This sandwich is a BLAST!

Reaching back into the sandwich archives to resurrect one of Chicago’s best summertime sandwiches.

Read Time: 11 minutes

This week I’m again piloting my sandwich time machine to try to recreate a sandwich I last ate 4,724 days ago. It is a great summer sandwich and since we’re all trying to keep our kitchens cool, all cooking can be done well in advance.

What is this sandwich?

A B.L.A.S.T. is a suped-up version of a BLT sandwich that was on the menu at a restaurant called Brown Sack in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago. Brown Sack has now closed, but they were a popular choice for sandwiches for about 8 years in the Logan Square community soon after my wife and I moved to Chicago.

Brown Sack was mentioned in several different articles and blog posts about BLTs and sandwiches in Chicago during the early 2000s. They were mostly known as a quick sandwich option with milkshakes, turkey sandwiches, and BLTs, and more specifically their B.L.A.S.T. sandwich (FYI: I’m going to be referring to this sandwich as BLAST without all the periods from here on out because typing all these dang periods is annoying).

Sadly, Brown Sack closed 10 years ago—in 2014—and their version of the BLAST sandwich is no more. I had at least one very memorable experience enjoying this sandwich so I decided to recreate it, write a recipe for it, and keep the concept of the sandwich alive for the future.

What’s in a BLAST sandwich?

This answer is easy. The BLAST is a version of a BLT with two extra ingredients. Here’s a rundown.

No good sandwich blog post is complete without an HTML table.

A BLT is already a top hit in the sandwich world and the addition of shrimp and avocado brings a whole different set of flavor and textures to an already great sandwich.

If you like watching video content I shared an Instagram reel about how I made the BLAST sandwich.

Another photo from Yelp. This time it was taken by Danny W. The caption says “The Danny Way” (Bacon, Lettuce, Avocado, Shrimp, Tomato with giardineria and chipotle mayo. BLASTGCM doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily as BLAST.

Did this sandwich save my life?

The Brown Sack BLAST was a fantastic sandwich and on one particular day, it felt like a lifesaver. To set the story properly, my wife and I visited The Brown Sack for a late lunch after a particularly stressful move.

It felt like we were rushed but really, we just weren’t prepared. We hadn’t packed or planned well enough. It was the end of July on a 90+ degree day in 2011 and a number of other issues popped up. We were only moving about a mile away but during that short distance, the rented U-haul truck that I was driving started having engine trouble and wouldn’t go above 10 miles an hour. Frustrated, I turned the corner on our new street and clipped the bumper of an AT&T work truck which certainly didn’t help with the stress of the situation.

I spent at least an hour talking on the phone with U-Haul and also dealing with the AT&T guy whose bumper I banged into—making sure he and I didn’t get in trouble.

We had hired three movers and we worked all day and still didn’t get everything moved. At some point in the afternoon, we gave up on finishing until the next day. That first day all I had to eat were two granola bars. One at 6 am and then the other one around 5 or 6 pm. We woke up on day two and rented another small van to move the rest of our things. A third granola bar later and we finished up the second day around 1 pm and returned the van to a location near The Brown Sack.

I was gross and sweaty and my wife and I were both super exhausted and beaten down. I ordered a BLAST sandwich and I have vivid memories of sitting at the counter waiting for the sandwich with a large Pizza Hut-style red cup filled to the brim with water, a can of Diet Coke, and a strawberry milkshake—taking large gulps from all three.

The sandwich arrived soon after and it was glorious.

This is my photo of the glorious BLAST sandwich I received on August 2nd, 2011.
If you look in the background you can see my half-consumed strawberry milkshake, and half-full water, and on the far right is a can of Diet Coke.

I ate the sandwich a little too quickly to enjoy all the nuances, but I remember feeling famished and the sandwich brought me much-needed energy to finish out the day. I’m not sure if this BLAST sandwich actually saved my life or not, but it was wonderful and it’s a sandwich experience that I will remember for the rest of my life.

Let’s make some BLAST sandwiches

First, we need some bread. The Brown Sack gave three slice options, white bread, wheat bread, and rye bread. I chose to make some simple white bread.

Loaf of white bread

This sandwich works best in my opinion on a couple of good pieces of white bread. You could use something like wheat bread or sourdough bread, but regular old white bread simply toasts better than other options in a pan with butter.

If you’ve never baked bread you might not be aware, but white bread is one of the easiest breads you can make at home. Part of this is due to the fact that a loaf of American-style white bread typically has bleached white flour, a bit of sugar, and instant yeast which all work together well to provide lift and create a good crumb in the slices.

