Much has been said about the little Sandwich Specialist that could, located in an obscure residential section of Frogtown. With a few tiny “tables” outside, it was realistically a To-Go Sandwich Shop, but it didn’t matter when the creations they offered were so tasty. Still, the tiny location made me wish for a day when Wax Paper might branch out, and they finally did last year, opening up a much larger 2nd branch in Chinatown of all places.
Opened in the United Foods plaza (across the street from Far East Plaza, the home of Howlin’ Ray’s), Wax Paper Chinatown’s new location makes it feel like a spacious “dining hall” by comparison. (In all seriousness, it is much more spacious, with a row of Diner Style counter seating (6 seats), and 3 - 4 real tables.
Wax Paper is the brainchild of Chef-Owner Peter Lemos, who (according to their website) worked at San Francisco’s 1-Michelin Star SPQR, and in L.A. at Craft and The Bazaar.
Cold Brewed Ice Tea:
Earthy, leafy, refreshing.
Larry Mantle (Sesame Roll) (Herb Bologna & Salami, Pickled & Raw Onion, Mama Lil’s Pickled Peppers, Shredded Lettuce, Pecorino Pepato Cheese, Spicy Aioli, Oregano Vinaigrette):
For all our Wax Paper FTC veterans, look closely at the Dine-In version of the Larry Mantle (above): Besides the new experience of being able to order your Sandwiches “Dine-In” (and not forced To-Go), sitting on a nice porcelain plate, it looks strangely “deconstructed” in a way, barely put together. The ingredients were barely touching the Sesame Roll, and as a result, it tasted wrong.
Even when we tried to smash together both sides of the Larry Mantle Sandwich and take a bite, it tasted like all of the ingredients didn’t gel, like they were just disparate.
Their Chili Vinegar helped add some moisture to the Sandwich (and it’s nice and spicy).
Neda Ulaby (Ciabatta) (Roast Beef, Ben’s Onion Dip, Baby Spinach, Pickled Beets, Horseradish Vin, Grated Swiss) - (Chinatown Only):
Available only at the Chinatown Branch, their Neda Ulaby is a monstrous Sandwich, the Roast Beef was piled high (unlike our recent run-in at Ugly Drum with a minuscule amount of meat that @lapizzamaven was laughing about).
This was pretty darn tasty for a Roast Beef Sandwich, but note that it’s served cold. To be fair nowhere on the menu does it say it’s “hot” (none of their Sandwiches are), but I wished that it was. I liked the flavor combination with the Roast Beef, Onion Dip, Pickled Beets and Spinach, but the Beef itself was a touch chewier (in parts), but overall still tender.
While a different cut of meat, this Sandwich only made us crave Gjusta’s Prime Rib Butcher even more.
Canadian Cold Brew (Coffee, Vanilla Bean, Almond Milk, Maple Syrup):
A beautiful Ice Coffee that has pleasing notes of Vanilla Bean and just a touch of sweetness from the Maple Syrup, while not overpowering the Iced Coffee itself.
Ira Glass (Seeded Wheat) (Avocado, Sprouts, Pickled & Raw Onion, Tillamook Cheddar, Garlic Aioli):
Perhaps one of the most pleasant surprises on Wax Paper’s menu, the Ira Glass on Seeded Wheat Bread is worth your attention. Immediately.
Pay no attention to the fact that it doesn’t contain meat, this Sandwich showcases Chef-Owner Peter Lemos’ culinary training and experience. The ingredients sound rather simple, but somehow, the convergence of creamy, ripe Avocado, Spring-like, herbally Sprouts, a bit of piquant from the Pickled Onions and a spiciness from Raw Onions, eased over by some Shredded Tillamook Cheddar that adds a nice bit of fat, and the Garlic Aioli Spread, all caressed by the fresh Bub and Grandma’s soft, pillowy Seeded Wheat Bread creates an incredible Sandwich!
This is easily a Top 3 Best Vegetarian Sandwich in L.A. for us! It is that good! (@TheCookie)
(To-Go) Larry Mantle (Sesame Roll) (Herb Bologna & Salami, Pickled & Raw Onion, Mama Lil’s Pickled Peppers, Shredded Lettuce, Pecorino Pepato Cheese, Spicy Aioli, Oregano Vinaigrette):
I suspected that the reason the legendary Larry Mantle Sandwich at Wax Paper failed on our previous visit to Chinatown was because it was ordered Dine-In. This time, we requested the Larry Mantle To-Go:
Sure enough, by ordering it To-Go, the kitchen will compress this Italian Sandwich, with all of its ingredients into a smaller To-Go box, resulting in the the juices from the Pickled Onions, Pickled Peppers, Oregano Vinaigrette, Spicy Aioki, and the quality meats all meshing together.
Even though it was only a few minutes of being packed together more tightly in the To-Go box, the result is what made @Ns1 @ipsedixit and many others go bonkers over the Larry Mantle in the first place:
This is just one the best Italian Sandwiches in L.A. Period.
I love the Salami and Herb Bologna, giving it the right amount of meatiness and savoriness. There’s some zesty spiciness from the Raw and Pickled Onions, the Pickled Peppers helping with tartness as well. The Shredded Lettuce adding some interesting contrast, the Pecorino Pepato Cheese adding a bit of funk, and the Oregano Vinaigrette and Spicy Aioli adding some creaminess. The Sesame Roll (the only Bread not from Bub and Grandma’s, but another local baker (they wouldn’t say) instead) captures all of this into a wonderful bite.
- Pro-Tip: Always order the Larry Mantle (Italian) Sandwich To-Go. You can always open it up and eat it there, but this allows all the ingredients to gel together properly.
