Sandwiches are a serious business. They’re not ‘humble’, they’re not simple. They’re arguably the best thing in the world, when done right.
And loads of places in Manchester do them right. Whether it’s US-style ‘big boys’, loaded up with enough meat to bring on an immediate coronary episode, or a classic British sarnie raised up to cheffy heights, we’ve got it all.
Here are, in our opinion, the best examples of this most noble of snacks…
The Chip Butty at Edinburgh Castle
Not ‘just a chip butty’. Hell, no. Chef Shaun Moffat at the Edinburgh Castle has elevated the most humdrum of starchy snacks to near art form. It starts with a soft, deep brown brioche bun from celebrated bakery Pollen. The chips are triple cooked, finally fried with those fluffy crispy edges. They’re then topped with raw beef tartare, held together with a beef fat mayonnaise, and just in the unlikely event that this isn’t rich enough, there’s a Burford brown egg yoke laid gently on top. They’ve even done a version with Brixham crab too. We’re not worthy of it. None of us.
Edinburgh Castle, 17 Blossom St, Ancoats, Manchester M4 5EP
The Fried Chicken Sando at Public
Stevenson Square spot Public, sister bar to the likes of The Daisy and Evelyn’s, does a fine line in stuff in buns. Most notable, however, is their fried chicken sando. It’s a sturdy chunk of buttermilk marinated chicken thigh, dredged in flour spiked with gochugaru, the smokey-sweet Korean red pepper mostly found seasoning kimchi. It’s then slathered with spiky pepper mayo, and served up on a sesame seed brioche bun with some sharp ‘disco pickles’. It’s not over-complicated, and it’s a stunner.
Public, 9 Stevenson Square, Manchester M1 1DB
Fat Pat’s is not cheap. In fact, it’s cold-sweat-inducingly expensive for what is ‘just a sandwich’. With a drink (and at the time of writing), a Fat Pat’s Philly cheesesteak will cost you £15, and with fries, £17. But you have to acknowledge that this is possibly the best sandwich in Manchester, and that comes at a premium. Also, there’s the argument that a whole sub – a soft milk roll, made on site fresh every day – will feed two. Nonetheless, the cheesesteak is an utter triumph, as is the hot honey fried chicken and the absolutely stuffed eggplant muffuletta. One for payday, but so worth it.
Fat Pat’s, 8 Portland St, Manchester M1 4GX
The salt beef bagel at Smoak
Loads of folk try salt beef and pastrami, but just fail to nail it. Smoak, in Chorlton, does it the right way. These hunks of fall-apart brisket are properly brined for up to 30 days, after which it’s braised for hours, smoked (or smoaked) then diligently sliced. It then gets piled high on a bagel with sauerkraut, mustard and pickles. Nothing fancy. But then, it’s doesn’t have to be.
Smoak, 105 Manchester Rd, Chorlton, Manchester M21 9GA
Micky’s Real Nice Sandwiches
Micky really does make real nice sandwiches, there’s no getting around it. The bread comes from the Half Dozen Other bakery, meaning they’re setting off on the right foot. Then they stuff their hoagies and focaccia with joyous things like Italian salami with pickled pears and swiss cheese and roasted cauliflower with red pepper sauce and smashed avocado. Formerly going under the name Mira, these are some fine sandwiches, available both at PLY in town and the Picturedrome in Macclesfield.
Ply, 26 Lever St, Manchester M1 1DW
Viet Shack’s banh-mi
A sandwich that few people have just once. Chunks of slow-cooked pork belly (always boasting a generous layer of crackling) and shards of sharp pickled carrot, cabbage and coriander, on a crisp baguette. That’s it. Simple but fantastically good.
Viet Shack, inside Arndale, High Street, Manchester M1 1WR
The egg mayo at Gooey
Gooey does some of the very best sandwiches in the city. Their reuben is proper, stuffed with folds of salt beef, sauerkraut and Russian dressing. The tofu sando had Lizzo going nuts on TikTok and causing roadblock queues. But the egg mayo is ‘the one’. A raft of chopped egg mayo surrounding a perfectly soft boiled egg in the middle. It’s a work of art. Throw some hash browns in, and this is sandwich valhalla.
