A-Z of Shanghai's Top 20 Sandwiches – Part I

By Sophie Steiner, November 18, 2023

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Behold the humble sandwich – a universally beloved and accepted meal that exists in some shape or form in nearly every country on the planet.

Stuff anything inside the loosest definition of bread, and tell us it doesn’t cure a craving. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

From Mexico’s torta ahogada and the Middle East’s shawarma to Vietnam’s banh mi and Uruguay’s chivito, from Japan’s katsu sando and Argentina’s choripan to New Orleans’ po’ boy and Denmark’s smørrebrød, the list could go on indefinitely. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Which leaves us with the tough philosophical question – the one that keeps us up late at night pondering – “What is a sandwich?” 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The omniscient Google defines a sandwich as, “an item of food consisting of two pieces of bread with meat, cheese, or other filling between them, eaten as a light meal.”

Clearly, Google doesn’t understand that – according to Xinhua News – Shanghai has over 100,000 restaurants, roughly 12,000 of which relate to foreign cuisine

And that, of those 12,000 restaurants, we are going to make an uneducated guess that at least half of them serve one or more sandwiches that fits that definition... thus condemning us to sandwich eating for the rest of our days.

Some real intense back-of-the-napkin math went into this, but objectively, it’s just too many sandwiches – so, suffice to say, this is not an exhaustive list. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's


Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

For the sake of our sanity, we’ve established some overtly arbitrary ground rules to narrow the list so we don’t die of some obesity-related illness before publication.

You can choose to debate them or – as we prefer it – blindly accept them in good faith as our loyal sandwich munching disciples.

First, no open-face sandwiches. 

No 'pastry' sandwiches, only bread. What is a pastry? Well, that’s an entirely separate article. But for this article’s sake, a pastry is a croissant, scone, bagel or bing (sorry roujiamo).

Nothing wrapped. No tortillas, pitas, or – duh – wraps. And, no buns. This is the most controversial and gets us into the contested space of what is a burger. Which, we’ve loosely defined here

READ MORE: 17 Not Your Everyday Shanghai Burgers

While some of these rules may clash with the philosophies of esteemed sandwichtarians, just know, it’s fully subjective, and the only real rule is that we make the rules.

You’re welcome. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's. Per Rule 2, this sandwich doesn't count as a "sandwich," so this photo merely illustrates that in a beautifullly mouth-watering way.


Shanghai Reuben from the now shuttered Le Daily, Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Alimentari – Truffled Croque Monsieur (RMB65)

Alimentari nails it at positioning itself in that sweet spot between casual drinking, European-style snacking and friendly chilling at any time of the day or night. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

As a mainstay when it comes to European comfort food, it’s no surprise that their Truffled Croque Monsieur (RMB65) – layers of salty Praga ham cushioned between a melted mass of fontina cheese and creamy béchamel – hits the highest of brunch notes.

The hint of musky garlic from the truffle kicks this panini-like sandwich up a notch, available at Alimentari Grande, Alimentari Mulino and Alimentari Emporio locations.

And if its other kinds of sandwiches and paninis you're after, each Alimentari location has its own variety for finding your favorite combo.

See listings for Alimentari.

Bambino – Gino Panino (RMB98)

Chef Lucky Lasagna’s neighborhood trattoria, Bambino  That’s Shanghai 2022 Food & Drink Awards Casual Italian Restaurant of the Year winner – continues to wow us time and again, with each new dish being more delizioso than the last. 

DSC03420.jpgImage by Sophie Steiner/That's

Case in point, the new revamped paninis. A remake of the already beloved Gino Panino (RMB98) – the pride of Italian paninis – sees piquant Nduja sausage topped with cured Coppa ham, rocket, eggplant pickles and stracciatella – pulled shreds of mozzarella soaked in heavy cream, the choicest part of the 'Queen of Italian Cheeses.'

But the upgrade comes in the form of pizza bianca bread, as it’s called in Rome. Similar to Florentine schiacciata, it's a thinner focaccia made with potato for added fluff, and malt powder for a shatteringly crisp crust. 

Bambino, 600 Shanxi Bei Lu, by Xinzha Lu 陕西北路600号,近新闸路.

Blaz – Croque Madame (RMB128)

Since opening nearly two-and-a-half years ago, modern French wine bistro Blaz has gone from busy to busier, a testament to the thoughtful menu designed by Chef Chris Zhu, the curated wine list by Simon Briens and the warm, welcoming atmosphere, accented by twinkling string lights on the all-day terrace.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

A menu mainstay since opening, pure gluttony comes in the form of the Croque Madame (RMB128), a brick of a sando with alternating layers of Parisian ham, cheese and truffle béchamel, all hugged between too airily light pieces of toasted bread.

