Let us praise the balance and perfection of the sandwich: its symmetrical halves, its versatility, its ubiquity. The sandwich is so often taken for granted, but truly, it is our constant companion. Its variations take place at breakfast, lunch and dinner. For a midnight snack, wedge the contents of your fridge between a couple of slices of bread, et voila. The sandwich does it again.
The sandwich knows no boundaries. It's equally at home in workaday canteens and upscale eating houses. Anyone can make one; anyone can enjoy one. Wherever there is commerce, there is likely a sandwich.
Here are six sandwiches to seek out. They're made in markets, strip malls and parking lots, so maybe you haven't noticed them before. At about $7 or less, there’s no reason not to try them.
The Mean Bean, $7
West Village Market, 771 Haywood Road
Wind your way through West Village Market to the deli in the back of the shop. The two-table setup is small, but the menu offers 13 specialty sandwiches with a wide range of artisan breads, Boar's Head meats and cheeses, tofu, tempeh, hummus and local jam.
The Mean Bean features black-bean tempeh from Smiling Hara, avocado, roasted red peppers and chipotle hummus on toasted Sami's gluten-free bread.
BBQ Sammie, $7
The Lowdown food truck, The Lot and other locations, check thelowdownfoodtruck.com
With its brightly colored toppings, indicating pickled delights, The Lowdown's barbecue sandwich is eyecatching. The thick, buttery Texas toast and red slaw beg to be eaten. The pickled okra nestles beneath a heap of pulled pork. Each bite is smoky and sour with a tinge of sweetness. It's a meat-and-two in handheld form.
Fried bologna, $4.95
The Soda Fountain at Woolworth Walk, 25 Haywood St.
Yes, we went with the fried bologna sandwich at the Woolworth soda fountain. The pimento cheese, BLT and club sandwiches were strong contenders, but in the end, we chowed down on the controversial Appalachian classic. Maybe you love it. Maybe you hate it. Either way, you should try it.
Woolworth's fried bologna is actually grilled, and it's a major step up from the one you probably ate as a kid. Both bologna and bread come thick-cut, so each meaty mouthful conjures up a wave of nostalgia for bologna sandwiches past along with hope for the bologna sandwiches of the future: If they could all be like this one!
Fill It Up, $6.99
Rev It Up! Sandwich Shop, 5 Regent Park Blvd.
From the outside, Rev It Up! looks like a typical sub shop, but don't make assumptions based on its humble storefront and the motorcycle-themed decorations. Rev It Up! adds its own creative twist to the sandwiches and burgers it serves. Among standard tuna, turkey and ham saelections, you'll find portobello and brie, chicken salad with grapes and pecans and sautéed eggplant arrangements.
The Fill It Up is all about gooey decadence. Roast beef, sautéed eggplant and onions come smothered in roasted red pepper marinara sauce and melted mozzarella cheese. It's comfort food on a hoagie.
Braised pork shoulder sandwich, $7.25
Asheville Sandwich Company, 202 State St.
Asheville Sandwich makes a stick-to-your ribs lunch. The sandwiches come loaded with toppings, so even the healthier varieties burst at their seams with a handful of arugula.
The pork shoulder sandwich is an entire meal in a bun. The tender meat is roasted and chopped in-house and topped with rich slaw and shoestring french fries.
Roasted chicken salad sandwich, $5
Hi-Fi Cafe, 45 S. French Broad Ave.
Hi-Fi Cafe is both small and savvy. The menu includes just four sandwiches and a customizable, personal pizza. Because the offerings are streamlined, the proprietors have time to make everything from scratch, including breads, tortilla chips and vegan cheese.
The hand-pulled chicken salad comes on thick focaccia bread that's perfectly browned and bubbly, clearly the product of a well-honed recipe. It's topped with citrus zest, roasted pumpkin seeds and thin-sliced, grilled pineapple, so it's sure to be a hit with fans of savory-sweet flavor combinations.