O.C.’s Best: Surprising Sandwiches

Forget ho-hum cheese and deli meat on sliced bread—O.C. restaurants offer adventurous takes

Today’s “anything goes” attitude toward food yields unexpected fillings in these winsome sandwich creations. And it doesn’t hurt when they go viral. Here are five spots offering a unique take on the classic ’wich.

Bubble Waffle Sandwich at The Sandwich Society in Santa Ana. Photograph by Priscilla Iezzi.
Bubble Waffle Sandwich at The Sandwich Society in Santa Ana. Photograph by Priscilla Iezzi.

1 The Sandwich Society
The bubble-bread creations at this nearly 2-year-old shop are obvious gimmicks, but you can’t help but try them anyway. Egg waffles, a popular Hong Kong street snack, made their way to Orange County via Cauldron Ice Cream in Santa Ana, where they’re used as ice cream cones. The golden waffle puff is the perfect vehicle for sweet-savory sandwiches. Case in point: the Bubble Waffle Sandwich ($6), with bacon, a sunny-side-up egg, and your choice of ham or a sausage patty. The whole thing manages to stay light and fluffy, even when dipped into the accompanying side of maple syrup—a must. 2031 E. First St., Santa Ana, 714-835-3878

2 Ike’s Love & Sandwiches
Just as you become overwhelmed choosing from more than 30 options on the wall menu at this Bay Area transplant, the cheery cashier informs you there are actually 400 sandwiches available—the rest listed in a giant binder in the kitchen for those in the know. Our favorite (so far) is the Steve Jobs ($10), a meatless wonder with breaded eggplant, pesto, ranch, and provolone—get it on the just-baked, crusty Dutch crunch bread. If you like your savory with extra sweet, you’ll love the Menage a Trois ($10). It’s halal chicken bathed in barbecue sauce, honey mustard, and honey, with three cheeses: Swiss, pepper jack, and cheddar. 4221 MacArthur Blvd., Newport Beach, 949-783-3390; 18529 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley, 714-375-0880; ikesloveandsandwiches.com

3 Piadina
This fast-casual cafe takes an old-world concept and delivers it in a new way. Named after the famed rustic flatbread sandwiches of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, your piadina starts as a fresh, round ball of dough that gets pressed to order and then griddled to a golden crisp before it’s stuffed with meats, cheeses, and vegetables. Try the piadina Francese ($9), with roasted chicken, proscuitto, mozzarrella, arugula, tomatoes, and toasted crushed almonds. 2933 El Camino Real, Tustin, 714-417-9660, italianpiadina.com

4 Burnt Crumbs
Chef Paul Cao’s Spaghetti Grilled Cheese ($9) above, has become the stuff of food mashup legend, like the Cronut and ice-cream-stuffed macaron before it. A carb lover’s dream, house-made spaghetti and gooey mozzarella are pressed between two slices of garlic butter toast. You’ll want extra marinara to dunk it in. Viral sensation aside, the Crispy Pork sandwich ($9.50)—with tender pork shoulder, salsa verde, chili lime mayo, and house-made chicharrones—is another flavorful winner. 8549 Irvine Center Drive, Irvine, 949-421-8900; 21058 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach, 714-374-0777; burntcrumbs.com

5 Mr. Katsu
Fans of Japanese food are likely familiar with katsu sandos. Delicious breaded-and-fried meat tucked in between slices of fluffy white bread, the sandwiches are popular lunch items typically sold at convenience stores. But at Mr. Katsu, they’re taken to tasty new East-meets-West heights. The Habanero Pesto ($9) is a best-seller—a juicy pork cutlet with habanero aioli, pesto, and coleslaw between two thick slabs of golden toast. For something more unusual, try the Umeboshi Goat Cheese katsu ($10), with pork cutlet, salted plums, and goat cheese, for a satisfying salty-tangy punch. 3165 Yorba Linda Blvd., Fullerton, 714-986-9888

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