Compared to most others on the list, the portion size is no joke, so make sure to bring a friend or prepare to unbutton your pants in public. 

Note: The croque madame is now only on offer for lunch, quite possibly because you'll require the rest of the day to digest.

Blaz, 20 Donghu Lu, by Huaihai Lu, 东湖路20号, 近淮海路.

La Brise 523 – The Reuben Sandwich You Won't Forget (RMB88)

Chef Conrad Van Den Heever (previously of HighlineDentreeThe Nest, BloomAnchor & Clover Club) has opened his very own first self-made restaurant, La Brise 523 in Sinan Mansions.

The concept is a firepit-roasted proteins bistro with a modern Southeast Asian flavor-leaning menu. The kitchen sports its own firepit, where anything that can be grilled is roasted over open woodfire flames, tendrils of curling smoke adding a campfire aroma to the entire vicinity.

READ MORE: Chef Conrad Van Den Heever Fires Things Up at La Brise 523

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The Reuben Sandwich You Won’t Forget (RMB88) earns its name with thickly-sliced 48-hour braised M7 Wagyu chuck at the foreground that's been slowly smoked over lychee wood and bamboo charcoal, resulting in a 'Reuben-meets-steak-sandwich' of sorts – a detail we're definitely not mad about.  

A shmear of basil mustard is found on the bottom slice of toasted sourdough while a dollop of homemade thousand island is – you guessed it – on the top, coupled with pickled onions, fermented purple sauerkraut, gooey Emmental cheese, and house pickles. 

Do note that this Reuben can only be found on La Brise 523's brunch menu, so plan your weekends accordingly. 

La Brise 523, #4-6, 523 Fuxing Lu, by Sinan Lu, 复兴路523弄4-6号, 近思南路.

Cages – Italian Torpedos (RMB68)

Shanghai’s most successful all-in-one live sports bar, Cages expanded to second location at One East at the beginning of 2022. It's the same Cages vibes you know and love, just in a smaller space.

(And by ‘smaller,’ we still mean seating for around 400 spread across 1,500 square meters.)

Our go-to fix for elevated American pub grub cravings, the food is just as solid as before, with a lot of the favorites from Cages’ original location plus some newbies. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Like a handheld version of a Jimmy John’s Italian Night Club, the Italian Torpedos (RMB68) are layered with ham, pepperoni, capicola, lettuce, tomatoes, olives, Dijonnaise and cheese, all nestled inside a plush roll.

Served cold and oh-so-crushable, it's the basic, classic combo of cold cuts, cheese, and the fixings we crave, delivered tableside with a dose of nostalgia.

Cages (One East),  B1, 788 Zhongshan Nan Yi Lu, by Nanbei Gaojia, 黄浦区中山南一路788号B1-18.

Commune Reserve – Oxtail Grilled Cheese (RMB98)

Followers of Stone Brewing and fellow craft beer lovers alike flock to Commune Reserve along Yuyuan Lu for more than just their extensive 30 beer tap list; the menu is an eclectic list of global comfort food favorites – chicken wings, sticky ribs, pasta dishes, sandwiches and burgers.

Bites that pair well with – shocker – a frothy mug of the good stuff. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Namely, the Oxtail Grilled Cheese (RMB98) – dripping with both Mahon Menorca Tierno cheese and French brie, slow-braised beef oxtail, fiery jalapeños and balsamic onion jam on toasted marbled sourdough-rye.

A superlative interpretation of just how far a grilled cheese can go, that goes down even better with a refreshing IPA. 

Commune Reserve, 1107 Yuyuan Lu, by Fenggang Lu 愚园路1107号, 近凤冈路.

Dentree – Beef Tongue & Cheese Sarnie (RMB88)

Sustainability pervades every aspect of cocktail bar Dentree.

It is a planet-conscious powerhouse of a venue that brings together: Rémy Cointreau – an alcohol brand that helps lead the world globally in sustainable practices; Hope & Sesame – one of China’s premier cocktail teams that regularly secures a spot on lists like Asia’s 50 Best Bars and the like for their inventive use of ingredients and techniques to create memorable libations; and Oha Design – fitting out the space with sustainably-focused décor.

It’s Captain Planet’s all-star team. 

In addition to an overtly inventive cocktail menu, there are some equally out-there bar bites, designed by chef Conrad Van Den Heever (see La Brise 523, above), who was formerly of the Muse Group, and followed the philosophy: “If it’s something that others might throw away, we want to feature it on our menu.”

