We ate our way through the metro to find not only the best sandwich places in Greater Des Moines, but the best individual sandwiches, period. Check out our new Des Best Sandwiches blog, to see what locals voted as their favorites. It’s so jam packed with delicious meats, cheeses, and condiments, that it even required a list of runners-up (and stretchy pants).
*Since there is already a “Des Best Burgers” list, no burgers were counted for the list. And let’s not restart the whole “is a hot dog a sandwich?” debate.
Hansen’s Manhattan Deli - Truly Delicious
Based on the volume of votes for this popular sandwich spot, we could have curated a whole separate Des Best list just for Manhattan Deli. We’ll always have a special place in our heart (and stomach) for the Tuesday Special, but the winner, emerging from a pile of meats and cheeses, is Truly Delicious. Italian beef, turkey, cream cheese, cheddar cheese, pepper rings, and mayo on a hoagie bun, served warm. It’s the perfect representation of why this unassuming deli has earned such a loyal following.
Also receiving votes: Tuesday Special, The Manhattan, The Madison, The Bluebird
Charlotte’s Kitchen – Crab Rangoon Sandwich
Speaking of food trucks gone brick and mortar, Charlotte’s Kitchen in Johnston is yet another savory success story. Maybe the key is to name your place after your grandmother. It also helps to serve up some of the best fried chicken sandwiches this side of Nashville. Included among them is the Crab Rangoon Sandwich. With cream cheese spread, sweet chili sauce, wonton strips, and lettuce atop an insanely crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside chicken breast, it looks at crab rangoon pizza and says, “hold my beer.”
South Union Bakery - Sarah’s Revenge
At South Union Bakery, it’s all about the bread. Just ask the handful of discerning restaurants around the metro that proudly serve some of their own sandwiches “on South Union bread.” When you go to this downtown institution, it’s hard to go wrong with any of their hot or cold sandwich options, but Sarah’s Revenge is the pick here. Roast beef, bacon, mozzarella, red onion, sauteed bell pepper and onions, and horseradish, served on their famous focaccia bread. You’re welcome.
Also receiving votes: George’s Special, Pesto Chicken Melt
B&B Grocery – Dad’s Killer Sandwich
There’s a reason why B&B Grocery recently celebrated 100 years in business and has been featured on shows like Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel. It’s because this quiet Southside institution (with vocal fans) puts out bizarrely good “killer” sandwiches, from tenderloins and burgers to deli sandwiches. Chosen by the Des Moines Register as the Best Deli Sandwich in Town, Dad’s Killer Sandwich features roast beef, turkey breast, smoked ham, and corned beef are all piled high on a hoagie roll with Swiss and American cheese, lettuce, tomato, kosher pickles, Miracle Whip, and Tuscan Italian dressing. It’s the most Dagwood sandwich (and arguably delicious) in DSM.
Francie’s - French Dip
Sometimes, beauty lies in simplicity. Francie’s is decidedly no frills, so it makes sense that it’s signature sandwich would be the uncomplicated but uncommonly good French Dip. Lean roast beef, grilled onions, and Swiss cheese on grilled focaccia bread, served with au jus. Pair it with their crinkle cut fries and a side of ranch, and you’re living your best Iowa life.
Also receiving votes: Philly Chicken Sandwich
5 Borough Bagels - The Empire
Thankfully, you don’t need to go all the way to the east coast to get an authentic NY style bagel. Instead, just head to the “west coast” of Greater Des Moines (in this case Urbandale or West Des Moines) to 5 Borough Bagels, serving up bagels with that dark crust and dense, chewy interior that makes a bagel worth its sesame seeds. But to really take it up a notch, you’ve got to try The Empire. Pick your bagel and cream cheese (may we politely suggest the Sriracha bacon?), and then add bacon, sausage, ham, egg, cheddar, and swiss. An important sandwich for the most important meal of the day.
Little Brother – The NY Chopped
Sticking with the five boroughs, the chopped cheese sandwich is as ubiquitous in New York City bodegas as the tenderloin is in small town Iowa diners. English majors may take umbrage with the name (it’s really the ground beef part that’s chopped with cheese), but no one is taking umbrage with the creation coming out of Little Brother in Windsor Heights. An Iowa beef patty (chopped), griddled onion, pickled sport peppers, American cheese, and Tabasco aioli on a toasted hoagie bun, wrapped in foil, bodega style. Motion to make this sandwich more ubiquitous here.
Graziano Brothers – The Knuckle Sandwich
This Italian grocery store and stalwart of the Southside has been serving up their famous Italian sausage (among other delicacies) since 1912. Not content to only be famous for one thing, they’ve branched out into the deli game, and now serve up some of most talked about Italian sandwiches this side of San Morello. To wit, take the Knuckle Sandwich: coppa, hot soppressata, pepperoni, hot pepper cheese, sliced pepperoncini, and Italian dressing. Siri, how do you say delicious in Italian?
