Grammy award-winning rock singer, songwriter, and musician Warren Zevon had pointed advice for Hoosier native and television host David Letterman: “Enjoy every sandwich.” The date was Oct. 30, 2002. Zevon, sadly, would live only a few weeks after the episode of “Late Night” aired, but the succinct advice he offered Letterman became an anthem for savoring each of life’s moments and united sandwich lovers across the globe.
We agree wholeheartedly! And lucky for us, Evansville has many opportunities to feast. From a breaded tenderloin at the Hilltop Inn to a Catalina chicken sandwich at Sportsman’s, Evansvillians are never far from a good sandwich. Here are 19 sandwiches we love in the Tri-State.
Think of Evansville and its signature sandwiches, and we’re guessing these are three you’d get to quickly, if not immediately. The breaded tenderloin, of course, is closely identified with Indiana, and Evansville diners love a great big one that’s way out of proportion with its bun. Catfish sandwiches are a hit on Lenten Fridays and all year long. And then there’s the stromboli — toasty, messy, and oh-so-delicious.
Place of Origin: Nick’s Kitchen, Huntington, Indiana
Trademark: Oversized length
Must-Have Ingredients: Lettuce, onion, pickles, mayonnaise, and/or horseradish
We Recommend Trying This At: Hilltop Inn
Why It Stands Out: Call it the Midwest’s version of the Wienerschnitzel — fitting since so many German immigrants made the Heartland their home. Unlike the traditional veal cutlet, thickness varies for a breaded pork tenderloin, but it’s still bathed in a generous egg wash, coated in breadcrumbs, and fried to perfection. Plenty of local restaurants offer their take, but take note: Evansville Living readers in 2022 voted Hilltop Inn as having the best breaded tenderloin in town.
Place of Origin: United States
Trademark: Thick, crusty patty
Must-Have Ingredients: Tartar sauce, lettuce, and tomato
Pairs Well With: Fries, onion rings
We Recommend Trying This At: Major Munch
Why It Stands Out: In Catholic-heavy Southwest Indiana, fish is a popular choice on Fridays during Lent. But for many area diners, any day is a good day for a deep-fried fish sandwich. Major Munch, a small Downtown Evansville spot that does brisk lunch business, serves up not only a standard catfish sandwich, but a catfish and shrimp po’ boy with provolone cheese, slaw, lettuce, tomatoes, and the diner’s special sauce.
Place of Origin: Arguably Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Trademark: You’ll need plenty of napkins and perhaps a fork
Must-Have Ingredients: Italian sausage, marinara, and mozzarella
Pairs Well With: Grippo’s barbecue potato chips
We Recommend Trying This At: Pizza King network of franchises
Why It Stands Out: Stroms are found throughout Evansville — in fact, across Indiana. A mix between a cheesy calzone and a sloppy joe, diners can customize their baked-to-goodness sandwich with traditional mozzarella and Italian sausage or spring for buffalo sauce, chicken and bacon, or salami. Pack it between white sub bread, and you have a fan-favorite meal.
Meat and Greet
Restaurants in and near Evansville offer a multitude of varieties of these popular, meaty favorites to sink your teeth into. Reuben lovers can find one that compares favorably to those on the East Coast. It’s hard to top a great French dip sandwich with a hot cup of au jus. West Siders swear by their fried bologna sandwich. And while Kentucky communities take understandable pride in their barbecue, there are great spots north of the Ohio River, too.
Place of Origin: Not France! Two Los Angeles restaurants claim it
Trademark: Au jus
Must-Have Ingredients: Sliced beef and cheese, often Swiss or provolone
We Recommend Trying This At: Knob Hill Tavern or Prime Time Pub & Grill
Why It Stands Out: Always a savory and satisfying choice, the French dip has a few varieties, but the beefy dipping sauce is a constant. Knob Hill Tavern serves up its French dip on a hoagie bun with pepperoncini peppers. At Prime Time – which calls its sandwich the Prime dip – it comes with smoked gouda and onion straws on garlic-toasted sourdough bread. Prime Time also brings you a creamy horseradish, in addition to the au jus.
