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

By Sophie Steiner, November 24, 2023

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This is Part II in our A-Z of Shanghai's Top 20 Sandwiches. To check out what you may have missed in Part 1, click here.

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 beautifully mouth-watering way.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Polux – Croque Monsieur or Croque Madame (RMB110)

Michelin-chef Paul Pairet’s (UltravioletMr & Mrs Bund) Xintiandi venture Polux serves pared-down French bites, his answer to a casual French café – the more approachable, everyday version of Mr & Mrs Bund.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Keeping consistent with the main pillar of the menu – French comfort eats – Polux's Croque Monsieur (RMB110) or Croque Madame (RMB110) is a souped-up version that sports two kinds of ham (Paris white and serrano) and three kinds of cheese (raclette, parmesan and mozzarella) for the ultimate croque indulgence.

The Madame sees the addition of an 80-degree sous vide egg for that extra hit of artery clogging goodness. Cut through the fat with the bright vinaigrette-coated butter lettuce served on the side.

Polux, No. 5, Lane 181, Taicang Lu, by Huangpi Nan Lu, 新天地太仓路181弄5号, 近黄陂南路.

The Rooster – Chicken Bacon Ranch (RMB55)

Shanghai mainstay and neighborhood hangout, The Rooster relocated at the beginning of this year to the old sister-venue Perch's digs on Jiangning Lu.

But, have no fear  all of the insanely good deals (and good vibes) remain at this community-loved bar. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Available on both the weekday regular and weekend brunch menu, the Chicken Bacon Ranch (RMB55) is American diner comfort food at its finest  a hefty gram-to-kuai ratio that delivers on both taste and value.

Toasted farmer's bread encases grilled chicken breast, crisp bacon, homemade tangy ranch, and tomatoes  all held together by thick globules of mozzarella cheese.

The joy of that first crunchy bite – one that results in a shmear of ranch across your cheek, a crumble of bacon down your chin, a dribble of tomato juice on your shirt – is unmatched anywhere else in the city.


Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

And if that wasn't enough, The Rooster also sports some other noteworthy sammies... more specifically, the best Tuna Melt (RMB55) Shanghai has to offer.

Yes, we said it without hesitation.

Creamy tuna salad with just the right pop of relish is dolloped atop that same farmer's bread, sheathed by even more of that melty mozz, studded with chopped bits of homemade pickle for extra zing.

It's not fancy.

Nor elegant.

Just downright delicious. 

The Rooster, Room 107, 445 Jiangning Lu, by Wuding Lu 江宁路445号107室, 近武定路.

Shanghai Love – Signature Steak Sando (RMB108)

If it’s a greasy burger and fries you’re after on Maoming Lu, that ship sailed with the closing of White Castle, on whose grave Shanghai Love rose from the ashes (ok fine, it just took over White Castle's old lease...)


As an ode to the fast food chain, the Shanghai Love menu bestows on us a decked out alternative – one that sits at the unexpected cross section of indulgent and trashy, sandwich and burger – the Shanghai Love Signature Steak Sando (RMB108) (previously known as the Ode to White Castle). 

DSC03063.jpgImage by Sophie Steiner/That's

One hundred grams of two-fingers-thick tenderloin is breaded and fried katsu-style, slathered in a tamarind glaze, flanked by mayo-y cabbage slaw, and nestled inside plush Japanese milk toast.

It's excess at its finest, a worthy accolade to sandwiches of the world.

Shanghai Love, 221 Maoming Bei Lu, by Weihai Lu 茂名北路221号,近威海路.

Sideways by Cellar to Table – Spicy Chick (RMB80)

Named after the 2004 Blockbuster hit Sideways, Sideways by Cellar to Table shares the same deep-rooted affinity for wine as the main character, sans the tragedy. Hence, the menu by Chilean Chef Francisco Javier Araya is straightforward comfort food with a strong emphasis on wine exploration. 

And, while coupling boutique vintage wines with stacked burgers dripping with grease, gooey cheese and smarmy sauce may seem at odds with one another, the pairing of the two embodies the film’s takeaway, as well as the ethos of the restaurant – it is not about the caliber of the winery, the exact vintage nor the cost of the bottle.

