• Steven Keith

Time to vote! For the area's best sandwiches, that is!

With Election Day just a few months away, it’s time to practice your voting power. But I promise this little exercise in democracy will be WAY more fun.

Grilled Bologna at Fife Street ... 5 napkins, 5 stars!
Grilled Bologna at Fife Street ... 5 napkins, 5 stars!







A reader named David recently sent me a list of his current top 10 sandwiches in the Charleston area, asking if I would look it over to flag any good ones he might be missing.


“Here are my top 10 sandwiches,” he wrote, “in no particular order.”

  • Big Fish Sandwich at Fresh Seafood Company at Capitol Market

  • Big Loafer Meatloaf Sandwich at Big Joe’s on Capitol Street

  • Pork Belly Chicharron Sandwich at Big Joe’s

  • Sloppy Angelo from The Pitch at Shawnee

  • Hillbilly Philly at Ridge View BBQ in Institute

  • Tyler Reuben at Sam’s Uptown Café downtown

  • Pastrami & Corned Beef on Pumpernickel Swirl at M&M Mart in Kanawha City

  • Big Al Burger from Burger Carte in Smithers

  • BBQ Pork or Beef Banh Mi from Yen’s in South Charleston

  • Fili Cheesesteak at Barkadas in Fort Hill

  • Black Friday Turkey & Cranberry Mayo Grilled Cheese from Fife Street Brewing downtown

Hillbilly Philly from Ridge View BBQ
Hillbilly Philly from Ridge View BBQ

“I know there are actually 11, but I just can’t cut any of these,” he told me. “Am I forgetting any amazing sandwiches out there?”


Although that’s a solid list, I haven’t had them all, so I couldn’t definitively tell him whether those that made his cut were really the best of the bunch. It did get my gears turning, though, so I started thinking about sandwiches that I might add or strike from his lineup.


I told him I was a big fan of the Fili Cheesesteak at Barkadas in the past, but the last two I’ve had there were either too tough or too salty to enjoy. That definitely leaves room for other amazing cheesesteaks I’ve had at Bellissimo in Belle, the Olive Tree Café in South Charleston and, surprisingly enough, Hot Diggity Dogs in North Charleston.


Nashville Blue Hot Chicken from 1st Place Cafe
Nashville Blue Hot Chicken from 1st Place Cafe

Although it was only a seasonal offering this year, I still can’t stop thinking about Olive Tree’s special Muffuletta sandwich as well, a towering taste explosion stuffed with slices of ham, Genoa salami, mortadella and more with marinated peppers and olives on a thick Za’atar-dusted bun with a blend of herbs, toasted sesame seeds, dried sumac and salt.


I definitely let him know about my recent discovery of the Nashville Blue Hot Chicken Sandwich at 1st Place Café in Nitro, another towering mound of spicy deliciousness with glistening hot-butter chicken, housemade jalapeno pickles and bleu cheese sauce that dazzled my tastebuds – and rocked my world. It’s comically large, but ridiculously good.


And in addition to the Black Friday option he mentioned at Fife Street, there are a few other worthy contenders there, too.


Sloppy Angelo from The Pitch
Sloppy Angelo from The Pitch

I love the housemade onion dip that comes with the decadent umami-bomb French Grilled Onion with Beef Grilled Cheese there.


Even better, the former special that has since earned a spot on the regular menu – the almighty Grilled Bologna Sandwich – is a stupid-good, scrumptiously messy mix of thick-grilled bologna bathed in spicy BBQ sauce topped with banana pepper coleslaw and a blend of American and pepper jack cheeses.


Five napkins and five stars, that one!


So days after receiving David’s list, I’m still sitting here wracking my brain, running all sorts of local sandwiches through my head to determine ones that are truly not to be missed.


And that, my friends, is where you come in. IT’S TIME TO VOTE!


Muffuletta from Olive Tree Cafe
Muffuletta from Olive Tree Cafe

Tell me what sandwiches YOU believe should make a top 10 list of the best-of-the-best throughout the Kanawha Valley. I’ll share the results in a future column and see if there are any front-runners that deserve a spot on David’s list.


And let’s keep hamburgers and hot dogs off this list for the sake of simplicity, since that would require a whole separate run-off election altogether!


• • •


Yours truly has a date to sample more cocktail and appetizer pairings leading up to this year’s Capital Cocktail Classic on Saturday, Oct. 1.


I’ll be tasting the entries from Bar 101/Ichiban and the new DT Prime steakhouse this week, so tune in next Wednesday for a sneak peek at more offerings that await guests at this upscale pub crawl that benefits the local Fund for the Arts.


• • •


Finally, I have a reader in desperate need of help that I can’t provide, so I’m hoping you’ll come to his rescue.


“Hello Steve,” wrote Paul, who lives in Pinch. “I read your column every week and I need some help. Where is the best place to get chicken livers in the Kanawha Valley area? I'm having no luck finding any.”


Beef Banh Mi from Yen's
Beef Banh Mi from Yen's

Paul and I do not share this taste in common. I grew up with the smell of chicken livers roasting in the oven and thought surely there was no fouler stench on the face of the earth.


But my mother loved them and, apparently, so does Paul.


I have no idea what restaurants might serve them around the valley. My best guess was homestyle and country-cookin’ type places like Diehl’s in Nitro or Topspot in Sissonville, but their menus don’t show that offering.


Anyone know where Paul might get his fix? He sent me a follow-up email asking, so the struggle must be real!


• • •


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 wvfoodguy@aol.com.

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