Place of Origin: United States
Trademark: A great sauce
Must-Have Ingredients: An ample helping of tender, hot meat, plus a sauce of your liking
Pairs Well With: Just about anything! Mac and cheese, cole slaw, green beans, or baked beans
We Recommend Trying This At: Hickory Pit Stop BBQ
Why It Stands Out: One splendid Hoosier choice for barbecue is Hickory Pit Stop on Evansville’s North Main Street, across from Bosse Field and Deaconess Aquatic Center. In addition to the standard barbecue sandwich with pickle and onion, you can try the Big Bama, a half-pounder, with a side of Alabama football posters. While there, check out the Evansville and “A League of Their Own” movie memorabilia.
Place of Origin: North America
Trademark: It’s often identified with New York City delicatessens
Must-Have Ingredients: A heap of corned beef, rye bread, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese
Pairs Well With: Spaetzle, sauerkraut, German potato salad, and white beans
We Recommend Trying This At: Gerst Bavarian Haus
Why It Stands Out: A sandwich for sandwich lovers, the Reuben is a classic. Evansville’s Gerst Bavarian Haus lists the Reuben as its most popular sandwich, and it’s served the traditional way. Gerst also has a second variety: a turkey Reuben, subbing a generous portion of turkey for the corned beef. The restaurant on West Franklin Street uses a “special sauce” on its Reuben; two popular sauces for the sandwich are Russian or Thousand Island dressing.
Place of Origin: Bologna, Italy, then brought to the U.S. by German immigrants and eventually fried in the South
Trademark: Thick, hot slices and toasty bread
Must-Have Ingredients: A favorite cheese
Pairs Well With: Potato salad, a baked potato, fries, or chips
We Recommend Trying This At: Stockwell Inn or Peephole Bar & Grill
Why It Stands Out: The fried bologna sandwich is a nostalgic treat for many Evansville area residents. At Peephole Bar & Grill (which is closed for the time being following damage from a Main Street traffic accident — see Chew on This, page 121), check out Dewig’s German Bologna Sandwich. We also discovered a good one at Stockwell Inn, where the thick-cut slices accompany buttery, grilled bread.
Place of Origin: Enslaved West Africans and Scottish immigrants to the U.S. both brought with them a tradition of battering and frying chicken.
Trademark: Crispy finish
Must-Have Ingredients: Enough breadcrumbs for a thick coating
Pairs Well With: Mashed potatoes, gravy, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw, corn, grits, and biscuit
We Recommend Trying This At: Walton’s Smokehouse and Southern Kitchen
Why It Stands Out: Fried chicken is a Southern American staple, and as it made its way across the country, the variety of ways it is enjoyed has grown. Walton’s Smokehouse and Southern Kitchen’s take on fried chicken involves buttermilk, capicola, Cajun aioli, and jalapeño pimiento cheese placed between two buns.
What the Cluck
There are about as many ways to craft a good chicken sandwich as there are people to make them. The origin of the chicken sandwich isn’t known — it was developed in the U.S., and Chick-fil-A lays claim to popularizing the piece of poultry on a bun. At the crossroads of America, Evansville has plenty of variations on this lunch crowd staple.
Place of Origin: Town Meats in Wakefield, Rhode Island, in 1863
Trademark: Chopped chicken, often bound with mayonnaise, but sometimes with cream cheese
Must-Have Ingredients: Take your pick: nuts, hard-boiled egg, celery, onion, pickles, or mustard
We Recommend Trying This At: Kite & Key Cafe
Why It Stands Out: Of course, there are countless varieties of chicken salad, but we love the way Kite & Key Cafe on Evansville’s West Side prepares it — a creamy mix that includes pecans and grapes and is served on a buttery croissant with tomato and lettuce. Pair it with crispy chips, German potatoes, or fruit, and you’ve got a light, satisfying lunch on a summer day, or any day.
Chicken and Waffle
Place of Origin: Some give credit to a 1930s Harlem restaurant named Wells Supper Club, whereas other food scholars credit enslaved Africans or Dutch and German settlers.
