Back to Features

21-sandwich salute

And why I’ll never do this again

Recommend Article
Total Recommendations (0)
Clip Article Email Article Print Article Share Article

 Last spring, in a state of psychosis, I e-mailed everyone in my address book and asked each person to send me his or her top recommendation for the best sandwich in the South Sound. I told them I would eat every suggestion and then pick the best 21 on the list — ranking them in order. I also promised to purchase and deliver the top recommendation to the person who nominated it. 

Interested in thoroughness, I figured my e-mail blast sampling would weed out hundreds of crappy sandwiches I’d have to eat on my own to find a decent list of the best. It worked. But I still had to eat a forest of lettuce, a stockyard of meat, and enough mayo to clog the arteries of everyone in my address book to get to the finish line.

For the past 12 weeks I have visited dozens of recommendations. Or, in other words, I bit off more than I could possibly chew. Yes, I successfully picked the best 21 sandwiches (as promised), but at the same time, the quest managed to turn me off the things for possibly the rest of my life. With every sandwich came bagged chips and sometimes a sour pickle. The ones I ate in my car typically left stains on my pants. Some counter service folk reminded me of the soup Nazi while others sent me on my way with wrong orders. Sandwiches are also not diet food.


It’s no way to make a living. But without further ado, working my way to No. 1, here are the 21 best sandwiches nominated in the South Sound by people I know:

No. 21: Best Burger’s Fish Sandwich

7714 Custer Rd., Lakewood

Maybe not the “best” burger, but this drive-up shack turns out a pretty decent one. The fish sandwich ranks a cut above other fast-food fish too — fried golden brown on a sesame seed bun with tartar sauce and lettuce.

Recommended by Jan Purtell, Weekly Volcano classified manager

No. 20: Twisters’ Hot Italian

703 Legion Way, Olympia

This large café tucked practically incognito on Legion Way features a long list of sandwiches. The hot Italian arrives on brioche type French bread with a variety of salami and pepperoni — don’t try eating and driving with this one.

Recommended by Heidi Audette, spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs

No. 19: Joeseppi’s George & Jack Hot Italian Sub

2207 N. Pearl, Tacoma

Everyone knows Joe Stortini, and to my pleasure, I discovered that he’s still greeting diners who enter his restaurant as if he knows them. In his deli, the crew turns out an Italian sub with hearty meat and cheese plus fresh veggies.

Recommended by Vicky Nelson with Harborstone Credit Union

No. 18: Panera Bread’s Tuna Salad

Multiple locations

Although a chain, I still find redeeming value in Panera because it seems to take some care in preparing its sandwiches. The tuna salad is a hearty production at a reasonable price with chunk meat and, of course, excellent bread.

Recommended by Bill White, my brother-in-law and the Weekly Volcano’s advertising director

No. 17: Main Street Smoothie’s Smoked Turkey Club

6111 100th St., Lakewood

I love this slightly ruffled shop with a long list of smoothie drinks and lots of ways to grow big muscles. Always friendly, the staff here constructs a decent turkey sandwich, made to order, with fresh ingredients and decent meat. Grab a peanut butter and jelly smoothie while you are there.

Recommended by Chris Butler, Weekly Volcano production artist

No. 16: Lacoste’s Turkey Provolone

8623 87th Ave., Lakewood

Basically a coffee shop with a few menu items, Lacoste’s turkey sandwich arrives on chewy bread, crisp with a smooth flavor. The sundried tomatoes are a nice touch.

Recommended by Linnea Winters, a friend since elementary school

No.15: Moon Rise Café’s Monte Cristo

6020 Main St. S.W., Lakewood

Just try finding a seat at lunchtime — this little café that could packs them in during the lunch hour. You’ll likely get called “sweetie” or something from the staff. The Monte Cristo features a thick cocoon of egg-dipped bread sheltering deli meats and cheese inside. Traditional jam for dipping is accompanied with ranch dressing — hmmm.

Recommended by my mommy

No. 14: MSM Deli’s Turkey-Bacon

2220 Sixth Ave., Tacoma

A wide hoagie, thick and chewy, serves as the perfect platform for turkey and bacon, lettuce, tomato, and sprouts wrapped in thick butcher’s paper (which works nicely as a place mat). 

Recommended by Dutch Randall, my brother-in-law

No. 13: The Swiss’ Swiss Dip

1904 S. Jefferson, Tacoma

The atmosphere at this Tacoma pioneer alehouse is funky, active and rustic — the perfect place for a Tacoman hungry for lunch. The Swiss Dip is herb bread with roast beef, grilled green peppers and onions with Swiss cheese (of course) and au jus. Nice!

Recommended by Hilary Maynard, freelance writer for our family of newspapers

No. 12: Meconi’s Submarine Sandwich

5225A Lacey Blvd., Lacey

I remember digging the old subs at K-mart when I was a kid, but those days are long over. Meconi’s sub certainly weighs in as a formidable sandwich featuring loads of salami and cappicola with Italian oil and oregano on chewy bread. The cuts of meat are sensational.

Recommended by Richard Rose, Weekly Volcano sales executive

No. 11: Nordstrom Café’s Tuna Melt

4500 Steele St., inside the Tacoma Mall

Don’t get down on the man just because he can make a great tuna melt. The Nordstrom Café is a respite from mediocre and unhealthy food court fare. Order at the counter and then enjoy a quiet place to eat and reflect on the clothing sticker shock. This melt is simple yet flavorful and hearty.

