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Munch Madness: Who serves the Charlotte area's greatest sandwich?

By Helen Schwab
Restaurant Writer

Welcome to the 2012 Observer Tournament of Food: Which Sandwich?

We decided to crowd-source in a new way this year, because sandwiches are so plentiful, and we wanted to cast as wide a net as possible. We hoped to find new ones, and boy, did we. I'll be listing every sandwich suggested in the final wrapup, so you can, as a colleague told me he's done, add them to your bucket list.

We took the top eight sandwiches voted in by readers. (One glitch: We had to boot The Bully, a sandwich at the new NoDa 101, which voters thought was called Monster Madness, and turns out to be a burger topped by a reuben. We'd ruled out burgers. Even as accessories).

Then we added four nominated by particularly passionate readers, and I threw in four worthy additions as well.

Now we'll taste-test the pairings, and also let readers vote on them (at the bottom of this story, keep reading). You can post photos of your explorations to my Facebook page, at www.facebook.com/hsondining. (A year or two ago, one ambitious reader videotaped his family jaunt to each of the Elite Eight. Feel free to do that, too!)

We'll announce results each week and declare a winner March 30.

POULTRY BRACKET

The No. 1 at Fran's Filling Station (readers' No. 3 pick).

House-roasted turkey, hot, with bacon, Swiss, Russian dressing and slaw. It's worth noting that the Nos. 2 (turkey with stuffing, cranberry and sage mayo) and 3 (with sweet and spicy apricot sauce, Brie and apples) also won multiple votes. $8.25.

2410 Park Road; 704-372-2009.

Turkey provolone pita at Bedder Bedder and Moore (readers' No. 2 pick).

Thinly sliced turkey melted over with provolone, topped with tomato and ranch dressing, wrapped in a pita. One reader says he's gotten it three days a week for 10 YEARS. $7.79.

1730 Abbey Place, 704-525-1705; 3501 S. Tryon St., 704-527-0107.

The fried chicken sandwich at The King's Bakery.

A newcomer: a fat chicken breast, pan-fried, on ciabatta bread, with a sweet-edged slaw studded with whole mustard grains. $5.95.

129 W. Trade St. uptown (but you enter on Church Street); 704-375-0769.

The chicken Philly at East Blvd. Bar & Grill (readers' No. 8 choice).

Chicken, cheesesteak style, on a hoagie with cheddar and grilled onions. $8.99.

1315 East Blvd.; 704-332-2414.

BEEF BRACKET

The Stinger at Taste of Buffalo (readers' No. 6 choice).

A top-round steak sandwich with chicken fingers on top. Yep. Buffalonians add the place's housemade blue cheese dressing on top. 8-inch: $8.25; 12-inch: $9.50.

9610 Sherrill Estates Road, Huntersville; 704-439-0546.

The "Awesome" Roast Beef at 131 Main (readers' No. 4 choice).

Served au jus, with mayo and hand-cut fries. $15.

9886 Rea Road; 704-544-0131; 1315 East Blvd., 704-343-0131; 17830 N. Statesville Road, 704-896-0131.

The Reuben at Growlers Pourhouse (readers' No. 1 choice).

Corned beef (although turkey is also offered), juniper-berry sauerkraut, Russian dressing spiced with sriracha (a Thai chile sauce), Swiss cheese and purple slaw on marble rye. $6.50

3120 N. Davidson St.; 704-910-6566.

Beef on 'weck at Lebowski's.

Thin-sliced roast beef served, western N.Y.-style, on 'weck, which is short for kimmelweck, which is a roll topped with salt and caraway seeds. $7.99.

1524 East Blvd.; 704-370-1177.

PORK BRACKET

Torta al Banilera at Tacos El Nevado.

A toasty bolillo roll with scrambled eggs and the spicy Mexican sausage called chorizo, plus lettuce, avocado, tomato and cheese, and hot sauce on the side. $6.99.

4715 Central Ave.; 704-563-4667

Bratwurst at The Waldhorn in Pineville.

Grilled pork bratwurst topped with sauerkraut, on a Waldhorn pretzel hoagie roll: "I dream about this sandwich!" wrote the nominating reader. $7.95.

12101 Lancaster Highway, Pineville; 704-540-7047.

The Cuban at Havana Carolina Cafe in Concord.

"Just up from Tampa a few years back," the nominating reader found this and "was instantly transported back to legendary Cuban restaurants ... (This place) somehow elevates this simple combination (roast pork, ham, Swiss, mayo, mustard and dill pickle) far above the sum of its parts." $5.99.

8 Cabarrus Ave W., Concord; 704-793-4233.

No. 6 (grilled pork) banh mi at Le's (readers' No. 5 choice).

Pork, carrot, cilantro, hot peppers and pickled daikon - and ask for it on shattery baguette, rather than the roll. While you're waiting. "get a steamed pork bun for $1 from the place deeper in the mall with Peking ducks hanging in the window," suggests a voter. You'll have the money; the banh mi is $3.50.

4520 N. Tryon St. in Asian Corner, 704-921-7498.

SOMETHING-OTHER-THAN-MEAT- CENTRIC BRACKET

The Loretta Lynn at Something Classic Café.

Also known as PBT, this grills spicy pimento cheese with bacon and tomato on French or white for what the nominating reader calls "a great (and sinful) take on pimento cheese. And you can get it with pickled okra instead of a regular pickle!" $6.95.

220 N. Tryon St. uptown, 704-331-9158; and 1419 East Blvd., 704-347-3666.

Hot Mama at Common Market (readers' No. 7 choice).

Pressed, panini-style, on your choice of bread, is lots of fresh spinach, Havarti cheese, red pepper, red onion and mayo. $5.50.

2007 Commonwealth Ave., 704-334-6209; 1515 S. Tryon St., 704-332-7782.

Herbed egg salad at Sunflour Baking Company.

As the nominating reader put it: "The bread is made in house, the eggs are sourced from a local farm using free range chickens. The eggs are coarsely chopped. Very little mayonaise. Perfect spice blend to accompany. Beautiful delicate flavor." $5.95.

2001 E. 7th St. (corner of 7th and Pecan); 704-900-5268.

Rocket wrap at Kabob Grill.

Crunchy falafel, with squeaky halloumi cheese, lettuce, tomato, cucumber and tahini sauce. $10.

It's on the menu at 1235 East Blvd., 704-371-8984; you can request it at the Stonecrest location, 7828 Rea Road, 704-543-1234.

And now, you vote ...

THE VOTING PERIOD HAS ENDED FOR THIS ROUND

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