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Best Sandwiches San Francisco 2008 -

Readers' Choice: Specialty's

He mismanaged the British right out of their American colonies and Hawaii was renamed after him for a century or two, but what really concerns us here is that John Montagu, the fourth earl of Sandwich, was so chronically distracted by the excitement of the gaming tables, his evening sustenance was usually a slab of meat slipped between two slices of bread. The recipe has been improved upon since the 18th century, and here in San Francisco the sandwich-chomping possibilities are endless. To wit:

Smoked Salmon Sandwich
Swan Oyster Depot
1517 Polk (at California), 673-1101
Swan is known near and far for its fabulously fresh seafood, and its expertise with the smoker is unparalleled. Their sweet and succulent lox is sliced before your eyes from a huge filet and served atop slices of sourdough — a special, wonderfully crusty version prepared for Swan by Parisian — a simple presentation highlighting the meat's rich, tender, almost creamy flavor.

Croque Monsieur
Absinthe
398 Hayes (at Gough), 551-1590,
www.absinthe.com
The city's best ham and cheese sandwich is the croque monsieur served at Absinthe, a place that knows something about rich and savory bistro fare. Lots of sweet, pungent Gruyère meets up with smoky maple-glazed ham and two buttery slices of levain bread on the griddle, a dollop of Dijon adding a creamy little kick to the proceedings. The result is molten, massive, and magnificent, especially with that bracing dollop of cranberry relish on the side.

BLT
LuLu Petite
One Ferry Building, #19 (near Market and Embarcadero), 362-7019
www.restaurantlulu.com
Bacon, lettuce, and tomato make up the greatest gustatory alloy in sandwich-making history, and LuLu Petite knows not to mess with the combination's essential perfection and simplicity. It just makes the sandwich better than anyone else does. Sweet, chewy shards of applewood-smoked bacon hook up with shredded romaine, thick and juicy Roma tomatoes, and a shmear of French mayo between the warm and toasty confines of a freshly baked levain roll: ooh la la indeed.

Meatloaf Sandwich
'Wichcraft
868 Mission (at Fifth St.), 593-3895
www.wichcraftsf.com
A good meatloaf sandwich is a meal in itself, and 'wichcraft's take on the classic is absolutely exemplary. The meatloaf — tender, crumbly, mildly spicy, and ribboned with bits of scallion— is combined with thick, smoky bacon and a good sharp Cheddar that melts as it mingles with the meat. Dressed with a piquant tomato relish and served on a bun substantial enough to contain the sandwich's excesses, it makes for a more than satisfying snack.

Barbecued Chicken Banh Mi
Saigon Sandwiches
560 Larkin (at Eddy), 474-5698
This Vietnamese sandwich is served on a baguette (French influence, you know) with shredded carrots, cilantro, onion, sliced green chile peppers, and moist, pungent shards of chicken infused with five-spice. The result is sweet, tangy, crisp, and spicy all at once, the flavors of Southeast Asia in easy-to-carry miniature.

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