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Boston's Great Sandwiches

Fortunately for those of us who recognize that appreciating sandwich quality is the true measuring stick of sophistication, Boston offers a few hidden treasures and world-renowned gems. In a world awash with sandwich options and palettes oft too unrefined to notice the difference, its important for HBS grads to discern the wheat from the chaff. Indeed, the refinement of the American sandwich is a reflection of this country’s cornucopia of culinary traditions and entrepreneurial spirit. Recently PBS (the Public Broadcasting System) paid homage to this phenomenon by sampling the top sandwiches in the U.S. in several different sub categories. New England is proud to represent with:

Best Falafel
Sepal’s in Watertown, championed by NPR’s Jack Beatty who proclaimed this sandwich is vital for the Middle East peace process. Try the Sepal’s special for the most delicately complex falafel you’ve ever had. The refinement of the some 20 spice patty cooked to absolute perfection such that the outside crisp ads just right amount of heft to the soft subtle inside creating a multiplier effect that words fail to summarize. Those street carts in Jeru and Beirut have nothing on this guy. The difference between the Sepal and most falafel is about the same as burger king to Ruth’s Chris. This is one genre-topping sandwich!

Top Roast Beef
Kelly’s on Revere Beach. Famed for unifying the consistency of the meat and bun such that you can’t tell the difference between them. Most roast beef lovers will agree that the meat quality and preparation here are bar none. Part of the charm is also fighting off the vicious seagulls as you eat on the beach. That said, some of us of from humbler roots will recall Sunday gospel brunch at Arby’s, where their great sauce masked low quality beef. While this food critic won’t blaspheme that Arby’s is better, I will vouch that sauce matters, and Kelly’s could use a large dose of Horsy Sauce.

Now forget the national rankings, don’t leave HBS without visiting these two spots:

Chilean Bliss
Chacarero in Downtown Crossing. This sandwich is ridonkulous good. Imagine primo slow roasted steak strips mixed with pepper-cracked chicken topped with juicy sweet peppers and oddly complimentary green beans. Now add special cheese and a phatty tomato, then smother it all in homemade blend of spicy mustard guacamole and sour cream. Finally, put all that between to pieces of muffulleta and you have something that takes me higher. Having this sandwich represented at least 10% of my happiness working downtown this summer. Based on the large number HBSers who I met there each day, I’m not alone in my appreciation for this true work of brilliance.

Gourmet Sandwiches
Darwin’s on Mt Auburn. This Cambridge landmark has been quietly producing some of the finest concoctions in the world. With a robust menu utilizing ingredients from fresh mozz to imported proscuitto and parma to turkey and cranberry, anything Darwin makes will best whatever you’ve had before. These sandwiches are so good that whilst eating I’m reduced to some sort of animal compelled to eat as fast as possible for fear of even the smallest crumb being stolen. This place makes Cardullo’s seem bland and Subway taste like construction paper.

Best of the Rest in Harvard Square:

Sabra Grill
Harvard staple, been hear longer than any student and most profs. Try the baked Kibbee for a piece of Lebanese heritage.

Cardullo’s
Solid, similar selection to Darwin’s, a bit pricy, more European, fewer sauces.

Leo’s Place
I haven’t been but the plastic sandwiches in the window are beckoning me.

October 18, 2004
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