We are a nation of sandwich eaters. Every cafe, counter, and hatch does its own variation, with ingredients ranging from withered lettuce to flash fried steak, from slathered 'spread' to flavourful aioli. But which is the best?
Last year the Hellman’s Best Sandwich Competition saw food establishments asking their customers to vote for their favourite sandwich in Ireland, and the people of Galway proved we were particularly fond of ours. The title of Ireland’s Top Sandwich went to The Cellar Bar on Galway's Eglinton Street. The Cellar won the day thanks to chef Aidan Cleary’s tempting Cajun spiced chicken ciabatta. The City of the Tribes also scooped a runner-up spot in the competition with the warm toasted ciabatta with beef medallions from McCambridge’s, proving that Galway is Ireland’s overall top spot for sandwiches. The three winners were awarded a trophy, and professional panini grills, which will come in handy for this year’s competition which is shaping up to be a lot tougher.
A lot of people wrongly consider a sandwich to be a simple construct of a sliver of processed meat or a square of processed cheese between two pieces of white sliced pan. They think that a sandwich is just a sandwich. Sadly, this tragic, flaccid, excuse for a meal is a lunchtime staple for too many who will never know the magic of a lovingly made 'buttie'.
If, however, you do like a nice sandwich now and again, what and where is the best sandwich in Galway? Like breakfast, sandwiches are a matter of personal taste. People feel strongly about the one they buy, they are closely linked to where they live, work, or socialise. There are places that are new and cool and places that are institutions — my own extremely well-researched preferences are the long-running hot tuna on foccacia in Anton's, the newcomer G Counter’s club sandwich, and the 37West chicken melt. McCambridge's is the place to go when you want to go off-piste. Here your sandwich does not have to follow any rules. It does not have to have any salad in it. Or cheese. Or ham. The menu board is just a list of suggestions. You get what you want, how you want it.
From months of intensive testing and an incredibly close-fought battle, my crack team of connoisseurs have come to a decision. The best sandwich in Galway is... the bánh mì at the Bierhouse, Dominick Street, where the boys from Entre-pans have been taking the art of sandwich making to a whole new level. These master sambologists serve a short but brilliantly diverse menu of five sandwiches. The others to choose from are the three cheese grill; a smoked mackerel or tofu Po' Boy; and the SBLPT (a smoked bacon BLT with the genius addition of fried potatoes ), priced around €6/7.
A bánh mì is essentially the only sandwich in Vietnamese cuisine and it is quite a tour de force, with crusty baguette, hot seasoned pork, creamy paté, fresh coriander, and a drizzle of mayonnaise. Entre-pans' take on it has a wonderful mix of flavours with an excellent crunchy fresh savoy cabbage 'slaw, studded with pear and apple and garnished with a perfect cucumber pickle. Add a portion of house spuds at €2.50, potatoes sautéed in butter with onions, and a tipple from the Beirhouse's extensive menu of craft beers and this sandwich will be hard to beat.