Isted Grill – the best damn sandwich in Copenhagen
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for another classic of Danish cuisine: the roast pork sandwich! Flæskesteg, a pork roast with crispy crackling, is a super popular dish in Denmark and is traditionally served on Christmas eve (see also my posts on Danish Christmas food and on Danish Christmas in general).
But luckily, you don’t have to wait until December to enjoy a Danish treat supérieure! One beloved version of the popular pork roast is served year-round in form of a delicious sandwich – the flæskestegssandwich!
This handheld feast is served all over the city, from dingy hole-in-the-wall eateries to fancier places such as Meyer’s Deli, but if you ask Vesterbro locals or even The Guardian, there’s really only one place to go to get that party in your mouth that you’ve been longing for: Isted Grill on the once-shady-now-cool Istedgade.
Don’t let this unassuming facade scare you off – behind this little glass door lies a foodie sanctuary that has saved many a party-goer (or home-comer) from a massive hangover. It is open until very late, and most popular with what can hardly be the most pleasing crowd of drunk people staggering home, drawn in by the delicious smell of pork crackling and toasted bread.
Behind the counter stands Mr Lee – “The Flæskestegs Minister” as the locals call him – who has been running this shop since 1975, when he came to Denmark and took over the store from his older sister. He is incredibly friendly and it would be hard to imagine him losing his temper, no matter how drunk and indecisive his customers might be.
Mr Lee and his grill have become so popular over the years that his fans all over Vesterbro threw him a giant street party with over 1,000 guests in 2012 for his 60th birthday. And who could blame them, because this man has been serving the tastiest sandwich in town for over 25 years!
If you think about it, there’s really nothing insanely complicated about a flæskestegssandwich: a sesame burger bun, one or two slices of pork roast with crackling, pickles, and red cabbage. Nothing more, nothing less (unless you’re Claus Meyer and put apples and greek yogurt on yours).
What makes Mr Lee’s pork sandwich special and so, so good is – in my opinion – that he fries the slices of flæskesteg on both sides before topping them off with condiments and squeezing them between a deliciously toasted bun.
Where other places simply heat the pork, Isted Grill’s sandwich has more crispiness to it, which in my opinion improves the texture of the whole sandwich – instead of one big mushy mess, you have a soft, toasted bun, crispy but tender pork, crunchy crackling, and moist cabbage and pickles.
I mean, look at this beauty!
If you’re feeling extra frisky, Mr. Lee offers to add a spoonful of béarnaise sauce to your sandwich. Yes, you heard that right: béarnaise sauce. Flæskesteg. In one sandwich. If that’s not a full-blown party in your mouth, then I don’t know what is.
Together with a bottle of Cocio (the Danish classic chocolate milk drink), you’ve got yourself a lifesaver for hangover prevention that the rest of us can only dare to dream about. I should say that my initial suspicion was that people only think this place is so amazing because they exclusively go there when they’re hammered – and we all know how good anything tastes in such a situation (the greasier, the better)! Therefore, I specifically made a point in going there during the day, sober – and the sandwich was still amazing!
Plus, I had the place to myself to take photos of the beautiful beast! While that usually earns me weird looks or frowns, Mr Lee proved to be even more awesome than initially expected. He was super into it and help me identify the best spot to photograph the sandwich, and even suggested to remove the hamburger wrapper so I could get a better picture. If Mr Lee wasn’t already The Flæskestegs Minister, I would definitely appoint him!
On a side note: this is what it looks like to go out for food with me.
Speaking of “the greasier, the better” – let me defend myself and say that my hair is NOT, it’s just really, really wet because I braced the Danish summer rain to hunt down this amazing treat. Nothing will stop me from finding the best food for myself and for you guys!
Back on subject, Mr Lee’s little joint not only has the best sign ever (“Grill Isted Grill”) but also the most awesomest website ever known to the world (check out the news section especially – looks like June 2004 was a big month for them!). You can find them on Istedgade 92, or simply follow the droves of hungry, drunk party people to the promised land of pork. Put the super fair amount of 52 DKK on the counter (for a double sandwich) and enjoy the best damn sandwich that Copenhagen has to offer!