White bread, plastic cheese and luncheon meats. In the past, the American sandwich has been synonymous with fast, greasy and unoriginal. But San Francisco is the epicentre of the country’s foodie love affair with a new generation of sandwich.
Yes, you can get a fried chicken bagel. But the chicken is organic and the bagel is woodfired and the accompanying beetroot coleslaw is light and tangy. You can even get a vegan icecream sandwich.
Here’s our list of the top ten sandwiches that San Francisco has on offer.
#1 Mission Cheese
The sandwich: California Gold
Where: 736 Valencia Street, San Francisco
When a cheese shop makes sandwiches, you know this is going to be the best toasty you’ve ever ignored your lactose intolerance for. Mission cheese is an artisan cheese shop-cum-café in the heart of the trendy Mission suburb. Grab a wine and order the California Gold – San Joaquin Gold cheese, chevre (goat’s milk cheese), prosciutto and fig preserves pressed between two slices of country levain bread. It’s the perfect mix of salty and sweet and will keep your energy levels high for the street’s excellent shopping.
#2 Woodhouse Fish Co.
The sandwich: Split-top Maine Lobster Roll
Where: 1914 Fillmore Street, San Francisco
Glorious chunks of lobster are dressed in housemade aioli and generously pile themselves atop toasted bread that’s made specifically for Woodhouse by La Boulange, one of San Fran’s top bakeries. It’s juicy, it’s fresh and it’s extravagant. Because you’re worth it. It’s also served with thin-cut chips and coleslaw.
#3 Ike’s Place
The sandwich: The Jon Lum Secret Sandwich
Where: 3489 16th Street, San Francisco
To say this sandwich shop is a San Francisco institution is an understatement. Every bayside foodie worth their salt, and every sandwich fan for miles, knows Ike’s Place. The menu is extensive with almost 100 combinations to choose from such as the Handsome Owl (swiss, teriyaki, vegan breaded chicken, wasabi mayo), the Going Home For Thanksgiving (cranberry sauce, havarti, sriracha, turkey) and the Doomsday (bacon, extra Jack, habanero salsa, ham, mozzarella sticks, pastrami, roast beef, salami, stuffed jalapeno poppers, turkey). But it’s the shop’s “secret sandwiches”, the ones you have to already know about to order, that pack the most punch. The Jon Lum, apparently designed by a San Fran architecture firm, is a simple yet irresistible combination of tender steak, bacon, onion rings and cheddar. Oh yeah!
#4 Arguello Super Market
The sandwich: Turkey Sandwich
Where: 782 Arguello Boulevard, San Francisco
Turkey is not usually a go-to sandwich meat. It can be tasteless and boring done wrong. Fortunately, Arguello does it right. Juicy, tender, well-salted, thick, dark-and-light meat chunks carved off a freshly roasted turkey is served on crunchy bread. Get it with the works and thank me later.
#5 Molinari Delicatessen
The sandwich: Renzo Special
Where: 373 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco
Salty and sweet, is there a better combination? It works for chocolate and peanut butter and it works for the Renzo special which layers paper-thin slices of salty prosciutto and spicy Capacollo with thick, creamy mozzarella. It’s got a spicy kick that’s just right for a midday foodie feast.
The sandwich: Fried Egg Sandwich
Where: 1299 18th Street, San Francisco
Prepare to get messy for this breakfast-inspired foodie gem. It’s all about a perfectly cooked orange yolk, dripping aioli and cheddar cheese. Add to this crisp greens and salty, Nueske bacon, whack it all on a fresh bun, and you have yourself San Francisco’s best fried egg sandwich, hands down.
#7 Brenda’s French Soul Food
The sandwich: Croque Monsieur
Where: 652 Polk St, San Francisco
One of the few sandwiches with which it is acceptable to use a knife and fork, this croquet monsieur is a cheesy mound of gooey, glorious goodness. It’s all about baked ham and gruyere cheese with béchamel sauce on sliced sourdough bread and served with fries or coleslaw. The twist with this one is that it’s open-face, meaning you can see all the delicious melty ingredients right in front of you. They say you eat with your eyes first, right?
#8 Beauty’s Bagel Shop
The sandwich: Fried Chicken Bagel
Where: 838 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland
So this one technically isn’t in San Francisco but if you’re not willing to train it 15 minutes out of the city for a fried chicken bagel then you shouldn’t be reading a “top 10 sandwiches” list. It’s a wood fired bagel, the fried chicken is organic and oh-so-crispy and it’s accompanied by the creamiest beetroot coleslaw you’ve even stained your outfit with. You’ll find this gem of a bagel shop and the rest of their creative delights (think organic honey and almond butter) in Oakland, San Fran’s hip and trendy little sister city laying in the east of the Bay Area. They say Oakland is to San Fran what Brooklyn is to New York so grow a beard and go with an empty stomach.
#9 Bakesale Betty
The sandwhich: Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich
Where: 5098 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland
While we’re on the subjects of Oakland and fried chicken sandwiches (is one really enough anyway?), I give you this delightful addition to the list. The chicken, pounded thin, soaked in buttermilk and dredged in a flour, cayenne and pepper coating, is fried crisp in soybean oil. The coleslaw’s dressing is made with Bariani olive oil and champagne vinegar while the accompanying egg salad is given a kick with sorrel. These babies sell out daily so get in early.
#10 Curbside Creamery
The sandwich: Whiskey & Vanilla Icecream Sandwich
Where: 482 49th St, Oakland
You wouldn’t leave Oakland without dessert, would you? This cool new icereamery combines the nostalgia of an American hometown icecream shop with high quality scoops of the good stuff in gourmet flavours. Sure, you can opt for the cone but I suggest ordering a generous scoop of whiskey and vanilla crammed in between two delicious cookies, made by fellow Oaklanders Little Ladybug Bakery. You can even choose your cookie flavour – ginger snap or peanut butter. There’s also a vegan icecream option made with cashews.
(Lead image: Sonny Abesamis/Flickr)