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First Bite: A Tale of Three Sandwiches

This week, a good proportion on my meals have been between two slices of bread. The sandwich is a satisfying creation, equally suited to breakfast, lunch and dinner and co-opted by nearly every culture in the world.

Take, for example, the Chicago beef sandwich at Tony's Coal-Fired Pizza and Slice House in North Beach. Likely "invented" by Italian immigrants working in the stockyards of the Windy City, an Italian beef sandwich makes for some fine eating. At Tony's, they slow-roast a beef bottom round in the coal oven, let it cool, then thinly slice and pile on a length of crusty baguette. Spicy giardiniera (a pickled vegetable salad that usually includes carrots, cauliflower and bell pepper) is added, then the whole mess is dipped (or soaked, depending on your preference) in a thin beef jus. Think of this as an Italian version of the venerable French Dip sandwich—unabashedly messy, a bit greasy, very satisfying, very large, and only $7. 1556 Stockton Street, 415-835-9888

Across town, a new sandwich upstart, but a stones throw from the former Ike's location (RIP), has moved in. At Dinosaurs, the sandwich board is limited to a handful of variations on the banh mi sandwich, which, if you haven't noticed, is steadily heading skyward on the trend-o-meter. You can get it here with lemongrass pork, or with pork and pâté, or with crispy tofu and rice noodles (starch on starch). All sandwiches come with pickled daikon and carrot, slices of jalapeño chilies and, inexplicably, vegenaise. They're all just $4.50, the two guys working the counter are very friendly, and you can pick up a bag of shrimp chips and a well-chilled coconut water while you're there. (Coconut water, by the way, is my new addiction. Yes, I am ashamed.) 16th Street at Prosper, 415-503-1421

Last Friday, I made a noble attempt to eat a burger and the shelling bean salad at Bar Tartine. After encountering an hour long wait (and subsequently learning they had their busiest night of service ever) I walked over to Clare's Deli. Order at Clare's, and you can get your sandwiches and tater tots delivered to your bar stool at the 500 Club next door (!). Or, if you prefer, you can eat in, in which case your choice of sandwich is presented with a flourish on a wooden board, with lots of pickles on the side. I had the pastrami sandwich and it was a solid choice, with lots of thinly sliced, spiced beef, kraut and Swiss cheese on rye. They tout their homemade Thousand Island dressing, to which I have to ask—how hard is it to mix mayonnaise, ketchup and pickles together? Nevertheless, the price tag of $7 and the convenient location make the success of this business almost a given. 3505 B 17th Street, 415-621-3505