Photo by Megan Leigh Barnard

Hand to Mouth

Columbus is a working class town with a working class appetite, and no metaphor better embraces our close-to-the-bricks heritage than a meal that doesn’t require utensils.

Sadly, some of our city’s unsung sandwiches are hiding on familiar menus beside more pricey or famous fare.

Signature sandwiches can be dangerously seductive. It’s easy to obsess over the prom queen and overlook the girl next door—a bit more demure, but equally alluring if you just give her a chance.

So here are some suggestions you’ve probably missed — five sandwiches under $8, each worthy of its own celebrity status.

The Chicken and Waffle Sandwich

Ethyl and Tank |  19 E Thirteenth Ave.  |

Sandwiches aren’t exclusive to late-risers and the lunch crowd. That’s why your long day should begin at the unlikely convergence of coffee shop, campus bar and old school arcade. Ethyl and Tank is just the kind of joint to strike the precarious balance between hangout and hotspot, with a menu to match—and their twist on chicken and waffles is worth the trip.

Poultry meets pig with a breaded breast of chicken and applewood-smoked bacon slipped between two golden waffles. Made better with cheddar and a drizzle of maple syrup on top, this sandwich will make you wonder why anyone would start their day any other way.

The Veggie Panini

The Carvery  |  51 E Gay St.  |

With a name like The Carvery, you’d presume everything worth having on the menu is freshly plucked or off-the-hoof. And you would be dead wrong. Perhaps the best vegetarian sandwich in the capital city can be found at a perennial haunt of naysaying carnivores. Stuffed with zucchini and summer squash, a smooth slice of muenster, a splash of herbed-oil, and smear of hummus, all on a grilled ciabatta bun, this veggie sandwich will make you a true believer. It’s an unexpected paradox for the palate—a meat-free sandwich bold enough to bite you back.

The Italian Beef Sandwich

Wholly Joe’s Chicago Eatery 

1182 E Powell Rd. in Lewis Center  |

Wholly Joe’s faithfully serves the holy trinity of Chicago’s culinary creations. Beyond their epic execution of deep-dish pizza and distinctive hot dogs, they also offer the only legitimate Italian beef sandwich in Central Ohio. Seasoned, slow-roasted beef is piled high on a chewy, Italian roll—properly ordered “hot” and “dipped,” topped with giardiniera (a spicy mix of pickled peppers, celery and carrots), then the whole roll is dunked back in the bath of au jus to soak up more meaty juices.

Just like their pies and dogs, there are no compromises on authentic ingredients. Nearly everything is shipped in from the Windy City. The Cubs will win the World Series before you find a better Italian beef this side of Chicago.

The Jaeger Burger

Thurman Café  |  183 Thurman Ave.  |

Never mind Thurman Café’s namesake sandwich. You want the Jaeger Burger because it breaks all the rules. Can you call it a burger if there isn’t a bun? There’s no cheese, so it’s not a patty melt either. Is it even a sandwich if you can’t pick it up? The Jaeger Burger is both tempting and taunting, so it’s okay to be a little intimidated. PRO TIP: Use that mountain of steak fries to eat through the mound of French onion dip before taking a knife and fork to the sautéed mushrooms and onions covering the seared steer slab and Texas toast underneath.

Don’t even ask about calories or carbs. Just try to ignore the sound of your arteries clogging. At a little better than $12, it also breaks the $8 cheapskate rule. But, it’s big enough to be easily shared, or split and saved for another meal. Your date and your doctor will thank you.

The Meatloaf Sandwich

Sí Señor  |  72 E Lynn St.  |

Sí Señor is celebrated for their traditional Peruvian pork shoulder with pickled onions and sweet potato mayo, and rightly so. But their meatloaf sandwich is not to be missed. Chorizo and ground beef, cut with onions and poblano peppers—baked, sliced, and served on a crusty bun with gooey white cheddar and housemade tomato jam. This ain’t your mama’s meatloaf sandwich. It’s a South American spin on a Southern standard.