Podnah's Pit

Sandwich city

Portland’s best sandwiches, and then some

There is seemingly no end to the sandwiches on offer in this town, which is why we embarked on this often satisfying, sometimes disappointing (and certainly wallet-lightening) tasting adventure on your behalf. With the firm belief that no Portlander should drop cash on a less-than-stellar lunch, we adopted a broad definition of sandwich (Wraps? Sure!) and tried dozens of local creations in search of the best.

Portland’s best sandwiches, and then some

There is seemingly no end to the sandwiches on offer in this town, which is why we embarked on this often satisfying, sometimes disappointing (and certainly wallet-lightening) tasting adventure on your behalf. With the firm belief that no Portlander should drop cash on a less-than-stellar lunch, we adopted a broad definition of sandwich (Wraps? Sure!) and tried dozens of local creations in search of the best.

Podnah's Pit
Adam Wickham / Vanguard Staff
Podnah's Pit

Here are our selections for first place and second place in nine sandwich categories (deli, breakfast, burgers, grilled, turkey, pork, subs, wraps and banh mi), with a couple of honorable mentions thrown into the mix:


1. “The Classic”
Kenny & Zuke’s
1038 SW Stark St.
Portland, OR 97205

The Classic has the standard Reuben components: pastrami, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Russian Dressing. What makes this sandwich irresistible, though, are the quality ingredients. With pastrami cured for seven days, smoked for ten hours, then steamed for three hours, Kenny and Zuke’s take artisan food to a new level. A Classic will set you back a steep $13.45, but that’s a small price compared to revelation one experiences upon biting into it.

2. “Rare Roast Beef”
1411 NE Broadway St.
Portland, OR 97232

Petisco, a European-style restaurant committed to the freshest of ingredients, has perfected a deli staple: the roast beef sandwich. Petisco’s Rare Roast Beef sandwich consists of thinly sliced roast beef, pan roasted red peppers, horseradish and a piquant Manchego cheese. What makes Petisco and their roast beef sandwich really stand out is that Tuesday through Saturday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Petisco has a sandwich happy hour, when all sandwiches are only $5.


1. “The Reggie Deluxe”
Pine State Biscuits
3640 SE Belmont St.
Portland, OR 97214

Pine State’s reputation was built on producing great-tasting biscuits. Now one couldn’t mention Pine State without talking about The Reggie Deluxe, an $8 biscuit sandwich with fried chicken, an egg anyway you like it, bacon and cheese, topped with incredibly rich sausage gravy. Show up early—on busy days you could wait in line for 30 minutes or more, and Pine State has been known to sell through its limited daily supply of fried chicken.

2. “Breakfast Sandwich”
2728 SE Ankeny St. Portland,
OR 97214

A neighborhood favorite, Crema’s Breakfast Sandwich is always worth the trip. Its simple ingredient list (melted cheese, brown sugar-glazed bacon and an egg on a ciabatta roll) allows you to taste the quality of each and every component of this classic breakfast sandwich.


1. “Angry Rhino BBQ Burger”
Bar Bar
3939 N Mississippi Ave.

Bar Bar’s classic cheeseburger (Cascade natural beef, tomato relish, lettuce, American cheese and secret sauce on a potato bun) is delish, but the Angry Rhino BBQ burger is where it’s at: the house-made BBQ sauce is sweet and tangy, and the onion ring is its perfect complement. Add a slice of American cheese and your tab is $7; sub a house-made, vegan burger and skip the cheese and you’ve got yourself an equally tasty, animal-free burger for $6.50. Grab a side of fries and a beer float and catch a show at Mississippi Studios, which is in the next room.

2. “Burger”
Le Pigeon
738 E Burnside St

Earlier this year, 30-year-old Le Pigeon chef and owner Gabriel Rucker was named the James Beard Foundation’s Rising Star Chef of the Year. Drop by his nationally-renowned restaurant right after opening and snag one of his limited-supply burgers for $12—a small price to pay for the dining experience. Trust the beer and wine list and your server, and enjoy a nice night on the cheap.


1. “Green Bean”
Meat Cheese Bread
1406 SE Stark St.
Portland, OR 97214

Committed to using local products, Meat Cheese Bread turns sandwiches into works of art, and their Green Bean sandwich is no exception. Deliciously grilled green beans, an entire soft-boiled egg, bacon relish, parmesan and aioli are delicately arranged in a sliced baguette, and with a price tag of only $8, Meat Cheese Bread will become a weekly visit for any foodie.

2. “The Heartless Artichoke”
Tin Shed Garden Café
1438 NE Alberta Ave.
Portland, OR 97211

Besides its beautiful patio and adorable storefront, the Tin Shed has a line stretching down Alberta on any given summer Sunday for another reason: its sandwiches. The Heartless Artichoke is a creamy blend of artichoke, parmesan, garlic, lemon and roasted red peppers, grilled with pepper jack cheese on a sourdough bun for $8.75.

Weirdest: “The Original Cheesus”
Grilled Cheese Grill
1027 NE Alberta Ave. Portland, OR 97211

The Original Cheesus is a sandwich of intimidating stature. Two grilled cheeses—one containing pickles and American cheese, the other grilled onions and Colby jack—sandwich tomato, lettuce, ketchup, mustard and a 1/3 pound hamburger patty. This deadly combination costs $8—a great price for a meal that could last you two days.


