America's 6 Strangest Sandwiches

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America's 6 Strangest Sandwiches
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America's 6 Strangest Sandwiches

From a grilled cheesecake to a hamburger bun made of crispy ramen noodles, these mad-scientist-like creations elevate the simple sandwich.

Image Courtesy of Cafe Patachou

The Cheesycake Melt: The Grilled Cheese Truck

Founder Dave Danhi opened the world’s first mobile grilled cheese truck back in 2009 and now operates out of California, Texas, and Arizona. While he’s still tinkering with the savory grilled cheese original, he recently turned his attention to a sweet version. The Cheesycake Melt’s backbone is brioche bread, created specifically for Danhi, with large pieces of Oreo cookie baked into the loaf. “We like to overcook the cheesecake just a bit,” Danhi says, “so it gives a golden-brown toast flavor to the richness of the cheese.” The cheesecake is whipped into a spread, layered with premium raspberry preserves, sprinkled with crumbled Oreos, and plopped on a griddle until crispy.

Image Credit: The Grilled Cheese Truck

The Ramen Burger: Smorgasburg, Brooklyn, NY

“The best way to describe the ramen burger is a bowl of shoyu ramen that you can eat with your hands,” says Jeff Shimamoto. Created by his brother Keizo Shimamoto in 2013, the sandwich combines Keizo’s favorite foods from Japan and America. An all-Angus beef patty has arugula, scallions, and Keizo’s secret shoyu glaze. It’s the buns, however, that have earned it all the attention (Time named it one of the 17 most influential burgers). They are formed entirely from ramen noodles. “Our buns are lightly seared on both sides, giving you a slight crisp when you bite into it, but they then remain chewy on the inside…much like a regular bowl of ramen noodles,” explains Jeff. “It is currently only sold at Smorgasburg on weekends, but we are opening a full-time operation this spring at Berg’n Beer Hall in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.”

Image Courtesy of Ramen Burger

The Full-Bellied Pig: Café Patachou, Indianapolis

What mother ever said, “Hey, Johnny, you want raw jalapeños on your PB&J”? While it’s unlikely to hit lunchboxes anytime soon, Café Patachou’s newest sandwich is selling just fine with grown-ups. In between slices of toasted whole-wheat bread, there’s thick-cut Indiana-sourced bacon, creamy peanut butter, strawberry jelly, and a heavy handful of raw jalapeño slices, with seeds intact for ultimate spice impact. It’s fiery, creamy, sweet, salty—and big hearted. Owner Martha Hoover will open her 11th restaurant in 2014, and it will be a nonprofit to feed the city’s at-risk population. Sales of the Full-Bellied Pig at all Café Patachou locations will go toward that philanthropic endeavor.

Image Courtesy of Cafe Patachou

The Redneck: Kitt’s Kornbread Sandwich & Pie Bar, Jefferson, TX

“It took two years of tweaking the recipe and a custom-made pan to make the perfect corn bread for our sandwiches,” says co-owner Kitt Williams. Once that was settled, she opened a dedicated restaurant—and it hardly took her two minutes to size up the hungry East Texas crowd and create The Redneck. It’s made with 1950s-style, thickly sliced fried bologna and charred on a grill until the edges curl, perfectly burnt. There’s melted American cheese, and if you want to get fancy, onions, mustard, and mayo. But don’t you dare pick up a fork; it’s called The Redneck, not The Debutante.

Image Credit: Kitt Williams

The Pastrami Sandwich: Butcher & Bee, Charleston, SC

Don’t let the simple name fool you. This is no Jewish deli standard, but rather the southern-influenced product of sous chef William Mote. Pasture-raised beef brisket is brined for a week in coriander, black peppercorns, and garlic. On day eight, it’s smoked for an hour, then braised for six. The sandwich gets dressed in grain mustard and horseradish aioli with a scoop of collard greens and a pinch of pickled mustard seeds—all between rye bread slices. “The idea of putting collard greens on a sandwich was not part of some master plan,” admits proprietor Michael Shemtov. “We had two cold spells in Charleston this year; collard greens were among the only produce available, but they were a great fit.” The popular sandwich is so labor intensive that it’s on the rotating menu an average of only 10 days a month.

Image Courtesy of Andrew Cebulka Photography

The Hoecake: Papa KayJoe’s BBQ, Centerville, TN

The Boston butt shredded pork is legendary, and the vinegar-based barbecue sauce is made daily from scratch. But the claim to fame at Papa KayJoe’s is what they do with those two staples. “We are in the South, and corn bread is a big deal,” explains owner Devin Pickard. “The Hoecake sandwich starts with a mixture of white, self-rising cornmeal, eggs, and buttermilk, whipped up to a pancake consistency. We then take a large helping of lard and cover the griddle, ladle out that batter, and brown it on both sides.” The Hoecake comes standard with a scoop of the shredded pork between the two pancake-styled buns. But most patrons opt to dress it with the fixings of mayo-based coleslaw, pickles, and a drizzle of that tangy red barbecue sauce. 119 W. Ward St.; (931)729-2131.

Image Courtesy of Southern Foodways Alliance

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By Jenny Adams

"Our menu has always been eclectic and out of the norm," explains Tyler Kord, owner and chef of New York City's No. 7 Sub. "We like playing with ingredients to give our guests something that they can't find somewhere else."

For a lot of New Yorkers, that something is No. 7 Sub's broccoli sandwich, which has the unusual-but-inspired addition of lychees pickled in ginger and chiles.

"Our menu has always been eclectic and out of the norm," explains Tyler Kord, owner and chef of New York City's No. 7 Sub. "We like playing with ingredients to give our guests something that they can't find somewhere else."

We set out to find other wonderfully strange sandwiches across the U.S., bypassing classics like the Reuben, the po'boy, and the cheesesteak in order to toast (pun intended) one-of-a-kind creations.

Tinkering with the sandwich is nothing new; Elvis Presley changed up the original PB&J to include bacon and bananas instead, and that recipe remains a southern favorite. But it seems that with each year, the twists on American sandwiches get more, well, twisted.

Brooklyn-based Keizo Shimamoto wowed the world in 2013 when he created the first ramen burger, featuring buns made entirely of ramen noodles crisped on a grill.

"Keizo has a vision and passion for spreading great ramen throughout the world," explains his brother and head of business development, Jeff Shimamoto. "The ramen burger has been an effective vehicle for introducing Americans to fresh ramen noodles and the wonderful taste of shoyu sauce."

At Butcher & Bee in Charleston, SC, recent inclement weather inspired an update to the staple pastrami. "We had two cold spells in 2013, and most of the local vegetables were knocked back," says proprietor Michael Shemtov. Lacking lettuce, the chef put cooked collard greens between the top slice of rye bread and the meat, creating an instant hit with diners.

Its popularity wouldn't come as a surprise to Tyler Kord of No. 7 Sub: "People like food that tastes good, and if it's challenging along the way, all the more fun."

Check out the slideshow above for America's strangest sandwiches.

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