Not Sad Desk Lunch

Why You Should Be Eating Your Sandwich Out of a Bowl

July 21, 2015

As a defiant response to sad desk lunches, the Food52 team works to keep our midday meals both interesting and pretty. 

Today: Eating sandwiches out of a bowl makes for everything you love about sandwiches, and nothing you don't.

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I'm a huge proponent of grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch—they're easy to eat, seamless to transport, and deliver gooey, carby goodness to you right when you need it most. But not all sandwiches are made alike. Take the meatball sub, for example. Few things are as satisfying for lunch as a hulking sub—but is it worth the effort? Transportation nightmares aside, say you managed to successfully deliver the pasta-sandwich deskside. One bite and you'd be chasing errant meatballs across your keyboard.

So when we received an email from community member, Tim Jacobs, providing a simple, yet brilliant solution, we lit up. His suggestion? Sandwich in a bowl. Instead of coaxing tricky, slippery ingredients between two slices of bread, cut out the middleman and eat your sandwich fixin's from the comfort of a bowl (don't worry, you can still keep the bread):

This steak sandwich is perfect for eating at home, but isn't built for office commutes.

How to do it:

  • Opt for sandwiches that are packed with "stuff." A grilled cheese (A.K.A., a bowl of cheddar) will not be nearly as exciting as a packed burger or a banh mi (see some options below!).
  • To assemble the sandwich, layer the sandwich ingredients in a bowl. Feel free to add some extra lettuce or tomatoes if you want to call it a "salad." Also, because you're no longer limited by vertical space, feel free to swap out thin, deli-counter-sliced meats and cheeses for chopped components.
  • Treat condiments as dressing and dips. Pack the things you would regularly schmear across bread (mayonnaise, mustard) in small separate containers, then use them as dipping sides or pour them over your sandwich bowl when it's time to eat it.
  • Just because you aren't eating a traditional sandwich doesn't mean you have to cut out the bread (think: panzanella). Slice the bread you would normally use into crouton-sized pieces and toast them before adding them to the bowl. Day-old bread works in your favor here since it can soak up all the goodness of the other ingredients without getting mushy.
  • To transport your sandwich, put it into an airtight container—and give a moment of silence to all the sandwiches you lost to zipper bags. At lunchtime, simply eat it out of your container or invert it into a bowl and bamboozle curious colleagues with your "sandwich."

 Sandwiches to try it with:

Would you eat a sandwich out of a bowl? Have you tried it before? Tell us in the comments below!

Top photo by James Ransom; bottom photo by Bobbi Lin

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Tina Hill
    Tina Hill
  • Cheri Mayell
    Cheri Mayell
  • AntoniaJames
  • Leslie Stephens
    Leslie Stephens
  • 702551
I eat everything.


Tina H. July 22, 2015
Being a foodie, I often follow links to this page to read the tasty-sounding recipes and save them for later. But this time, honestly - I stopped reading at "pasta-cum-sandwich." Might want to rethink that one.
Cheri M. July 21, 2015
Yes sandwich from a bowl with lid, great idea! For travel & deskside eating.
I have named this as the Sandbowl! sounds kinda like your on the beach!
AntoniaJames July 21, 2015
We take a lot of hikes, and really enjoy great sandwiches accompanied by spectacular views come lunchtime. My solution is to tightly wrap each sandwich in organic untreated brown parchment, using what I call the "French deli" fold - how French shopkeepers wrap everything in paper -- and then put the sandwiches into securely lidded plastic boxes, with extra napkins/paper etc. wedged between them to keep everything solidly in place.

Once we've selected our lunch spot, we open the paper on one side and eat from the top, holding the bottom firmly, using the lids from the storage boxes as plates -- though the compostable plates from The Shop would be a game-raiser, if it mattered.

In season, tomatoes go in their own plastic box with a tomato knife (small, serrated); slices are stuffed in when the paper is opened, right before eating.

I use my sturdy artisanal wild sourdough breads, generally from "Tartine "Bread." Works like a charm.

We love entertaining trailside (and our guests love being invited!) ;o)
Leslie S. July 21, 2015
Love the idea!! Also entertaining trailside! Unfortunately, a chicken parmesan sandwich once exploded in my purse and I've had trust issues with wrapped sandwiches ever since.
702551 July 21, 2015
Antonia's on the right track. I use waxed paper, as it has less tendency to leak through than parchment.

If there is no knife available at the lunch location (like the ballpark), I will cut the sandwich in half before wrapping.

Just put the paper-wrapped sandwiches in a plastic bag, no problem with accidents that way and less bulkier than a plastic box, especially if you're trying to have everything disposable although sometimes I repurpose a recyclable plastic box. That's actually better for cut fruit that is really susceptible to taking a beating.

The main benefit to packing condiments, tomatoes, etc. separately is so the bread won't be completely sopping wet by the time you eat the sandwich.