When tasked with finding the perfect lunch, foodies can always turn to sandwiches, a reliable and satisfying option. There are sandwiches a plenty in the city of San Francisco, many of which have made top lists or guidebooks. What these lists don’t include are the handful sandwich shops that have hardly made it past the local word of mouth, the places are often missed because of their discreet surroundings. Whether tucked away in a quiet part of town or lodged within a grocery store, these unlikely shops offer some of the best lunches in the whole city.
1. That’s It Market
To the hasty eye, That’s It Market may look like another rundown corner store. Settled into the heart of the Mission, this grocery store and food stop is a local favorite. Come with a big appetite, because That’s it serves up a mean torta, or Mexican sandwich. The grocer prides itself in serving the world’s largest torta cubana, which includes avocado, ham, hot dog, chorizo, eggs, breaded beef, and guacamole (to name a few). Sharing with a friend (or three) is highly recommended.
2. Dinosaurs 2
Don’t walk too fast, or you’ll miss Dinosaurs 2, a small shack overshadowed by the neighborhood Walgreens pharmacy. Vietnamese sandwiches, or banh mi, are taken to the next level at this closet sized joint, the second of three locations. French rolls are crisped in the oven, and your choice of meat (or tofu!) is stuffed inside along with jalapenos, cilantro, and marinated vegetables. If you’re adventurous, order the avocado milkshake, a decadent and unique dessert drink. Do come before the lunchtime crowd, as it can be quite a wait.
3. Gene’s Liquor
You wouldn’t think to come into this neighborhood liquor store for some of the best sandwiches in the city. Despite its modest exterior, Gene’s serves up the perfect lunch. You’ll find the traditional deli sandwiches on the menu, but it’s the deceivingly light and simply delicious sauce that sets these babies apart. As my lunchtime favorite during the high school years, Gene’s has kept it’s lines long with the same great sandwiches and that tangy, secret sauce.
Photo: Andrew Baber
4. The Yellow Submarine
503 Irving St, San Francisco, CA 94122, United States (map)
Serving up hot, Boston style sub sandwiches since 1971, the Yellow Submarine is just blocks from San Francisco’s Golden Gate park. As a neighborhood favorite, residents and park goers frequent the homey little shop, which you can certainly tell has been around for a while. Portions are massive, and your deli favorites are piled high with meat, cheese, jalapenos, and then some. While the usual sandwiches are awesome, the fries are a true standout. A hybrid of potato goodness, these fries look like thicker cuts of kettle chips, with the texture of starchy french fries. Prepare to be full.
5. Wooly Pig Café
Only blocks away from the Yellow Submarine, Wooly Pig Café sits at the border of the Inner Sunset and Haight districtss. Their most infamous and delectable offering is the self-titled Wooly Pig, which features Shanghai style braised caramel pork belly, organic Mizuna grees, and pickled shallots on a toasted challah roll. The sweet pork and bitter greens along with the pillowy bread make for a heavenly pairing. The Wooly Pig is definitely on the rich side, so make sure you bring your appetite and a few napkins. Make sure to get there early, because they will run out of their most popular offering.
6. Roxie Food Center
1901 San Jose Ave, San Francisco, CA 94112, United States (map)
Like Gene’s, Roxie is simply a corner store from the outside. Classic, no frill, deli sandwiches are served at the sandwich counter. Take your pick of turkey, pastrami, roast beef with your choice of cheese to create the good ol’ deli sandwiches you know and love. Though the toppings are traditional, the real treasure of Roxie is the Dutch crunch bread. Slightly sweet, crunchy on the outside, and chewy on the inside, the bread is really the icing on the cake.