Cleveland’s best sandwiches? Our critic weighs in

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Consider the humble sandwich. A pinnacle of gustatory efficiency, the soaring stack-up of breads, meats, cheeses, and assorted condiments has long been the star of blue-collar lunch boxes. So as home to generations of working-class heroes, it’s no surprise that Cleveland claimed three spots on Esquire’s recent list of the country’s best sandwiches, as pointed out by my colleague yesterday***. Among the editors’ 39 top picks were the battered-and-fried Trailer Park Monte Cristo, from the Beachland Ballroom (15711 Waterloo Road; 216-383-1124), the peerless corned beef from Slyman’s (3106 St. Clair, 216-621-3760), and the classic Polish Boy from Freddie’s Rib House (1431 St. Clair Avenue; 216-575-1750). Worthy choices, all, but far from a complete rundown. Here are a few sandwiches we’d add to the list: ... The Hot Italian Melt Bar & Grilled An overstuffed extravaganza of salami, ham, pepperoni, sun-dried-tomato pesto, roasted garlic, and provolone, on buttery slabs of golden, griddled bread, this two-fisted sandwich delivers all the savor of a first-rate pizza -- only better. 14718 Detroit, 216-226-3699 The Hot Pastrami Mister Brisket A dribble-down-your-chin delight, this plush, peppery tower of tender pastrami, melty swiss, and spicy mustard on rye always leaves us sated, satisfied, and slightly grease-stained – a small price to pay for such a fabulous tango of textures and tastes. 2156 S. Taylor Rd., Cleveland Hts., 216-932-8620 The Cuban Lelolai Bakery & Café Hot off the (sandwich) presses, this crusty, crunchy combo of freshly roasted pork, ham, Swiss, mustard, pickles, and garlic is our perennial pick for the best Latino-style comfort food. 1889 West 25th St., 216-771-9956 The Croque Monsieur Le Petit Triangle Café Earning its place in our Pantheon of Great Sandwiches, find this luscious fried confluence of lean, honey-glazed ham and nutty Gruyère on batter-dipped challah. Highlighting its savory sweetness, a stroke of creamy béchamel brings out the ou là là. 1881 Fulton Avenue, 216-281-1881 In their search for great sandwiches, Esquire also got the skinny from Cleveland celeb chef Mike Symon. For a mouthwatering description of Symon’s favorite sammy, plus a recipe, click here. ***Fellow foodie and vegetarian Rebecca Meiser stumbled into a common trap in her blog yesterday about Cleveland’s top sandwiches: She confused a Po’ Boy with a Polish Boy. Any meat-eater worth his or her salty slabs of goodness would know there’s a world o’ diff between the two. The first – the Po’ Boy -- is a Nawlin’s specialty, featuring breaded and fried oysters on French bread, topped with tartar sauce, sliced tomato, and shredded lettuce; fried catfish or shrimp make acceptable subs for the oysters. The second – the Polish Boy – is a Cleveland fave, starring kielbasa, a tomato-y hot sauce, coleslaw, and french fries on white. A popular soul-food staple, the Polish Boy has the added attraction of reflecting Cleveland’s tastefully mixed ethnicity, sort of like a love child conceived from the union of Hot Sauce Williams with Sokolowski’s University Inn. Freddie’s Rib House got Esquire’s nod for its Polish Boy, of course, not for a Po’ Boy. – Elaine T. Cicora

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