Gooey, 103 High St, Manchester M4 1HQ
The roast sirloin at BQ Bitesize
Obviously when it comes to meat, NQ butchers the Butchers Quarter know their onions. And while that’s a confusing metaphor, what’s important is that their roast sirloin sandwich is one of the best sandwiches the world has ever known. The beef is perfectly pink, sliced thinly, layered up and salted, before being showered in crispy fried potato laces, chimichurri sauce and dijon mustard. As if that wasn’t enough, it comes with a side of Torres crisps topped with sour cream and caviar. Good heavens.
BQ Bitesize, inside Manchester Design Centre, 17 Oak St, Manchester M4 5JD
From humble beginnings delivering quality sarnies during lockdown, Rack now has a branch in Stockport, one in Sale and another in the Arndale food market, each smashing it with their take on the traditional lunchtime butty, but done really, really well. So that chicken mayo? Might sound basic, but it’ll be the best chicken mayo you’ll ever have. And don’t start us on that beef birria; fall-to-bits Mexican-style brisket, served with dipping broth.
Rack, inside Arndale, High Street, Manchester M1 1WR
OK, so Rustica’s sandwiches might lack the intensive process of Fat Pat’s or the Edinburgh Castle, but it’s an institution nonetheless, 20 years in the sandwich game. This is evidenced by the queue of hipsters, hi-vis labourers and general office folk which snakes past the sex shop next door pretty much from when they open at breakfast time. With most sandwiches barely breaking five or six quid – and less in some cases – it’s an affordable option that’s not a depressing fridge-cold meal deal from the supermarket. The Moroccan lamb and chicken are classics (served on a granary ‘frisbee’), and anywhere serving up spam non-ironically has our vote.
Rustica, 1 Hilton St, Manchester M4 1LP
The ‘classic’ at Northern Soul
We’ve come a long way from the era of the greasy Breville, dug out of a cupboard a couple of times of year to fashion those hot pockets of molten cheddar. Northern Soul’s grilled cheese game is first rate, and while the New Yorker might be loaded up with pastrami, and the one with macaroni might be a carby bombshell, the ‘classic’, with its three cheese mix on golden sourdough, is the one.
Northern Soul, 44 Tib St, Manchester M4 1LA
The breakfast bun at Pollen
Breakfast is often called the most important meal of the day. In this instance, it objectively is. Not since it debuted its legendary cruffin, to queues of people outside its original bakery under the arches at Piccadilly, has Pollen attained such perfection. The bacon is streaky, the eggs are fried perfectly and the brioche bun is soft and brown. Simple, but devastating.
Pollen, Cotton Field Wharf, 8 New Union St, Manchester M4 6FQ
Pollen, 42 Aytoun St, Manchester M1 3GL
Pho Cue’s crispy king prawn banh mi
Though seen plenty in the US, with the southern diner standard the po’boy, we don’t see enough fried seafood in UK sandwiches. Pleasingly, Pho Cue is doing its damned best to sort that out. Its crispy prawn banh mi is the stuff of hushed legend. A crisp baguette crammed with fried joy, crispy onions and slathering in spicy mayo. You might think that’s enough, but throw in the sweet and spicy dip, and you’ve got a sarnie for the ages.
Pho Cue, 52a Faulkner St, Manchester M1 4FH
House of Hoagie
These are ‘big boys’, chef Dom Horsfield says, and he’s not wrong. Inspired by US sub classics, there’s shrimp po’boys, a ‘chopped cheese’ (basically an eviscerated burger stuffed into a hoagie), a tangy buffalo chicken and a ‘Manny Cheesesteak’, giving Philly a run for its cents. A whole one is nap-inducingly large, so considering splitting one with some of their excellent cajun-style waffle fries.
House of Hoagie, 8 Dale St, Manchester M1 1JA