5 Amazing Sandwiches in NJ You’ve Never Heard of (And Where to Get Them)

Wrote this up for a potential blog post someday.

1. Chivito
Origin: Uruguay
Cities to get it in NJ: Union City, Elizabeth

It’s no surprise to many that Uruguayans love their meat. Cows even outnumber people four to one in Uruguay. It’s only fitting that they have a sandwich that highlights that.

The word “chivito” actually means “little goat.” The legend of the name is that a patron from Argentina came to a restaurant in Uruguay, and tried to order a “little goat” sandwich.

The restaurant owner, not in possession of goat meat (and not wanting to disappoint a hungry Argentine), used steak instead, plus whatever else he had in the kitchen and thus the chivito was born.

The chivito is known as the national dish of Uruguay, and is often called a heart attack on a plate. It can be served “al plato” or “al pan,” but you’re gonna want it “al pan.”

The sandwich itself consists of thin sliced steak, bacon, ham, mozzarella cheese, a fried egg, tomatoes, mayonnaise, green olives, served on a fresh roll with fries on the side, because of course there are.

Pizzarra’s Restaurant & Pizzeria on Bergenline Ave. in Union City is most famous for their chivitos and arguably the best place to get one in NJ. It can also be found in several restaurants in Elizabeth, such as La Estancia Parrillada Pizzeria Panaderia.

2. Bicho Guloso / X-Tudo Burger
Origin: Brazil
Cities to get it in NJ: Newark, Long Branch

Is a hamburger technically a sandwich? Let’s not get into that debate. But once you learn what some of these Brazilian-style burgers are made of, you may tend to disagree whether it even counts as a burger.

Brazilian cuisine is all about creativity, which means incredible inventiveness when it comes to their lunch game. Pairing different ingredients together, creating new textures and flavors are very common to see in many Brazilian dishes.

When it comes to their burgers, for example, look to the “X-Tudo” (Cheese everything) or the “Bicho Guloso” (Greedy bug).

These are behemoths, unholy messes of a sandwich coming with absolutely everything you can imagine, such as: a hamburger patty, a slice of sirloin steak, a chicken breast, ham, mozzarella, bacon, corn, potato sticks, egg, lettuce, tomato, and mayo.

The Ironbound in Newark is known as the epicenter of Brazilian and Portuguese food in NJ, so there are plenty of luncheonettes to complete your burger fantasies.

Both Ferry St. and Wilson Ave. in Newark are home to hundreds of restaurants. Just to name a few, check out Hamburgao, Altas Horas, or Bread of Life Pao da Vida Bakery

Long Branch also has great spots to find authentic Brazilian-style burgers, such as BomdMais Luncheonette or Sergio’s Restaurant and Burger.

3. Pan Con Bistec
Origin: Cuba / Florida
Cities to get it in NJ: West New York, Union City, Jersey City, Elizabeth, Others

We all know about the Cuban sandwich, so now it’s time to learn about its lesser known relative.
Pan con bistec, simply meaning, “bread with steak”, has slightly unknown origins, but was likely born around the same time as the Cuban sandwich in the kitchens and cafes of Ybor City, Florida in the late 1800s.

What makes a pan con bistec is its thinly sliced marinated steak, which is put on fresh Cuban bread with an assortment of toppings such as cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, or onions, pressed on a Cuban flat “plancha” and finished off with potato sticks.

You can find a pan con bistec in almost any Cuban bakery, but worth double-parking for, Dos Amigos Restaurant in West New York is considered by many to have the best pan con bistec around.

4. Pambazo
Origin: Mexico
Cities to get it in NJ: New Brunswick, Passaic, Others

To make a pambazo you need pambazo. Named after a type of Mexican white bread, the pambazo is an iconic street food snack of Mexico City. What sets it apart from the torta is that it uses specifically this type of bread, its specific preparation and distinctive look.

The pambazo bread is dipped in a warm sauce blend of guajillo chiles and spices to give it its color and is then fried. Then, pambazos are typically stuffed with chorizo and potatoes (papas con chorizo), and other fillings such as salsa, lettuce and cheese.

When it comes to finding pambazos in NJ, your mileage may vary. Make sure to check menus in advance, as it won’t be everywhere.

A few recommendations for a pambazo in NJ are La Catrina in New Brunswick, or Mexico Deli Restaurant or Tortas Lokas in Passaic.

5. Bifana
Origin Country: Portugal
Cities to get it in NJ: Newark, South River, Elizabeth

Slow marinated pork steak served on a fresh Portuguese roll. Need I say more?

Commonly seen at snack bars and lunch counters throughout Portugal (often served with a large beer) the bifana is seen as a national treasure. And why shouldn’t it be? It puts together two of Portugal’s greatest love affairs: bread and pork (they even have a Museum of Pork).

For a bifana, the pork steak is marinated all day until tender and juicy in a blend of spices, garlic, and wine. Then, using anything less than a freshly-baked Portuguese roll would be a sin. The juices are soaked up by the bread, making this sandwich a divine experience.

There are plenty of Portuguese lunch spots along Ferry St. and Wilson Ave. in the Ironbound District to find a bifana such as Cafe Arcuense. NaoPao in Newark is a food-truck turned storefront that specializes in the art of the Portuguese sandwich, and a great place to pick up a bifana.

Alternatively, they can be found in most Portuguese communities, such as lunch shack Café Da Manhã in South River.

Restaurants mentioned:
• Pizzarra’s Restaurant & Pizzeria
4000 Bergenline Ave, Union City, NJ 07087
• La Estancia Parrillada Pizzeria Panaderia
713 Rahway Ave, Elizabeth, NJ 07202
X-Tudo Burger:
• Hamburgao
288 Lafayette St, Newark, NJ 07105
• Altas Horas
266 Ferry St, Newark, NJ 07105
• Pao da Vida Bakery
331 Oliver St, Newark, NJ 07105
• BomdMais Luncheonette
545 Broadway, Long Branch, NJ 07740
• Sergio’s Restaurant and Burger
110 Brighton Ave, Long Branch, NJ 07740
Pan con Bistec:
• Dos Amigos Restaurant
5300 Bergenline Ave, West New York, NJ 07093
• La Catrina
144 Easton Ave, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
• Mexico Deli Restaurant
141 Market St, Passaic, NJ 07055
• Tortas Lokas in Passaic
945 Main Ave, Passaic, NJ 07055
• NoPao
144 Easton Ave, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
• Cafe Arcuense
157 Walnut St, Newark, NJ 07105
• Café Da Manhã
37 Jackson St, South River, NJ 08882


Not that it fits the title because everyone has heard of it, but I nominate another.

The Torta Cubana. Fitting in well with the theme of monster sandwiches, this beast has all the meats (ham, chorizo, hot dog, and a bun filling breaded beef cutlet) and oaxaca cheese, then lettuce, tomato, onion, and avocado, topped off with some mayo. Makes for a belly busting meal.

I get one at:

Gaby’s Bakery
108 Joyce Kilmer Ave
New Brunswick


Other honorable mentions:

Patacon Pisao
Origin: Venezuela
La Frontera in New Brunswick, NJ
Origin: Chile
Chilean Bakery in Roselle Park, NJ


Wait. Are those french-cut green beans on that last sandwich?!? #bizarre

1 Like

This is amazing. You should submit it to SeriousEats or something!