5 Perfect Picnic Sandwiches You Can Find Around Boston
Because lunch is so much lovelier outdoors.
The warm months are finally, mercifully, upon us. The days are longer, the sun is shining more brightly — who isn’t itching to get outside? There's no better way to enjoy a great meal than casually dining al fresco.
For me, the centerpiece of a no-fuss, no-muss picnic spread is the sandwich, named for John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich. This hand-held meal is simplicity itself and with all the fantastic to-go sandwich options around town, you can indulge in your outdoor meal with next-to-no work. We've pulled together five particularly tasty options that are perfect for picknicking.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, not even close. I could write a list like this every day for a month and barely scratch the surface, but then we’d be into July and by then it’s time to talk about barbecue.
So pack up your blanket and basket. We’re going sandwich shopping.
1. Sam LaGrassa’s Rumanian pastrami on rye (pictured above)
I grew up working in my family’s camera store, Bromfield Camera, in Downtown Crossing. When it came to lunch, there were loads of options. Some are no longer part of the Boston dining scene (anyone remember Ruggles’ “English-style” pizza?). Some are still thriving after all these years; Sam LaGrassa’s has been going strong since 1968. The menu is what you’d expect from a great deli: potato salad, soup of the day, macaroni and cheese — all reliable choices. You’re there for the sandwiches, though.
They offer all sorts of permutations involving roast beef, chicken, corned beef, tuna fish... you get the idea. Their Rumanian pastrami is the way to go. It’s their calling card. Dry-cured beef is gently smoked, then loaded up with Swiss cheese on light rye bread. I love mine with spicy mustard and sauerkraut, making it Reuben-esque. Add in a side of their steak fries and some pickles and head to Boston Common for lunch.
Sam LaGrassa’s - 44 Province St., Boston, 617.357.6861, samlagrassas.com
2. Chacarero beef & chicken combo with extra hot sauce
This may be my favorite sandwich in all of Boston. Another Downtown Crossing gem, Chacarero has been going strong since Juan Hurtado opened his pushcart over two decades ago. Now in a proper storefront, they still serve up amazing traditional Chilean sandwiches. Soft, warm bread, freshly baked each day, is filled with grilled steak or chicken (or both). Then it’s topped with Muenster cheese, steamed green beans, tomatoes, salt and pepper, and their secret hot sauce. Go for the extra hot sauce. It’s worth the pain. Add in a side of sweet, oven-fried potatoes and you’re ready to rock. Make sure to save room for their tasty orange cake. If you can be patient, the waterfront is only a few blocks away. Grab a spot on the pier and enjoy the view.
Chacarero - 101 Arch St., Boston, 617.542.0392, chacarero.com
3. Strip-T’s Japanese eggplant banh mi
I will be the first to admit I don’t often go vegetarian. When I do, however, I make a beeline for Strip-T’s for this lunchtime treat. Loaded up with Japanese eggplant and fried tofu, this satisfying hot sandwich is topped with pickles and cilantro for a delightful combination of savory, sweet, and salty tastes. Their fried cauliflower sandwich is pretty righteous, too, topped with provolone cheese and broccoli rabe. Add in some sweet potato wedges and you’re off to have yourself a relaxing picnic on the bank of the Charles River, just a few minutes away.
Strip-T’s Restaurant - 93 School St., Watertown, 617.923-4330, stripts.com
4. Tenóch chicharron torta
One of the kings of Mexican street food, the torta is the antithesis of a taco. Instead of tidiness and compact snacking convenience, the torta is a big, overstuffed meal on fluffy telera bread. Loaded with any number of meats, cheese and an almost endless array of condiments, things can get a little messy.
I’ve had my share of tortas around town, and Tenóch’s Chicharron keeps me coming back for more. A mouthwatering combination of slow-cooked pork cuts and crispy, fried pork skin, the Chicharron is topped with avocado, tomatoes, refried beans, chipotle mayonnaise, cheese, onions ,and chipotle peppers.
Tame the heat with a cool, refreshing horchata. This sweet and flavorful rice milk drink will take away the burn quite nicely. The beautiful Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park is a couple blocks south, and might be just the place in which you woo that special someone with giant, sloppy Mexican sandwiches.
Tenóch Mexican - 3 Lewis St., Boston, 617.248.9537, tenochmexican.com, locations also in Medford and Somerville.
5. Karl’s Sausage Kitchen and European Market Kassler melt
Tucked up in Peabody, just off Route 1, is a magnificent little bastion of Germany. Home to over forty kinds of housemade sausages and cold cuts, these guys rank up there with the best charcuterie spots in the whole city. In addition to a mind-blowing array of wursts and schinken, they also have a wide range of German (and Swedish) products not easily found elsewhere. Need a five-pound jar of sauerkraut or a few packages of spätzle? They’ve got it.
In addition to these culinary delights, Karl’s also has a small café in the back corner of the shop. They serve a variety of German dishes, including the über-delicious Kassler Melt. Their own smoked pork loin is topped with lagered onions, spicy German mustard, and Havarti cheese. If you’re old school, get it on the hearty German rye bread. Or maybe consider the Wienerschitzel sandwich: a breaded and fried veal cutlet topped with triple-smoked bacon, mayo, lettuce, and tomato.
I can never decide between them, which is why I usually wind up ordering one of each. (Hey, it’s my picnic. Don’t judge.) These make outstanding centerpieces to your outing. Of course, if you eat them at one of the small cafe tables available, you can enjoy them with a glass of Riesling or one of the ice-cold draft beers being poured that day.
If you decide to take your sandwiches to go, you’re only fifteen minutes or so up Route 93 to the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary. Good thing you ordered two sandwiches — you can eat one on the way.
Karl’s Sausage Kitchen & European Market - 1 Bourbon St., Peabody, 978.854.6650, karlssausage.com
I hope this tour de sandwiches helps make your summer picnicking a little bit tastier. If you have a killer sandwich recommendation, or love horchata as much as I do, I’d love to hear from you. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @100Loves, and on Instagram at @eatdrinklearn. Keep eating, drinking and learning!