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[Chain Chronicle]Top sandwich spots in the Bay Area

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  A sandwich with white bread on a white plate with blue stripes.Breadbelly’s char siu sandwichWhere to get a killer sandwich, at both Bay Area institutions and new-school shops that know what’s what between two pieces of bread.By Soleil Ho?|?Updated: June 23, 2021 9:26 AM

  Bay Area residents new and old are wont to wax poetic about the sandwiches they love, which I realized while sorting through numerous recommendations from friends and readers as I sought out superlative examples of ‘wichcraft for this list. And that’s no surprise: The sandwich remains the classic food of the working person, so most everyone has an opinion on who’s got the best.?

  Over the past few months, as I visited institutions and checked out intriguing openings, certain things stood out. First, we seem to be at the beginning of an East Coast-ification of our sandwich tastes, particularly with hoagies, cheesesteaks and simple bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches. Second, restaurant chefs’ embrace of the hamburger as a template to show off their style has migrated to the sandwich, such as with concepts like Ok’s Deli and Rōzmary Kitchen. That might have something to do with the pandemic, but even as restaurants have opened up again, enthusiasm for the often sold-out sandwiches seems to remain consistent.

  As with any debate over what is or is not a sandwich, things got complicated, so I had to institute a few hard stops: no fried chicken sandwiches or cheesesteaks (I think both deserve separate consideration), no wraps and no hamburgers. I have a separate burger selection, and pitting egg salad against fried chicken just wouldn’t be a fair fight, in my mind. And while you can find at least one sandwich at many different restaurants, I decided to limit the list to places that have several great options to choose from. With that, here are my picks for the best sandwiches that the Bay Area has to offer.?

  Check the boxes to filter by dining features or click on the images to get info on each restaurant.

  Restaurant offers takeout

  TakeoutRestaurant offers delivery

  DeliveryRestaurant has outdoor dining

  Outdoor dining

  Indoor dining

  Bánh Mì Ba Le




  California Sourdough Eatery


  Domenico’s Italian Deli


  Duc Huong


  Flour and Water Pasta Shop


  La Casita Chilanga


  Little Lucca


  Los Gatos Meats & Smokehouse


  Lou’s Cafe


  Lucia’s Craft Sandwich


  Manresa Bread


  Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store?Cafe


  Ok’s Deli


  Palm City Wines


  Roxie Food Center


  Rōzmary Kitchen


  Sol Food


  Standard Fare


  The Sentinel


  Submarine Center


  Turner’s Kitchen


  W F Giugni & Son Grocery Co.


  1909 International Blvd., Oakland

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  Sandwiches and Vietnamese prepared foods generate long lines here.

  There’s something about the bread here that makes it the ideal bánh mì shop: It’s crackly on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside, with just the right amount of chew to it. Prices haven’t budged much since Ba Le opened in 2007, a fact that has endeared it to those seeking the rare Bay Area budget lunch. The pork meatball and egg bánh mì ($5.25) is a beast of a sandwich, featuring a crumbly and moist meatball generously seasoned with black pepper; a fried egg makes it extra rich. In addition to the two dozen sandwiches to choose from, there is a plethora of affordable prepared dishes, like shrimp tapioca dumplings, rice paper-wrapped summer rolls and meat and rice plates. The lines are long, but they move quickly.

  Credit cards accepted ? Soft drinks



  1408 Clement St., San Francisco

  Asian American bakery with seasonal pastries and milk bread sandwiches.

  In late 2018, Michelin-trained chefs Kate Campecino-Wong, husband James Wong and friend Clement Hsu banded together to open a bakery in the Richmond District. A major highlight is the bakery’s soft and squishy milk bread ($11), which the business smartly uses as a base for its inventive and seasonal sandwich selection. The char siu sandwich treats the bread like a steamed bao, pairing the pork with slices of fresh cucumber, char siu sauce and bok choy. And a stunning and very limited fried soft shell crab sandwich ($21) has the meaty crab sauced with a slightly sweet Chinese five-spice glaze.

  Credit cards accepted ? Beer and wine

  415-349-0969 ? ? Order online


  1150 Murphy Ave. #A, San Jose

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  Fresh-baked bread is the basis for classic fillings.

