Merriam-Webster defines a club sandwich as “a sandwich of three slices of bread with two layers of meat (as turkey) and lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise.” You can, of course, find these just about anywhere they make standard sandwiches in Chicago, but chefs today are rarely content to simply abide by the textbook definition of anything. They must constantly improvise and adapt. Ironically, some of the city’s private clubs (Women’s Athletic, Tavern, Standard, etc.) make really good ones, but alas, unless you’re a member, you’re out of luck.
The thing I like about these five is that they don’t just toast Gonnella white bread, slap on some Sysco mayo and Boar’s Head/processed luncheon meats. They do things from scratch. I think these five are certainly worth the effort, but I’d love to hear your suggestions in the likelihood I’ve overlooked one or two.
1. Balsan – in the Waldorf Astoria (formerly the Elysian Hotel)
11 E. Walton St., (312) 646-1400
As tall as the Hancock and constructed in a way that would make Mies proud, this jam-packed club has it all: eggs, avocados, cured salami, smoked ham, foie gras pavé, roasted chicken, truffle herb aioli, picked onions, arugula, avacodo, bacon and egg ($22).
2. Birchwood Kitchen, 2211 W. North Ave., (773) 276-2100
The tomato jam is made in-house, and simply prepared turkey breast and applewood smoked bacon are dressed with a mesclun mix, all served on multigrain bread ($8).
3. The Depot American Diner, 5840 W. Roosevelt Rd., (773) 261-8422
Served on toasted white bread, this old school version contains oven roasted turkey (dark and white meat), crisp bacon, romaine, tomatoes and mayo. It’s served with fries, a pickle and cole slaw ($8.01)
4. Panes Bread Cafe, 3002 N. Sheffield Ave., (773) 665-0972
Nothing fancy about the turkey version, arriving on french bread, along with bacon, American cheese, lettuce tomato and mayo ($5.95)
For an alternate, the grilled chicken club comes on sourdough, along with bacon, cheddar, avocado, tomato and mayo ($5.95)
(400 N. LaSalle, 131 S. Dearborn, 180 W. Washington, 233 N. Michigan)
Technically, not a club, since it doesn’t have that third slice of bread, but since the freshly baked organic German bretzel baguettes are so substantial, adding another layer of starch wouldn’t really help things. The turkey is certified organic and smoked; the bacon is nitrate-free. Swiss Gruyère is the cheese, while vine-ripened tomatoes (not sprayed with pesticides) add color. Rounding out this club: alfalfa sprouts, organic onions and a ripe avocado ($9.39)