2019 has come and gone, we’re all a year older and I’m a couple of pounds heavier. It’s my cross to bear for this blog and for YOU, the sandwich adoring public. I have a feeling that 2020 is going to be a crazy year. The upcoming election and media coverage will no doubt grind away at our hearts and minds like a hard pecorino cheese, and it won’t be nearly as satisfying. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have an amazing year, this list may be a good start. Have a favorite place that you want me to try? send me a DM on facebook!
By the way, I traveled a little more this year and tried some amazing stuff around the country. Check out the “Travel” section of the blog if you feel like leaving Orange County for awhile. Oddly enough, I still don’t know what the fuck being “Yelp Elite” means.
Okay, onward to the sandwiches…
Top 10 Sandwiches of 2019
Pickle Banh Mi Co. – Garden Grove
Garden Grove/Westminster is filled with countless Vietnamese bakeries with amazing sandwiches to choose from. Chances are, if you stop by the first bakery you see, you’ll get a solid Viet Banh Mi sandwich for a surprisingly cheap price. What differentiates Pickle from the rest is their willingness to break away from the traditional and delve into interesting sandwich combinations. Their crispy pork belly banh mi with house made pickles was a refreshing change from the Lee’s or THH sandwiches of the world.
Clyde’s Hot Chicken – Fullerton
Hot chicken is really starting to get the recognition it deserves in 2019. For those of you who don’t care to wait in line at Howlin’ Rays in LA, there’s Clyde’s. They aren’t the same, but you’re gonna get that spicy chicken fix with little to no hassle at Clyde’s. I know that everyone is all about that Popeye’s chicken sandwich this year, but give these guys a try, the rich sauces will stick to your ribs and haunt your dreams (not to mention this meal was less than $10).
513 N Harbor Blvd, Fullerton, CA 92832
Fire Breather BBQ – Lake Forest
2019 was the year of BBQ me. I think I’ve consumed enough beef brisket to keep the meat packing industry in business for years to come. Of all the BBQ places I’ve gone to in Orange County, Fire Breather’s Brisket stood out the most. The sandwich itself is about as simple as you can make it, but their Texas style dry rub and smoke try shines through exquisitely. Their sides leave a bit to be desired, but the brisket is worth the trip to Lake Forest. Honestly, you don’t even need to order the sandwich, just get the meat.
22722 Lambert Ste. 1702, Lake Forest, CA 92630
Do Lunch Deli – Santa Ana
I made a video of Do Lunch Deli earlier this year and one of the things that stood out for me is their dedication to making things in house. Whether you’re looking for a giant mount of pulled pork or a simple turkey sandwich, you’ve got a lot to choose from here. Their famous “Honey Bird” sandwich is a rich combination of honey sweet & buttery croissant with savory cheese and turkey. It’s a novel approach to a sandwich that you’d *think* you could get anywhere. Everyone that works there is pretty awesome too (They validated my parking and my self esteem). Go say hi to Brian and tell him I sent you.
901 Civic Center Dr W, Ste 150 a, Santa Ana, CA 92703
Le Diplomate Cafe – Irvine
In the shopping center across the street from the UCI campus is a small bakery/cafe called Le Diplomate. It’s one of the most unassuming places in the shopping center, but do yourself a favor and go past all bigger places and check it out. They’ve been serving Irvine locals since the 90’s with their chicken and broccoli sandwich being a favorite of many. When I had it, I was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Their signature garlic sauce melted into the cheese and broccoli beautifully, making every bite a hot indulgent flavorful mess.
4237 Campus Dr, Irvine, CA 92612
Burnt Crumbs – Irvine
Back in the ancient days of 2016 (when I was a youthful sandwich-eating scamp) I put Burnt Crumbs on my favorite sandwiches list. I honestly hadn’t gone back in almost 3 years and I’m kind of kicking myself for waiting this long to try it again. Their menu features only a handful of sandwiches that change seasonally (except for some favorites) and their willingness to try new things is admirable. They’re known for their Spaghetti Grilled Cheese, but don’t limit yourself here. There’s plenty to try and it’s all made in house.
8549 Irvine Center Dr, Irvine, CA 92618
The Kroft – Anaheim
The Kroft has been a comfort food staple in various food halls all across Orange County. I’ve filled my gut with their famous poutines more than I can count. When fries smothered in gravy and cheese isn’t enough, I get myself an East Coast dip. It kind of reminds me of one of my favorite sandwiches from Philadelphia: the pork roll from Tommy Dinic’s. This sandwich has more subtle flavors, but it’s rich slow cooked pork and light au jus is a great way to keep yourself full and ready to food coma. I would’ve like the horseradish aioli to be stronger, but that jus certainly hit the spot.
Anaheim Packing District
440 S. Anaheim Blvd. Anaheim, CA 92805
Grinderz – Huntington Beach
Of all the indulgent foods on this list, this burger may be champion of epicurean gluttony. Trying to wrestle with the famous Birdsnest burger was ill advised and completely against my doctor’s orders. Of course, for those of you with more sense than I have, can order something more simple from this restaurant, and it’ll be very good. Don’t sleep on their fries either, they were great stuff inside the burger, but also damn good on their own.
Smoqued California BBQ – Orange
I probably tried ten Orange County BBQ spots in 2019 and while I think Fire Breather has the best flavored beef brisket of them, Smoqued BBQ has the best sandwich. Don’t get me wrong, the beef brisket here is good too, but it works so much better piled high into their Midnight Special sandwich. You gotta appreciate a BBQ place that puts a little more effort into their sandwiches. Help yourself to an extra bit of their California Gold mustard sauce sopped up by their lightly toasted Texas toast.
Oh and get the Mac & Cheese. It’s amazing.
Burrata House – Los Angeles
Yeah I know, this is supposed to be the “Top 10 ORANGE COUNTY Sandwiches” of 2019, but when you decided to start reading my blog you knew that you were getting in with a rebel. It’s this type of dangerous behavior that makes me such an enigmatic sandwich enthusiast. Burrata House is easily the lightest (and probably healthiest) on this list. Everything gravitates around creamy locally made burrata cheese, mixed with a variety of Italian smoked meats and produce. It’s the kind of place where you eat and still feel invigorated to go on with your day, I’m sure you people with more active lifestyle than me understand. The sauces here are light and olive oil based and perfect for all of you looking to keep with your Mediterranean diets.
3272 Motor Ave A Unit A, Los Angeles, CA 90034
Honorably mentions outside California
The “Cluck you, chicken sandwich” from Storm Breaker brewing in Portland Oregon sticks in my mind constantly. The crispy chicken is brined in pickle juice and it tasted wonderful, the sweet pickles and spicy slaw finished all of it beautifully. If you find yourself in St. Johns give this sandwich (and their Cubano) a try, plus they have axe throwing!
Denver had one of the best spicy chicken sandwiches that I’ve had in years. “The Beeler” from Denver Biscuit Co is spicy fried chicken, house made pickle, and ranch on their signature biscuit. The combination of perfectly fried hot chicken with their pickles was enough to keep me warm in the cold cold Denver weather.
I wanted to thank all of you for reading this blog, following me on my social media and just being supportive of this project. This year has it’s ups and downs, but I can’t help but look at some of these amazing meals and think that it was a damn good year. I’ve always thought that a great meal can truly change your mood and sharing them with friends can completely change your outlook on life. I’m not really a New Years Resolution guy, but if there was one thing that I wish for you in 2020, it’s that you go and enjoy more amazing meals with friends and family. And stay off twitter, that place is a cesspool.
Happy 2020 my friends.