  As the name suggests, bread is the focus here; its aroma will lead you into this humble office park cafe by the nose. Sandwiches are served on long, freshly baked loaves, with crusts that crackle with a whisper as you press down on them. They’re also uncomplicated. Each sandwich ($11) comes with the same set of fixings and just one cheese (Swiss), and it’s that simplicity that brings regulars in, day after day. The line can get long, but the staff behind the counter are efficient. It’s cash-only, with an ATM inside.

  Cash only ? Soft drinks



  1407 Webster St., Alameda

  An Alameda favorite for cold cut sandwiches and giant meatballs.

  In 1982, Italian immigrant Letizia Sacco and her husband, Dominic Cucchiara, opened Domenico’s, where they made pepperoncini-laced meatball sandwiches ($8.50), cannolis and pints of marinara sauce until they retired. Now, their daughter Ann and her family run the shop, where the walls are lined with racks of potato chips and framed family photos. Meatballs are wildly popular here, so if they happen to run out, try the comforting turkey with cranberry sauce ($9), where the turkey is baked fresh daily. Of course, the Italian combo ($8.75), filled with various charcuterie and provolone, is essential.

  Credit cards accepted ? Beer and wine

  510-865-5558 ?


  2090 N Capitol Ave, San Jose

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  A homegrown bánh mì chain sets the standard for Bay Area Vietnamese delis.

  All of Duc Huong’s locations bustle with energy as sandwich lovers queue up to buy bagfuls of bánh mì stuffed with Vietnamese cold cuts and pickles. The shop’s “buy four, get one free” deal on sandwiches is a massive steal that has nourished many hungry students and families in the area. Each type of sandwich is available in two sizes. Get the #2 combination ($3/$6), dac biet, which shows off classic Vietnamese charcuterie: chewy headcheese, bologna-like cha lua and ham with a rough pate and mayonnaise. People also come for the many prepared deli items available: steamed buns with peppery ground pork ($3), pastries and desserts.

  Credit cards accepted ? Soft drinks

  408-262-6948 ?


  3000 20th St., San Francisco

  This offshoot of a popular Italian restaurant sells impressively sized hoagies.

  During the pandemic, Californian-Italian Flour and Water took over sister restaurant Salumeria in order to use it as a retail and to-go outlet. The Mission District storefront sells pasta kits, wines and pantry ingredients. To me, though, its most significant contribution to San Francisco’s culinary landscape is its hoagie selection — particularly the eggplant parm ($17.50). It departs from the usual by swapping mozzarella for creamier burrata; a kale-pepita pesto amps up the natural earthiness of the eggplant. The dense, 8-inch hoagie is easily two meals’ worth of food, too. Other sandwiches include a Calabrian fried chicken ($17.50), meatball ($17.50) and a club with turkey and avocado ($19).

  Credit cards accepted ? Beer and wine

  415-471-2998 ? ? Order online


  2928 Middlefield Rd., Redwood City

  Rib-sticking tortas are the MO of this soccer-theme sandwich shop.

  With locations in Redwood City, San Jose and San Mateo, La Casita Chilanga is one of the essential lunch spots of the Peninsula and South Bay. The mini-chain offers more than 20 types of tortas, all of them massive and built with crusty, French-style Mexican telera bread. The tortas’ outsides are crosshatched with grill marks, and the insides are packed with tomato, soft queso fresco, refried beans, caramelized onion, avocado and chipotle sauce. Those components alone would constitute an excellent sandwich, but there’s more — much more. The Cubana ($11.95), a take on the classic Mexico City sandwich, includes crunchy breaded steak, ham, pork leg meat, super-savory chorizo and turkey sausage. My favorite is the Hawaiiana ($9.95), a relatively simple but iconic combination of ham, gooey melted Monterey Jack cheese and caramelized pineapple. Inside seating is sparse, so most opt for takeout or delivery.

  Credit cards accepted ? Soft drinks

  650-568-0351 ?


  724 El Camino Real, South San Francisco

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  Old-school shop known for its monster sandwiches and garlic spread.

  Bustling Little Lucca has been a popular lunch destination in South San Francisco since 1980, drawing crowds there and at its newer location in Burlingame. It maintains some old school vibes — you can still order sandwiches via fax machine. Call ahead if you don’t want to wait in line. There are tons of fillings to choose from — sopressata, Louisiana hot links, prime rib — and lots of room for customization, but no matter what you get, make sure you say yes to the pungent and herby garlic sauce. Get extra if you’re not planning on going on a date (or a long flight) right after. Prices depend on what you get, though sandwiches tend to run around $11.

