Young and Hungry

Meatless Sandwiches: They Should Be More Than Bread Stuffed with Veggies

Sandwiches were simpler when I was young. Turkey and mustard. Roast beef and mustard. Salami and mustard. Sometimes I would sneak a potato chip in between the bread, but that was it. My lunch-time sandwiches consisted of meat plus mustard plus bread. (Actually, I liked my sandwiches on hamburger buns, but that's a different story.)

Things have changed since 5th grade. I eat less meat; in fact, about 85 percent of my meals revolve around non-meat items. However, I don't adhere to a specific regimen, like Meatless Mondays or Mark Bittman's "Vegan till 6."

I'm lucky to live in a city that offers a decent amount of vegetarian options. However, I'm still struggling to find the veggie sandwich.

For lunch this week, I grabbed a sandwich at The Daily Market on Connecticut Avenue and L Street NW. I had approximately seven minutes to snag sustenance and jump to a conference call, so I decided quickly on the Mediterranean Midday: hummus slathered on both sides of pumpernickel, with chunks of artichoke hearts, wedges of avocado, slices of red onion and cucumbers, and a tumbleweed of sprouts. I omitted the tomato because — who are we kidding? — it'd taste like mush this time of year. Instead, I requested spicy mustard. (I haven't kicked all my 5th grade habits.)

The sandwich measured an inch and a half too high for my mouth, ensuring the contents would fall out. Luckily, I remembered to hit the mute button before I cursed that damned faux-briny artichoke heart. And the taste = meh. It was fine but didn't excite me. Unfortunately, this unsatisfied sentiment fills me after most veggie sandwiches.

Do veggie sandwiches try too hard? Do we really need that many vegetables in between two slices of bread? Can a veggie sandwich succeed with a limited number of ingredients?

Someone, please, point me in the direction of a streamlined veggie sandwich.

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  • Emily

    The pressed vegetable sandwich at Cork Market is to. die. for. (It's got portabello, zuke, onion, red pepper, pesto, cheese, olive oil....)

    And Cowgirl Creamery does a vegetarian cheese-forward sandwich every day of the week -- usually with a kick-ass cheese, some fruit or veggies, greens, a chutney or something. On striata (sp?). Delish.

  • Alan

    Tempeh sandwich at Busboys and Poets - minus sprouts, plus avocado. Absolute delicious, and vegan too!

  • Bill

    Spring Garden at Taylor Gourmet. Sauteed broccoli rabe and sharp provolone. It sounds basic but is flat out delicious and very satisfying.

  • Sheridan

    I agree with Bill. The Spring Garden at Taylor Gourmet is simple, but tasty. I also like Busboys' Grilled Brie panini.

  • Tessa

    The Pita Pan at Booeymonger's in Georgetown!

  • LB

    I'll second both Cork Market and Taylor Gourmet (I'm partial to the Christian Street). If I'm on the run, there also are a couple of veggie sandwiches at Pret a Manger that are delicious.

  • Falls Church

    The perfect vegetarian sandwich: grilled cheese. Throw some sun dried tomatoes and/or sauteed onions and/or roasted garlic and/or fresh herbs in there if you insist on your vegetarian sandwich actually containing vegetables.

  • Anne

    The No-Meato Burrito at California Tortilla is real good. I know it is not technically a sandwich, but it is tasty and filling.You can also request that they Veg Me any burrito on the menu that normally has meat.

  • Michael

    The vegetable bocata at Jaleo is excellent, served with romesco sauce for dipping brings it all together, my favorite though is the queso bocata which is one of the best grilled cheeses I have ever had, the blue valdeon makes the sandwich


    Several of the items at Highland Cafe in Petworth would meet your standard.

  • Rich

    And another thing, a grilled portobello is a lame excuse for a vegetarian entree.

  • Stefanie Gans

    @Rich. thank you for bringing the portobello dilemma to light. in no way is a huge, mostly tasteless, mushroom a valid answer to a veggie sandwich. i think meat eaters think mushrooms are a legit sub, but real veggie eaters know it usually doesn't make the cut.

    and cork market and taylor's = officially on my to-eat list. thanks @Sheridan @LB @Bill @Emily

  • mariah carey

    This sandwich on sliced whole wheat is the best veggie sandwich I have ever had.

    I can't wait to try out others' recommendations above!

  • 2 PAC

    The veggie gyro at the Greek Spot is the bomb!

  • westcoast

    Vegan grilled cheese from Sticky Fingers. Ask for it Rambito-style. It's fan-freaking-tastic.

  • edouble

    I have eaten the Med. Midday many times--that is a sandwich that absolutely needs a potato chip in it or sliced pickle or feta or something salty. And I often found that the artichoke hearts were often a bit tough and fibrous. Good veggie sandwiches are tough to come by.

