The time has come to decide which sandwich gets to be crowned the 'Grandwich' of 2018. The 7 year running contest first started in 2011 by Nicole Infante during a 5x5 pitch. Many Grand Rapids restaurants have pushed the bounds of what many would consider a 'normal' sandwich, and the results have been amazing.
This year, over 30 spots put their names in the hat. The panel of sandwich tasters (dream job) have sampled each sandwich from the competitors, and have somehow narrowed the field to a top 10. To have done that work is nothing short of amazing, and while a number one has yet to be named, they were kind enough to share the top 10 finalists (not in particular order):
Blue Dog Tavern (last year's champ)- The Sweet Hot Mess - $12 - Fiery fried chicken breast served on a bed of sweet pickles, drizzled with icing and our signature Blue Dog red pepper Sriracha aioli, topped with house made pickled red onions and presented on a split, toasted cinnamon roll. Woof!
-Now, this sounds like something I could get behind. I'm not a huge fan of spicy, so they take care of softies like myself and drizzle icing on it with a toasted cinnamon roll. Woof indeed.
Brick & Porter - Chicken Popper Bomb - $12 - A Crispy Chicken Breast stuffed with a House-made Boursin Cheese style Jalapeno popper inside! (hand battered in spicy seasoned Drakes and fried) on a Brioche bun with fresh arugula, chef made Bacon jam, and topped with a medium cage free fried egg, drizzled reaper ranch and more Boursin style cheese on the Top bun.
-Again with the spicy. I think these restaurants are out to get me. Disclaimer (!) I actually like spicy foods, they usually have great taste, but I can't handle the feeling of being engulfed in flames. 9/10 times, however, the pain is worth it. This chicken popper bomb sounds absolutely delicious.
City Built Brewing Company - The Jibarito - $15 - Traditional Puerto Rican plantain sandwich made with green smashed and fried plantains, marinated, tenderized, grilled and thinly sliced flank steak, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and garlic mayu collazo sauce. Accompanied by 3 deep fried Puerto Rican spiced beef with traditional Puerto Rican rice Bori Balls, and Sofrito Cream Sauce.
-Well, well, well. If it isn't City Built, I don't know what it is. These guys churn out some awesome Puerto Rican food, and this sandwich follows suit. For $15, you get more than the sandwich too, which is awesome for people like me who are forever hungry. Don't forget to try their chips and salsa while you're there.
Grain Sandwich Shop - "The Local" BLT - $9 - A staple of the sandwich community, this BLT takes a fun and creative local twist. It all starts with house smoked bacon from Sobie Meats, add in lettuce and tomato from Visser Farms, peach habanero jam from Cellar Door Preserves and hand crafted garlic aioli. All sandwiched between cut-to-order bread from Steenstra's Royal Dutch Bakery.
-Grain Sandwich Shop has a special place in my heart. Sy and Alex along with the rest of the staff are some genuinely great people. I pride myself on being one of their first waves of customers during their grand opening last year, and have had nothing but good things to say about their products. The cool thing about this sandwich is that it isn't a temporary sandwich for the competition; rather it's something they feature as a regular offering. I can say I've consumed this, and it's mighty delicious.
Gravity Taphouse Grille - Hoppin' Cherry Bomb - $11.00 - Storm Cloud IPA marinated chicken fried steak, aged Gouda, arugula dressed with Virtue Cider Traverse City cherry vinaigrette with dried cherries. Served on rosemary sea salt butter brushed Nantucket ciabatta bread with Great Lakes pepper & onion kettle chips.
-Chicken fried steak, with the hoppiness of an IPA? Sold. The sandwich is likely to be popular with many due to its overall simplicity in ingredients. Can't go wrong with the Great Lakes brand chips either. Better than Lays.
Johnny B'z - All the Forks to Give - $8.95 -Pineapple BBQ pulled pork, provolone cheese, and as creamy pickled slaw on a cornbread bun.
-Okay, heavy breathing here. HUGE pulled pork guy, self-proclaimed. Besides the fact that BBQ pulled pork is literally the best thing to grace any sort of bun, the people at Johnny B'z went ahead and added the literal best pizza topping to the pulled pork and decided to put it on maybe my second favorite bread ever, that of the corn variation. Wowza.
Main Street BBQ Express - Burnt End Brisket Reuben -$11.00 - Brisket Burnt End Reuben on a Pumpernickel Kaiser with Local Caramelized Cheese Curds and House Made Kraut, Slaw and Russian Dressing.
-Man, this is a hearty option...and I like hearty. I'd consider myself to be hearty if I had one adjective to describe myself as. Anything brisket is good by me and by all means, the smokier the better. Also, cheese curds are a meal on their own (hello, Canada) so combining these two only makes the most of sense.
The Bulls Head Tavern - Grandwich 2018 - $10.50 - Cajun Seasoned Breaded Eggplant, Deep Fried, & Topped with Melted Goat Cheese & Mozzarella Blend, Salami, Baby Spinach, Tomatoes, Served on Ciabatta Bread with a Sweet & Tangy Garlic Aioli. Served with Homemade Potato Chips.
-The Bulls Head Tavern went ahead and said "You know what? We don't need to put meat as a primary meat on a sandwich. We don't have to conform to societal sandwich standards". That was a little paraphrased, but after reading the description, they went out and pumped out an almost vegetarian sammie for the (gr)ammie? Either way, bold move pays off as they are in the top 10.
The Holiday Bar - The Holiday Hot Brown - $11.00 - House smoked hand-carved turkey breast, candied bacon, gruyère, heirloom tomato jam & arugula on waffle battered Nantucket Bakery cranberry walnut bread topped with chevere mornay.
-Candied bacon. Drool. Okay, I'll be completely honest. I had to Google gruyère and I learned it was a type of cheese. Basically what we have here is a turkey sandwich with bacon, cheese, tomato, some spread, green stuff, on a super awesome sounding bread. However, that bread is topped with chevere mornay. Google couldn't help me there. I'm sure it's real great if it made the top 10, however.
Wheelhouse - Mk Rib -$16.00 - Smoked Baby Back Ribs, Gochujang BBQ Sauce, House Pickles, Fried Rice Cakes, Spicy Queso Fondue.
-I want my baby back baby back baby back riiiiiiibs. This sandwich from the Wheelhouse has some asian/mexican flare to it, and combining the two cuisines is a bold idea that has paid off well so far! I can genuinely say I have never had a sandwich that has had both spicy queso and rice cakes with it. Good on them.
My prediction for who will win: I have no clue. I am too unqualified.
The judge's tour will be held on July 26th (hey judges if you're reading this, I'd be a great intern). An announcement for the winner will be after the tour!