  Credit cards accepted ? Soft drinks

  650-589-8916 ?


  575 University Ave., Los Gatos

  Established in 1891, the shop has long prepared its own tri-tip, turkey and ham for its sandwiches.

  It just makes a lot of sense for a purveyor of fine meats to have an exceptional sandwich program — the better to show off their wares. Follow the sweet scent of smoking hickory to find this shop in downtown Los Gatos, where the beef jerky, hams, bacon and other carnivorous treats are all produced in-house by the Chiala family and their team. Each sandwich is massive, with rolls measuring about 10 inches in length. The signature JJ Special ($11.95) is stuffed with succulent pulled pork: Each bite is infused with smoky flavor, which seeps into the bread. Even the simple turkey sandwich ($10.99) is a showcase of the shop’s maple sugar-cured and smoked turkey breast, which is far from basic. Before you go, grab a bag of jerky from the stand by the door.

  Credit cards accepted ? Soft drinks

  408-354-7055 ? ? Order online


  5017 Geary Blvd., San Francisco

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  Local chain makes killer breakfast sandwiches with jalape?o sauce.

  Lou’s has a lengthy menu of sub-$10 sandwiches that makes it a staple of takeaway lunches in the Richmond District. From visit to visit, this shop remains consistent in the quality of its toasty bread and the harmony of its ingredients. At lunch, the Veggie-licious ($9.40) fills you up with roasted eggplant, juicy mushrooms, avocado, crisp alfalfa sprouts and more, eschewing the usual “salad as a sandwich” ethos that can make vegetarian sandwiches a bore at omnivorous restaurants. Do come in early for a breakfast sandwich ($6.99), an eggy beauty that includes a McDonald’s-style hashbrown inside for additional grease and crunch. There are now four locations in San Francisco and one in San Carlos.

  Credit cards accepted ? Soft drinks

  415-379-4429 ?


  611 2nd Ave., Crockett

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  A Crockett shop makes kimchi grilled cheeses, breakfast sandwiches and more on Acme bread.

  In October of 2020, Faith Harrison and Randy Valdez decided to bet on their gourmet sandwich business finding an audience in their small town. Their creative but affordable menu nails the sweet spot between novelty and comfort food: toast ($7) heaped with organic ricotta and poached pears, asparagus salad sandwiches with burrata, and focaccia pizza layered with muhammara, eggplant and za’atar ($8). The shop’s grilled cheese menu alone has seven items, including a kimchi variation with bacon ($7). If you’ve ever melted a slice of American cheese into a hot cup of Shin Ramyun noodles, you know exactly which pleasure centers that one is going after.

  Credit cards accepted ? Soft drinks

  510-722-3018 ?


  195 E. Campbell Ave., Campbell

  The bakery spin-off of Michelin-starred restaurant Manresa has an all-day cafe in Campbell.

  Founded by Manresa head baker Avery Ruzicka in 2012, the Manresa Bread group began as a farmers’ market stall in Campbell. Over time, it evolved into three locations in the South Bay where customers can find sourdough loaves and pastries made with house-milled grain. At its Campbell location, the bread is used as the platform for a seasonal menu of sandwiches and open-face tartines. The breakfast bacon-egg-and-cheese ($16.50) is a petite one, with sweet onion jam, Benton’s bacon and a frizzled skirt of cheddar cheese. In the fall, you might see items like a cider-braised pork belly ($13) served on an onion bun with sauerkraut slaw and pickles.

  Credit cards accepted ? Beer and wine

  408-340-5171 ? ? Order online


  566 Columbus Ave., San Francisco

  Experience the ideal form of Ligurian focaccia here: as vessels for eggplant parmesan.

  North Beach is bustling, the Italian neighborhood given new life by pandemic-era al fresco dining, and Mario’s is no exception. The cappuccino cafe, owned by the Crismanti family, dates back to 1971 and remains a favorite of neighborhood locals and tourists heading up to Coit Tower. (Contrary to the name, the shop hasn’t sold cigars in decades.) What makes the sandwiches sing is the green onion focaccia, made fresh daily at Liguria Bakery just across the park. The pillow-soft bread makes a pleasant contrast with a filling of crunchy breaded eggplant ($13.25) slathered in marinara sauce and topped with melted Swiss cheese. Another popular option is the hearty, meatloaf-size meatball sandwich ($13.25). Alternate rich bites of beef with nibbles of the whole pickled pepperoncini you get on the side.

