The List: Definitive ranking of sandwich toppings

Andy Downing

For this week's cover, food writer G.A. Benton set off on his own 'wich hunt, tracking down the best under-the-radar sandwiches the city has to offer. With that in mind, we thought we'd rank sandwich toppings, excluding the obvious components (meat and cheese) and avoiding fancier ingredients that sound as if they'd take significant time to prepare and/or hunt down (bacon jam, anything with the word “compote”). Here's where we landed.

Unranked: Mayo

Big Mayo would have you believe that mayonnaise brings out the best in your sandwiches. Don't fall for this marketing ploy. (Mayo-related side note: Waldorf salad is an abomination.)

11. Iceberg lettuce

Iceberg is a trash lettuce, good only for feeding rabbits or adding crunch to sandwiches in a pinch.

10. Cucumber

You're far better off pickling those cukes, son.

9. Romaine lettuce

Let's be real: There aren't many lettuces that are going to provide more than some textural crunch with your sandwich. Either way, romaine>>>iceberg. Oh, and keep away with those “how about the welcome bitterness of arugula” takes. Arugula wilts into a mushy mess if you even look at it funny, let alone mix it with other toppers such as…

8. Olive oil and vinegar

Adds welcome grease and tang to deli cold cuts.

7. Pickles

This includes the standard pickled cucumber (though you can keep your sweet pickles, thank you), as well as pickled veggies like radishes, carrots or even thinly sliced cauliflower florets, which are simple to quick pickle in small batches at home.

6. Mustard

Whole grain is best and brown trumps yellow, but any and all varieties top ketchup, which should only make an appearance on sandwiches of the hamburger and hot dog variety. (Yes, a hot dog is a sandwich.)

5. Olives

Olives are an even better way to add brine to your sub than pickles. And think along the lines of flavorful green varieties like chopped Castelvetrano olives rather than those thinly flavored canned black olive slices favored by some sandwich artists.

4. Giardiniera

Like pickles but spicy, which makes it inherently better.

3. Avocado

Here's what the mayonnaise zombie class should be spreading on its sandwiches instead. There's a reason there's always an upcharge for adding avocado to your sandwich: It's awesome.

2. Tomato

A homegrown, in-season tomato is delicious enough to not only top a sandwich but to form the primary ingredient in one. Of course, living in Ohio, seven months of the year we're stuck with the watered-down, not-quite-ripe-enough grocery store varietal, which would fall waaaaay further down on this list. I'm going to embrace my optimistic half and think about those late-summer pickings instead, though.

1. Jalapeno

There's simply nothing better.