By Omar Mamoon
By Kate Williams
By Pete Kane
By Molly Gore
By Lou Bustamante
By Anna Roth
There's a lovely little list-as-essay by Bruce Cole titled "A summer manifesto -- sorta ...," a reminder to enjoy the foods of this season while they're in season, on his useful food-besotted Web site, www.sautewednesday.com. There are the expected foods (corn on the cob, tomatoes) and ones less so (green beans, radishes, both to be enjoyed as salads). There are king salmon, grilled steaks, and peaches and nectarines -- also grilled, to be served with vanilla ice cream (no surprise) and vintage balsamic vinegar (surprise!).
But after I read through this evocative list, I found myself missing something (even though he comes close when he writes, "Eat lots of hamburgers and hot dogs, because that's what Americans do in the summer. Potato salad, too. Lots of potato salad, on limp paper plates ..."): sandwiches. Sandwiches, the perfect summer food, because you can slap them together without heating up the already hot kitchen. Sandwiches, the perfect summer food, because you can wrap them up and they become transportable, to the park or the beach (where you'll never become hungry, because of the sand which is there) or the cool forest up near the top of the mountain, where maybe you'll catch a breeze. (A lot of sandwiches improve during the jaunt, the flavors of the salami or mortadella released as they warm up, the butter melding with the mustard and the pickles and the cheese ....)
I am a Sandwich Queen. I can eat one several times a week, at home or elsewhere. I like standards: tuna, egg salad, BLTs. I like panini. I like Cubanos and Reubens and muffalettas. I like fancy, elaborate, odd inventions (I read yesterday about foie gras with fig jam. Bring it on! My father's breakfast improvisation, leftover Chinese pork-and-string-beans pancaked with eggs on a roll? I'm your girl!).
2801 24th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
Region: Mission/ Bernal Heights
Tuna melt $7
Caramel malted $4.50
Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe
Meatball sandwich $6.95
Sausage sandwich $6.95
L'Osteria del Forno
Roasted pork sandwich $6.50
Speck sandwich $6.50
St. Francis Fountain, 2801 24th St. (at York), 826-4200. Open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. No reservations. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: easy during the day, more difficult at night. Muni: 27, 48. Noise level: moderate.
Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe, 566 Columbus (at Union), 362-0536. Open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. No reservations. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: difficult. Muni: 15, 30, 41, 45. Noise level: moderate.
L'Osteria del Forno, 519 Columbus (at Green), 982-1124. Open Wednesday through Monday from 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Closed Tuesday. No reservations. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: difficult. Muni: 15, 30, 41, 45. Noise level: high.
I remember with a blush a time, years ago, when the waitress at the deli near the office (where I repaired maybe once a week to recover from the elaborate business lunches that were part of the job) asked me, "The regular?" when I didn't even know that I had a regular. It turned out to be pure white: turkey on white bread, extra mayo, with a glass of milk. Still, I am thoroughly perplexed to read that Gov. Gray Davis eats a turkey sandwich for lunch every day. This is supposed to be an example of his discipline; I see it as a woeful lack of imagination. Or maybe fear of fun.
The current Earl of Sandwich (the 11th in the line; it was No. 4 who famously ordered that roast meat between two hunks of bread be brought to him at the gaming table so as not to interrupt his play) has bowed to the inevitable and now sells neatly packaged varieties, emblazoned with the family crest, in British supermarkets. There is talk of opening an eponymous cafe at Disney World in Florida ("in a décor that mimics that of the earl's own home," per the New York Times).
Until such a happy day dawns, I content myself with sandwiches at a simulacrum considerably closer to home. The family-owned-and-operated St. Francis Fountain dispensed sandwiches and soda fountain treats from its cozy corner spot in the Mission continuously from 1918 until May 2002, when it gave up the ghost. But the ghost didn't give it up, exactly; restaurateurs from the neighborhood took over the lease, cleaned the place up, pasted new prices on the vintage painted signs of sundaes and burgers, and opened the doors for connoisseurs of (slightly tweaked) hash house fare.
I have a hazy memory of my grandma taking me there for an egg salad san and a chocolate malt after a Disney movie at the York right down the street (no longer a neighborhood circuit house nor the repertory film haven it was for years, but now spiffed up into the Brava Theater). It's a rosy memory, anyway, for in those days the place was painted in what is invariably described as Pepto-Bismol pink. Today its walls are vanilla cream, and the dingy booths are refinished and shiny and happily plentiful, and the lunch-counter stools are perky and sturdy. (The Fountain no longer makes its own ice cream or candies; its specialties are made with ice cream from the estimable Mitchell's, and there's a kitschy candy counter stocked with nostalgic confections.) There are a few contempo surprises tucked among the BLTs and burgers (pesto on the Italian club, rosemary on the home fries, herbs sprinkled on the tuna melt), and caramel and coconut show up on the long list of possibilities for milkshakes and malts.
But on the whole you're getting honest, slightly upscaled but still decently priced versions of classic sandwiches (well, I thought club sandwiches were required to have three slices of bread by law and to be cut in quarters; here you'll get two slices, cut in half, but I won't quibble. Much). For your $6.50, $7, or $7.50, a choice of homemade soup, french fries, home fries, mac and cheese, or potato salad is included. And there's the extra frisson of breakfast anytime (which always inspires wacky stand-up Steven Wright to order "French toast during the Renaissance"), though that's slightly outside our sandwichy purview. (Not, however, on the day I order a fried-egg sandwich. Perfectly OK. I try to lush it up with mustard and mayo. I probably should have asked for some red onion on the side.)