  Credit cards accepted ? Beer and wine

  415-362-0536 ? ? Order online


  3762 Piedmont Ave., Oakland

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  An Oakland Asian American sandwich pop-up with a menu that changes weekly.

  At a weekend pop-up at fine dining restaurant M?go, Albert Ok has been wowing diners with superlative sandwiches featuring scratch-made ingredients. With a capacity of only 250 sandwiches per week, Ok’s team sells out quickly, much to the chagrin of their fans. The menu changes, with few repeats. Many of the sandwiches are inspired by Asian dishes, like the crunchy and numbing Sichuan hot chicken ($14), a take on bánh mì with Spam and lemongrass grilled pork ($14), and a steamed bread stuffed with succulent pork belly and topped with okonomiyaki garnishes like bonito flakes and nori.

  Credit cards accepted ? Soft drinks ? Order online


  4055 Irving St., San Francisco

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  Pair natural wines with hoagies at this Outer Sunset wine bar and shop.

  Now open for indoor and outdoor dining for the first time since it opened in 2020, Palm City Wines is building on its status as a neighborhood hangout. In lieu of normal wine bar operations, co-owners Monica Wong and Dennis Cantwell found success in turning Palm City into a hoagie takeout spot during the pandemic. With restrictions lifted, you can now have a glass of natural wine with your big sandwich. The made-to-order sandwiches come on custom sesame seed-crusted rolls from Rosalind Bakery and contain fillings like garlicky roasted pork with bitter broccoli rabe ($17), roasted cauliflower ($16) and mortadella with spicy aioli ($17). Small bites, like garlic-cheese spread ($11) and white bean salad ($12) are also on offer.

  Credit cards accepted ? Beer and wine ? Order online


  1901 San Jose Ave., San Francisco

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  A San Francisco institution with superlative Dutch crunch bread.

  While the Tannous brothers, who opened this Mission Terrace corner store in 1975, have now retired, the sandwiches remain. For many locals, this shop has been about more than the sandwiches: Working the counter was a common first part-time job for high school students, and the Tannous family often sponsored community and sporting events. The shop, decked out with hand-written signs and a row of industrial toaster ovens, has an old-school San Francisco vibe that you just can’t fake. Signatures include the Simon special ($13.99), with pastrami, turkey and shredded lettuce spackled together with melted cheddar cheese, and a hot and cheesy roast beef sandwich ($13.99). Unlike soggier incarnations that run rampant in the Bay Area’s sandwich scene, this shop’s Dutch crunch bread actually has some real crunch to it.

  Credit cards accepted ? Liquors

  415-587-2345 ? ? Order online


  Cheffy sandwiches by a pop-up that sells in Mountain View and the Marin Farmers’ Market.

  Former Pinterest corporate chef Nick Rappoport found himself adrift when the office closed in response to the pandemic, so he and partner Melissa Johnson founded Rōzmary Kitchen, a catering company that also sells sandwiches around the Bay Area. Each sandwich is served on a 10-inch sesame Dutch crunch roll from Mountain View bakery the Midwife and the Baker. They’re full of surprising components, like the poblano-corn slaw that sweetens up the pastrami and brisket sandwich ($16) and the creamy smoked sweet potatoes in Rappoport’s take on the bánh mì ($15). You’re limited to four sandwiches or salads with each order, so choose wisely.

  Credit cards accepted ? None


  903 Lincoln Ave., San Rafael

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  A Puerto Rican standby fills French rolls with Caribbean fillings.

  Hot pressed sandwiches make up much of the menu at Marisol Hernandez and Victor Cielo’s Puerto Rican powerhouse, which has two locations in San Rafael and Mill Valley. At first, the Paraíso ($12.45) looks like your run-of-the-mill cheese and steak sandwich, but the addition of ripe plantains makes it exceptional by giving each bite a mellow, sweet finish. The pressed French bread, which comes with every sandwich, generates loud crackles as you chew. The restaurant is also one of Marin County’s few sources of Cubano sandwiches ($11.45), that iconic lunch of roasted pork, ham, pickles, mustard and Swiss cheese.

