The perfect sandwich doesn't happen by accident. We went searching for sandwich nirvana.
Vic's Café, 132 Victoria St - 4.5 stars
Famous for its fresh breads, Vic's Café has the foundations of a good sandwich, even before fillings are added. From a printed list picked up at the counter, we chose organic ciabatta as the bread, tomato, avocado and gherkin as the three fillings, pesto for the dressing, brie as the cheese and smoked chicken as the meat. And we had the sandwich toasted. The result was a bready masterpiece that was firm to the last bite. Good-value eating at $8.20, plus 50c extra for toasting and $1 per meat. Hard to beat.
New York Deli, 363 Lincoln Rd - 4 stars
With flashbacks of sunny lunches at New York Deli's old New Regent St premises, it was easy to choose a tried and tested favourite: the Obama. Lettuce, streaky bacon and tomato, with lashings of American mustard and mayo, came together on a slab of lightly toasted Turkish bread - or ciabatta, wholemeal or multigrain if you prefer. Delish. Go the whole hog and get the "hero" size ($9.90) and you'll be planning a light dinner.
Canterbury Cheesemongers, 301 Montreal St - 4 stars
With the greatest selection of cheese in the city, a sandwich from here is all about dairy indulgence. Freshly made ciabatta was given the salad and chutney treatment ($3) before cheese was generously applied (with the final price dependent on the cheese chosen). Fonts of knowledge, the staff accept adjectives such as stinky and creamy to help them determine your best cheese match. We rate Whitestone's Lindis Pass brie for its gooey goodness.
Mercato Café, 100 Fitzgerald Ave - 3.5 stars
With Rachel Scott's ciabatta bread (or a gluten-free option) as the base, cheese and meat are the key ingredients of this DIY sandwich. Long rolls of exotic salamis and slabs of prosciutto and ham share a cabinet next to another laden with cheeses from European homelands. On the advice of staff, we chose rojo hot (smoked) salami to match taleggio cheese, finished with a few greens and some roast nectarine chutney. A tasty option for $6.50.
The Serious Sandwich, The Colombo - 2.5 stars
After meditating on the sandwich menu, we followed our intuition and opted for the Zen. A $12 vegetarian offering, two slabs of ciabatta were chock-full of "the works": avocado, onion slaw, cheddar, rocket, red cabbage, tomatoes and even the unexpected - peanuts. Luckily, no peanut allergies here. The sandwich was tangy and tasty, but the dirty plastic table at the food hall and a hair found in another sandwich did spoil our zen-like status. Credit cards aren't accepted here.