Now that spring is finally here, grab one of these stellar hand-held meals and cop a squat in the sunshine 

Wicked 'Wiches

Wicked 'Wiches

Every spring, my thoughts turn to sandwiches, the original cop-a-squat-in-the-sunshine food. Nashville is fortunate to have great options on the sandwich front, and the ones here represent just a small cross-section, all for $10 or less.

So for your consideration, here are five great sandwiches you should be eating right now:

Oyster Po'boy — Patrick's Bistreaux

At an earlier point in my life — the dark years, we'll call them — I wouldn't eat oysters. Too slimy. Too briny. Too icky. A bad experience as a kid stuck with me, and there was no way I was trying them again. Fortunately, I married up, and my wife finally said to me, "That's dumb" (not an uncommon occurrence). I gave them another chance, and suddenly, I forgot what I hated about the bivalves.

Without my wife's prodding, I never would have touched the oyster po'boy at Patrick's in Berry Hill, which is a downright luxurious experience. Now, the full sandwich is $15, but at $9.50, the half-sandwich will fill you up. First off, all of Patrick's half-sandwiches are the size of whole sandwiches at most other places. Furthermore, half a po'boy is a bargain when you consider how many oysters — breaded in cornmeal and deep-fried until golden — you get on a crispy French bread bun. I got seven in my half, topped with lettuce and tomato (and a pickle, which I left off in favor of adding some hot sauce). It's a righteous sandwich.

Patrick's serves eight different po'boys for lunch, and if you're as turned off by oysters as I once was, try the smoked pork or andouille, both $8 for a half-sandwich.

2821 Bransford Ave., 401-9564

French Dip — Porter Road Butcher

Until last fall, eating a sandwich from the city's best butcher shop was strictly a DIY affair, unless you got a sausage biscuit from Barista Parlor. But when PRB added a second location on Charlotte, the owners included a market selling breakfast and lunch sandwiches. The best of these is the French dip ($10), a staple on the daily lunch menu and a credit to its species. It comes with thinly shaved beef piled onto a Bobby John Henry French roll with onions, cheese and some of that important jus for dipping.

It seems like every time I'm in there, co-owner Chris Carter tries to talk me into getting the Cuban sandwich (which, by the way, is very good). But I'm telling you, there's just something warm and utterly comfortable about the French dip, when the jus soaks deep into the sandwich and the line between bread and meat becomes a little blurry.

That $10 price tag? Worth every single grass-fed, locally raised penny.

4816 Charlotte Ave., 454-2995

Turkey and Avocado — Mitchell Deli

When I think of a turkey sandwich, it has to be Thanksgiving leftovers buried in cranberry sauce or I generally won't eat it. Turkey is just so ... bland. And most deli turkey, unless it's smoked, just doesn't have any flavor.

Which is why I have the utmost respect for what they're doing over at Mitchell Delicatessen in East Nashville, where the turkey sandwich is a delivery vehicle for other tasty things.

They start with whole wheat bread and toast the bejeezus out of it. (In order to have a truly great sandwich, you've gotta have great bread. Period. The best way to ruin a good lunch is to just slap something on generic white bread. At least toast it, people.) Then they slather on some mayo. Next comes the avocado and a healthy slice of cheddar on top of a hefty mound of turkey. Now it's time for tomatoes and sprouts. See, doesn't that sound like a very nice sandwich and OH YES THERE'S A COUPLE OF SLICES OF BENTON'S BACON ON THERE, TOO. It's just perfect, adding a little crunch as well as some smoke and salt to that bland bird. All for $7.50.

There's a reason it's the first item on the menu board.

1306 McGavock Pike, 262-9862

Barbecue Banh Mi — VN Pho & Deli

God bless France. They might have been colonial bastards just like every other Western power, but they had the good sense to take the baguette with them everywhere they went. As a result, Vietnam's great sandwich export — the banh mi — comes inside of that perfect French wrapper, a crusty piece of bread for you to put delicious things inside.

I don't mind the pâté that sits in the middle of a typical banh mi, but if you're one of those folks who's weirded out by it, this sandwich ($3.50) is for you. Instead of creamy mystery meat you get tender slices of smoked pork covered with all the standard accoutrements: cucumber, carrots, jalapeños, cilantro and a little bit of sweet-and-sour sauce.

As a big fan of the original version, I was a little suspicious of switching out the meat, but it's actually an improvement, providing a better contrast to the greens.

5906 Charlotte Pike, 356-5995

Torta Milanesa — El Amigo

Take all the things you love about a taco, put it on a bun that's been seared into crunchiness on a flattop, and you've got a torta, Mexico's answer to the sandwich.

At El Amigo, a gas station turned restaurant on Nolensville Road, there are several options, but my favorite is the milanesa ($6). Take a pounded-thin, breaded pork cutlet as the base, then pile on tomatoes, avocados and onion. Squeeze a little hot sauce on top for a kick. You can add lettuce, but is there really any reason to put lettuce on a sandwich that's not a BLT?

The El Amigo tortas are monsters, wrapped tight in foil and split into halves. Like the po'boys at Patrick's, a half will do you just fine — you can save the other half for later.

3901 Nolensville Pike, 833-6434



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