Japanese Sandos in the US
It seems like it wasn’t that long ago that dropping the word “sando” would elicit only quizzical looks from foodies. Fortunately, the delicious, addictive Japanese style sandwiches are taking the US by storm, and we’re already planning our next trips around sando availability.
Sandos come in many forms: katsu; egg salad; strawberries and cream (yeah, it’s a thing); even a humble ham and cheese that’s greater than the sum of its parts. What sets them apart is the pillowy white milk bread–almost always with crusts removed–and the elevated attention to detail so often found in Japanese food.
We recommend trying a variety of sandos if you get the chance, and always, always go for a fruit sando if it’s on offer.
If you hop on a flight to Japan, you need only waltz into the corner convenience store to munch on a legitimately great sando along with your quirky pop culture fix. You’ll have to search harder for sandos in the USA, but Japanese sandos are popping up left and right lately, everywhere from casual kissaten to high end restaurants:
1Konbi — Los Angeles, California
You’ve probably seen Konbi’s highly photogenic egg salad sandos all over Instagram. Gaze upon that perfect soft boiled egg nestled in mysteriously superior Japanese egg salad, and you’ll start to see why without taking a single bite. I’m clearly an egg salad devotee, but you’ll find other sando varieties to sample on a menu that also includes pastries and coffee.
2Sandwich House Tres — Bellevue, Washington
Sandwich House Tres has by far the widest sando variety, with a rotating selection of over 50 sandwiches.
And–this is the really exciting part for those addicted to conbini sandos– they have potato salad sandos, that divine gift from the carb gods. Don’t knock it till you try it, preferably alternating bites of ham or katsu, with a fruits sando for dessert.
3Belle’s Bread / Tensuke Market — Columbus, Ohio
Belle’s Bread and Tensuke Market are part of a little cluster of Japanese businesses in an unassuming strip mall in Columbus, Ohio (there’s also a cute Japanese gift shop worth stopping into). Having lived in Columbus for quite a few years, I admit I’m very critical of its food scene, but these two Japanese spots have been a well deserved local foodie favorite for years.
Belles Bread usually stocks a modest variety of sandos, but if you don’t see any, head over to Tensuke market, which offers bentos and other pre-made Japanese food. If you grab your sando at Tensuke, do make sure to stop at Belle’s for their fantastic French-influenced Japanese pastries or matcha soft serve.
4Hi-Collar — New York City
Check out Japanese kissaten Hi-Collar by day for sandos and omurice, and by night for izakaya style small plates, sake and cocktails. The menu is small, but looks amazing, and the vibe is a perfect blend of NYC and Japan.
5Katsu Sando — Los Angeles California
Katsu Sando started as a pop-up in a sushi restaurant, and currently serves up sandos from their storefront in LA’s Chinatown. Their original claim to fame was a $75 Wagyu beef sando, but nowadays you’ll find a nice selection of sandos (including a seasonal fruit sando!) and onigiri.
6Chako — Covington, Kentucky
A cute Japanese kissaten just outside of Cincinnati, Chako serves a small lunch menu with pork and chicken sandos. They offer a larger selection of Japanese cakes and breads, which look just as mouth-watering.
7Hello Sando — Washington DC
DC’s Hello Sando is a pop-up sando shop currently operating out of Union Market. Their menu isn’t huge, but sando varieties change seasonally and include a Konbi style egg salad, along with fruit sandos. They’re all cross-cut for maximum Instagrammability, and immaculately presented in little sandwich boxes…can you tell that Hello Sando’s Instragram page is making me very hungry?
8Cafe Zaiya — New York and New Jersey
Cafe Zaiya has four locations in the New York and New Jersey area, serving up French-inspired Japanese pastries and a nice selection of sandos. I’ve only been to the large midtown location, so I’d suggest checking what’s on offer at the other locations before you make the trek.
Where to find Japanese sandwiches near you
Don’t see a city near you on this list? Search for Japanese bakeries in your area instead. It’s not uncommon for Japanese bakeries to offer sandos as well. Worst case scenario, you show up and find a plethora of delicious baked goods, but no sandos. I’m a firm believer that you don’t need to be a food blogger to embark on a year of weekend trips to sample the best foods in your area.
Katsu sandos are the trendiest of the bunch, so you may find them on the menu of your local Japanese or Asian fusion restaurant…or even on offer at that hip new bar. Just keep in mind that they’re likely to be more authentic at restaurants that specialize in Japanese cuisine.