Photo: Hoisin Pork Sandwich from Charlie Hong Kong
There are so many terrific sandwiches in Santa Cruz County, it’s hard to pick a favorite. So I’ve picked 10 scrumptious sandwiches – well actually, nine, because I’d like you, dear readers, to select the 10th one! You can do this by posting a comment that mentions a sandwich you love from somewhere in Santa Cruz County, that didn’t make it on the list. I can’t wait to hear about a few “must-try” sandwiches that I have never eaten!
1. Meatball from Lillian’s
Many people flock to the family-run Italian restaurant for its great pasta offerings, but it also has very satisfying sandwiches including Meatball ($8.95), served on a Ciabatta roll with provolone cheese. The meatballs themselves are flavorful and hearty, and they’re smothered in the restaurant’s Sunday Gravy: rich tomato-based sauce simmered for hours with ground pork, ground beef, Italian sausage, and country spareribs. My husband and I also love the Sausage sandwich, so we often order one of each and split them for the best of both worlds!
Lillian’s Italian Kitchen
1116 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz
2. Caprese from Café Iveta
Since Café Iveta is an offshoot of a wholesale baked goods company, you would think folks would mostly flock to the Westside Santa Cruz bakery/cafe for pastries like their renowned scones. But the sandwiches are divine, and my personal favorite is the Caprese sandwich ($7). Ingredients like homemade basil pesto, fresh mozzarella, Roma tomatoes, homemade aioli, and a Ciabatta roll combine to create a moist, flavorful sandwich that’s also beautiful.
2125 Delaware Ave., Santa Cruz
3. 38 North Chicken Salad from The Picnic Basket
This café, operated by the same folks as Penny Ice Creamery and Assembly, specializes in seasonal offerings made with local farm and artisan goods. Lots of items rotate, but mainstays include this delicious sandwich ($8.75) featuring a generous portion of chicken salad made from locally raised chickens, avocado, Happy Boy Farms greens, and turmeric pickled onions made on-site, all placed inside rustic sourdough-wheat-rye bread from Companion Bakeshop.
The Picnic Basket
125 Beach St., Santa Cruz
4. Torta de Jamón from The Buttery
Tortas are Mexican sandwiches filled with toppings traditionally found on tacos and burritos, with the main difference being the ingredients are inside a roll instead of a tortilla. The Buttery’s delectable Torta ($8) has the bakery and café using Saag’s black forest ham, homemade refried black beans, tomatoes, marinated red onions, pickled jalapeños, avocado, and two Mexican cheeses. There’s also a without-ham version available for 25 cents less.
702 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz
5. BELT from Zoccoli’s Deli
Some folks might say don’t mess with a classic like the BLT. But Zoccoli’s did, and they created a great sandwich, the BELT ($6.75) with bacon, egg salad, lettuce, and tomato on toasted wheat bread. Having bacon and egg as ingredients, it’s reminiscent of breakfast, but since it’s egg salad, it feels more like lunch — a unique and delightful combination. Purists will be happy to know they can still order classic BLTs!
1534 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz
6. Hoisin Pork from Charlie Hong Kong
The casual Asian café is most popular for its affordable noodle bowls, but its Vietnamese sandwiches are definitely worth ordering. The meat in the Hoisin Pork sandwich ($6.20) has been braised, then roasted, in ginger and hoisin sauce. The pork’s flavors are complemented by marinated organic carrots, daikon, and fresh herbs on a small baguette baked in-house. The daikon and carrots give the sandwich a really nice crunch.
Charlie Hong Kong
1141 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz
7. Tri-tip from Masood’s Liquor & Deli
Every day, at least 30 pounds of tri-tip—sometimes 50!— are barbecued out in front of the store. Masood first made the popular sandwich about 14 years ago; once a customer eats one, he says they’re hooked and drive regularly from cities including Salinas, San Jose, and Watsonville. The sandwich ($6.99), served on French bread from Aldo’s Italian Bakery, is offered five different ways. These include a sweet and spicy bbq sauce, jalapeno sauce, French dip style, or mayonnaise and mustard.
Masood’s Liquor & Deli
7970 Highway 9, Ben Lomond
8. Portabello-Artichoke from Dharma’s
The longstanding, vegetarian Dharma’s is a veritable Capitola institution and with good reason. It offers consistently tasty and affordable meals, including the Portabello-Artichoke Sandwich ($11.95). This features grilled portabello mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and onions, plus cheddar cheese melted on top. Ingredients are placed on a Francese roll with aioli, and the result is a large, satiating sandwich accompanied by a refreshing green salad with house vinaigrette.
4250 Capitola Road, Capitola
9. Tuna Melt from Staff of Life
It never occurred to me to pay someone else for a tuna sandwich—feels like something I can make at home. Then I tried a Tuna Melt ($6.99) from the deli at Staff of Life, and my opinion changed. The albacore tuna salad is moist, well seasoned, and overflowing. The salad is prepared on-site with house-made vegan mayonnaise. It’s served with your choice of cheese and bread (all bread is made at Staff), plus toppings like tomato, sprouts, spinach, and cucumber. For my version, I prefer Staff’s cheddar cheese and whole wheat bread.
Staff of Life
1266 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz
10. Your Turn!
So, what do you think? What’s your favorite sandwich? Please leave a comment below and name your favorite – whether it’s one that I mentioned, or one that’s not on this list!