A deep dive into the sandwich dark web.
The internet is a weird place, especially when it comes to sandwiches. There are the strange breakfast orders overheard and recorded on Twitter by people in line at the deli. There are the so-called regional delicacies that are probably just monstrosities made by college kids at 2 a.m. There are startups that think putting sandwiches in a can will be the biggest thing that happens to lunch. Everyone from celebrities to politicians weigh in on their go-to wacky sandwich.
And then, of course, the internet is home to hot takes, like when the New York Times published a recipe for the “thrifty and unacknowledged American classic” of peanut butter and pickles on white bread and the rest of the people on the internet lost their collective minds. Or this recent GQ piece that crapped all over all sandwiches made on bagels. I don’t care if Pete Wells agrees—you can call my BEC on a toasted everything bagel all the mean names in the book, but I will never stop enjoying them down to the last messy, awkward bite.
If anything is true, it’s that folks on the internet are quick to judge, and just because something sounds weird doesn’t always mean it will taste bad. So I took it upon myself to try out some of the strangest sandwiches online.
She may not have won the gubernatorial race for New York, but Cynthia Nixon certainly made her mark on the city. On a campaign visit to Zabar’s, she ordered a classic bagel sandwich of cream cheese, lox, onions, and capers—on cinnamon raisin. Shockingly, no one demanded she give up residency in New York after the incident, so I decided to try it myself. I just wish I didn’t hate cinnamon raisin bagels so much. But you know what? It’s actually totally fine. Good, even. For the most part, everything else going on inside the sandwich overpowered the sweetness of the bagel, and the moments where the raisin came through didn’t bother me as much as they have in the past. I don’t know if I’d order it again, but since it was just sitting there I had no problem polishing it off.
2 and 3. Two Very Specific Breakfast Orders
Apparently, someone on Twitter heard orders for both a bacon, egg, and cheese with lettuce and peanut butter, and a ham, egg and, cheese with grape jelly. It wasn’t mentioned whether these sandwiches were ordered on a bagel or a roll, so I went with a roll.
I’ll be honest: the bacon sandwich was weird. No other way to describe it. While the peanut butter and bacon was a good start (Elvis vibes are always fun), the lettuce, which was starting to wilt from the warm eggs, ruined the flavor.
On the other hand, the ham sandwich was pretty good. I love dipping salty breakfast meat in maple syrup, and grape jelly is similarly sweet and sticky. Still, I’m not a big grape fan, but rest assure if this had been raspberry jam I would’ve had no qualms finishing the sandwich.
4.-6. The Peanut Butter Diaries
The next sandwich I made opened a book I’ll call: Why Ruin a Peanut Butter Sandwich? First up, peanut butter and raw onion. Though apparently a cult sandwich in the Pacific Northwest, where Walla Walla onions are super-sweet, one bite of this sandwich was plenty. The white onion I used, even when thinly sliced and smashed between sweet peanut butter, was extremely potent. While I didn’t hate the base flavor (I’ve tossed scallions over peanut-sauced noodles on more than one occasion), the onion quickly overpowered the peanut butter in a not delightful way.
Then, it was peanut butter and pickle. People on the internet really freaked out when the New York Times recirculated a recipe for this sandwich last summer. I love pickles, so I was actually less scared about this one. And you know what? It was pretty OK! I don’t think I would ever make one when looking for a snack, but the crunchy-sweet bread and butter pickles nicely cut the richness of peanut butter. 1000 percent better than the raw onion one for sure… but wouldn’t anything have been better after that?
Finally, peanut butter and (I’m so sorry) mayo. Garden and Gun published a story in 2014 in which they called this creation “the forgotten Southern Sandwich.” Apparently, during the Great Depression the cheap and filling sandwich was often relied upon by struggling families. Many people on the internet of course ignored the context, as they’re often wont to do, and were horrified by the combination. Personally, I’m always looking for a bargain, and I do love mayo, so I had high hopes. Said hopes were quickly squelched after my first bite of the sandwich also produced a distinct squelch. The flavor wasn’t awful—tangy and nutty, not unlike nut butter in salted yogurt. But also nothing I’d write home about. There was no second bite.
Of all the sandwiches I tried, Nutella and cheese—which sparked controversy on Twitter—was by far one of the better ones, flavor-wise. The combination of sharp cheddar and the chocolate hazelnut spread was pretty good, like a chocolate-covered pretzel. It could certainly use a little more TLC than cold shredded cheese on bread (noted recipe wizards over at Serious Eats recommend a Nutella and brie grilled cheese), but this is definitely a don’t knock it ‘til you try it situation.
Though some guy in Iowa thinks it’s ~a thing~, a Pop Tart and cheese sandwich feels like not much more than a college kid’s creation after one too many bong rips. The toasted Pop Tart started to melt the American cheese in the very center, while the edges remained cold and wiggly, which was less than desirable. Still this bad boy wasn’t terrible. More sweet and salty, like the Nutella and cheese or the Cynthia Nixon. But I can’t say I went in for another bite.
Every once and a while, people on the internet will remember Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s obsession with banana and mayo sandwiches. While most say “GROSS” and move on with their lives, this sandwich doesn't feel like a munchies-driven creation. It reminds me of the mid-1900s fondness for gems like mayonnaise Jell-O and ham and bananas hollandaise.