Order From SF's Absolute Best Sandwich Shops Right Now
There's never been a better time for a picnic.
There’s no better picnic food than a sandwich, and in the age of outdoor socially distanced meals, there's never been a better time for a picnic. That means you should be taking this opportunity to eat your way around SF's best sandwich shops. For the purposes of this article, we stuck with classic sandwiches, which means you won’t find breakfast sandwiches, sloppy Joes, or even fried chicken sandwiches on this list. What you will find are excellent options for when you’re craving America’s classic lunchtime favorite named for an 18th century aristocrat who also had a serious appreciation for meat tucked between bread. Plus, our recs for nearby outdoor (socially distanced) spaces to enjoy them.
This neighborhood market has a good selection of beer and wine, produce, and other household staples, but you’re going there for the “world famous” turkey sandwich to be followed shortly by one of the best naps of your life. The sandwich starts with thick slices of turkey roasted in-house and is topped with lettuce, onion, tomato, and pickles. You can add whatever bread and cheese you’d like (go pepper jack for its saltiness) as well as avocado. Grab some beer or wine as well, and take it all to Golden Gate Park (just a block away) for a picnic and that midday siesta.
Order in person for takeout or get delivery from Postmates.
Say Cheese is one of those adorable shops you walk into just to grab a sandwich, and walk out of having spent way too much money on obscure cheese, a slice of pate, a tub of olives, and bars of artisanal chocolate. If you can manage to stay focused, however, you can get in and out only spending around $12 (before tip) for a quality sandwich that feels as fancy as a sandwich can feel -- especially the one with French ham, French butter, gruyere, and cornichon. You should consider foregoing meat and opting for the mozzarella caprese with fresh basil, tomato, and EVOO. (You can still add prosciutto if going meatless feels like too much to bear). Golden Gate Park is just a few blocks away, so put a blanket and some beverages in your bag and head to the Conservatory of Flowers.
Order in person for takeout or get delivery from Postmates.
You need to get to West Portal for one of Sub Center’s classic subs topped with your meat of choice, mustard, mayo, onions, shredded lettuce, tomato, and secret sauce -- all toasted. Sure, you could get one delivered, but these sandwiches are best eaten fresh out of the oven. Plus, it’s silly to pay all of those delivery fees when part of the joy of Sub Center is just how affordable it is (about $12 for a “super,” which is a lot of sandwich). Stern Grove is less than five minutes away by car and is a perfect spot for maximum sub sandwich enjoyment.
Order in person for takeout, for pickup from Grubhub, or get delivery from Postmates, DoorDash, or Caviar.
In a town where a $20 burger has become the norm and people don’t scoff at paying six bucks for an ice cream cone, it’s still somewhat shocking to see Deli Board’s prices -- $17 to $19 for each sandwich. But there’s a reason why there’s always a line during lunch: Those sandwiches are gluttonous, satisfying, and full of flavor. The best move is any of the sandwiches piled high with pastrami and slathered with “Board sauce.” There are a few combos that include that, so you can cater your preferences from there. Of course, you should also check The Board for rotating daily specials. The sandwiches aren’t toasted, so your order should travel well, but if you can’t wait, there’s a park right across the street.
Deli Board isn’t taking phone orders during COVID, so you’ll have to order at the shop where there is a safe queue system in place.
Apparently when you get asked the same question so many times, you make a sign so that you no longer have to explain that “Yes! The fries and coleslaw are ON the sandwich.” Other questions that apparently get asked a lot at Giordano Bros.: What are coppa and hot capicola, are the owners really from Pittsburgh (yes, they are), and if there’s a full bar (again: yes)? But the only question you’ll need to answer is what kind of grilled meat to get in your Pittsburgh-style “all-in-one sandwich” because the hard stuff, like what it includes, has already been decided for you -- sliced Italian bread, melted provolone cheese, freshly cut fries, and oil and vinegar coleslaw. Sure, you could try to mess with perfection, but as the Q&A board says: “Our sandwich has been made the same way for 70 years, so we recommend you don’t try to change it.” As far as where to enjoy this massively loaded sandwich -- Giordano Bros. currently has outdoor seating and is also just a few blocks from Dolores Park.