1. “The Witless”
Arleta Library Bakery Café
5513 SE 72nd Ave.

It simply doesn’t get better than roasted turkey, thick-cut bacon, avocado, Monterey jack cheese, lettuce and tomato with honey mustard spread on fresh, whole wheat bread. The restaurant itself is charming and the wait staff is friendly. For the sandwich and some skillet potatoes, the grand total is a well-spent $7.50.

2. “The Thanksgiving”
Otto’s Sausage Kitchen
4138 SE Woodstock Blvd.

It’s exactly what you’d expect, for about half the price you’d guess: hot turkey, housemade stuffing, melted Swiss cheese, lettuce, cranberries, mayonnaise and cream cheese on toasted white bread for $6.25. Otto’s also makes all of its sandwiches available as halves, which means you can land a taste of this sucker for just $3.65.


1. “Salapao”
102 NW 4th Ave.
This has to be one of the most delicious plates in Portland. It’s small—about equivalent to a half-sandwich—but it packs a punch. Rich, sweet and saucy shredded pork is wrapped in dough, steamed until lightly golden and topped with fried shallots. The salapao is regularly priced at $4, but is also available during happy hour for a buck cheaper.

2. “Brian’s Pulled Pork”
Podnah’s Pit
1625 NE Killingsworth St.

Everything a pulled pork sandwich should be. Squeeze bottles of spicy and vinegar sauces are readily available for your flavor-intensifying pleasure, and the beer list at Podnah’s is commendable. This sandwich is $10, and comes with your choice of side (potato salad, collard greens, coleslaw, black-eyed pea salad, pinto or BBQ beans) and an unlimited and free supply of white onions and jalapenos.

Weirdest: “Porchetta Sandwich”
The People’s Pig
SW 9th Ave. & SW Alder St.

Traditional porchetta is an entire gutted, deboned pig that is stuffed with layers of meat, fat, herbs and skin and roasted over an open fire. At The People’s Pig, porchetta is slightly more palatable to the uninitiated: A roasted pork loin that has been rolled and stuffed with housemade sausage. Thick, hot slices are laid on a fresh Fleur de Lis bakery roll and topped with either arugula or apples and cabbage. A serious must-try.


1. “The Captain Nemo”
Brass Tacks Sandwiches
3535 N Vancouver Ave.

This is the kind of vegan sandwich that puts its meaty counterpart to shame. The house-made white bean “meatballs” deliver all the flavor of a beef or pork meatball, but without the brick-in-your-gut sensation an hour later. The housemade marinara sauce is delicious, and the vegan garlic aioli is even better than cheese. At $8 it’s not a steal, but is worth every penny.

2. “Meatball Parmigiano Hero”
Bunk Sandwiches
621 SE Morrison St.

Bunk Sandwiches and its new sister location, Bunk Bar (1028 SE Water Ave.), are the kings of Portland’s sandwich empire. This is a classic meatball sub, served nuclear-hot with perfectly broiled parmesan cheese on top. It goes down best with Kettle chips and a pint, an experience for which Bunk Bar can’t be beat.


1. “Norse Meatball Lefse Wrap”
Viking Soul Food
1930 NE Everett St.
Portland, OR 97232

The paper thin lefse is, on its own, enough to keep you coming back, but when a charming couple stuffs that lefse with freshly made Norse meatballs, a smoky cheese sauce and pickled cabbage, and sells it to you for only $4.50, you’re hooked for life at first bite. Double down and pick up two savory wraps for $8, or choose dessert and grab a savory and a sweet wrap for just $7.

2. “Buffalo Tofu Wrap”
Vita Café
3023 NE Alberta St.
Portland, OR 97211

Vita Café is a vegan restaurant that will force any non-vegan to question their dietary choices. The Buffalo Tofu Wrap—a whole wheat tortilla stuffed with fried tofu covered with a spicy buffalo sauce, lettuce, tomato and vegan ranch dressing—is the café’s coup de grâce and tastes better than any buffalo chicken wrap around.


1. “BBQ Pork”
An Xuyen Bakery
5345 SE Foster Rd.
Bus line: 9

An Xuyen Bakery is almost indisputably the finest banh mi deli in Portland. They make their own baguettes, they have more than a dozen sandwich options and everything on the menu is under $4. Add jalapenos for free and get an extra kick. The desserts here are also worth a try—giant chocolate and red velvet cupcakes for only $1.50, and fresh sugared donuts for just 75 cents. Limited seating available.

2. “Pork Meatball”
Lela’s Bistro
1524 NW 23rd Ave.503-719-4744

Lela’s makes a mean banh mi sandwich. The bread is fresh, the mayonnaise is garlicked and the kim chi is in no short supply. These may cost a dollar or two more than your average banh mi sandwich, but Lela’s still comes in at the relatively low lunch price range of $4 to $5. Besides, the sandwiches here come with a decent side salad and are served in an incredibly charming atmosphere.

Meh: “BBQ Pork Sandwich”
Vietnamese Banh Mi Sandwiches
SW 4th Ave. & SW Hall St.

This food cart is within easy striking distance of PSU, and is one of the few spots downtown that serve banh mi. It’s also one of the only places downtown where you can get lunch for less than $4. But compared to other banh mi delis in Portland, the sandwiches here are a little lacking. It’ll do in a pinch, but head elsewhere for a world class banh mi experience.