Trademark: Sweet and savory collision of flavor
Must-Have Ingredients: Fried chicken and a fluffy waffle
Pairs Well With: Maple syrup
We Recommend Trying This At: Copper House
Why It Stands Out: Considered a Southern staple, this combination of breakfast and dinner somehow makes sense when put together. Butter and maple syrup already have an important role in fusing the two parts’ savory and sweet attributes. Copper House elevates this idea by using waffles instead of buns. Their chicken and waffle sandwich is served with lettuce, pickled red onion, and spicy maple mayo, providing a little kick to the homestyle creation.
Place of Origin: Catalonia region of Spain, and popularized as a salad dressing by Kraft Foods
Trademark: Sweet, smoked flavor
Must-Have Ingredients: Catalina dressing blended from ketchup, vinegar, sugar, and oil. Add Worcestershire sauce, ground mustard, or cayenne pepper for a kick.
Pairs Well With: Grilled corn on the cob
We Recommend Trying This At: Sportsman’s Grille and Billiards
Why It Stands Out: This is not your mother’s Catalina-topped meal. Marinating a chicken breast in the sweet, tomato- based dressing soaks in its tangy flavor, but cooking it on a grill unleashes a deep, smoky quality and thickens the sauce to a creamy finish. Sportsman’s Grille and Billiards makes sure you know it was cooked on the rack; its Catalina Chicken has the grill marks to prove it.
Savor the Flavor
Admit it: Sometimes, you want a sandwich that hits the spot but is not time-consuming to assemble, a big gain for minimal investment. We get it. There are days when all we want is to dive into a thickly piled stack of our favorite fillings between two slices of bread right now. That’s where these gloriously simple yet flavorful sandwiches come into play. Many require ingredients that already are in your refrigerator, and they’re easy to modify on the fly if you’re craving a twist.
Peanut Butter and Jelly
Place of Origin: Boston, Massachusetts
Biggest Controversy: Crust or no crust?
Switch Things Up With: Crunchy peanut butter and strawberry jelly
We Recommend Trying This At: G.D. Ritzy’s
Why It Stands Out: Perhaps it’s a surprise to see the old, reliable PB&J in a sandwich section devoted to savory flavors but hear us out. This sandwich is a childhood staple — a Prepared Foods study found the average American child eats 1,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before they graduate from high school — and so it takes little imagination to change it up. Like grilled cheese, peanut butter and jelly is the perfect canvas for adventurous modifications. We like G.D. Ritzy’s version pairing sweet strawberry jam with a crunchy peanut butter spread.
Place of Origin: England
Trademark: Crispy bacon
Must-Have Ingredients: Bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, and halved, toasted bread
Pairs Well With: Tomato soup
We Recommend Trying This At: COMFORT by the Cross-Eyed Cricket
Why It Stands Out: When it comes to sandwiches without fuss, nothing tops a BLT. A sensible, simple sandwich, its appeal is its ease to assemble and consume. Savory rippled bacon, juicy tomato, crisp lettuce leaves, tangy mayo, and sliced bread are within reach at nearly any grocery store, making the BLT a perfect midnight snack or midday meal. COMFORT on Main Street puts a twist on the traditional BLT by adding creamy avocado slices.
Place of Origin: New York state
Trademark: Quartered sandwiches skewered together
Must-Have Ingredients: Toasted bread, turkey or chicken, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise
Pairs Well With: Coleslaw or chips
We Recommend Trying This At: Friendship Diner
Why It Stands Out: This American staple originated at — where else? — a club, and it has the subtle air of class to prove its enduring pedigree. The club relies on fresh produce layered with slices of turkey or chicken, making it the perfect tiny luncheon addition or handheld appetizer. (The fact that it routinely clocks in as a counting calories-friendly meal also is a perk.) Our favorite trait, though, is how the often-quartered sandwiches are presented stacked high, like a tastier version of the game Jenga. So, while it’s still classic, it’s also a little fun to eat.
