These Convenience-Store Sandwiches From Belle's Bread Are No Gas Station Fodder

Erin Edwards
Columbus Monthly
Katsu, on top, egg salad and smoked salmon sandos from Belle's Bread

In 2018 and 2019, the Japanese sando (short for sandwich) craze took off in the U.S., thanks in part to critically acclaimed Konbi, a Los Angeles restaurant inspired by Japanese convenience stores and known for its gorgeous sandos.

These seemingly workaday, triangular-cut sandwiches on shokupan (Japanese milk bread) are typically found in convenience stores, groceries, gas stations and subway stations in Japan, but Belle’s Bread manager Mika Lecklider says there’s one big difference between the gas station fodder found in the U.S. and sandos in Japan.

“In Japan, all the deli sandwiches are freshly made every day as opposed to some of the deli sandwiches that you see at gas stations here,” Lecklider says.

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Belle’s Bread (1168 Kenny Centre Mall) has offered sandos since it first opened in November 2011—before the U.S. trend caught fire. Lecklider says the bakery stopped selling the sandwiches at the start of the pandemic, but now they’re back. Cue the applause. Thanks to a new display case, the popular handhelds are now more noticeable from the front door, sitting neatly in enticing rows in their clear carryout packaging. The Kenny Centre bakery sells around 110 of them on a typical weekday and about double that on Saturdays.

The king of Japanese sandos is the tonkatsu ($6.50), a thick pork cutlet covered in panko and twice fried. Belle’s version is completed with an okonomi-ketchup sauce, cabbage, green leaf lettuce, a butter-mustard spread and a touch of Hellmann’s mayo. The key, though, is Belle’s wonderfully cottonlike milk bread, baked in-house.

Belle’s offers other varieties popular in Japan, such as egg salad, tuna, ham and cheese, and veggie-potato croquette (also called korokke). Less common varieties like smoked salmon, chicken teriyaki and turkey avocado round out the options. At $4–$6.75, the sandwiches are affordable for the quality—though prices may have to go up as food costs rise, Lecklider says.

This story is from the March 2022 issue of Columbus Monthly.