tangy pimento cheese, a smart Southern modification to a classic sandwich, with thick slices of sturdy bacon dangling over the edges. Order online or at the walk-up window, and you can even make a reservation online for their patio seating. (1203 E. 11th St. 512-910-3010,

Pork banh mi at Le Bleu.

Grilled pork bánh mì at Le Bleu ($8)

Chef Tebi Nguyen grew up next to a bánh mì shop in Saigon before moving with his family to San Antonio, and he’s built his two food brands (Le Bleu and the trailer Saigon le Vendeur) on the strength of those Vietnamese sandwiches. The baguette crackles and collapses around grilled caramelized pork that’s been marinated in fish sauce, garlic, red shallots and a touch of honey. Cucumbers and matchstick cuts of pickled carrots give crunchy relief to the tender meat, with cilantro and jalapeño balancing floral calm and spicy kick. Online/call-in ordering and curbside pick-up only for now. (9070 Research Blvd., Suite 303. 512-770-1100,

Pimento cheese sandwich at Butler Pitch & Putt.

Pimento cheese at Butler Pitch & Putt ($5)

Ben Crenshaw helped design the greens at the renovated Butler Pitch & Putt, and the two-time Masters winner probably recognizes many of the sandwiches at the par-three course. Chef Michael Fojtasek of Olamaie, a Butler regular and now culinary partner, created the sandwiches as an homage to the simple classics served at Augusta National. 

While Fojtasek's pimento cheese nods to the famed golf tournament, it also has its roots in the humble sandwiches the chef would eat with his grandmother on runs to 7-Eleven as a child. The chef copped the recipe from his former bosses Vinny Shook and Jon Dotolo of Animal in Los Angeles, though Fojtasek reckons the recipe originated elsewhere. It's as creamy as you want pimento cheese to be, and inside the mixture of cheddar, cream cheese and mayonnaise (I'm assuming) hides a nice spicy blast that gives the sandwich more jazz than its cousin in Augusta. 

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The cheese spread and a juicy slice of tomato sit on a pliant, honeycombed white bread baked by Carlyle Watt, who moved to Austin to run the bakery at Fojtasek's Mignette, a forthcoming casual Southern spot in the St. Elmo development in South Austin. 

Augusta National may have more prestige and a couple more decades of history than Butler, but as someone who has attended the Masters, I can promise you the Austin golf course has the better pimento cheese sandwich. Fojtasek longs to find out for himself someday, hopefully while carrying the bag for his brother, Randall, a member of the University of Texas golf team. (201 Lee Barton Drive,

El Lujo at Pollo las Abuelas.

De Lujo fried chicken sandwich at Pollo las Abuelas ($10.25)

Crunchy, salty and juicy … fried chicken sandwiches are a perfect food. And that’s even before you dress them up. They’re great enough to build a food trailer (or food empire) around. Chef Matt Reinhart obviously knew this. He set aside the calorie counting at Snap Kitchen, where he served as executive chef for six years, and in 2018 opened this South Austin trailer where bird is the first and last word. 

The name honors his two grandmothers, one from Illinois who had a knack with fried chicken and the other from the Rio Grande Valley. The latter’s influence can be best appreciated on this sandwich that carries smoke and dusk from chipotle, grassy sting from roasted Serrano crema, tingly crunch from pickled cabbage slaw and fatty creaminess from avocado and cotija cheese. Proving once again that the fried chicken sandwich, already perfect in its simplicity, is one of the best bases for supporting a flourish of flavors. (11444 Menchaca Road, 737-228-7449,

White fish salad bagel sandwich at Wholy Bagel.

Whitefish salad on toasted everything bagel at Wholy Bagel ($8)

Wholy Bagel changed hands more than five years ago but kept its New Jersey pedigree when Nicole and Richard Spiegel purchased the shop from fellow New Jersey native Scott Campanozzi. The bagels are kettle boiled and baked to a glossy, crunchy and chewy finish that make them among the best in town. 

Lox sandwiches may garner most of the fish-filled bagel sandwich love, but I prefer a smoked whitefish salad sandwich. Wholy Bagel uses smoked whitefish salad from Brooklyn-based Acme Smoked Fish. The mixture oozes with oily fat and gets a bit of tang and minerality from mayonnaise and salted egg yolks. You’ll want to give some backbone to the creamy spread; that’s where the added red onion and banana peppers come in. I take my sandwich on a toasted everything bagel that punches up the flavor and gives it more complexity. (4404 W. William Cannon Drive, 512-899-0200; 3637 Far West Blvd., 512-992-0003,

Falafel at TLV.

Falafel at TLV ($10)

If you want the best falafel sandwich in town, you're going to have to wait a few weeks. In the time since I last ate chef Bertie Richter's falafel, TLV went on a brief hiatus as its home at downtown food hall Fareground prepares to reopen under new management in July. But you're patience will be rewarded. 

The deep-fried balls shatter to reveal an herbaceous green center complemented by several sauces that layer on bright herbs, a pickled whip and a nutty depth from tahini. TLV’s creamy hummus, a mellow blend that provides a clean slate for the explosion of added flavors, holds the contents of the lithe pita sandwich together, with an overflowing cabbage slaw adding its own crunchy texture to that of the falafel. (111 Congress Ave. Fareground No. 7. 512-608-4041,

Chicken bacon ranch burger at Hold Out Brewing

OK. Is a burger a sandwich? Not really. Am I cheating here? Kind of. Is this chicken-bacon beast at the brewery sibling of Better Half good enough to allow me to break my own rules? Certainly. 

The two stacked patties made with ground chicken are seared and juicy, draped with Swiss cheese, crunched up with iceberg lettuce and red onion and given an umami blast from tangy miso ranch dressing. There’s so much going on you can barely taste the bacon, which is really saying something. And if you don’t dig on swine, you can sub out the pork for shiitake bacon for a small fee. Grab a four-pack of juicy, piney and tropical Koala Takedown IPA ($14) to discover that Hold Out does beer as well as it does food. (1208 W. Fourth St. 512-305-3540,

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