  • Jenn S.

    The four vegetarian options at Earl's in Arlington ('twixt Courthouse and Clarendon) are each creative, delicious, and logistically manageable. Enjoy!

  • eli

    Here's some low-bar options:

    Veggie delite at Yum's at 14th & RIA NW. Very good hot veggie riff on a steak and cheese. Order w/ provolone & no mayo to avoid it completely falling apart.

    Veggie torta at Super Taco on Columbia Rd. Delicioso.

    Veggie burger at Luna Grill at Conn. & N--giant deep-fried lentil patty. One of the best burgers in the city.

  • Bill

    Falls Church (#7) reminded me of another great option--Five Guys Grilled Cheese with Sauteed mushrooms (and whatever else you want, but i prefer it with just mushrooms)

  • Stefanie Gans

    @Bill. i had no idea Five Guys offered veggie items. i haven't walked in there in years. thanks for the heads up.

  • Jimmy

    The veggie wrap at Sidamo (on H Street in NE) is the only vegetarian item I EVER crave. It's lentil-based with a vinagrette of some sort. AH-Mazing.

  • NattyGal

    I agree with Alan, those BB&P tempeh sandwiches are delish! So is the Garvey Burger at Everlasting Life on Georgia Ave. It's the all-time best vegan burger/sandwich I've ever tasted!

  • Dad gansie

    Gansie your sandwich sounded good, what is meh ??

    Bring one home

  • Liza

    Au Bon Pain has a great tomato mozzarella sandwich. My new sandwich I make at home is slather pesto on both slices of whole wheat bread (you could do any bread I think), and then slice up tomatoes very thin and thick slice of mozzarella... oh wait though, tomatoes are out of season so this is not a good idea for now... the other sandwich I make is like your sandwich but simpler - lots of hummus, cucumber, and sprouts on whole wheat. So in conclusion, yes, I agree, veggie sandwiches do not need to be complicated - they are fine with 3 ingredients.

  • Thresher

    I've always favored easy at-home sammitches, but I can't stand most sliced-loaf bread.

    My favorite of the moment: two (thick) slabs of the crustiest whole grain bread you can find (preferably made with millet); one or two roasted peppers (marinated in salty olive or sesame oil with garlic and vinegar if you've got the time); a few big pieces of romaine (as much as you can handle, maybe with a little arugula if you want some bite); and pureed pine nuts with lemon, salt and pepper to glue everything to the bread. Add more garlic anywhere in the equation, and add some extra oil if you want more of the buttery mouthfeel. Some cilantro on the side and you're set.

  • Shannon

    I know I'm late commenting this, but here's my list of favorites:

    Christian Street from Taylor Gourmet
    Mona Lisa from Earl's
    Spicy Falafel from Pret A Manger (pine nut avocado wrap is also good, and a little lighter)
    Avocado Cheddar from Devon and Blakely
    California Grille Panini from Corner Bakery (usually 1/2 with soup, it's kind of greasy)
    The veggie sandwich at Potbelly in a pinch
    Veggie burger at Black Squirrel

  • Stefanie Gans

    i'm still listening, shannon and the rest of Y&H. will start trying these soon for a follow up post. thanks for all of the thoughtful suggestions.

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  • eater of things

    the city's best veggie burgers:
    the reef
    the diner

  • Jepth

    Veggie on wheat w/ everything including peppers from Pot Belly...seriously legit for a corporate/franchise sandwich shop.

  • Ariel

    I'm so happy I found this post! I talk about the lack of good veggie sandwiches all the time. Even when restaurants have a veg option, it's either a portabello thing (yuck!) or a mozzarella/tomato thing (snooze!)

    I agree with some of the previous comments...the veggie sandwich from Sidamo is one of the best I have ever had! Something amazing about the combination of lentils, vinegar, and avocado. I also love the spring garden at Taylor. Oh and The Rock and Roll Hotel just started serving vegan/veg friendly sammies that have tempeh instead of meat.

    Now on to the another important question, where are the vegan/veg friendly brunch places? Where are the places that serve tempeh, vegetarian bacon, greens, etc? I wanna know!

  • anon

    Don't know if you're limiting yourself to DC proper, but he Italian Store in Arlington has a phenomenal veggie sandwich, with well seasoned marinated artichokes and peppers, pickles and olives. I'd recommend adding provelone and getting it on a hard roll rather than soft (withstands moisture well, but don't dawdle with it -- if you take it somewhere to eat 1/2 hour later it gets soggy)

  • A.T.

    I don't see Cafe Green on this list. Any of their sandwiches are a must for your veggie sandwich journey!