After trying Gwen’s Italian recently, and then Wax Paper Chinatown’s Larry Mantle, there is no comparison: Wax Paper’s Italian is just that much better. (And we tried Gjusta right after this, and Gjusta was even better!)
It took incredible willpower to not order the Larry Mantle (Italian) Sandwich again on this 3rd visit. But we really wanted to see how the rest of the Sandwiches would turn out.
Garth Trinidad (Focaccia) (Roasted Turkey, Cabbage-Citrus-Serrano Slaw, Pickled Carrots, Miso-Sesame Aioli, Cilantro, Furikake, Sliced Almonds) - (Chinatown Only):
Full Disclosure: When I hear the words “Turkey Sandwich”, I wince in reflection to 99% of the American Turkey Sandwiches I’ve had in my life growing up and at any restaurant not named Gjusta: Dried out, generic, one note Turkey Breast slices from whatever mass-manufacturer has provided that restaurant / sandwich shop with their ingredients. So I was really dreading Wax Paper’s Turkey Sandwich…
I am so glad I was wrong!
There is no other way to say this: Wax Paper’s Chinatown-Only Garth Trinidad Turkey Sandwich is outstanding!
Moist, tender Turkey. Let me repeat that, actually moist, tender Turkey that doesn’t taste like it was some refrigerated mainstream product like Boar’s Head, etc.
The Cabbage-Citrus-Serrano Slaw adds a beautiful aromatic, lightly spicy crunch. Pickled Carrots gives your tastebuds a bit of tart to keep you engaged, the Miso-Sesame Aioli adds a wonderful creaminess, and I love Chef Lemos’ Japanese angle here, with Furikake as well. Add in some distinct herbal Cilantro and nuttiness from Sliced Almonds on a really soft, fresh Bub and Grandma’s Focaccia Bread and you have magic!
This is nothing like a usual “Turkey Sandwich” and second only to Gjusta’s incredible Turkey Butcher for revelatory Turkey Sandwich experience.
Hettie Lynne Hurtes (Baguette) (Chinese Broccoli, Seasonal Veggies, Green Olive Tapenade, Green “Caesar” Pumpkin Seed Vinaigrette) (Chinatown Only):
Another Wax Paper Chinatown-Only exclusive, the Hettie Lynne Hurtes is another shocking burst of real, mouth-watering flavor: I’m trying to wrap my head around why this Sandwich should taste this good, but the Hettie Lynne Hurtes again shows the prowess of Chef Lemos and the kitchen staff.
The Chinese Broccoli (sauteed?) and mix of Spinach works beautifully with the Green Olive Tapenade, which adds a real umami flavor and salinity and fat, the Green “Caesar” Pumpkin Seed Vinaigrette is so aromatic, smelling like Toasted Pumpkin Seeds (yum!), with actual Toasted Pumpkin Seeds thrown in. It almost reminds me of a great Pesto.
And the Baguette holds up well and adds a sturdiness to contrast with the softer Vegetables. This is another serious Sandwich with great flavor. (@Bookwich)
(And it’s vegan.)
Ophira Eisenberg (Baguette) (Black Forest Ham, Honey-Walnut Aioli, Pickled Plum-Black Garlic Vin, Shaved Green Onion, Spicy Roasted Walnut Crunch):
Full Caveat #2: After “Turkey Sandwich,” I get a similar reaction whenever I hear the words “Ham Sandwich” as well. Usually the typical American Turkey Sandwich and Ham Sandwich are quick and easy, a straightforward means of sustenance, for school lunches, or quick work lunches. So I wasn’t looking forward to Wax Paper’s “Ham Sandwich” either at first.
But like their Turkey Sandwich (Garth Trinidad), Wax Paper’s interpretation of a Ham Sandwich is stunning:
The Black Forest Ham is hand-sliced to order, is also extremely tender, moist, more like a great sliced Roast Beef than it is “Ham” that you think of for a Ham Sandwich.
The Honey-Walnut Aioli adds just the right amount of light sweet-nuttiness and creaminess to balance the tender, meaty, supple Black Forest Ham. Then you add in that Black Garlic-Pickled Plum Vinaigrette (it works!), Shaved Green Onion (so perfect here), and Spicy Roasted Walnut Crunch for some nice kick and textural contrast with crunch and it’s another winner!
(And it’s another Chinatown-Only Exclusive.)
In expanding, it seems Wax Paper has only gotten better. There’s more space to work, and for Chef-Owner Lemos to come up with more ideas. These Sandwiches aren’t just some ingredients slapped together and mailed in. But instead there’s real thoughtfulness about flavor combinations, textures, quality ingredients. The Chinatown-Only Exclusive Sandwiches are all excellent, with the only small quibble being the Neda Ulaby’s Roast Beef could be a touch more tender (and served hot - wishful thinking).
Otherwise, the Garth Trinidad (Focaccia) is one of the best Turkey Sandwiches I’ve ever had (second only to Gjusta’s Turkey Butcher). I loved the Hettie Lynne Hurtes on Baguette for a delicious (Vegan) Sandwich, and the Ophira Eisenberg (Baguette) is an example of what a great Ham Sandwich should be like. Those reasons are enough to come visit the Chinatown Branch.
But, in the end, you can’t forget about the amazing Ira Glass on Bub and Grandma’s Seeded Wheat Bread, one of the best Sandwiches I’ve had recently (that happens to be vegetarian), and one of the greatest Italian Sandwiches in L.A. with their Larry Mantle. Just make sure to order it To-Go first.
(Idea: Wax Paper Chinatown is a great bang x bang, and something to do while you wait in line for Howlin’ Ray’s.)
Wax Paper - Chinatown
736 N. Broadway, Suite #106
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(Also in Frogtown.)