10 Great Sandwiches in Orange County
3. Korokke Pan at Cream Pan
Cream Pan makes many wondrous things. The strawberry croissant is legendary; but even their plain white bread is divine. Then, there's the korokke pan, the potato croquette sandwich: a panko-breaded, deep-fried mashed potato patty stuffed inside a roll of their own making, along with leaf lettuce, tomato, a slice of cucumber, a smear of Thousand Island and a drizzle of tonkatsu sauce. From the recitation of the ingredients alone, those who don't know better would think that this would be a dull sandwich, or at the very least, one that defies the rule that you don't put starch inside another starch. But you'd be wrong. This is a great sandwich. Flavorful, filling, and rich, not to mention vegetarian (though not vegan because of the mayo). This is a sandwich that easily surpasses their egg salad and their katsu, which are merely okay by comparison. And oh, that bun. Made in-store, it's a soft roll that any other sandwich shop would kill to have as their own. You could imagine it elevating pastrami, corned beef, chicken salad. But here, it fulfills its truest purpose, hugging the at-once crisp-mushy korokke and everything that surrounds it. The only way it could be better is if it can be had when the korokke has just come off the fryer. But that's like asking for spare change when you've just won the lottery.
2. Dac Biet Banh Mi at Banh Mi Che Cali
After you graduate from Lee's Sandwiches' rudimentary course in Vietnamese sandwiches, come to Banh Mi Che Cali for your advanced training. Even with inflation, the price for one of the best banh mi sandwiches in OC will be lower than the cheapest fast-food footlong you see advertised on TV and by sign-twirlers. The Buy-Two-Get-One-Free deal--the way everyone buys sandwiches--is always offered, working out to somewhere around $5 for three sandwiches. These overstuffed, two-fisted hoagies begin with rice-flour-imbued breads that bite with an assertive crunch and a crumb as light as a cloud. Start with the dac biet, the house special, in which such cold cuts as headcheese, Vietnamese ham and cha lua are layered on thick, tucked among a schmear of liver paté, cilantro, cucumbers, pickled carrots and daikon. For the other two in your threesome, opt for the thit nuong, where you get ruddy strips of well-marinated grilled pork; and then the chicken, where you'll find the meat shredded into a hash prone to absorbing the squirts of Maggi sauce and the slathering of the creamy house mayo.
1. Reuben at Harry's Deli's
There are many things to love about Harry's Deli. One of those is owner Harry Kho himself, as passionate a chef as you'll ever meet. The guy is notable for not taking shortcuts because he believes there should be no other way. And think of this: he's just making sandwiches. Everyone swoons over his Chicken Di Giorgio or his steak sandwich. Those are fine examples of what sandwiches should be. But me? I love his Reubens--a perfect amalgam of corned beef, sauerkraut, cheese, sauce and bread. The pink folds of the meat are stacked just generously enough so that every crispy bite of the griddled rye is accompanied by just the right amount of everything else. Most notably, he doesn't overdo the the sauerkraut, which often tends to overpower other Reubens. Not these. There's no other word but perfect.
1945 E. 17th St., Santa Ana, CA