A Lower Nob Hill Cafe Serves up Bulgogi Sandwiches

Joy’s Cafe has been around since 2013, and it’s a lovely respite from a busy downtown.

Sandwiches are seriously underrated. They’re so mundane that they feel almost insignificant when you’re faced with an entire city’s worth of lunch options. They’re never anyone’s first thought when considering life-changing food.

But a sandwich done right is excellent, satisfying in ways only layers of crispy, fresh lettuce and creamy mayo can be. Now imagine adding bulgogi, one of the best things to have happened to beef in its culinary history, to a sandwich. It’s incredible, and it’s exactly what Joy’s Place, a Lower Nob Hill cafe that’s been open since 2013, does.

Joy’s Place is exactly what its name would suggest: It’s a space that just feels happy. That’s probably because Joy’s Place is a quiet respite from the rest of hectic downtown. There’s gentle instrumental music, and everyone is typically studying or reading while sipping on lattes. 

Aside from your basic espresso menu, Joy’s Place also offers a sugary sweet green tea latte ($5) and citron honey tea ($3.50), which I definitely recommend iced if you want something refreshing. Generous spoonfuls of yuja marmalade go into a cup with water and ice. (Yuja marmalade is a thick, syrup-like citrus preserve that you can buy by the jar at your local Korean grocery store.) It’s all swirled around for a really tasty and tart drink, with delicious strands of yuja peel sitting at the bottom for you to chew and eat. 

Of course, the bulgogi sandwich ($9.95) I mentioned earlier is definitely Joy’s Place’s crowning jewel. Slices of hot marinated beef are wrapped tightly with toasted bread, mayo, onion, and cold lettuce and tomato slices. I bring up the varying temperatures because that’s really the key to a good sandwich — knowing that you have a variety of ingredients, and knowing how to serve them in their best form. 

The strawberry shortcake at Joy’s Place. Photo by Grace Li

If you can’t eat beef, try the spicy chicken sandwich ($9.95) instead. It’s decently hot and oozing with sauce. Joy’s Place also carries a window display of pretty desserts, including fruit tarts ($6.95) with sturdy shortbread crusts, laden with kiwi, mango, and strawberries. There’s also a strawberry shortcake ($6.95) with strawberry slices all around its edges and a cold and creamy filling.

These desserts are a far cry from what Joy’s Place used to do — honey toast, waffles with ice cream, red bean shaved ice. But they changed their menu last year, with both good and bad news. Yes, there are less dessert options, but you can find honey toast and shaved ice at numerous Asian dessert cafes in San Francisco. I don’t know if you’ll be able to find a bulgogi sandwich as perfectly constructed as Joy’s Place though. In all its melting goodness, it’s a must-stop on your daily lunch break.

Joy’s Place, 611 Post St. 415-817-1391

CORRECTION: A previous version of this headline stated that Joy’s Place was in the Tenderloin.

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