Between Washington City Paper‘s weekly “‘Wiching Hour” feature, Washingtonian‘s Ultimate Sandwich Guide, and the Washington Post Going Out Guide’s sandwich-saturated 40 Essential Dishes of 2014 list, local big media have done an admirable job in the recent past giving the D.C. sandwich scene the attention it deserves. What’s better, the extensive coverage is more than warranted by the ever-increasing diversity and quality on offer in the nation’s capital.
With the Great Sandwich Smackdown, which begins March 17, Washingtonian is taking the sandwich love to a new level. Each March, the magazine selects 16 of the area’s most popular purveyors of a popular foodstuff and pits them against each other in a tournament-style, elimination contest in which readers decide the winner of each head-to-head round until a champion is declared. This year, sandwiches take center stage, and Eat a Sandwich is the place for expert tournament analysis and prognostication. Consider us your Dickie V.
FIRST AND SECOND ROUNDS
The Smackdown is quite literally a popularity contest, and therefore merit is a secondary consideration in predicting outcomes. Of the first-round match-ups, the most intriguing will take place in the Lower Left bracket, where show ponies G by Mike Isabella and Taylor Gourmet square off against artisan craftsmen WTF and Red Apron Butchery, respectively. It’s a shame, too. Despite their obvious advantages in overall quality, Red Apron and WTF will likely be no match for the PR machines behind Taylor and G by Mike Isabella. Ultimately, we expect veteran D.C. institution and former Best of D.C. winners Taylor Gourmet to emerge from this quadrant, which is by far the deepest of the four.
In the Upper Left, Max’s Kosher Cafe, the competition’s token Maryland eatery, will battle Stoney’s for the honor of losing in the second round to DGS Delicatessen, which we predict will squeak past cult favorites SUNdeVICH in its opening contest. Georgetown butcher shop Stachowksi’s, home of some of the District’s meatiest, most imposing sandwiches, should stroll through the competition in the Lower Right bracket, while the enthusiastic support of the Norther Virginia region will send Arlington favorites the Italian Store to victory in an Upper Right group including Dupont newcomers Bub and Pop’s, Northwest D.C. chain Jetties, and Ray’s to The Third.
SEMIFINALS AND CHAMPIONSHIP
In the Left Side semifinal, Philly-style hoagie chain Taylor Gourmet will face a stern test in Dupont Circle neo-deli DGS. While the latter offers diners an upscale, service-oriented experience and boasts sublime house-made pastrami and corned beef, Taylor’s multiple locations, nearly citywide delivery service, and breakfast menu have engendered a loyal and enthusiastic following. It’s tough to imagine Taylor Gourmet not advancing to the finals here.
On the Right Side, the Italian Store meets Stachowski’s in what could be the most difficult-to-predict contest of the tournament. The Italian Store, whose subs have been the stuff of legend for decades, would seem to have the clear advantage in experience; however, Stachowski’s namesake and talisman Jamie Stachowski has quite the D.C. pedigree himself, and the shop has been the subject of numerous high-profile media features since its 2012 opening. On the strength of its absurdly mammoth pastrami sandwich and equally monstrous Four Meat Grinder, we give the edge here to Stachowski’s by a hair.
Unlike previous rounds, the big showdown will be decided by who has the best sandwich, and the best sandwiches in the city are at Stachowski’s Market, our pick for Washingtonian‘s Great Sandwich Smackdown champion.