Here’s a little behind the scenes look at the process we used to decide the Best of Big D winners, our annual honor given to Dallas’ best, well, everything. I won’t give away too much about this year’s prizes, which you can find now on newsstands, online in a few days, and in person at a great big party in Deep Ellum this Thursday.
But here is a little bit about how the bread gets sliced. Here’s some inside info on my hunt to name Dallas’ best sandwich.
Right away, I knew this category was going to be darn near impossible. This city is brimming with great sandwiches. You can take away burgers, you can separate out bánh mì, you can declare that hot dogs are not sandwiches, and you can even remove breakfast sandwiches; still, choosing a favorite meal between two pieces of bread would still be like choosing a favorite child.
Quickly, I decided to eliminate the obvious greats. We all know and love Jimmy’s Food Store and its Italian hoagies. Jimmy’s has won many Best of Big D awards and it will win many more. We don’t go too long around here without praising Uncle Uber’s. We have a bánh mì category for Sandwich Hag.
It was time to go rogue. It was time to pick a great, but underappreciated sammy. Something that would start conversations and help readers make a new favorite of their own.
I found just that at Will Call, the neighborhood bar in Deep Ellum that specializes in cheesesteaks, chicken wings, and Olive Garden-style breadsticks. One of Will Call’s eccentric cheesesteaks, which sprung from the mind of chef Josh Farrell just before the pandemic began in 2020, is our pick for Best Sandwich. (Which one? Go pick up a magazine, or come back here in a few days.)
Now, here’s where the insider info comes in. A couple weeks ago I went back to Will Call for lunch. I ordered one of the other sandwiches, one of the ones deemed Not Best of Big D.
And it was even better.
Here, then, is my recommendation for a sandwich better than the best. It’s called the Soprano, and it’s a sort of unholy, messy cross between Philadelphia and Chicago sandwich shops, with a bit of Italian deli and Puerto Rican bodega mixed in. The beef gets cooked with sazón onions and mojo aioli. (Farrell has Puerto Rican heritage.) Then the sandwich gets topped with a generous scoop of giardiniera, the spicy mix of pickled peppers, carrots, celery, and cauliflower. Will Call sources the relish from, yes, Jimmy’s Food Store. Beef jus drips down the tray like crime scene evidence.
And—bear with me, here’s the plot twist—somewhere underneath all that meat and all those spicy pickles, there are layers of salami, pepperoni, and white American cheese. It’s an absolute monster sandwich. It reminds me of how Nick Rallo, Dallas’ epic poet of sandwiches—our Homer of hoagies, our Baudelaire of burgers—likes to compliment an especially good cheeseburger by pointing out that it requires two strong hands.
The problem is that every time I have one sandwich at Will Call, Farrell tells me about the next one he’s adding to the menu. Last time, he told me I needed to come back and try the Soprano. Now he’s telling me there’s a new one coming soon featuring “my grandma’s pernil (Puerto Rican roast pork), a green onion with a kiss of serrano aioli, raw onion, and cilantro on a fresh bolillo.”
Bonus fact: he’s doing it at the Best of Big D event on Thursday, but on steamed bao buns. How can we resist? (Shameless plug time: That, and food from over 20 other restaurants, is included with the price of admission. Head here for tickets.)
Farrell has a sense of mission. Actually, he has two, because he also wants men to go get vasectomies to support women’s reproductive rights. But he has a food mission too. The guy’s not content with winning Best Sandwich in Big D. He’s not resting on his awards and waiting for other sandwich masterminds to catch up. It’s a true arms race out there. By this time next year, there’s no telling what kind of mad scientist innovations Dallas chefs will be applying to the stuff that goes between bread.