Instead, it should be about the moment in which it’s experienced – the people you’re with, the delicious food you’re eating (regardless of extravagance level), and the joy you feel while drinking that wine.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's 

Definitely not a burger, but just as deserving of a wine pairing, the Spicy Chick (RMB80) is a glorified fried chicken sandwich deserving of only the highest of praises.

Featuring breaded chicken thigh – seasoned with cayenne, thyme and oregano – tomato, lettuce and a fiery secret sauce on plush, homemade ciabatta, the spicy heat is tempered by the suggested wine pairing, a dry Sybille Kunt’s Riesling Spätlese (RMB115).

Sideways by Cellar to Table, e103, 1/F, 111 Shanxi Bei Lu, by Tiantong Lu, 山西北路111号L层e103室,近天潼路.

Smokey Project – Smokey Pulled Beef Sandwich (RMB38)

An ode to the American backyard BBQ – but with Chinese nuances – Smokey Project opened in the old Fan Tang food court space on Yanping Lu a few months ago, serving up a roster of slow-roasted brisket, ribs, BBQ sides and the like.

For now, the mains are all US Choice Beef – ribs, brisket, and pulled beef – in multi-consumable forms. 

Said meat can be found between two buns as a sandwich, topped on a burger, rolled into a taco, plated atop a veg salad or rice bowl, or – most traditionally – served straight up on a beef-laden platter, borderline still moo-ing.


Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

If massive meat plates don’t fit into your midday plans (not all of us have the luxury of taking an afternoon nap) there are smaller, 'breadier' options like the Smokey Pulled Beef Sandwich (RMB38).

Leaner cuts from the chest are used for this one, marinated for 24 hours then roasted for 16 in an Alto-Shaam Combi oven.

The shreds are stuffed between two plush pieces of Texas Toast-like bread, with greens, red chilis, Smokey Mayo and Smokey Cocktail Sauce.

Smokey Project, 98A Yanping Lu, by Xinzha Lu, 延平路98A号, 近新闸路.

Toasty by O’Mills – Focaccia Sandwich with Prosciutto (RMB78) 

O'Mills has a cult following in this city for their bakery items and health-focused (without sacrificing flavor) all day brunch menu.

All of which led to the opening of their fifth location, Toasty by O'Mills, this past winter on Yanping Lu. And for good reason, because – in short – their breads, pastries and cakes slap. 


One of the city's top notch bakeries.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Ok, now that we are done fan-girling, let's get onto the sandwiches, of which there are both hot (toasted paninis) and cold (fresh-baked assorted bread) varieties.

For these scorching summer days, we suggest the Focaccia Sandwich with Prosciutto (RMB78) – Spanish prosciutto and spongy buffalo mozzarella accented by sliced tomato, arugula, cucumber and an herbaceous pesto enveloped in a plush olive focaccia.

The baked-fresh-daily focaccia is pleasantly chewy, light from ample air pocket holes, yet still boasts that caramelized, crusty crunch. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Bonus: Even the most sweltering of days couldn't put us off from the Super Beef Panini (RMB58/half, RMB98/whole) – a duo of slow-cooked and roasted beef, provolone cheese that pulls in stretchy strands, kale, peppers and sweet pickles pressed between sourdough country bread.

Said bread is worth it alone, made with 72-hour fermented wild yeast sourced from London for maximum digestibility, flavor and fluff. 

Toasty by O'Mills, #105, 135 Yanping Lu by Wuding Lu,延平路135号105室, 近武定路.

Tock's  Reuben (RMB88/small, RMB108/large)

Tock's is a Shanghai institution. Shanghai's original Montreal-style deli opened more than a decade ago, and was the place all expats went to get sandwiches long before they were spoiled with so many choices.

Before Tocks if you wanted a sandwich that both looks and tasted like one from home, you'd better make it yourself, sourcing insanely rare finds like *gasp* prosciutto and imported cheddar.

You got lucky when a friend smuggled some back in their suitcase.

It was the dark ages, folks. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Today, we are drowning in sandwich options, but Tock's Reuben (RMB88/small, RMB108/large) still holds a special place in our hearts.

