In his book “Bianco,” Arizona Chef Chris Bianco suggests that the architecture of a sandwich is just as important as the ingredients.
This struck me as fascinating, and I began to wonder if the way that a sandwich is built could impact how it presents and tastes. So I immediately went to work, commencing my research on the simpler side with the timeless BLT.
While the architecture of a BLT may seem straightforward, there turns out to be a stackable science of sorts that delivers different experiences based on the order in which the bacon, lettuce and tomatoes are stacked.
Buying into this philosophy is Tucson restaurateur Nick Schaffer, who owns eight local Jimmy John’s stores with his wife, Alison. Though they have a BLT on the menu, it’s actually a TBL, with the tomato on the bottom, the bacon in the middle, and the lettuce on top.
Why the twist on tradition? Schaffer walked me through this wisdom in a recent conversation.
“We focus on fresh and fun in everything we do, even in the way we approach the building of our sandwiches,” Schaffer said, “and we believe our fresh perspective on the BLT maximizes the flavors of the three classic ingredients.”
“In truth, the BLT on our menu is really, secretly, a TBL,” he said. “The locally sourced tomatoes work well as a sweet and slightly acidic anchor. When you stack our all-natural bacon directly on the tomatoes, the hickory smoke flavor begins to meld with the sweetness of the tomatoes in much the same way that inspired the classic tomato jam. Finally, when you crown the stack with locally sourced lettuce, you’re bringing the crunch right to the top, a fresh and bright start that ultimately reveals the savory and sweet notes underneath.”
My research continued at Dickman’s Meat and Deli, with two Tucson locations, where I learned that owner Dan Dickman has stacking convictions of his own. Though his sandwich menu doesn’t formally include a BLT, he said it’s a popular order from his “secret menu.” And the biggest secret of all? It’s a BTLB.
Building up, he starts with bacon, adds a layer of tomatoes, tops it with lettuce, and finishes it with an additional blanket of bacon.
“I like the bacon and tomato touching, because if a tomato falls out, you’ll get a tomato slice with bacon grease on it,” Dickman said. “I add more bacon in between the bread and lettuce because of the potential moisture from the lettuce; we don’t want soggy bread, and even if the bacon grease makes the bread a little soggy, at least it’s soggy bacon grease bread.”
I learned even more in my stackable studies, from Baggin’s Gourmet Sandwiches, which prefers the BTL stacking order in their BLT, to Beyond Bread Bakery and Cafe, whose BLT is technically constructed as an LBTB. And the BLT at Ermanos Craft Beer and Wine Bar? It’s an LTB.
There are six possible stacking variations among the BLT’s three primary ingredients, and my research concluded that there’s intention and design behind many of them found on local sandwich menus.
So there you have it. The ABCs of BLTs. Whether it’s a BLT, BTL, LBT, LTB, TLB or TBL, there’s a version for every personality and palate.
Contact Matt Russell, whose day job is CEO of Russell Public Communications, at email@example.com. Russell is also the host of “On the Menu Live” that airs 5 to 6 p.m. Saturdays on KQTH 104.1 FM, as well as the host of the Friday Weekend Watch segment on the “Buckmaster Show” on KVOI 1030 AM. Disclosure: Jimmy John’s is a client of Russell Public Communications.