Look, I get it. You’re aiming for that bathing suit body, and you’ve sworn off carbs. But summer is made for the eating of sandwiches, and a leaf of romaine just isn’t going to cut it as a delivery vehicle when you’re packing up food for the beach or Ravinia. So, grab two slices of bread (or a bagel, bialy, roll, or pita), some carefully sourced proteins and veggies, a slice of cheese (stinky or otherwise), your favorite condiments, et voilà! One of life’s great and most satisfying edible joys: the perfect handheld meal, to be consumed on the run at lunch hour or sitting at an outdoor café table with a glass of rosé. These 12 places are making a run for the top.

Ema

74 W. Illinois St., Chicago

Star Sandwich: Eggplant Sabich, $12.95

Best Sandwiches: Ema
Ema’s Eggplant Sabich (Photo by Christina Slaton.)

Vegetarians won’t feel like second-class citizens when biting into this textural wonder. Smooth hummus coats the inside of chef CJ Jacobson’s house-made pita bread, which is then stuffed with roasted eggplant, chunky Israeli salad (chopped cucumber/tomato/onion/bell peppers), pickled turnips, hard-boiled eggs, and a schmear of garlic tahini. Market greens are served on the side, but no one will judge you if you add a side of Crispy Potatoes with scallion crema.