With a rash of burger-centric openings and a stampede to get the all-American icon onto the menu of what feels like every restaurant in town, can burger burnout be far behind? Combat inevitable burger boredom with these 10 first-class sandwiches.
1"I never thought we'd be a deli," said Clancey's Meats & Fish owner Kristin Tombers, working away at the small sandwich station in her Linden Hills butcher shop, but here she is, turning out some of the city's most distinctive and satisfying sandwiches. The care and feeding that go into her roast beef sandwich ($8.50) is extraordinary. The Minnesota-raised beef is carefully sliced to order. The crisp, chewy Rustica baguette gets a healthy swipe of coarse mustard, followed by plenty of pungent fresh-ground horseradish, house-pickled jalapeños and house-roasted red bell peppers. A dash of vinegar, a spritz of olive oil, a few sprinkles of salt and pepper; yeah, this beauty is stuffed like a chintz-covered sofa.
2 It's not easy picking a favorite among the modest grab-and-go assortment ($4.50) at the Salty Tart, especially when owner Michelle Gayer layers roast turkey, skinny cuts of brie, a slash of tart orange marmalade and snappy greens ("fresh from a friend's garden," said Gayer), on robust whole-wheat bread. A close second: Gayer's spin on the chicken club, with juicy, nicely seasoned roast chicken, a few slices of crisp bacon, field greens, avocado and a roasted garlic mayo, pressed between a golden buttermilk bun. On your way out, grab a macaroon for the road.
920 E. Lake St., Minneapolis, 612-874-9206, www.saltytart.com
3 The humble lunch-counter tuna salad sandwich lives on at Yum! Kitchen and Bakery, and it's way better than you remember it. Owner Patti Soskin calls it her "Fancy-Schmancy Tuna" ($7.95), but the formula is simplicity itself, just top-quality albacore tune, kalamata olives, sweet red peppers and "good-old fashioned Hellman's," she said, all generously spooned in between thick, toasted slices of the kitchen's superb challah. Yum, indeed.
4Maverick's is to Arby's as Neiman Marcus is to Kohl's, with super-deluxe roast beef sandwiches ($4.49) that carve a new notch on the fast-food bar. Picture rare roast beef, so pink and tender that it practically melts just looking at it, shaved thin and stacked high on a gigantic buttered and toasted bun. There's barbecue sauce and other add-your-own embellishments, but this beef is so good that it's best relished naked.
5 Be'wiched co-owners Matthew Bickford and Mike Ryan carefully engineer each of their sandwiches to exist in complete harmony, and their a.m. effort is no exception. Rosemary-studded focaccia is smothered in their unapologetically peppery house-smoked pastrami, garnished with roasted peppers and an energetic harissa and finished with a layer of havarti. Oh, and the final wake-up call? A fried egg. The whole shebang ($6.50) awakens sleep-fogged taste buds like nothing else.
800 Washington Av. N., Minneapolis, 612-767-4330, www.bewicheddeli.com
6 Understated luxury permeates every square inch of Cosmos, and nowhere is that philosophy more evident than in lunch's striking trio of open-faced lobster sandwiches ($16). The sweet, succulent meat, served cold, is cut into ribbons, tossed with wisps of fennel and spooned over toasted brioche squares dressed with a mild roasted poblano pepper aioli. Savored slowly, this indulgent lunch works out to about $1.50 per bite, and it's that rare expenditure that's worth every cent.
601 1st Av. N., Minneapolis, 612-312-1168, www.cosmosrestaurant.com
7 Chef Shack co-owner Lisa Carlson has an inside connection to her seafood supplier, which might explain why the soft-shell crab sandwich ($10) at this restaurant-on-wheels is such a winner. "He leaves me a note with his delivery that says, 'I picked the best ones for you,'" said Carlson with a laugh. It must be true, because the gently fried crustaceans are notable for their sweet, abundant meat.
Carlson sticks to the basics, adding just tomato and lettuce from fellow farmers market vendors, a dollop of pickled ramp tartar sauce and a sturdy New French Bakery bun ("delivered fresh right to the trailer, believe it or not," she said). Bad news first: This two-fisted meal is available only on weekends. But on the good news side, the sandwich has matriculated from an occasional special into a regular berth on the Shack's menu. "I was trying to phase it out," said Carlson. "But no one was having that."
Saturday at Mill City Farmers Market, 2nd St. and Chicago Av. S., Minneapolis, 612-341-7580, www.millcityfarmersmarket.org and Sunday at Kingfield Farmers Market, Nicollet Av. S. and 43rd St., Minneapolis, www.kingfieldfarmersmarket.org
9 The slider: So 2008, right? Until it gets into the hands of chef Tim McKee. At his new Sea Change, McKee cleverly reinvents this bar-food cliché with a compare/contrast blend of textures and flavors, layering a gloriously fatty slab of pork belly under a crisp-on-the-outside, pillowy-on-the-inside fried oyster. They're served two to a plate ($8), and one order is definitely not enough.
806 S. 2nd St., Minneapolis, 612-225-6499, www.seachangempls.com
8 The pulled chicken sandwich ($7.50) at Brasa isn't shy. Sautéed poblano peppers and a house-made tomatillo-chipotle hot sauce turn up the heat well past simmer, while crème fraîche and a crunchy layer of cabbage-mint salad cool things down. The tasty chicken comes straight off the kitchen's rotisseries, and even the toasted bun -- an uncomplicated cousin to the focaccia family -- is a winner. Diners at the new St. Paul location can wash it down with chef Alex Roberts' refreshing house-made sodas; I highly recommend the pineapple ginger ale.
600 E. Hennepin Av., Minneapolis, 612-379-3030 and 777 Grand Av., St. Paul, 651-224-1302, www.brasa.us
10 Locavores need to know about the Corner Table-Rustica sandwich partnership, where the former provides the made-in-the-Midwest fillings and the manpower and the latter contributes the breads and the shelf space. There's plenty to love about the ham and cheese ($7.50) version, but here's what stands out: the ham's intoxicating scent hits your nose the moment you peel away the white butcher paper wrapper. Add a few slices of mild white cheese, a generous dash of garlicky Dijon aioli -- and of course a spear of Rustica's chewy baguette -- and you've got a sandwich that's dying to be tucked into a picnic basket. What's not so lovable? They tend to sell out, fast.
What's your favorite sandwich? Chime in at www.startribune.com/tabletalk.