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The most substantial of the lot, the Beef Tongue & Cheese Sarnie (RMB88) is a play on the classic Reuben, with week-long brined beef tongue, 30-day fermented sauerkraut, a Rémy Martin cognac and onion jam, and smoked cheddar – all stacked on toasted sourdough.

It's a 10/10 sandwich with deli fixings as reliable as Venus William’s backhand.

Dentree, Anken Air, #1, 465 Zhenning Lu, by Xinzha Lu 镇宁路465弄1号楼, 近新闸路

Highline – The Best Reuben Sandwich (RMB98)

It's that man again Conrad Van Den Heever (seriously, he deserves a Magnolia Award for Services to Shanghai Sandwiches).

This time we're at Highline, where the man of the hour's menu draws inspiration from the Sunshine State coupled with his South African roots.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

With a name like the Best Reuben Sandwich (RMB98), we had no choice but to verify that statement ourselves. 

The bulk of the sando is some righteous 48-hour braised brisket, shredded to match the texture of the homemade sauerkraut.

(And this, my friends, is the sleeper ingredient key to the optimal Reuben – a near 50/50 matchup of meat to kraut to cut through the brisket's fatty layers.)

Gooey Gruyère makes a showing, alongside a liberal lashing of mustard aioli with that ideal nip of – unexpected but very much appreciated – heat.

The sandwich itself is wholly stuffed – but not exploding nor imploding – and the rye toast holds up instead of just disintegrating under the weight of the sauce. 

Is it Shanghai's best Reuben?

Well it is now up against the above featured Conrad Van Den Heever The Reuben Sandwich You Won’t Forget at La Brise 523... and that's before we get onto all the other Reubens around town.

So we can't make that call just yet, but this hero is surely giving us the necessary motivation to do so. 

Highline, 6/F, 282 Huaihai Zhong Lu, by Huangpi Nan Lu, 淮海中路282号6楼, 近黄陂南路.

High Yaki the Sea – Tamago Sando (RMB68)

Chef Carlos Sotomayer (previously of elEfante and UP Shanghai) is the man behind the menu at owner Justin Xu’s High Yaki The Sea – a blend of Western cooking techniques with splashes of Japanese, Thai and Southeast Asian flavors. 

As part of the Nihon Brunch menu – a playful Japanese-inspired lineup of dishes using common brunch ingredients (eggs, avocado, and the like) – there are two Japanese convenience store-inspired sammies, one sweet (strawberries and cream), and one savory...

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Take a Tokyo 7-11 egg salad sandwich, make it gourmet, and you get the Tamago Sando (RMB68). Pillowy clouds of Japanese milk bread are stuffed to the brim with egg salad tossed in smoked chili mayonnaise.

Juxtaposing the welcome addition of crunchy potato chips, a perfectly runny, six-minute soft-boiled egg sits in the middle, glowing with that sunshine orange, jammy yolk.

It oozes under even the slightest pressure, leaving a glossy, unctuous coating across the roof of your mouth. 

High Yaki The Sea, #113, Bldg 5, 8 Hengshan Lu, by Wulumuqi Lu, 衡山路8号锦和越界5号楼113单元, 近乌鲁木齐路.

Lounge by Topgolf – Reuben Sandwich (RMB68)

Shanghai’s favorite international global entertainment company plates up more than just your average pub fare; Lounge by Topgolf provides an elevated alternative with an Asian twist – thoughtful fusion that ties in local flavors, making for a meal more interesting than your standard burger and fries. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Yet it is the Western lunch options that we're here for, priced at RMB68 a pop (including a daily starter and a drink): a Wagyu Cheeseburger; a Truffle Mushroom Pizza; and a Reuben Sandwich with French fries, to name but a few.

The Reuben sees 5-spiced beef layered with sauerkraut and a slice of cheddar on rye. Our only gripe is a lack of Russian dressing, or any sauce for that matter, a zippy necessity to bring it all together. 

Lounge by Topgolf, 2/F, Central Plaza, 227 Huangpi Bei Lu, by Nanjing Xi Lu 黄陂北路227号中区广场2楼,近南京西路.

A Note From the Author...

There are numerous other sandwiches on our radar – in fact, we've nearly got Part II lined up with a mix of banh mi, katsu sandos, grilled cheese, clubs, and more – we just need a mental and physical pause on sandwich consumption after averaging 3.4 sandwiches per day for the last five days.

That's more than one sandwich per meal.

Every meal.

For five days. 

So excuse us while we take a breather (and a spin class). 

But get ready – it's coming...

Got a favorite sandwich spot you’d like to see featured in our next roundup? Feel free to share the deets to sophiesteiner@thatsmags.com.

[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]

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