1 The Superfoods Wrap at Beach Road Wine Bar & Bistro will empower you to fight for truth, justice and all-American healthy eating. This power-packed wrap is filled with gourmet goodness in the form of four-color quinoa, feta cheese, edamame and a super slaw made with kale, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Top off this heroic feast with wine from the restaurant’s formidable wine selection. 1350 Beach Road, Englewood, (941) 474-9500.
2 Why is Darrell’s mouthwatering pulled piggy sandwich so, well, mouthwatering? It all begins with a house-made dry rub, followed by 12 hours of slow cooking on a Southern Pride smoker—the ideal way to keep the texture moist and the flavor lip-smacking supreme. Next comes Darrell’s killer sweet ’n’ tangy barbecue sauce drizzled on top. Result? A succulent sandwich that’s as close to hog heaven as it gets (and the reason this joint is “where the locals eat”). Now pile your plate high with fried okra, sweet potato fries, collard greens, and black-eyed peas. Brickyard Plaza, 530 U.S. Highway 41 Bypass S., Venice, (941) 485-9900.
3 The lobster roll is an edible oxymoron. You’ve got the heavenly, decadent lobster on one hand, and the workaday hot dog bun on the other. The folks at Mango Bistro figure the noble lobster deserves a better class of bread. They serve their Hawaiian lobster roll on a grilled pineapple brioche, made in-house with fresh pineapple that caramelizes during baking—a nifty way to perk up bread. And don’t slosh it down with any old beverage, either. Their wine menu boasts spectacular findings from France, Italy and Spain. A crisp white Rhone is just the thing to make that lobster sing. 301 W. Dearborn St., Englewood, (941) 681-3500.
4 Who says you can’t improve on the classics? Consider Cormick’s reinvented pastrami sandwich. Pastrami is still the starting point—but from there chef/owner Jim Long paves his own culinary path by seasoning the meat with a house-made hickory smoke rub and then serving it up on homemade pumpernickel bread, slathered with Long’s signature onion jam. Onion jam? Indeed. Long’s not sharing the recipe for this tasty treat he developed years ago in culinary school; suffice it to say it’s delicious. 200 Tamiami Trail, Venice, (941) 488-0717.
5 The Philly cheesesteak is a blue-collar bombshell of sautéed rib eye beef, cheese and onions served in a roll. This classic sandwich is worshipped worldwide, earning Philadelphia the title of “America’s Best Sandwich City.” But you don’t have to be in Philly to experience the real deal. Earth Café’s classic Philly is a bestseller, and they don’t mess with success. “We mix the shaved beef with grilled onions, mushrooms, sweet peppers, melt the cheese on top and place it in a warm, soft bun,” says manager Vera Cristea. The result? A sizzling success. 13665 Tamiami Trail, North Port, (941) 423-6223.
6 The Reuben sandwich is not for the faint of heart. It’s a gloppy but delicious mix of creamy Russian dressing, soggy sauerkraut, melting Swiss cheese and enough corned beef to open up a small deli. To get some in you, you’re going to get some on you. Robbi’s Reef’s tasty twist on this messy marvel is the mahi Reuben. They substitute blackened and spicy mahi mahi for the corned beef and serve it on a toasted marble rye. The result is still a down-and-dirty pleasure. With a side of house-made red potato salad sprinkled with cilantro, it just gets better. 775 U.S. Highway 41 Bypass S., Venice, (941) 485-9196.
7 If there’s an all-American sandwich, the hamburger wins the title. The burgers at Norma Jean’s Sports Bar & Grill take the burger to another level. Take the olive burger, for instance. Yep, you can have your burger embedded with green olives. For additional temptation, Norma Jean’s loaded burger adds bacon and jalapeños to your basic burger. And if you need even more cholesterol in your veins, there’s always the blue cheese burger. Too many choices? Never! 1635 U.S. 41 Bypass S. Jacaranda Plaza, Venice, (941) 492-5524; 1272 S. Tamiami Trail, Osprey, (941) 786-1834.
8 If the grouper is the king of Florida fish, the super grouper sandwich at Cedar Reef Fish Camp is fit for a king. Their fish is always fresh caught in the Gulf—never frozen. It’s fried up golden brown and crispy, and then topped with sweet coleslaw, lettuce, tomato, onion and their patented, tartly sweet volcano sauce (made from Thai sweet chili sauce) and served open-faced on a hoagie roll. We recommend the “Big Arse Brownie” to follow—king-sized. 4167 S. Tamiami Trail, Venice, (941) 451-8564. 225 W. Miami Ave., Suite 5, Venice, (941) 882-4520.
*Our “8 Great” lists are not listed in order of preference.
-- Su Byron