Sandwiches and delis—there are no simpler delights. Utterly satisfying in either the hot or cold variety, and always a sure thing, sandwiches are also perfectly suited to relaxed, easygoing desert lifestyles. But don’t picture those drab, dry, brown-bag clichés; the desert’s sandwich and deli favorites are original, fresh, and fun, piled high with hand-carved meats, topped with crisp vegetables and zesty sauces, or maybe just a dab of pesto mayonnaise, on fresh and hearty, golden brown breads and rolls. And definitely not just for lunch anymore.
Here are some of the best sandwich and deli spots in the desert:
Follow the intoxicating scents of slow-cooked brisket and spicy hot pastrami wafting down Tahquitz Canyon Way and you will be sure to wind up at Sherman’s Deli & Bakery. This family-owned, Palm Springs landmark, first opened in 1953, boasts a friendly and unflappable staff and the famous Sandwich Board, with more than 40 irresistible choices. Regulars swear by the Chopped Liver and Corned Beef Combination on deli rye and the succulent, three-napkins-needed BQ Beef Brisket sandwich on a soft French roll. Also try one of the chef’s specialties, especially the Beef ‘N Latkas, a clever reinterpretation of the traditional sandwich, with a thick stack of corned beef or pastrami tucked between two potato pancakes instead of bread. And of course don’t forget the pickles; they are “the best in town.” Open daily, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sherman’s Deli & Bakery, 401 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs. 1-760-325-1199. Also 73-161 Country Club Dr., Palm Desert. 1-760-568-1350; www.shermansdeli.com
Sandwich aficionados flock to Jensen’s Minute Shoppe, which has everything a sandwich lover could ask for, and more—fresh ingredients, a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere, and ten sumptuous specialties named after popular desert icons. Top picks include The Follies, a lavish treat of smoked turkey, havarti cheese, avocado slices, and a generous dollop of cranberry sauce for just the right oomph on a six-inch whole wheat roll. The Bob Hope Classic is a robust creation of roasted ham, capocollo, garlic cheddar, arugula, and a zingy pesto sauce on a crusty ciabatta roll. Or try the Dinah Shore, with avocado, cucumber, tomato, sprouts, and a hint of mayonnaise on whole wheat bread for a healthy, satisfying, vegetarian choice. Open daily 6 a.m -10 p.m. Jensen’s Minute Shoppe, 69900 Frank Sinatra Dr., Rancho Mirage. 1-760-770-3355. Also 2465 East Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs. 1-760-325-8282; and 42150 Cook St, Palm Desert. 1-760-837-1877; www.jensensfoods.com.
The indulgently delicious, freshly baked breads at Aspen Mills are undeniably the stars of any sandwich at this award-winning bakery, but the fixings that come between them are hardly supporting players either. Their all-natural breads, made of stone-ground wheat, contain no eggs, diary products, preservatives, processed sugars, or artificial anything. And the sandwiches are so big, you may be tempted to take half home for dinner. Fan favorites include the Newporter, with chunky white albacore tuna salad and diced celery on jalapeño cheddar, and the Prime Cut, with liberal servings of rare roasted beef, thin slices of cucumbers and zucchini, and a tangy horseradish sauce, served triple-decker style on dark squaw bread. Ask about the lunch boxes, which include a sandwich (or salad) of your choice, cookie, and after-dinner mint to go. Open Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.. Aspen Mills Bakery & Bread Company, 555 S. Sunrise Way, Palm Springs. 1-760-323-3123; www.aspenmillsps.com.
Any time of the day or night, satisfy craving at The Corner Deli, inside the Spa Resort Casino. Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, this is especially convenient for high rollers and late-night revelers seeking some time out to refresh and refuel. Just this once, forgo after-hours standbys like burgers or a basket of hot wings, and instead get your hands around a Monster Grinder — peppery ribbons of hot pastrami nested on a lightly-toasted baguette. If that sounds like too much for a midnight snack, order up a turkey club, with thin-sliced turkey breast layered with bacon, lettuce, tomato, and a dab of mayo. You will feel like you have just hit the jackpot. The Corner Deli, Spa Resort Casino, 401 E. Amado Rd., Palm Springs. 1-888-999-1995; www.sparesortcasino.com.
The New York-style deli Manhattan in the Desert is definitely where the action is for weekend brunch. But don’t worry; lines are short, service is swift, and seating includes plenty of comfy booths, tidy tables, an even a mist-cooled patio. And with over 100 sandwich selections, they have something to entice even the most discerning tastes. Crowd pleasers include the Turkey Rueben, grilled with Swiss cheese and sauerkraut on rye, and the classic Monte Cristo, with ham, turkey, and Swiss on thick egg bread, lightly-fried and topped with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, and a spoonful of strawberry preserves on the side. On the way out, stop off at the full-service bakery for a staggering array of baked goods, including jumbo cinnamon rolls and double chocolate cherry cheesecake. This is deli done right. Open Sun. through Thurs. 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fri. and Sat. 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Manhattan in the Desert, 2665 E. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs. 1-760-322-3354.
Relatively new to the desert, and increasingly popular, Panera Bread offers a range of signature sandwiches and grilled paninis served on handcrafted artisan bread. And the menu includes a nutritional breakdown of everything they serve. Start the day with a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich—the egg is fresh, the bacon Applewood-smoked and nicely crisped, the cheese a mildly sharp Vermont white cheddar, and the bread a fresh-baked ciabatta. Return at lunch for a Cuban Chicken Panini, embellished with smoked ham, sweet and spicy pickle chips, chipotle mayo, and a sun-dried tomato ale mustard on grilled focaccia bread. Visit often; the chefs at Panera are always looking to introduce new and innovative tastes to keep their menu up to date and irresistible. Open Mon. through Sat., 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sun. 8 a.m to 8 p.m. Panera Bread, Palm Springs, 5200 E. Ramon Rd. 1-760-778-5150. Also 73075 Highway 111, Palm Desert. 1-760-568-6160; www.panerabread.com.
Made to order and highly customizable, Subway offers a variety of six-inch and even foot-long sandwich options to choose from—double up on the meat, add cheese, or strips of crispy bacon, pile on the extras like pickles, peppers, black olives, and jalapeños, complement it with a drizzle of one of their special sauces, and decide between five distinctive breads. Customer favorites include the Chicken & Bacon Ranch, with all-white-meat chicken, bacon, Monterey cheddar, onions, green peppers, and a creamy ranch dressing, and the Meatball Marinara, especially on toasted Italian bread with extra cheese. Of course, Subway’s famous spokesperson, Jared Fogle’s preference is the Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki, which packs a powerful punch of flavor, and remarkably with less than six grams of fat. Open Mon. though Sat., 7 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun. 7 a.m -9 p.m. Subway, multiple locations throughout the desert; www.subway.com.
Whether craving a light bite or something heartier, the desert certainly provides a variety of great tasting sandwich selections to suit any appetite.