Loaves of Love

Illustration by Bob AulLegend has it that John Montague, fourth Earl of Sandwich (1718-92), invented the eponymous meal after refusing to leave a marathon card game. Legend is Eurocentric. The fact is baked flour encasing various foodstuffs has been a part of the human cookbook for millennia. Not only that, but nearly every culture on Earth makes better sandwiches than the Brits, so why name the dish after one of the island's notoriously inbred royals? Whether Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, the Adriatic Sea or Philadelphia, the sun will never set on the sandwich's realm:

•FRANK'S PHILADELPHIA, 224 Fairview Rd., Costa Mesa, (949) 722-8725. Along with the Constitution and the American Basketball Association's 76ers, the Philly cheesesteak ranks among the City of Brotherly Love's greatest contributions. Frank's intensely compact sub ($4.29) will smack your senses with the ferocity of a Broad Street Bully's check along the boards. •GYPSY DEN, 125 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (714) 835-8840; 2930 Bristol, Costa Mesa, (714) 549-7012.Owners Catherine Graziano and Joe Ongie aren't Greek, although their gyros ($4.95) would make Nia Vardalos weep with nostalgia. The wife-and-husband team cram a wheat pita with various roughage and kalamata olives that could wake the unconscious. And the feta cheese? Produced by goats of the gods. •LEE'S SANDWICHES, 9261 Bolsa Ave., Westminster, (714) 901-5788; 13991 Brookhurst, Garden Grove, (714) 636-2288.The only positive legacy of France's Vietnam occupation, bánh mì remains Orange County's greatest dinner deal. A buck-fifty here will purchase nine fabulously tasteful inches of pickled carrots, daikon and your choice of meat (or tofu) encased in a crispy baguette. Did we mention it's only $1.50? •Q'S TORTAS, 220 S. Bradford, Placentia, (714) 993-3270.France also left Mexico a flavor for flour with bolillos (French rolls). Mexicans, in turn, adorn these with repollo, jalapeños and stomach-churning quantities of meat. The chorizo torta ($2.95) at this Placentia institution could comfortably feed a Brazilian soccer squad. •VICTORY BAKERY N RESTAURANT, 951 S. Euclid St., Anaheim, (714) 776-4493.France's imperial adventures also left the Lebanese with a hankering for sandwiches, although Lebanese call their version mankousheh and roast the loaves to a crackly brown. The lamb-brain mankousheh ($3.25) is chilled inside, slathered in debilitating garlic sauce, and dusted with so much parsley your teeth will take on a healthy green glow.

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