This loaf rises fast and creates some bubbles in the bread, but still has a tight enough crumb for toasting.
A loaf of bread in a Pullman loaf pan baked without the lid.

I used my Pullman loaf recipe that I simply let rise and then I baked it without using the lid on the pan. If you’re not familiar with what a Pullman loaf is, it’s a loaf of bread that’s baked in a big rectangular pan with a metal lid that can be slid on and off. If you ever see a fully square slice of bread like a piece of Texas toast, it was baked in a Pullman-style pan. I was making these sandwiches for my wife and myself for multiple nights in a row and I just desired a big loaf of bread and went with my 13-inch Pullman pan.

Butter toasted slices

A BLT should be on toasted bread. That’s a hard rule in my opinion. The only reason why you might avoid toasting the bread would be if you’re late for traffic court or if you are worried about toasted bread cutting your mouth.

Buttering the bread before toasting will give you a softer toast that will be less likely to cut the roof of your mouth in my experience. A regular piece of toast is dried out during the toasting process which will make the bread a bit sturdier and more prepared for a big stack of ingredients and making sure that the toast is buttered first will add extra rich flavor to your sandwich.

This is just like making a grilled cheese minus the cheese.
3 hours and 10 minutes
Pullman loaf bread

A soft white loaf with square slices that are perfect for grilled cheese or Texas toast. Slice as thick or as thin as your sandwich situation requires.

Get Recipe


Mayo is very important to a BLT. If I’m making it myself I would never make a BLT without mayonnaise. I prefer Duke’s brand mayo if I can get it but I have also made several versions of my own mayonnaise for sandwiches that I wrote about and shared when this sandwich blog was fairly new.

Bread and mayonnaise are the two ingredients that aren’t listed in the name (BLT/BLAST has no M in it), but both the bread and the mayo are pretty important in this sandwich. Read to the very bottom of this BLAST post for a secondary flavor of mayonnaise that I think works great in a BLT or BLAST.

Mayonnaise and tomato need to touch

One of my favorite tips for making a BLT or any sandwich that includes both mayonnaise and tomato is to make sure that the two are touching. The tomato needs to be resting against the mayonnaise because the juices from the tomato will mix with the mayo to create the BLT’s special sauce. This is very important.

Are you a mayo hater?

I know there are a lot of people who can’t stand the idea of mayonnaise and if you’re one of them, I suggest turning the lettuce into a “salad” and tossing it in a vinegar-based dressing, or just olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and black pepper. The dressing will bring needed moisture to the sandwich that otherwise would only be coming from the tomato. The vinegar will add a tartness that will change the flavors of a BLT to be a little different than you might be expecting, but it will turn a dry sandwich experience into a much more exciting result.


Bacon is a huge component of a BLT but in my experience, it’s not quite as big of a player in a BLAST. The avocado and shrimp seem to vie for a bit of attention which takes some focus off of the bacon. This isn’t to say that the bacon is fully dismissed, it’s just less of an MVP and more of a supporting team player.

In this sandwich, you can cook the bacon and the shrimp at the same oven temperature, but they do cook for different amounts of time.

They also can both be cooked in advance which makes this a pretty good summer sandwich. You can bake the shrimp and bacon early in the day when your house is cooler and then when it’s time to sandwich you don’t have to cook them. Just toast the bread and build.

A few slices of oven-baked bacon, resting in advance of sandwiching.


From the photos above it’s clear that the Brown Sack served their BLTs and BLASTs with some sort of shredded lettuce. One photo looks like it could possibly be iceberg or even romaine and the other photo looks like it could be green leaf.

I bought a pre-shredded bag of green leaf lettuce and it worked just fine. But you can buy whatever lettuce you want.

You can jazz up your BLAST sandwich by tossing the lettuce in a little red wine vinegar and olive oil or a simple vinegarette. It will not be a Brown Sack version of the BLAST, but the world is yours, sandwich with it as you see fit.

Just like in my BLT blog post, I wrote a few years ago, lettuce is still the most boring part of this sandwich.


The “A” part of BLAST is for the avocado and it’s a very important ingredient. It brings creamy texture and flavor to a fairly textural sandwich. I often seem to struggle buying avocados and to get them at the right level of ripeness, but it seemed to work out better than usual during the making of these BLASTs.

It’s always nice when you cut into a pretty decent-looking avocado.
Maybe it’s my luck or where I’m located but I seem to find a lot of bruises in my avocados. Not today though.