Recommended by Shannon Bell-Peterson, close friend, realtor and teacher

No. 10: MSM Deli’s Mike’s Deluxe

2220 Sixth Ave., Tacoma

A second one on the list from MSM (something must be going right there). This sandwich combines ham, turkey and roast beef with crisp lettuce and tomatoes plus cheese, mustard, and mayo to equal a sandwich that takes a big appetite to finish. I love MSM’s soft bread.

Recommended by my brother and Weekly Volcano partner in crime, Ron Swarner

No. 9 Spud’s Pizza Parlor’s Canadian Bacon Sandwich

7025 Pacific Ave., Tacoma

This bad boy reminds me of the warm bologna sandwiches I made as a kid. While the bread toasted, I would put the bologna on the outside of the toaster to warm it up — pissed my mom off something terrible. With quality chewy bread to start, the Canadian bacon, lettuce and sprouts share space with a gob of pizza cheese.

Recommended by Matt Driscoll, staff writer and music columnist for the Weekly Volcano


No. 8: Pacific Grill’s BLT

1502 Pacific Ave., Tacoma

I couldn’t resist piping in with my favorite South Sound sandwich — and yes, I get to rank it high because I have complete control of the keyboard. Served on toasted, rustic bread, it’s packed with apple-smoked Wisconsin bacon, lettuce and tomato with mayo. What makes this BLT work is chewiness coupled with strong smoky meat and fresh tomato flavors. It’s hearty yet not overly filling.

Recommended by yours truly

No. 7: Café Chagall’s French Brie Sandwich

7304 74th St. S.W., Lakewood

The ham, brie and apricot jam on grilled sourdough may sound strange, but ooh-la-la, it’s a sweet and creamy pleasure bite after bite. The flavors blend nicely, and though it may sound so, it’s not sickly sweet. Sweet, yes, but in all the right ways.

Recommended by Jason de Paul, Weekly Volcano restaurant critic

No. 6: Marlene’s Market & Deli’s Chicken Salad

2951 S. 38th St., Tacoma

I am not afraid of my wife, but she’s absolutely right — Marlene’s chicken salad deserves the No. 6 spot. Free range chicken carefully folded into mayo (or vegan mayo if you prefer) with crisp organic sprouts and small shredded veggies and served on healthy spelt bread, this sandwich not only tastes good, it makes you feel good. The tuna is equally good.

Recommended by my wife, Allison

No. 5: Doyle’s Cheesy British

208 St. Helens, Tacoma

Who doesn’t love a cheesy British? Doyle’s makes an excellent one with ham, turkey, and roast beef with Swiss and cheddar cheeses, lettuce, and tomato on crusty bread that should define the category for sandwich bread. Slightly chewy, mostly crunchy but not flakey — only a Guinness could top it.

Recommended by Tony Worrell, sales manager for the Weekly Volcano

No. 4: Quickie Too’s TLT

1324 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma

I am glad to see our vegetarian friends represented on this list, which quite frankly, provides little to the meatless crowd. Quickie Too may not look pretty, but this Tacoma classic makes meatless food a pleasure for the entire foodie spectrum. The Tempeh (fermented soybean cake) with lettuce, tomato, and grilled onions on artesian bread with potato salad hits the spot. Massive grilled flavor.

Recommended by Paul Schrag, writer and all-around friend of the Weekly Volcano

No. 3: Maxwell’s Speakeasy’s Apple Wood Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich

Sixth and St. Helens, Tacoma

New to the restaurant scene, Maxwell’s Speakeasy is already making many friends with high quality cuisine. This sandwich features slow smoked pork shoulder on grilled ciabatta with tangy balsamic barbecue sauce — moist and sweet. Maxwell’s doesn’t serve lunch; happy hour is your first opportunity for this baby.

Recommended by my daughter, Claire

No. 2: MSM Deli’s Hot Reuben

2220 Sixth Ave., Tacoma

Maybe not number one, but MSM Deli certainly contributed more sandwiches to this list than any other sandwich maker. Over and over folks wrote in raving about this rough-around-the-edges deli and market at the top of Sixth Avenue’s restaurant and shop row. The Reuben is served with dark rye bread, a light corned beef, sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing, tomatoes, lettuce, and Swiss cheese. Heaven!

Recommended by Sarah Kahne, freelance writer for our family of newspapers

No. 1: Meconi’s Philly Cheese

5225A Lacey Blvd., Lacey

I tip my hat to the good folks at this popular sub shop. Although a bit crammed inside, the sandwiches it turns out are big in flavor and homemade love. The Philly cheese features sliced steak, grilled green peppers, onions, and mushrooms topped with mozzarella. Stacked, rich in beef flavors and hot to handle, hands down, this is the South Sound’s best sandwich. Congrats, Tabitha — lunch is on me!

Recommended by Tabitha Johnson, Weekly Volcano sales executive

Read next close


History of Tacoma Jazz

Comments for "21-sandwich salute" (2)

Weekly Volcano is not responsible for the content of these comments. Weekly Volcano reserves the right to remove comments at their discretion.

User Photo

christopher husted said on Aug. 28, 2008 at 8:57pm

you're forgetting the Spar Tavern's long-standing sandwich fare that was and will be, around after these trendy places have gone to bed.

User Photo

Ken Swarner said on Aug. 29, 2008 at 11:52am

I expected this...the great readers telling me which sandwiches I forgot in my research. I set this story up by just asking people I know to give their recommendations. Therefore, I KNOW there are great sandwiches out there that did not make my list. BUT, with that said, I highly recommend trying all the sandwiches in my top 10. Feel free to keep sending in your suggestions.

Leave A Comment

(This will not be published)


Respond on Your Blog

If you have a Weekly Volcano Account you can not only post comments, but you can also respond to articles in your own Weekly Volcano Blog. It's just another way to make your voice heard.

Site Search