As prolific sandwiches go, which top the list? Contending for the top spot, you’ve got the Reuben, the Italian, pastrami on rye, and a classic jambon-fromage à Paris, among others. If you expand your search to the likes of breakfast or burgers, you suddenly have the mushroom-swiss burger in the competition, and the sausage-egg-and-cheese vying for the top spot. The takeaway here is that there’s no one sandwich to rule them all—at least not on a global scale. Instead, it’s all about finding the sandwich of the locals when traveling. That means tracking down the best Philly cheesesteak in Philadelphia, and a perfect croque monsieur in France. And in Japan, it means digging into a katsu sandwich.
The Japanese katsu sando is everything you could want in terms of an unofficial national sandwich. It’s traditionally pork tonkatsu, or sometimes chicken katsu, sandwiched between two slices of milk bread. And fortunately for the katsu-sando advocates of the world, the tonkatsu and chicken katsu sandwich can now be found at eateries around the globe. These are some of the best chicken katsu sandwiches found in a city near you—and a few Japanese favorites to satisfy your tonkatsu craving on your next Tokyo trip.
OTOTO, Los Angeles
Like many chefs who attempt a katsu sando, the chef at hip Los Angeles sake bar and restaurant OTOTO wanted to recreate the version he remembered from childhood. OTOTO veers toward chicken katsu over pork tonkatsu, mainly because their chef found using chicken thighs made for a juicier sandwich. The chicken katsu sandwich bread is toasted, which makes the outside of the sandwich crispy but keeps the bread’s interior fluffy, like milk bread would be. Order up your chicken katsu sandwich at the bar and ask the bartender for a sake recommendation—the sake knowledge and selection here is never-ending.
Bonsai Kakigōri, NYC
New York City’s Bonsai Kakigōri considers itself a “Japanese-inspired Kissaten”—kissaten meaning cafe in Japanese. Their flagship store is on the Lower East Side, right by Katz’s Delicatessen, and they can also be found at Smorgsburg, in various locations around New York, on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Kakigōri is actually a Japanese shaved ice dessert, and the shop serves 10 flavors, from matcha to strawberries and cream. But their exemplary Japanese sandos are a must-try—both served on traditional Japanese milk bread, Bonsai Kakigōri does a Japanese egg salad and a chicken katsu sando. It’s best to order both, just to be thorough.
Saint Dreux, Melbourne
In Melbourne, Saint Dreux is owned by Bench Coffee, and together the pair provide two Japanese essentials: coffee and katsu sandwiches. Saint Dreux offers a variety of katsu sandwiches—it’s very much a gotta catch ‘em all situation, in that each one is worth sampling. Of course, you’ll want to start with their chicken katsu sandwich and tonkatsu sandwich. From there, branch out to their tamago/egg sando, prawn katsu sando (which is fried in much the same preparation as the chicken katsu or tonkatsu sandwich), and finally, the wagyu beef sandwich. Don’t just stop at Saint Dreux—make sure you visit their sister shop Bench Coffee, whose website claims they “live and breathe design and coffee.”
By the culinary minds behind London wine bar P. Franco and restaurant Bright, Peg is a relatively new spot in East London. It’s a no-reservations, Wednesday to Sunday, Japanese-inspired diner, grilling and frying Japanese classics like yakitori skewers. The restaurant is minimalist, with a constantly-changing menu posted on a board above the grill, and occasionally on their Instagram feed. The skewers are grilled in the diners’ sightline and seasoned with imported Japanese flavors, like yuzu kosho. And when a fried item graces the menu, it’s crisped to perfection. Their katsu sando is typically done with pork and served with a side of hot mustard dipping sauce, but it’s only a matter of time before their succulent fried chicken enters the katsu sandwich rotation.
Tenko Ramen, San Antonio
The adage “everything’s bigger in Texas” holds up in terms of San Antonio’s favorite chicken katsu sandwich. At Tenko Ramen, the chicken katsu is a must-try, though their karaage chicken nuggets with black sesame dipping sauce gives the sando a run for its money. A departure from the classic chicken katsu sandwich, Tenko’s sando is served with a dill pickle, arugula, and kimchi mayo. For the adventurous, or at least those not averse to spice, the chicken can even be "Sichuan Hot Fried.”
Mu's Katsu, Chiang Mai
Touted as the best katsu house in Chiang Mai, Mu’s Katsu does pork and chicken katsu filets. You can get katsu curry and rice, katsu glazed in its namesake sauce, or katsu topped with Mu’s miso-based sauce. For Mu’s take on the pork or chicken katsu sandwich, you can order your katsu filet “panini style.”
The Best Katsu Sandwiches, Japan
We would, of course, be remiss if we didn’t include some of the Japan-based katsu sandwich eateries here. Two favorites sit in bordering Tokyo neighborhoods—Tonkatsu Maisen in Omotesando and Madame Shrimp in Ginza. However, they both diverge from the chicken katsu sandwich theme—Tonkatsu serves their katsu sandwich with pork, while Madame Shrimp has taken Tokyo by storm with their fried shrimp katsu sando.
Tonkatsu Maisen, Tokyo
One of the most reliably delicious katsu sandwiches in Japan is from Tonkatsu Maisen—you can smell the frying oil from at least a couple blocks away. For the fact that Tonkatsu Maisen wouldn’t be considered fine dining in Tokyo, you can get an excellent-quality meal here (think: a combo with sashimi, soup, and a tonkatsu filet). The cult favorite, of course, is Tonkatsu Maisen’s sandwich. Pick up a to-go sando from Maisen—they pack it up in an adorable sandwich carrier. Tonkatsu Maisen’s Aoyama Main Store is in Omotesando, but they have locations throughout Japan.
Madame Shrimp, Tokyo
Find Madame Shrimp in the posh Ginza neighborhood, where, it should be noted, you can also find the MUJI Hotel. Madame Shrimp, predictably, is a seafood restaurant that has now made a name for itself because of this one, unbeatable sandwich. Madame Shrimp’s seafood take on the traditional katsu sando features fried shrimp covered in aioli between two slices of milk bread.