I felt it worked well to use avocado slices, but if you’re worried about the slippery avocado sliding around inside the sandwich, you could also mash up a few slices in a bowl before adding them to the final BLAST.


I’ve seen other restaurants that have BLATs on the menu but I’m not sure that I’ve seen any with shrimp as a fifth ingredient except for the Brown Sack. If you haven’t tried it, I find that the texture of the shrimp works well in this sandwich.

As I said in the “bacon content” you can cook the bacon and the shrimp in the oven at the same time. The shrimp does cook in about a fifth of the time as the bacon, but the oven temperature is the same (both 450 F/205 C).

This process for cooking shrimp is also a foolproof way to get shrimp cooked exactly the way you want it for your next hors d’oeuvre night. Just don’t forget the cocktail sauce.

Cooking shrimp on a sheet pan is a super consistent way to make sure your shrimp cocktail night turns out perfect every time.

I don’t have a stand-alone recipe for this shrimp but ingredients and instructions are in the full BLAST sandwich recipe below.


Brown Sack wasn’t buying heirloom tomatoes but I’m guessing they weren’t buying crappy tomatoes if they could help it. From my memory and the photos I’ve seen of Brown Sack BLTs and BLASTs the tomatoes they used were regular old beefsteak tomatoes that you can get at the grocery store.

Always salt your tomato slices. As I said above, it works really well to make sure the tomato layer touches the outside of the sandwich where the mayonnaise is. The two ingredients will combine and the liquids from the tomato will work with the mayonnaise to create a very simple but tasty sauce. Adding a tiny bit of salt will also help the tomato to release some juices creating a much better BLT/BLAST.

Just simple grocery store tomatoes are what you should expect in this sandwich. Buy fancy ones if you want.

Danny’s Way

I do not have any backstory into who Danny is or what their relationship was with The Brown Sack. But my guess is that they were an active regular who ordered this sandwich to be more spicy using ingredients that Brown Sack had available. The alternative is that Danny was a Brown Sack employee and just wanted to convince customers at the restaurant to push the limits of spice on the BLAST.

Regardless, Danny’s ideas were popular enough to get their name on The Brown Sack menu and I felt I needed to try both of the Danny’s Way options.

Chipotle MayonnaiseGiardiniera
Let’s create another HTML table to convince everyone how serious we are about BLAST sandwiches and the optional ingredients.

Danny’s way: chipotle mayo

This is the optional mayo for his version of the Brown Sack BLAST and it’s a combination of mayonnaise and canned chipotle.

I made my own version of the BLAST with regular mayonnaise and it was great. I didn’t think we could improve on it, but the second night I whipped up 1/2 cup mayonnaise with 1 chipotle, diced finely, and then 2 teaspoons of chipotle liquid (aka adobo sauce).

This sauce elevated the BLAST in the opinion of myself and my wife. We both preferred the sandwiches we made with the chipotle mayo because it added a subtle bit of smoke that worked well with the bacon and a tiny bit of spice that built up the flavor profile of the final sandwich. I think it’s worth it to use chipotle mayo, but without it, the BLAST will still be really good.

Two-ish ingredients in this chipotle mayonnaise (the sauce in a can of chipotles is called adobo and it’s the third ingredient).
10 minutes
Chipotle mayonnaise

A slightly spicy and smoky addition to mayonnaise creates a sandwich sauce or dip that will bring a whole new component to a sandwich.

Get Recipe

Danny’s way: giardiniera

I have no idea what brand of giardiniera that Brown Sack would have used and I can’t find any photos of anything that might have giardiniera in it either. I don’t think they would have been making their own, but I guess they could have. For my versions of Danny’s Way BLAST, I chose what I had in my fridge which was Orlando brand Old World Hot Giardiniera.

I think I’ve tried almost every giardiniera available in Chicago at this point. I rarely buy the same type twice.
If you’re adding giardiniera to your BLAST sandwich you should spoon it over the shredded lettuce so that the residual oil acts as a dressing to enhance the lettuce.

Is Danny’s Way the right way?

I think both of the Danny’s Way options are good but I think one of the options is great. The chipotle mayonnaise adds just a bit of spice to the sandwich but it doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the ingredients. I think the giardiniera might push the sandwich to be a bit too spicy for a lot of people.

For me, the chipotle mayo is an ALWAYS ingredient in my future BLAST sandwiches and the giardiniera would be a SOMETIMES ingredient. In other words, if I’m feeling in the mood for a little spice, I might occasionally add giardiniera, but I think this sandwich is improved by the chipotle mayonnaise.

