One thing I love about San Francisco: despite our tendency to name neighborhoods every few blocks (the Tendernob, Lower Pac Heights, Nopa), we've christened miles of the city with just one name — the Richmond — which gives me license to group together these three delicious Richmond district sandwiches.
First up: Lou's Sandwiches Cafe, a Yelp favorite with a line out the door. I ordered a veggie sandwich with avocado, roasted peppers, pepperoncini, cucumber, and swiss cheese, with the promising inclusion of "Lou's special sauce."
The special sauce lived up to its name on this excellently crafted sandwich. Served on my favorite type of wheat roll, which is criminally hard to find, the sammie held together heartily even with so many delicate ingredients.
The next time I found myself eating sandwiches in the Richmond, I discovered two more exceptional eats, at Blue Danube Coffee House. We went halfsies with two veggie options (what can I say? I'm on an avocado kick) that were both delicious.
The first bore resemblance to my Lou's order, but rather than special sauce, it offered a brilliant combination: hummus drizzled with balsamic vinegar. I don't know why I never thought to do that, but now I'm sold. Perfectly toasted bread and cheddar cheese also won me over.
The caprese sandwich, fixed up yummily with olive tapenade and basil, bested most mozzarella sandwiches I've eaten. That's mostly because the focaccia was outstanding: not too doughy or too oil-y, making for a very well-balanced stack of flavors. I might order this one again just for the bread, but the ratio of ingredients was also delish.
Unless you’re from Buffalo or well acquainted with a Buffalonian, you maybe haven’t heard of beef on weck. But this regional favorite is one of the country's oldest sandwiches. Though I still haven't made it to Schwabl's, the Buffalo joint that opened in 1837, I recently tasted a very authentic (says my Buffalo friend Jonas) beef on weck sandwich in San Francisco.
So what the heck is weck? Weck is short for kummelweck (or kimmelweck), the caraway-seeded and salted bun the sandwich is served on. Think of the best pretzel roll you've ever had, but with crunchy bursts of flavor in the form of caraway. Otherwise, the sandwich is similar to a French dip, with tender pink roast beef drizzled with its own roasting juices. Simple, but delicious.
In San Francisco, the beef on weck shows up as an occasional Thursday special at Greenburger's, a casual restaurant in the Lower Haight that serves delicious milkshakes, sammies and burgers, American comfort food, and tributes to the USA's regional cuisine. Though the owner is from Buffalo, the restaurant seems to admire all aspects of American cooking. But the beef on weck is definitely worth a stop.
I've been on a salmon sandwich kick lately, and suddenly I'm finding them everywhere, including on my first visit to Wayfare Tavern. During a rainy lunch, I ordered the salmon club sandwich and a Pimm's cup.
Featuring avocado-basil aioli, roasted tomato, and bacon on brioche, the sandwich was pretty yummy. Frankly, I'd pay $17 to spend every rainy afternoon at this cozy, bucolic tavern.
But while the fish was outstanding, the sandwich itself didn't seem worth $17 — especially compared to this salmon sammie I enjoyed at an impromptu barbecue in a friend's backyard.
Yes, it's much simpler, but the salmon was just as well-cooked, grilled just enough by my personal chefs and served it on a soft bun with avocado.
I'm not saying one sandwich is necessarily superior to the other; just that simpler and cheaper can be just as good.
You may have noticed that I like sandwiches. The day my video came out declaring me a sandwich connoisseur, resident CEO and hoagie aficionado Brian Sugar offered to buy me lunch, on one condition. It had to be his favorite sandwich, what Brian calls a "big, sweaty sandwich" from Gambino's.
I love Gambino's New York-style subs, though I normally wouldn't order an Italian meat torpedo like this, stacked with ham, salami, and mortadella. But when the boss offers to buy everyone lunch, you get his favorite sandwich. And I must admit, it was delicious.
Here's what I love about a Gambino's sub: the shredded iceberg lettuce, the sturdy yet soft roll soaked with oil, and the generous dousing of red wine vinegar, which, as Brian points out, is underrated. The combination of the cool lettuce and vinegar with spicy, unctuous Italian meats just doesn't work as well with turkey.
