The great thing about sandwiches is that they can be so many things—it’s just a stack of bread, meat, vegetables and condiments, and the whole is bigger than the sum of its parts. When you get a good sandwich it’s like a symphony. Bread is very important—lots of places in San Francisco use toasted sourdough baguettes or Dutch crunch, which just tears your mouth apart.
I go to Charlie’s Deli Café, which is near my house in Bernal Heights. It’s a straight-up deli, and you can get anything you want. Their specialties aren’t any big deal, and I don’t have a particular favorite, but they make a good sandwich, and you can eat it across the street at Precita Park and watch people play with their dogs.
The pork bánh mì at Saigon Sandwich is one of my favorites. You can’t beat this sandwich for satisfaction—you’ve got the crunchy cilantro, the slices of jalapeño. Even if I’m not hungry when I drive by there, I stop and get a sandwich, because they’re so cheap and I know I’ll want it an hour later. That’s how it is with that sandwich.
Then there’s the meatball sandwich at Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store. Hands down, it’s the best meatball sandwich I’ve ever had. Oh man, I mean, it’s got the perfect sauce, and the perfect amount of sauce, and melted cheese and great meatballs. It’s messy but not running all over and dripping. It’s on a soft, sub-style roll, nothing too uppity. When it comes to sandwiches, I’m somewhat of a purist. I react against trying to fancy things up that shouldn’t be fancied.
Where to get them:
Charlie’s Deli Café 3202 Folsom St., 415-641-5051
Saigon Sandwich 560 Larkin St., 415-474-5698
Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store Café 566 Columbus Ave., 415-362-0536