The BLAST sandwich

This was a great sandwich and my wife and I both agree that we got it to a point where it was as close to Brown Sack’s version as we could get. Don’t sleep on the chipotle mayonnaise either if you want to add just a little extra kick to the final sandwich.

Scroll through for a bunch of BLAST photos and the full, easy recipe down below.

A Brown Sack BLAST was always served wrapped in paper.
You can toast the bread for a BLT or BLAST in a toaster but it’s better when you butter toast it in a pan.
The cross-section view gives a fun vision of the layering process.
I took a few photos of the sandwich prior to wrapping it in paper and you can eat it like this (my wife did) but I preferred wrapping the sandwich for its neatness.
Avocado and shrimp are good additions to an already fantastic summer sandwich.
At least one of my avocados was a bit too hard. It changed the texture of the sandwich a little but the flavor was still spot on.
You don’t have to wrap this sandwich in paper, but it does make it a bit easier to eat and less messy.
This was one of the Danny’s Way BLAST sandwiches I made. I think I wrapped it a little aggressively but it was a good one.
This sandwich is practically a salad.
A double handful of BLAST.
The BLAST sandwich (The Brown Sack copycat) view printable page for this recipe

This great take on a BLT sandwich is inspired by the B.L.A.S.T. sandwich you could find at the Brown Sack restaurant in Chicago before it closed in 2014. See notes below the instructions for the optional Danny's Way BLAST.


Oven baked bacon and shrimp
  • 3 or 4 slices uncooked bacon
  • 6 to 8 large, thawed and deveined shrimp
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • a pinch of salt and ground black pepper
Sandwich assembly
  • 2 slices of white, wheat, or rye bread
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • bacon (from above)
  • 14 to 12 cup lettuce, shredded
  • 3 to 4 slices avocado (about 1/3 avocado)
  • shrimp (from above)
  • 1 to 2 slices tomato
  • salt and ground black pepper
Optional Danny\'s Way ingredients
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons chipotle mayonnaise (optional - replacing regular mayonnaise)
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons giardiniera (optional)


Bacon and shrimp cooking: both the bacon and the shrimp can be cooked in the oven at the same time because they cook at the same oven temperature. If you want to cook them at the same time you will need two sheet pans and make sure you don't cook bacon and shrimp for the same amount of time because you will overcook the shrimp. 

Bacon: cooks on an aluminum foil-lined sheet pan at 400 F (205 C) for 25 to 30 minutes. 

Before cooking the shrimp, toss the cleaned and deveined shrimp in a bowl with olive oil, salt, and pepper to season the shrimp. 

Shrimp: cooks on an aluminum foil-lined sheet pan at 400 F (205 C) for 7 to 8 minutes. 

You can move the cooked bacon and shrimp to sealed containers in the refrigerator until it's time to sandwich. 

Sandwich assembly: toast or griddle the bread slices with butter. Place two teaspoon-sized pieces of butter in a medium skillet over medium to medium-low heat. Once the butter is just starting to become fully melted add two slices of bread on top of the melted butter and spread the bread around to ensure that you got it fully buttered. Cook the first side of the toast for about 3 minutes, checking after 2 minutes to see if it's browning rapidly. 

Once you start to see some browning on the first side of the toast, remove it from the pan to a plate and then add two more tablespoon-sized pieces of butter back to the pan to melt. Repeat the toasting process on this second side until you have both sides of two slices of bread toasted in butter and golden brown. Let the toast rest for a bit on a cooling rack while you prepare the rest of your ingredients. 

Spread mayonnaise on one side of one piece of bread. 

Break each piece of bacon in half and layer the half slices on top of the mayonnaise. 

Add a pile of shredded lettuce on top of the bacon layer and then top the lettuce with avocado slices. Season the avocado slices with a tiny pinch of salt if desired. 

Next, add a layer of shrimp followed by the tomato slices. Season the tomato with a pinch of salt and ground black pepper. 

Add another spread of mayonnaise on the second slice of toast and place it mayonnaise side down on top to complete the sandwich.


Danny's Way was an optional addition on the menu that added chipotle mayonnaise and giardiniera to the Brown Sack BLAST. 

Chipotle mayonnaise is easy to make from the linked recipe. Giardiniera is made from pickled vegetables and should be available online or via this recipe I created. Add the chipotle mayonnaise in place of the regular mayonnaise in the recipe. If you want to add giardiniera, I found it best to add it on top of the lettuce because the oil in the giardiniera seasoned the lettuce like salad dressing.

Check back next week

Next week we’ll be grilling and possibly chilling. But mostly grilling.

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