  Credit cards accepted ? Soft drinks

  415-451-4765 ? ? Order online


  2701 Eighth St., Berkeley

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  Berkeley’s favorite lunch destination is all about salads and sandwiches composed from gorgeous local produce.

  In Kelsie Kerr’s house, vegetables reign supreme. The salads and sandwiches are packed with thoughtful treatments of seasonal, directly sourced produce that will convince even the most die-hard kale skeptics to accept greens into their hearts. Each salad is a symphony of explosive pickles, nutty hummus, tender grains, grassy herbs and tomatoes at their peak. Sandwiches might include rosemary-scented Llano Seco pork with zucchini carpaccio ($13.50), or baked ricotta ($13) with a bright and faintly sour cilantro-sorrel pesto. There’s nothing like Kerr’s brown bag lunch ($21.75), a packed-up combination of sandwich, salad and cookies that really makes you feel taken care of.

  Credit cards accepted ? Soft drinks

  510-356-2261 ? ? Order online


  37 New Montgomery St., San Francisco

  After a long hiatus, downtown San Francisco’s sandwich window is open again.

  I was first sent to the Sentinel by a friend who told me it had the best sandwiches he’d ever had, and the menu didn’t disappoint. In the category of downtown lunch options, the Sentinel consistently punches above its weight with its creative, scratch-made fillings and breads. Deviled egg salad ($8.50) gets a dose of chile paste, and a lamb and eggplant ($11) sandwich is bulked up with saucy chickpeas and herb pesto. Sandwiches come on soft, house-made wheat rolls; some specials get grilled focaccia. In a charming little touch, every order gets an Andes mint. While office workers stayed home in 2020, owner Dennis Leary put the restaurant in hibernation. He recently elevated longtime sous chef Luis Contreras to partner status, giving him the Sentinel’s reins for its reopening in June 2021.

  Credit cards accepted ? Soft drinks

  415-769-8109 ?


  820 Ulloa St., San Francisco

  The old-school West Portal shop churns out enormous toasted deli sandwiches.

  Hot pastrami ($7.70 and up) is one of the most popular items on the menu here, and for good reason. Thin slices of salty pastrami are seared on a griddle, then loaded into toasted French bread with shredded lettuce, tomato, “secret sauce” and onions. The tiny, wood-paneled counter spot has been open since 1981, and its walls, filled with celebrity photos, autographs and local sports memorabilia, speak to that. Lines get long with a restaurant capacity of eight, so call ahead.

  Credit cards accepted ? Soft drinks

  415-564-1455 ?


  3505 17th St. B, San Francisco

  If you’re going to Dolores Park, don’t forget to drop by Turner’s for lunch.

  In 2015, former Zuni Cafe chef de cuisine Ken Turner went from leading the storied kitchen to making sandwiches next to sunny Dolores Park. Here, he takes inspiration from the seasonal philosophy of California cuisine as well as disparate sources from around the globe. The elote ($14) is a turkey sandwich upgraded with cotija cheese, Tajín seasoning, roasted poblano peppers and lime — the flavors of elote asado, the classic Mexican street food. Don’t miss Turner’s cheffy take on the walking taco: an ounce of bowfin caviar, dill and Mexican sour cream presented with your choice of potato chips ($14).

  Credit cards accepted ? Soft drinks

  415-621-3505 ? ? Order online


  1227 Main St., St. Helena

  Popular Wine Country pit stop for hefty and filling sandwiches.

  Tourists hopping around Napa Valley wineries refuel at this classic deli in St. Helena, where they’re able to enjoy sandwiches made to soak up all that Cabernet Sauvignon they’ve been swigging. Sandwiches ($11) here get extra oomph from generous swipes of horseradish and the secret “Giugni juice”: a concoction of herbs, garlic, oil and red wine vinegar that you can also buy by the bottle ($15.99). Choose from about two dozen cold cut and charcuterie fillings for your custom sandwich; while the finished products measure just 6 inches, the fillings are generously applied. To skip the wait, call ahead or order online.

  Credit cards accepted ? Soft drinks

  707-963-3421 ? ? Order online

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