With more than 300 million sandwiches eaten everyday in America, it’s hard to dispute the notion that this simple creation, made with two slices of bread and something in between, is among mankind’s greatest inventions. While McAllen might not be a deli-rich city, these local sandwich shops offer up meat-filled, bread-based delights that would make the Earl of Sandwich proud.
NEW YORK DELI II – 829 W. Dove Ave
The family-owned business originally broke into the lunch game in 1989 with its first restaurant in Brownsville and, much to the delight of McAllenites, has been slinging sandwiches in the City of Palms since 2004. Boasting the city’s best sandwich menu, New York Deli put itself on the map with its seemingly endless combinations of bread-and-meat delights. You’ll be hard pressed to find deli classics like the Carnegie, which is filled with 1/2 pound of New York pastrami, melted Swiss cheese and spicy mustard on grilled rye bread, anywhere in town. I went with a staff recommendation and ventured off-menu for the Chicken Maplewich. Built on a solid foundation of expertly grilled sourdough bread, filled with a generous helping thin-sliced chicken, pepperjack cheese, bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato and house-made spicy Russian dressing, the Chicken Maplewich is what sandwich dreams are made of. This explosively messy and amazing work of edible art will send you to sandwich nirvana and might even tempt the most dedicated vegetarians to head over to the dark side. If you’re looking for something not as messy but equally delicious, opt for The Drew Special which comes loaded with turkey, pepperoni and provolone cheese with lettuce, tomato and Italian dressing. Named after one of its loyal patrons, the Drew Special is a study in sandwich perfection with every ingredient working in harmony to orchestrate a lunch break you won’t forget. New York Deli is a sandwich landmark in McAllen, and it’s a favorite for business lunchers and stay-at-home moms alike so pick a sandwich, any sandwich. You can’t go wrong.
Pro-tip: If you like spicy, don’t skimp on the spicy Russian dressing. The house-made condiment is infused with 40 habanero peppers!
ROOSEVELT’S AT 7 – 821 N. Main St
Roosevelt’s at 7 has been a legit purveyor of everything craft since opening doors 8 years ago, and while you might think of it as an after-work pub hangout, it’s also crafted a legacy in the sandwich game with its presidential paninis. With names like Roosevelt’s Club, Kennedy’s Italian Hoagie and Clinton’s Drunken Salmon, these statesmanlike sandwiches make for a solid debate on sandwich dominance. I vote for Coolidge’s Cuban, which comes with expertly balanced portions of spicy pork, Swiss cheese, ham, pickles and spicy mustard. The move here is to pair it with a nice IPA because if ever there was a restaurant where a cold beer is acceptable on a work lunch, it’s Roosevelt’s. The sandwiches don’t rotate as often as the beer selection at this McAllen institution, but I appreciate the commitment to the perfection of its executive picks and enjoy the occasional wild-card option the weekly chef’s special offers.
Pro-tip: Cutting down on carbs? Make any sandwich (or burger) a wrap at Roosevelt’s.
LAS ROCAS – 617 S. 15th St
The torta is the often-overlooked food in Mexican cuisine and definitely the most underrated member of the sandwich world, but it reigns supreme at Las Rocas. The downtown McAllen eatery has been supplying loyal patrons with the finest tortas in town for 23 years, and unless you got a good tip from some locals, you might not know this place exists. I’m of the firm belief that a sandwich is only as good as the two slices of bread holding everything together, and its soft, sweet and perfectly toasted French bread makes the perfect vessel for silverware-free eating. Sure, there are plenty of delicious Mexican food favorites on the menu like tacos, enchiladas and botanas, but you will order the torta or you will forever regret it. The move here is simple: pick your protein and order it “con todo” with lettuce, tomato, onion, sour cream and avocado. The torta at Las Rocas is the kind of sandwich your friend will ask for a bite of, and you will delightfully oblige because life-changing food tastes better when it’s shared.
FELDMAN’S MARKET CENTER – 100 N. 10th St
Unless your leaving your weekly AA meeting, I highly recommend you check out the next-level sandwiches at Feldman’s Market Center. The liquor store chain is a McAllen mainstay, but it’s the deli in the south 10th Street location where your sandwich adventure begins. From bread to meats and condiments, Feldman’s ups the ante when it comes to handheld eating. Its sandwiches feature primo meats and artisan cheeses expertly paired and portioned to create a lunch you won’t forget. I find it hard to stray from ordering “The Man” Panini, which comes with chicken, jamon serrano, manchego cheese and made-from-scratch chipotle aioli. The next time you’re looking for a carefully crafted sandwich, remember Feldman’s doesn’t only offer up good times, bad decisions and hangovers, it’s got some ultimate sandwich options too.
GUMBO’S DELI – 815 W. Nolana Ave
As I previously mentioned in my article on McAllen’s Best Sandwiches Under $7 , with 10 sandwiches under $7 on its menu, Gumbo’s Deli deserves your attention and your business. I will continue touting this fast food restaurant for its attention to fresh, healthy paninis and boat-sized salad bowls. The seemingly endless sandwich varieties mean you always have an excuse to get your fresh food fix, and the drive thru service at its North McAllen location means you can get it on the go.
Pro-tip: Pay the extra $2.99 and make it a combo with a salad and drink. Opt for the limonada pepino.
The handheld work of artistry known as the sandwich offers ease, convenience and portability, and it should be celebrated for its endless variations of bread, meat and cheese combinations. In taco-rich South Texas, the argument over who makes the best meat-filled tortillas can go on forever, but there’s little debate on the ultimate sandwich shops.