The Walnut - Royal Bird
Stop me if you’re heard this one before...it started as a food truck and now has a brick-and-mortar location. If you take away one thing from this list it should be, food trucks = deliciousness. Tucked away on Walnut Street (lightbulb goes off), this underrated gem of a restaurant does everything well, but let’s not bury the lede. We’re here to talk about the Royal Bird: sage rubbed chicken breast, crispy prosciutto, lettuce, tomato, red onion, parmesan, and red wine vinegar aoli on a toasted hamburger bun. May cause involuntary fist pumping.
Egg King – Bacon King
The Egg King’s Bacon King lays a strong claim to being “des best” tasting sandwich on this list. Few would argue though, that it’s objectively the best looking on the list. Come for the gram’, stay for the epic breakfast sandwich of scrambled eggs, American cheese, bacon, King Sauce, and parsley. Add some avocado slices if you need more flair. Formerly a pop-up only, they’ll now host their EGGDAYS at Bix & Co. in Historic Valley Junction, so follow them on social for more eggciting news.
Chicken Heat – Nashville Hot
Chicken Heat made waves for its viral sensation called The Challenge – eat a ridiculously hot chicken sandwich and get a free t-shirt and your photo on their wall. But for those where the risk of an emergency room trip outweighs the reward of a free t-shirt, their regular Nashville Hot fried chicken sandwich is a compromise that doesn’t compromise on flavor. Choose from four spice levels and marvel at how the crispy filet melds with the soft bun. And that scoop of coleslaw on top makes for the perfect sweet complement to the spicy chicken.
Barn Town Brewing – House Pastrami
Don’t let the brewery moniker fool you. Sure, Barn Town makes some of the most delightful sour beers out there, but they also have one of the most consistent and creative food menus around. Take for instance the House Pastrami sandwich – beef pastrami, Swiss cheese, house thousand island, house brown ale mustard, and house slaw on toasted rye bread. Paired with their Neon Hazy IPA and you’ve got some strong “where has this meal been all my life?” vibes.
Cheese Bar – La Quercia
Cheese Bar has taken the simple grilled cheese sandwich and transformed it into high art. There’s a reason why it’s sister spot, the Cheese Shop, was named America’s favorite cheese shop. But it’s here where you’ll find their now famous grilled cheeses, from classic to corned beef and Cuban. La Quercia splits the difference – Prairie Breeze, Quark, and Frisian Farms Gouda cheeses, with La Quercia Prosciutto and pepper jam, grilled to crispy perfection. The cheese pull is strong with this one.
JR’s SouthPork Ranch – Lobster roll
When the new State Fair upstart JR’s SouthPork Ranch started selling $30 lobster rolls, many may have thought it was a gimmick. “Thirty dollars for a sandwich? In this economy?” But those who took the plunge started to sing a different tune. “You know what? Maybe I’ll just cut out my Starbucks run for a week or two. Can I get another one of those life changing sandwiches?” They don’t skimp on the lobster meat here, adding shallots, citrus, and a light dressing (+1 for not being more mayo than lobster), all inside a toasted New England style bun, which is the unheralded star here.
Taste of Italy – The Vogue
Another Italian grocery store, another delicioso sandwich. Here you can get a taste of Clive, a taste of Italy, and in the case of The Vogue, a taste of Chicago. Italian beef is piled high on a toasted hoagie bun, topped with mild giardiniera, sweet peppers, and melted provolone. And as any self-respecting Chicagoan would tell you, ya gotta dunk it in the au jus. Pairs well with Season One of The Bear. IYKYK.
Whatcha Smokin’ BBQ – The Texas Tavern
If we’re being honest, we kind of cringe every time we see the loose meat sandwich listed as Iowa’s official sandwich on various listicles (shouts “TENDERLOIN!” from the back). Although, that cringe would turn into an excited head nod if the loose meat sandwich in question was specifically called out as The Texas Tavern at Whatcha Smokin’ in Luther. Showcasing their various smoked meats (brisket!), they add sauteed onions, giddyup sauce, American cheese, all on a pillowy brioche bun. This is loose meat on steroids. Are you listening, Buzzfeed?
Also receiving votes: Brisket Bacon Swiss
Brick Street Market – Breaded Pork Tenderloin
What’s a list of sandwiches without the unofficial state sandwich of Iowa making an appearance? (Apologies to the aforementioned loose meat sandwich.) Many do it, but few do it better than Brick Street Market in Bondurant, where they’ve perfected the art of the breading to pork ratio (that’s right folks, there’s an art to it). Get it on an onion bun with some sidewinder fries and bask in your sense of accomplishment when you finish the full version that you said you’d only eat half of and save the rest.