Not every meal comes on a plate. In fact, not every meal needs to be set down on a table. Here are five of the city’s best handheld, one-dish lunches. Eat them in the park or at your desk:
Beef empanada from Chile Lindo
2944 16th St. (at Capp), 621-6108
These warm, trapezoidal turnovers, with their filling of tomato-braised beef sweetened with raisins, are a welcome find, whether purchased out of Paula Tejeda's wandering basket or sought out from her storefront on 16th Street.
Mushroom piroshki from Cinderella Bakery
436 Balboa (at Fifth Ave.), 751-9690
These puffy ovals are stuffed with earthy, robust sautéed mushrooms and then deep-fried until golden. To eat the piroshki warm, don't let the counter person microwave them; instead, bring them home and recrisp their bubbly golden exteriors in a toaster oven.
Nacatamal from Adelita's Cakes
3780 Mission (at Highland), 824-4584
In the morning, people line up at this Nicaraguan bakery to pick up giant nacatamales fresh from the steamer. Grab a fork when you open your banana-leaf–wrapped packet to spoon out the warm cornmeal porridge studded with spiced pork, tomatoes, potatoes, olives, capers, and raisins.
Curry pan from Sandbox Bakery
833 Cortland (at Gates), 642-8580, www.sandboxbakerysf.com
For the best of her Japanese stuffed breads, Mutsumi Takehara rolls out a quarter-inch layer of challah — all cotton and air, as if it's been kneaded by a balloon animal — and folds it into a triangle around a beef and vegetable stew seasoned with Japanese curry paste.
Combination bun from Wing Lee Bakery
503 Clement (at Sixth Ave.), 668-9481
Wing Lee's steamed combination buns, or dai bao, now come in a choice of white or whole-wheat exteriors. Whether brown or white, the marshmallow-dense dome of this giant bun is packed with chunks of gingery chicken, half an egg, a few pieces of Chinese sausage, and a steamed black mushroom.