Order at the restaurant for takeout or outdoor dining, order online for pickup, or get it delivered via Postmates.
Ike’s started in the Castro in 2007 (Ike, the owner, was born and raised here), and now has over 55 locations in California, Nevada, Arizona, and Texas selling the huge, complicated (in a good way), and messy sandwiches. Unfortunately, because of crazy rents and regulations for chain stores, there’s only one SF location: on Polk and O’Farrell. But at least there’s still one place in the city to get your sloppy sandwich fix. Ike’s is known for its creative combos, sandwiches named after (and co-created with) celebrities, and delicious dirty sauce. There’s a $30 sandwich called the Kryptonite (roast beef, pastrami, turkey, ham, salami, bacon, pesto, avocado, mozzarella sticks, stuffed jalapeno poppers, onion rings, extra pepper jack), but it’s crazy over-the-top. We prefer the classic Menage a Trois (halal chicken, BBQ, honey mustard, real honey, pepper jack, cheddar, swiss) instead. If you pick your order up in person, take it to Lafayette Park.
Order for takeout in person or via the app or for delivery via DoorDash, Grubhub, Postmates, or Uber Eats.
If you're anywhere near Union Street, you need to be partaking in “The Fleet” of sandwiches. The configurations are simple: three sizes (small, medium, or large), a choice of meat and cheese (you can’t go wrong with turkey and provolone) with mustard, mayonnaise, shredded lettuce, tomato, onion, and a secret sauce served on a toasted roll with a perfect amount of crunch. Like any toasted sandwich, Marina Sub’s heavenly creations are best enjoyed as soon as possible. During COVID, we’ve been taking ours (along with a couple of beers) to the beach at Crissy Field; yup, that’s right: even a little sand can’t ruin the masterpiece that is a Marina Sub.
Call 415-921-3990 for takeout or order at the shop.
Joe DiMaggio loved Molinari so much that his will stated that when he died, the deli was to cater the reception after his funeral. The classic Italian deli is the oldest deli west of the Rockies and is a great place to pick up Italian staples, like olive oil and wine, as well one of several dozen varieties of cured meat sandwiches. Our favorite is the classic “Italian Combo,” add sundried tomatoes, basil garlic spread, and fresh homemade mozzarella on focaccia. You can get it delivered, but you can also pick it up and enjoy it in Washington Square Park, just two blocks away.
Order online or in-person for takeout or get delivery from Uber Eats, Grubhub, DoorDash, or Postmates.
At first glance, Rhea’s is just another unassuming SF liquor store with a deli in the back. It’s not until you actually eat one of Rhea’s famous sandwiches that you understand why this corner store is so crowded. The most popular sandwich by far -- and the one you must get on your first visit -- is the Korean Steak with marinated rib-eye steak, cheddar cheese, house-pickled red onions and jalapenos, lettuce, chili sauce, and garlic aioli on an Acme sweet roll, but unsurprisingly, you can’t really go wrong with anything on the menu. Take yours to enjoy in Dolores Park.
Order in-person for takeout.
In the late 1970s and early ‘80s, thousands of people from Southeast Asia settled in the Tenderloin. They were escaping the devastation of war and the Tenderloin was much more affordable than a lot of other neighborhoods. Today, Little Saigon, a two-block corridor in the Tenderloin, is home to several casual spots to get soul satisfying pho and strong Vietnamese coffee, as well as the best banh mi sandwiches in the city at Saigon Sandwiches. And we don’t just say that because they’re all five bucks or less, though, of course that helps. The pate combo with roasted pork, chicken liver pate, pickled onion, daikon, carrots, cilantro, and jalapeno is our preferred order, but when we’re not up for the five dollar splurge, the roast pork on its own is also perfect. You might want to just eat it standing on the sidewalk, but Lafayette Park just up the hill is also a good (and slightly more relaxing) option.
Call ahead at 415-474-5698 or order in person.
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