Anatomy of a Classic

Building the Perfect BLT

Getting the details right adds up
to one beautiful sandwich

Photo: Johnny autry | Food Styling by Charlotte Autry

Sometimes it’s the little things that let couples know they’re a fit. For example, Joe Kindred likes a wing’s drumette. Katy Kindred likes the flats. But the real indicator of the couple’s compatibility comes down to a shared attention to detail, especially when it comes to food.

It’s what attracted them when they met while working at a Chicago restaurant and sustained them during years in two of San Francisco’s best dining rooms. And it’s why Kindred, which they opened in tiny Davidson, North Carolina, in 2015, and its sister restaurant, Hello, Sailor on Lake Norman, are national culinary stars. Minding the details is also why their BLT will change the way you think about the sandwich.

With something as simple as a sandwich, there’s nothing to hide behind. That’s why Joe, the chef, while Katy handles the wine, design, and service, takes care with every ingredient. It’s all about bringing out the best in something, whether it’s a pristine piece of fish or a beautiful tomato. “Our time in San Francisco really opened my eyes to simplicity and ingredients and how important an olive oil or a vinegar can be,” he says.

Building their BLT starts with great bread. They use a Pullman-style benne seed sourdough from Verdant Bread in Charlotte. It gets toasted to a deep golden brown, rubbed with a garlic clove, and drizzled with a little olive oil—but not too much. You don’t want limp bread before you start layering on ingredients. “Dry toast is just super crucial,” Joe says. “It’s better able to soak up some juice from the tomato and fat from the bacon.”

The bacon is thick cut and roasted in the oven, which helps keep the strips flat. The Kindreds like to use tiger-striped heirloom tomatoes, but any good garden tomato will work fine as long as you have two thick slices for each sandwich. (For the record, the tomato is his favorite Southern summer produce. Melons are hers.)

A good BLT needs a liberal layer of mayonnaise, which they see as an opportunity to add more flavor. They blend Duke’s with chopped basil and freshly ground black pepper. Use Tellicherry peppercorns if you really want to finesse every bit of your sandwich. Last, a dab or two of the seasoned mayo goes into a bowl with a teaspoon of pickle juice for a quick dressing that elevates crispy Little Gem lettuce leaves. 

“It’s got some great tang from the pickle juice, some freshness from the basil, and the fat and saltiness from the bacon,” Joe says. “It really is the best BLT.”  


  • Heirloom Tomato BLT (Yield: 2 sandwiches)

    • Pan spray

    • 6 slices thick-cut hickory-smoked bacon

    • 8 oz. mayonnaise (preferably Duke’s)

    • 1 cup loosely packed basil, chopped

    • ¼ tsp. fresh-cracked pepper (preferably Tellicherry)

    • 4 slices sturdy sourdough, Pullman, or other bakery-quality bread

    • 1 clove garlic, peeled

    • Extra-virgin olive oil

    • 1 tsp. pickle juice

    • Salt and pepper

    • 12 leaves Little Gem lettuce

    • 1 or 2 heirloom tomatoes to yield 4 thick slices


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a sheet pan with pan spray, or line it with parchment or a silicone mat. Lay bacon on the pan and bake until golden and crisp, about 25 minutes. Remove from the pan and set on paper towels to cool.

  2. Add mayonnaise, basil, and fresh-cracked pepper to a medium-sized mixing bowl and stir well to combine. Set aside.

  3. Toast bread to a deep golden brown, even charring it a bit. While the bread is still warm, rub one side with the garlic clove, then drizzle on a little olive oil.

  4. In another mixing bowl, mix together pickle juice, a spoonful of the mayo mixture, and salt and pepper to taste to make a dressing, then add lettuce and toss to coat. Salt and pepper the tomato slices.

  5. To assemble the sandwiches, spread a generous amount of the basil mayo on the garlic side of each bread slice (you can store any leftover covered in the fridge for up to a week). Layer 3 lettuce leaves on each slice of bread, then add 2 slices of tomato per sandwich. Finally, tear bacon in half and add the equivalent of 3 whole slices to each sandwich. Close the sandwiches and cut in half.

Meet the Chefs: Joe and Katy Kindred

Hometowns: He’s from Davidson, North Carolina; she’s from Chicago.

Children: Alba, ten, and sons Luca, eight, and Gray, five.

Next project: Milkbread, a café opening later this year that will feature the milk bread doughnuts and fried chicken sandwiches they sold to-go to get their restaurants through the pandemic.

The thing they’d grab if the kitchen was on fire: A leather-bound recipe book Katy gave Joe for an engagement gift when they were in Italy. It’s now filled with recipes from their family and restaurants where they’ve worked.