America is a regional country: Food that’s core to the identity of one place — chili on spaghetti in Cincinnati, Spam on everything in Hawaii, Kool-Aid pickles in the South — is treated as nothing more than an oddity elsewhere. With that in mind, Grub Street set out to track down all of the country’s hyper-regional sandwiches: individual creations that, for one reason or another, seem to exist only in particular pockets of America.
To be clear, there are some things you won’t see here: po’boys, lobster rolls, muffulettas, grilled cheese, peanut butter and jelly, cheesesteaks, club sandwiches, Dagwoods, burgers, patty melts, or any sandwich that consists of simply placing some other kind of regional specialty — brisket, pulled pork — on bread. Those are the chart-topping hits of the sandwich world; this list is about the deep cuts.
The country is full of weird, wonderful creations that you’ve probably never heard of unless you live in their natal home: Gut-busters like the Midwest’s horseshoe (an open-faced sandwich covered with cheese fries), upstate New York’s beef on weck (named for its carraway-studded roll), or even chow mein sandwiches from Fall River, Massachusetts (exactly what they sound like).
Some of the sandwiches on this list have facsimiles outside their places of origin; others are only to be found in the areas where they were invented. They may differ wildly in concept, but that’s the whole point — the thing that all of these sandwiches do have in common is a fan base in some particular neck of the woods, and the potential to grow those devoted fans all across America.