Thanks, Brian. You have good taste.
Since my favorite Vietnamese sandwich costs $3, I was skeptical about Bun Mee, the bourgie but adorably hip banh mi spot in Pacific Heights. But after hearing some good things, I stopped by for some sammies with my mom before the Drive by Truckers concert.
We ordered two and went halvsies: five-spice chicken and smoky grilled eggplant. Though I wasn't disappointed, I also wasn't blown away. We loved the depth of flavor in the five spice chicken (below), though I couldn't distinguish the taste of the caramel aioli. The eggplant banh mi (above), dressed with cauliflower relish and red curry aioli, was underwhelming; I thought the eggplant was undercooked.
My biggest gripe, beyond the creative aiolis not standing out, was the bread. Though very fresh, it lacked the density and crustiness of the sandwiches in Little Saigon or even New Orleans po'boys. The sandwiches were good, but not great; I think I'll take Saigon Sandwiches for $3 instead.
Waffles are an underrated sandwich vehicle, but I'm a big fan of salty-sweet waffle sandwiches. So when I heard about a cafe in San Francisco earning props for its waffle creations, I put it on the sand wist list. When I finally made it to Dash Cafe, the waffle sandwiches underwhelmed me, but maybe I caught them on a bad day. At least the Belgian-style waffles showed promise; click through to see.
Range may have a Michelin star, but Rhea's Deli, on the same block of Valencia in San Francisco's Mission District, has the underground gourmet grub. From the street, it looks like any old neighborhood market, but inside, it crafts big, brash sandwiches that meld very SF ingredients (like Acme bread) with exotic flavors like katsu pork and Korean marinated steak. Click through to see what you're missing.
Pal's Takeaway has been on my list of must-try sandwich spots for at least a year, but I'm not often at 24th and Hampshire on a weekday. So when I recently had a rare Monday off in SF, I finally buddied up to Pal's.
Needless to say, expectations were high. On Pal's website, the sandwich makers proclaim that their ongoing mission is "to find some good f*cking stuff to put between pieces of bread." It is succeeding with a daily-changing menu of innovative eats and an irreverent sense of humor.
I ordered the delightfully clever 'Wich Came First sandwich, featuring tarragon-poached chicken breast and egg salad with chives. Get to know Pal's.
Sometimes it pays to be a punctuation snob. When I first saw the awning for "John's Burgers Taco's Sandwiches," on San Francisco's dingy 6th Street, I assumed it was a serendipitously funny apostrophe error, that the owners actually meant "Burgers, Tacos, Sandwiches." My delight and curiosity led me to Taco's Sandwiches, a surprisingly impressive sandwich shop actually owned by a man named Taco. Click through for the whole story.
I have yet to dine at Maverick or Flour + Water, though both are on my list. So in between catching sets by MGMT, The Roots, Vetiver, Mavis Staples, Beirut, and many more at this weekend's Outside Lands festival in Golden Gate Park, I sampled sandwich offerings from these two must-eat San Francisco eateries.
I love that Outside Lands eschews typical festival fare for booths from local restaurants, including my beloved Phil'z Coffee, Andalu, Memphis Minnie's, Namu, and on and on.
Mission district American hot spot Maverick featured just one offering: a Cincinnati pulled pork sandwich, dressed with coleslaw (pictured above). The tender, plush pork came on a soft potato-like roll, with potato chips on the side (which incidentally started blowing away with the wind, tragic). I washed mine down with a pisco punch before grabbing a spot at Girl Talk.
On Sunday, we stopped by Salumeria by Flour + Water, which also kept things simple with a single sandwich: peppery roasted porchetta on a standout ciabatta roll. It's hard to find a perfect ciabatta, but when I do, I consider it one of the most satisfying sandwich vehicles. The meat was succulently spiced and chopped, rather than sliced, with some sort of onion jam (I think) to complement the robust meat.
Did you make it to the festival this weekend? If so, what did you eat to fortify yourself for the fun?