Some things are truly recession-proof. There’s lipstick, that actually sees an increase in sales during hard times, booze (for obvious reasons) and now, sandwiches.
Yep, it seems most people turn to the humble butty when things are looking tough, and recent data suggests that more and more restaurants and bars are adding sandwiches to their menus amid ongoing cost of living pressures.
In mid-May, BigHospitality reported that Lumina Intelligence’s Menu Tracker saw sandwich counts rise in the last few months, and it seems that calorie counts have been rising too – by 17% in fact – indicating that they’re being bulked out to cater for a “fuller meal”.
So it seems that in the face of the rising cost of living, and, well, pretty much everything at the moment, the sandwich is being adopted by restauranteurs and bar owners as a way to keep prices down but still offer a substantial food offering.
As a result, you’re likely to start seeing many more sandwiches on menus across the city, and this is very welcome news to me – a man who considered himself a true Sandwich Artist before Subway stole the title.
This news also comes on the back of an ongoing sandwich ‘renaissance’ in the city – one which was heralded by the arrival of Bada Bing back in 2021 and continues with more dedicated sandwich offerings, on top of huge menu shake-ups in light of trends and the aforementioned cost of living crisis.
So here are the city’s sandwich pioneers – the people who are tirelessly cutting, slicing, stuffing, wrapping and dreaming – all to create some truly majestic butties.
The Arrival of Bada Bing
The sandwich-scape in Manchester just a few short years ago was a bit flat. When it came to independents, city centre lunch diners were faced with a choice of rather bland and uninspired sandwiches from the major supermarkets, or to plump for a footlong from Subway.
Bursting onto the scene in early 2021 though, many would argue though that the Bada Bing crew are the first pioneers of the city’s recent obsession with sandwiches, and we’re inclined to agree with them. What Bada Bing did was to bring the idea of the New York ‘two-fisted hoagie‘ to Manchester – something which hadn’t really ever been done before.
The ‘sub’ or ‘hero’ or ‘hoagie’ began life in many different Italian-American communities throughout the Northeastern United States in the early 20th Century. With a huge influx of Italian immigrants onto the island, Manhattan became a hub of sandwich activity, which subsequently went out and conquered the rest of the country, and indeed the world.
Bada Bing took this exact concept and created a highly authentic menu of sandwiches filled with salami, ham, cheese, salad and pickles, and the city went mad for them. Even with a rather high price point, you’d find queues here regularly and I personally witnessed one of their Saturday pick-up spots in Ancoats – just stream after stream of hungry people gagging to get their hands on one.
Alas, after a year Bada Bing rather surprisingly announced that they would be halting their butty exploits and taking a break from it all in February this year. We’ve not heard anything from them since, and we’re completely unsure as to whether they’ll ever come back. But fear not – there’s a whole host of new sandwich offerings in the city that have plugged the gap they left.
The Sandwich Pioneers
Most noticeable of these is Fat Pats, who began life in Chorlton but have most recently moved into the city centre with a small hatch down an alleyway in Chinatown. With freshly baked eight-inch milk roll subs filled with some of the best combos out there, they’ve impressed us massively in the short time that they’ve been operating.
There’s also Prestwich’s Hulk’s Hoagies, which can be found within The Goods In, with bread baked by Pot Kettle Black’s Half Dozen Other bakery and filled to the brim with “flavour flavour flavour.”
One of the original butty connoisseurs in the city is Julian Pizer at 3 Hands Deli who created some of the most imaginative grilled sandwiches we’d ever seen, and managed to fire out hundreds a week during lockdown.
With his new venture, still up on Deansgate Mews, Another Hand, he’s continuing to show off his skills with a regularly changing menu of grilled sandwiches, such as his Lamb Merguez with minted peas and zuni pickle – which is out-of-this-world good, nestled amongst a menu of similarly spectacular and elevated sandwiches.
And finally, there’s MIRA, who began as a little pop-up in the Crown & Kettle and then took over from Bada Bing when they moved out of Ancoats General Store earlier this year.
They offer something a bit different – building their loyal fanbase on the back of their ‘Cuzzetiello’ sandwiches – a cult staple in Napoli street food cuisine that originates from the act of tearing the end off a loaf of fresh bread before scooping up home-cooked ragu fresh off the stove.
Even More Sandwiches
We’ve also seen an influx in sandwiches elsewhere on menus where you wouldn’t expect to see them. There’s the phenomenal Bahn Mi’s at Pho Cue, ‘Panuozzo’ pizza sandwiches at I Knead Pizza, Spanish bocadillos at La Bandera, and Kong’s Chicken Shop have recently introduced their own sandwich range at their new venture in Hatch.
Even Lazy Tony’s, a concept which arrived in the city at a similar time to Bada Bing, and actually shared a dark kitchen with them on Radium Street in Ancoats, have introduced sandwiches to their burgeoning menu at Alvarium.
Italian-style baguettes served as half or full, filled with classics such as the BLT and Fried Chicken, alongside something a little bit more Italian. In other words an exceptional Meatball Sub.
It seems that everyone is introducing sandwiches at the moment, and there are almost too many to mention in one article. There’s the excellent NYC deli bagel sandwiches at Breadflower in Ducie Street Warehouse, PRIMO will soon be opening up in community arts workspace SEESAW, there’s classics served with a smile at Rustica in the Northern Quarter and the mighty Katsouris on Deansgate where you can still get a loaded carvery beast of a sarnie for less than a fiver.
With the continuing cost of living crisis playing out across the UK, and innovative independents across in the city – we’re almost guaranteed to see more and more sandwiches in the coming 12 months. In recent years we’ve seen rumblings of the classic Cubanitos sandwich, and I don’t think it’ll be long until someone picks up on the Mexican Tortas – huge fried cheese and meat monsters that come smothered in sour cream and hot sauce.
And who knows, perhaps we’ll see a return of Bada Bing? For fans of the humble sandwich, the future is looking extremely bright indeed, and I, for one, cannot wait.