Fresh seafood dishes take inspiration from around the world, and these sandwiches cast a similar line. The stuffed po’boy at Newburgh, Indiana’s Tin Fish is laden with Creole herbs, while BRU Burger Bar packs a fish patty full of Pacific Coast influence. Diversified with eclectic seasonings and mixed textures, the result is mouthwatering meals of savory seafood you can enjoy on the go.
Place of Origin: New Orleans, Louisiana
Trademark: Stuffed with seafood of your choice
Must-Have Ingredients: French-style bread and an array of seafood
Pairs Well With: French fries and coleslaw
We Recommend Trying This At: Tin Fish
Why It Stands Out: Think of a po’boy sandwich as a sub with its own style. Popularized in New Orleans — home of a yearly po’boy sandwich festival in early November — this sandwich takes seafood and puts it between French-style bread, typically with tomato, pickles, and lettuce. At Tin Fish in Newburgh, Indiana, guests can enjoy a seafood po’boy sandwich, including clams, fish, crab cakes, shrimp, or oysters, served with coleslaw, tartar, or hot sauce.
Place of Origin: Baja California, Mexico
Trademark: South-of-the-border seasoning
Must-Have Ingredients: Fresh salmon
We Recommend Trying This At: BRU Burger Bar
Pairs Well With: Home fries or onion rings
Why It Stands Out: The health benefits of salmon are impressive, especially considering the low-fat content and the presence of omega-3 fatty acids, which are shown to provide benefits for the heart and brain. While Baja-style cooking typically is applied to fish tacos, BRU Burger Bar adds a twist with queso fresco, guacamole, black bean aioli, black bean edamame salsa, and pea shoots with an oat bun.
Around the World
International fare is served with a flourish in Evansville. Our long history of German links is most evident on menus, but we enjoy slices of Mediterranean and Latin heritage, too. With plenty of restaurants serving global flavors, we don’t have to travel the world to eat like it.
Place of Origin: Cuba, then Tampa, Miami, and Key West, Florida
Trademark: Layers of cheese and seasoned meat between buttered Cuban bread and sliced diagonally
Must-Have Ingredients: Mild smoked ham and marinated roast pork, gouda or Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and Cuban bread. Add salami for the Tampa version.
Pairs Well With: A fresh slice of dill
We Recommend Trying This At: Siciliano Subs
Why It Stands Out: In Evansville, head to Sicily for an authentic Cuban sandwich. Siciliano Subs on West Franklin Street features the Miami version of the famous savory sandwich, with ham and pork. But this sub shop with a full menu easily can add salami, too, sliced right in front of you at the counter. Siciliano’s bread gets rave reviews, the perfect envelope for the tangy and tart taste of pickles and mustard paired with melted cheese and meat.
Place of Origin: A late-19th century grocer in Portland, Maine is credited with its creation.
Trademark: Cured meats and cheese topped with Italian dressing and salad-like ingredients in a toasted baguette
Must-Have Ingredients: Capicola, salami, pepperoni, provolone cheese, red onion, black olives, lettuce, tomato, and toasted baguettes
Pairs Well With: Fresh fruit
We Recommend Trying This At: The Daily Grind
Why It Stands Out: The Daily Grind’s Italian sandwich derives its name from Italian American gangster Al Capone, who may or may not have enjoyed similar sandwiches himself. “Mangia!” wrote the Evansville Living restaurant reviewer. “The Al Capone sandwich transports you to Little Italy and tastes like a slice of pizza stuffed between two pieces of bread.”
Place of Origin: Mexico
Trademark: The need to eat it with two hands
Must-Have Ingredients: White sandwich rolls to clap around a smorgasbord of fillings
Pairs Well With: Chips and housemade guacamole
We Recommend Trying This At: La Campirana
Why It Stands Out: This popular Mexican dish isn’t messing around. Overflowing with protein and garnishes stuffed between two oversize pieces of soft bread, the torta requires two hands and a commitment. We love that its center can be made of ham, chicken, shaved beef, or even scrambled eggs, and that it can be served cool or warm, making it ideal for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Downtown diners, rejoice: La Campirana’s torta also is on the menu at Botanas at Arcademie on Northwest Sixth Street.