Japanese Sandos in the US
It seems like just a year ago, 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 trip 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 fruits 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, along with a streamlined menu that includes pastries and coffee.
2Sandwich House Tres — Bellevue, Washington
Sandwich House Tres has by far the widest sando variety, with a rotating selection of 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. Both stock a modest variety of sandos, though Tensuke also offers bentos and other pre-made Japanese food. If you grab your sando at Tensuke, make sure to stop at Belle’s for their fantastic French-influenced Japanese pastries or matcha soft serve.
4Giraffe — Portland, Oregon
Giraffe’s charming Japanese deli is tucked inside Cargo, a global goods shop in east Portland. Besides a selection of sandos, you’ll find a tasty curry rice, kara-age, and Japanese pastries.
5Hi-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 they stand out by offering the harder to find fruits sando, along with Japanese parfaits for dessert.
6Katsu Sando — Los Angeles California
Katsu Sando started as a pop-up in a sushi restaurant, and currently serves up katsu sandwiches at Smorgasburg LA. Their claim to fame is a $75 Wagyu beef sando, but you’ll find standard pork and chicken offerings as well. Word is they’ll be opening a standalone restaurant in LA’s Chinatown sometime in 2019, so keep an eye out if you’re visiting LA!
7Chako — 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.
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.
9Ora & Winston — Los Angeles, California
Ora & Winston is intriguingly inspired by Japanese and Italian ingredients. They serve some standard sando varieties, along with more creative brunch specials like tuna nicoise (shown above), and raspberry mascarpone ricotta. There’s a lot here beyond the sandos that we’d love to try, including the “snacks” menu with a distinctly izakaya feel.
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.