Choose your meat – from the leanest crimson cut to an all-fat version guaranteed to clog your arteries – piled high with kraut, two pieces of provolone and three pieces of bread, slick with Russian dressing.

The Aussie AAA grade beef is prepared in the Montreal tradition, meaning it’s lovingly salt-cured for 12 days, smoked, and then steamed for hours so that even the toughest cut is broken down and melts between your incisors. 

Slim russet fries and spears of herbed pickles add a crispy backdrop, while vinegary coleslaw proves mayo is optional to make the picnic side a winner.

It's no Katz's Deli in NYC, and yes, the bread-to-meat ratio with the trio of slices is a bit off (just take out the damn middle piece, who needs it?) – but it's a sandwich that has, justifiably, stood the test of time.

Tock's, 281 Maoming Lu, by Wujiang Lu, 茂名路 281号, 近吴江路.

Totino Panino – Wolf 1 (RMB95) 

After opening four years ago with an 18-panini deep menu of mostly traditional Italian sandwich combinations – think one meat, one cheese, one veg – the modest family-owned, 20-seater Totino Panino has now expanded to over 38 sandwich choices to meet the growing tastes of their equally expanding fan base. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

As the brainchild of owner Toto Giammaria and consulting chef Lucky Lasagna, the majority of the paninis involve stereotypical Italian sandwich fixings – proscuitto, mortadella, salami, provolone, gorgonzola, artichoke, sundried tomatoes and the like – atop a slightly toasted (but not pressed, to maintain Italian tradition) 120-gram ciabbata bread made specifically for the restaurant with less cushion and more crunch. 

"It's really the bread that brings many of our customers back," says Giammaria. "A reason we haven't changed the recipe since opening."

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

That said, the exception comes with some of the more recent offerings, the "bastardized affairs," like The Wolf 1 (RMB95), named after a lunchtime regular.

This monstrosity clocks in at a whopping 650 grams (whereas most other paninis are 300 grams) with three layers of pistachio-studded mortadella, three layers of provolone, and four layers of tomato, arugula, jalapeńos and pickles. 

But that's just what we chose on this particular visit, and we refuse to deign a suggestion of the 'best' since you truly can't go wrong.

As one of Shanghai's only shops that exclusively sells sandwiches, this is a must-visit destination for anyone who is still reading this far into the article. 

Totino Panino, 231 Changshu Lu, by Huaihai Zhong Lu, 常熟路231号, 近淮海中路.

Honorary Mention (RIP):

Zup Pizza Bar – Italian Cold Cut Sandwich (RMB68)

The pizza loving community suffered a big blow at the end of October when Shanghai’s favorite tavern-style pizza joint Zup Pizza Bar unexpectedly closed.

The creation of Chicago born and raised Wayne Hou and partner Lee Tseng (Liquid LaundryBoxing Cat) quickly solidified its position as a Shanghai institution in the minds and hearts of all who ate there. 

And, while pizza was the name of the game, the appetizers, sandwiches, brunch, burgers and desserts were definitely no afterthought.

Even though Zup may be closed now, we have high hopes (and prayers) that it will make a comeback in the form of pop-ups or another brick-and-mortar store, and for that reason it earns itself an honorary mention on our sandwich list. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Arguably Shanghai's most stacked sando, the Italian Cold Cut Sandwich (RMB68) is a quartet of thinly sliced mortadella, Soppressata, smoked Praga ham and pepperoni.

Next there's buttery provolone plus pickled giardiniera and peppers contrasting fresh lettuce and tomato.

A final lashing of red wine vinegar, olive oil, and a sprinkling of oregano add a true taste of Italian-American cuisine, all folded inside house-baked 82% hydration focaccia

Zup Pizza Bar, 2/F, 291 Fumin Lu, by Donghu Lu 地址  富民路291号2楼,近东湖路.

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

A Note From the Author...

There are numerous other sandwiches on our radar – in fact, we've nearly got Part III 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 (AGAIN!)

That's more than one sandwich per meal. 

For a second week in a row.

Every meal.

For fourteen 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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