Get SF Weekly Newsletters

September 27, 2012 Slideshows » Dining

Share on Facebook
Tweet
Submit to Reddit
Email

San Francisco's 10 Best Sandwiches 

​Given the care that San Francisco cooks lavish on the humblest of vegetables, it's no surprise that sandwich-making in this town qualifies as an artisanal pursuit. Even journeyman makers hunt down the perfect bread for their masterpieces and whisk together small-batch mayonnaise. In fact, we're surprised that no one has come up with a sandwich-making certification program. Or a guild. Or at least a manifesto. Then again, that's what we love about sandwiches. You can make a sandwich fancy, you can charge $14 for it, but in the end, it's still a food meant to be eaten with your hands. Here are our 10 favorite right now.

This list originally appeared on SFoodie in spring 2012.
Jonathan Kauffman
10. Turkey sandwich from Arguello Super Market (pictured above)
782 Arguello (at Golden Gate), 751-5121

This small grocery in the Richmond backs its roast turkey sandwich up with a big marketing push: 'World's best turkey sandwich." World's best? We can't judge that claim, but it's certainly San Francisco's best, layered with fat slices of meat sliced off a freshly roasted bird. The grocery store can roast up to a dozen birds a day, just to keep up with demand. With good meat in the middle, there's no need to zhoozh it up, though if you're feeling Novemberish, you can add cranberry sauce for an extra 75 cents.
Jonathan Kauffman
9. Turkey-pastrami sandwich at M & L Market, 691 14th St. (at Market), 431-7044

Over the course of its 32 years, this mom-and-pop market, now more of a mom-and-daughter market, has developed rules so stringent they rival the U.S. Customs Service's. As numerous signs instruct, you must order the sandwich in a certain order -- bread first! -- and it helps to speak slowly and clearly, showing Judy and May deference rather than fear. The sandwich you get in return isn't just cheap, it's unique to the market, stuffed with sliced turkey and M&L's signature meat, a mild, fat-streaked pastrami that heats and crinkles up in two rice cookers.
Jonathan Kauffman
8. Chicken milanesa torta from Tortas Boos Voni., 5170 Mission (at Geneva), 585-5880

American tortas are like American, well, everything: bigger, louder, cheesier than the Mexican original. The breaded chicken cutlet -- freshly fried -- at the center of Boos Voni's milanesa torta is padded out with an inch-thick layer of shredded lettuce, tomato, onion, and avocado, glued to the telera bread they're pressed between with fat doses of cotija cheese and crema. That girth, though, guarantees that the torta balances out the tang of the sour cream with the fresh crunch of the vegetables. Just make sure to split it with a friend.
Jonathan Kauffman
7. Pastrami sandwich from Jablow's Meats, Various locations; check the Facebook page

For the past year, Dan Jablow, a former Fatted Calf butcher, has been selling his smoked meats at popup restaurants around town. And if his pastrami sandwich is hard to come by, it's worth the hunt. Jablow brines and smokes Piedmontese beef over apple and cherry wood, and it comes out is smokier and less salty than the stuff in your average deli sandwich. When the cooks slather the pastrami in whole-grain mustard, cover it in a vinegary slaw, and mount it between slices of thick-crusted rye, you get an excellent package, not a mediocre vehicle for good meat.
Jonathan Kauffman
6. Grilled cheese from Outerlands, 4001 Judah, 661-6140

At first sight, Outerlands' grilled cheese sandwich defies all expectation of the proper relationship between cheese and bread. The bread's an inch thick -- that's 2 inches, total! -- and though there's enough melted cheese in the center to seep out and coat the slices, the ratio still seems suspect. But Dave Muller's naturally leavened bread has its own presence, and though each slice is brushed with enough butter to brown the exteriors, the bread's light enough that you taste the cheese inside. Bonus: all those crisped cheese drips on the exterior, which can be peeled off and snacked on between bites.
Jonathan Kauffman
5. Pressed Cuban sandwich from Ironside, 680 Second St. (at Townsend), 896-1127

You will find regulars at Ironside ordering the pizzas or the tuna conserva sandwich, but most of the rest of the customers, it seems, are ordering the pressed Cuban. There's no attempt at authenticity here -- it's made with gruyre and chipotle mayo -- but that's not the point. The point is the pork butt, molasses-basted and roasted for hours, set off by chopped pickles and salty ham.
Jonathan Kauffman
4. The grilled pork banh mi from Little Vietnam, 309 Sixth Ave. (at Clement), 876-0283

What makes Little Vietnam's pork banh mi better than all the others in this city? The marinade on the pork, for one, sweet and a little garlicky, caramelized to a crisp on the grill. Another: The fragility of the crisp, warm bread it's stuffed into. And the balance of the meat, the pickled vegetables, and the bread is perfect, accented with the floral crunch of fresh cilantro and the searing, vegetal kick of jalapeo slices.
Brixton/Flickr
3. Porchetta sandwich from Roli Roti, Available at the Ferry Plaza farmers market on Thursdays, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Have you waited in line for the porchetta? We've waited in line. Forty-five minutes, to be exact, just to get up to the counter at Roli Roti's Ferry Plaza stand. The hardest part is that last 60 seconds when you're watching the cooks prepare your sandwich, slicing up rolled pork belly and smearing the bread on the cutting board to sop up every drop of melted juice. The bitter bite of greens, the crack of roasted skin, the flavor of toasted pork fat -- it's one of the few sandwiches in town worth that kind of time commitment.
2. Oyster po-boy from Queen's Louisiana Po Boy Cafe, 3030 San Bruno (at Paul), 656-0711

For its national reputation, Queen's classic po' boys can look a little anticlimactic. The bread (imported from New Orleans) is squishier than most San Francisco sandwich-makers use, and there doesn't seem to be much in the way of adornment. No fancy sauces or elaborately conceived fixings. And then, when you take your first bite, you encounter that brine-tinged gush of hot oyster juice and the crisp, gritty shell -- the custardy texture of the oyster is only amplfied by a thick smear of mayonnaise -- and you realize that you're eating the foie gras of hoagies.
Jonathan Kauffman
1. Mrs. Binh's sausage sandwich from Pal's Takeaway, In Tony's Market, 2751 24th St. (at Hampshire), 203-4911

Frankly, SFoodie has never eaten a bad sandwich at Pal's Takeaway. Not even a middling one. Should we single out Jeff Mason's coffee-rubbed pulled pork? The meatball? No, we'd have to go with our sentimental favorite: the Lao sausage banh mi. Its centerpiece is a length of pork sausage riddled with lemongrass and garlic, juicy, and piercingly spiced. And while the sausage is made by the cooks at Vientian Cafe in Oakland, one of the area's best Lao restaurants, the frame is Mason's own: bitter greens, crusty French bread, and sweetly pickled carrots.
1/10
Jonathan Kauffman
10. Turkey sandwich from Arguello Super Market (pictured above)
782 Arguello (at Golden Gate), 751-5121

This small grocery in the Richmond backs its roast turkey sandwich up with a big marketing push: 'World's best turkey sandwich." World's best? We can't judge that claim, but it's certainly San Francisco's best, layered with fat slices of meat sliced off a freshly roasted bird. The grocery store can roast up to a dozen birds a day, just to keep up with demand. With good meat in the middle, there's no need to zhoozh it up, though if you're feeling Novemberish, you can add cranberry sauce for an extra 75 cents.

Slideshows

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed