A Food Guy reader recently sent me the list of his top sandwiches in Charleston and asked me what I thought of his picks. So, of course, I shared them here and asked what YOU thought of his lineup. You, my friends, had thoughts. Lots and lots of thoughts.
For a quick refresher, his favorites (in no particular order) were the Big Fish Sandwich at Capitol Market, the Big Loafer Meatloaf Sandwich at Big Joe’s on Capitol Street, the Pork Belly Chicharron Sandwich at Big Joe’s, the Sloppy Angelo from The Pitch, the Hillbilly Philly at Ridge View BBQ in Institute and the Tyler Reuben at Sam’s Uptown Café downtown.
Rounding out his list was the Pastrami & Corned Beef on Pumpernickel Swirl at M&M Mart in Kanawha City, the Big Al Burger from Burger Carte in Smithers, the BBQ Pork or Beef Banh Mi from Yen’s in South Charleston, the Fili Cheesesteak at Barkadas in Fort Hill and the Black Friday Turkey & Cranberry Mayo Grilled Cheese from Fife Street Brewing downtown.
I blessed most of those, but suggested he also consider Philly Cheesesteaks from Bellissimo in Belle, Olive Tree Café in South Charleston and Hot Diggity Dogs in North Charleston, along with two offerings from Fife Street Brewing. The French Onion Beef Grilled Cheese and gloriously messy Grilled Bologna Sandwich from that new spot downtown are both divine.
Plus, I told him Olive Tree’s seasonal Muffuletta has to be in the running, along with the epic Nashville Blue Hot Chicken Sandwich at 1st Place Café that I recently raved about here.
But most important of all, here are the ones YOU thought should be added!
“So many good sandwiches, so little time to name them all,” wrote friend and reader Alisa Bailey.
“But for my money, it’s the Chicken Salad Sandwich from Trivillian’s in Kanawha City and the Gyro or Souvlaki from Best of Crete on the West Side.”
Best of Crete received lots of other love, too. In fact, it received more votes than any other restaurant around.
“Read your article on the best area sandwich and I would add the Gyro from Best of Crete on Beech Avenue,” said Bob Jennings. “Everything on the menu is delicious and the people are great!”
An email from Lucky Eight added: “I would nominate the Gyro from Best of Crete for best sandwich in the valley, with extra cucumber sauce. It’s the best little restaurant in the valley and we get takeout from there twice a week. We’re a real fan of your column!”
And the votes kept coming, from readers Steve Fasenmaier, David George and others.
David also put in a good word for a nearby West Side spot.
“Another addition to the best sandwich list should be the Triple Decker Club at The Smokehouse,” he said. “It’s difficult to find a traditional club sandwich anywhere now. All your food groups on one sandwich. Keep up the good work!”
J.D. of Summersville was one of several calling out the stacked club sandwich from Bear’s Den – “Had one last week and it was excellent.” – and Denise Giardina plugged the Hot Pastrami and Godfather from Olive Tree Shaye Reynolds Allen was all in on Olive Tree as well, but for a different sandwich there: “Their Mediterranean Grilled Cheese is my go-to!”
I also received a sweet phone call from a Ms. Lewis, who wanted to brag on Swiftwater Café downtown.
“You have to consider them, but because they have the best barbecue on Tuesdays. It’s a pork barbecue and it’s just loaded with slaw and it’s reasonable.”
And from Lee Ann Grogg: “The sandwich I want to nominate is not an undo-the-first-button-on-your-pants sandwich, but that’s precisely why I like it! Complexity in a small two-slices-of-bread sandwich is unheard of, so I’d like to nominate the Italian Grilled Cheese from Swiftwater Cafe! It’s a great lunch treat that fills you up without a food hangover!”
Elsewhere around town …
“I mostly agree with that list and your notes, but I’d also add the seasonal summer Fried Green Tomato BLT at The Grill and the Chicken Salad Sandwich from Vandalia Co. on the West Side,” said Taylor Rabb. “It’s spicy! The best Philly Cheese is found at Sali's Market on Central Avenue on the West Side.”
Sali’s? Never heard of this place, so I’ll definitely be checking it out now – along with Wellington’s, it seems.
“Have you ever eaten at Wellington's Cafe & Catering on Greenbrier Street?” asked Chuck Anziulewicz.
“It’s a pretty utilitarian space, but the food is terrific. I had a GREAT Reuben there and the onion rings are to die for.”
Not in Charleston, but Rhonda Layne is all about the Fried Green Tomato Sandwich from Griffith and Feil in Kenova, while Ian Patrick Archer votes for the Under Boss at Rocco’s Little Italy or the Limp Brisket from The Peddler in Huntington.
Further out, Judy Dixon Deegans can’t get enough of the Hot Ham and Cheese from Humble Tomato or the crispy, crunchy Shrimp Sandwich from Hill and Holler, both in Lewisburg.
So from hill to holler and from uptown to down-home, it’s clear West Virginia is stacked with super sandwiches.
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The fourth and final preview tasting leading up to this year’s Capital Cocktail Classic was a doozie – and I mean that in the best possible way. Black Sheep Burrito & Brews, on the corner of Summers and Quarrier streets in downtown Charleston, knocked it out of the park with a pairing that offered a new take on a traditional Mexican dish and a familiar cocktail with a spicy new spin.
When ticket holders stop by the restaurant and brewery for the Oct. 1 event, they’ll be greeted with a gloriously good campechana served with chips for scooping and dipping.
Usually made with octopus boiled in its own ink, Black Sheep’s version features shrimp and scallops atop a soupy blend of red onions, jalapeno, avocado, cucumbers and cilantro swimming in a tomato-based sauce spiked with citrus and a touch of sweetness, plus a dash of Cholula hot sauce for good measure.
The shrimp in the dish is also marinated in a blend of garlic, cumin, oregano, olive oil, Cholula, salt and pepper before being grilled to top the finished creation.
Falling on the food scale somewhere in the neighborhood of a ceviche, gazpacho or hearty salsa, it offers an exciting mix of flavors that is nothing short of a revelation.
Even better, it pairs perfectly with Black Sheep’s featured cocktail that night, which is a Pineapple-Serrano “Mezcal” Mule featuring Monte Alban mezcal blended with muddled serrano pepper, pineapple juice, ginger beer and lime, garnished with orange and cilantro.
Not as hot as you might expect, it’s a surprisingly bright and refreshing drink that brings its – and the dish’s – ingredients together in harmonious fashion.
I’m a big fan of this pairing and it’s one of four you can try at this year’s Capital Cocktail Classic. For more information and tickets, visit www.fundfortheartswv.org/events.
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Finally, you all sure know how to make a guy’s day.
Not just mine, but Paul’s too. He was the reader asking for chicken liver locations, which you delivered in droves.
“Mr. Food Guy, you have absolutely overwhelmed me on the chicken livers,” he told me this week. “If I go to all of these places, I’m afraid I’ll lose my taste for them. But,we will start anyway! Thanks again.”
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Steven Keith is a food writer and restaurant critic known as “The Food Guy” who writes a weekly column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and has appeared in several state, regional and national culinary publications. Follow him online at www.wvfoodguy.com or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.