Gayle's Great Sandwich Search
In fact, Oprah says her favorite meal is soup and a sandwich. "You know a few years ago when everybody was not doing carbs? It was very hard on me," Oprah says. "How do you do a sandwich without having some carbs?"
Still, there's only one person who loves sandwiches more than Oprah—her best friend and taste tester extraordinaire Gayle King. After Esquire magazine published its list of the best sandwiches in the country, Gayle says she knew she had to sink her teeth into as many of the winners as she could. "Honestly, when I got the magazine, words like braised, caramelized onions, buttery, stringy ... I was so excited," Gayle says. "Somebody said to me, 'Gosh, you're like a kid at Christmas.' And you know I can get that excited just reading words on a paper about food."
Gayle hit the road to taste these sandwiches for herself...and she even developed her own rating system for the occasion. Each sandwich gets a score on the sandwich scale of 1 to 5, 5 being perfection.
Get Billy's Lobster Grilled Cheese recipe!
Chef Billy Grant works to puts Gayle at ease. "You're in good hands because this is a good combination," he says. "We use all fresh lobster, and we cook the lobsters really slow so they're tender, not tough. And Havarti cheese, which is creamy and mild."
After grilling the sandwich to perfection, Billy tops it off with golden brown onion rings. Finally, the time comes for Gayle to take her first bite. "It is very buttery, and I do like the Havarti," she says.
Her rating? "I would give it two 2 1/2," she says. "If I liked lobster, I would give it a 5."
To create his chopped pork sandwich, Keith Allen smokes a shoulder of pork for nine hours on hickory wood he chops himself. "This wood interchanges with that meat to create a flavor," he says. The key ingredient of his sandwich is his family's top-secret sauce. After scooping a heaping portion of pork on a seeded bun, Keith adds a dollop of coleslaw to the sandwich.
Gayle says she's never heard of coleslaw on a sandwich, but she's willing to give it a try. "I taste the hickory. I don't like coleslaw, but it tastes pretty good on your sandwich," Gayle says. "I give the sandwich 3 and a half out of 5 sandwiches. Excellent."
Since this recipe is a family secret, you'll have to stop by Allen & Son to try it for yourself!
The main ingredient in Rick's sloppy joe is U.S. farm-raised catfish. "I came up with a sloppy joe idea one day after I tasted catfish. It's not the kind of fish that pulls apart. It stays nice and meaty and firm," he says. "When you taste this, the catfish almost takes on a beefier texture. ... It doesn't fall apart."
When it comes time for the moment of truth, Gayle is still skeptical. As it turns out, the gamble was worth the risk. "Rick, I think you're onto something," she says.
Get the recipe and make this sandwich at home!
Oprah's ready to take the taste bud challenge. "I've had a lot of catfish in my life," she says. "That is really good." On a scale of 1 to 5, Oprah gives the sandwich a 6! "[It's] about to be a 7."
Gayle's also ready to be generous. "On my little sandwich rating, I'm going to give this 4 out of 5," she says.
The secret to Top Chef Season 1 champion Harold Dieterle's creation is all in the sauce, which is loaded with spicy Italian sausage. "It's a sandwich that's been being made for decades. I just like to take my riff, my twist on it," he says.
Get Harold's recipe for the Chicken-Parm Hero with Sausage!
Gayle can't wait to dig in when this masterpiece is placed in front of her. "Gooey cheese. Check. Toasty bread. Check. And crispy chicken. Check," she says. "We have to give Harold 4 sandwiches."
"I know it's impolite to talk with your mouth full, but good job," Gayle says.
There's no cheddar cheese in sight for chef Greg Reyner. "There's definitely a better way," he says.
Greg starts with organic bread, fresh tomatoes and fresh basil. Then, he adds cheeses like Havarti and fontina. "Then, we use an excellent European-styled butter, and then we top everything off with honey," he says.
Get Café Muse's Grilled Cheese recipe!
Decked out in a Café Muse chef's hat, Gayle is ready to get down to business. "I get a grilled cheese sandwich and a hat. I don't know what more a girl could want on a Sunday afternoon," she says. "I'm going to have to give you a 5."
Lisa C.'s Boisterous Brisket is coated in a marinade that includes sweet red wine vinegar, ketchup, molasses and brown sugar. This concoction must be simmered for a full 24 hours. The deli mixes it with some barbecue sauce and serves it on a bun with beans and bacon. Zingerman's workers say it's best served with a cold beer.
Gayle sits down with the deli's owners to try their creation. "I love the challah [bread]," she says. "You can taste the molasses and that little Cayenne-y thing, peppery thing. That is really good."
Oprah takes a bite—and then another—before rating the sandwich. "On a scale of 1 to 5...11," Oprah says. "You know why? Because you can taste the molasses, and then there's a twang."
Gayle says she had one rating in mind originally but decided to change it after giving the sandwich some more thought. "I gave this a 4.5, and [then] we drove 45 minutes to our next location," Gayle says. "My daughter, Kirby, was with me, and she said, 'I can't believe you gave that a 4.5. We're still talking about it.' So I increased my vote to a 5."
The Tuna Melt from Duckfat restaurant in Portland, Maine, is another comforting classic. Chef Rob Evans imports his tuna packed in olive oil all the way from Italy.
Get Duckfat's Tuna Melt recipe.
After mixing it with his own homemade mayonnaise, Rob tops it off with Gruyère cheese.
This Windy City winner is inspired by chef Juan Figueroa's Puerto Rican roots. Juan nestles slow-cooked pork, mayo, lettuce and tomato between two slices of crispy, fried plantains.
This royal treat is then battered, deep fried, sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with a side of strawberry jam.
Get the recipe for the Reggie Deluxe!
Then, the cooks add fried chicken, bacon, cheddar, gravy and an egg over easy.