A Guide to the Best Sandwiches in the Bay Area

| June 30, 2014 | 52 Comments
  • 52 Comments
Putting things between two pieces of bread has been around since there was bread. But, now sandwiches can be anything you want them to be. Photo: Jill Catley/Flickr

Putting things between two pieces of bread has been around since there was bread. But, these days sandwiches can be anything you want them to be. Photo: Jill Catley/Flickr

Sandwiches have been a staple of your diet since you were a kid and your mom was still cutting off the crust. But, these days there’s more options than ham and cheese or peanut butter and jelly. And, in the Bay Area those options pretty much cover anything you can put in between bread. Most of what you can put in a roll, it turns out, are high-quality delicious ingredients. So, stop packing a sad lunch and pick up a sandwich. The only problem is that even if you eat sandwiches everyday during your lunch hour, you’ll never taste all that the Bay has to offer.

Here are some of our favorite sandwiches in the Bay Area. Share your favorites in the comments and we’ll add them to the list. Just remember: these aren’t your mother’s sandwiches.

Bakesale Betty
5098 Telegraph Ave., Oakland
(510) 985-1213
Tues-Sat, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Why? Bakesale Betty may have slightly changed their signature recipe earlier this year, but the buttermilk fried chicken sandwich is still a Bay Area classic, with lines around the block of its Oakland location to buy one of the $9 sandwiches. The place makes about 600 sandwiches each day — more on Fridays and Saturdays. Australian chef Alison Barakat mans the kitchen in her blue wig, where the fried chicken sandwich may be the crown jewel but the cookies aren’t bad either.

Photo: Courtesy of Genova's Deli

Photo: Courtesy of Genova’s Deli

Genova’s Delicatessen and Ravioli
5095 Telegraph Ave. #A, Oakland (additional locations in Walnut Creek)
(510) 652-7401
Mon-Sat, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Sun, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Why? While this place is a full deli and sort of a market, the Italian-style sandwiches are truly the highlight. Try the Italian combo with Dutch crunch roll or the roast beef sourdough with prosciutto. Get a ticket number as soon as you walk in, because it may be a wait. And, if you go during the busy lunch hour they may be out of Dutch crunch roll, so it’s worth going early.

Roli Roti
Ferry Building Farmers’ Market – Saturday and Thursday and SOMA StrEat Food Park – Friday (additional farmers’ market locations)
(510) 780-0300
Thurs, 10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.; Fri, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.; Sat, 8 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Why? Roli Roti may be known for its rotisserie chicken food trucks. But, the porchetta sandwich has become a Bay Area favorite since being served in 2006. While the Roli Roti truck travels to farmers’ market, the porchetta is only offered at certain locations — primarily on Thursday and Saturdays at the Ferry Building and Fridays at the SOMA StrEat Food Park. The pork is juicy from cooking on a spit and served with onion and fennel.

Little Lucca
724 El Camino Real, South San Francisco
(650) 589-8916
Mon-Fri, 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sat, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sun, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Burlingame Shopping Plaza, Burlingame
(650) 697-8389
Mon-Fri, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sat, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sun, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Why? The sandwiches are huge and the choices are nearly unlimited, but the real reason the line is out the door is for the special sauces. Get anything that comes with the original garlic sauce. It changes a good sandwich into a great sandwich. You can also call ahead and pick-up if you don’t want to wait in line.

Photo: Courtesy of Southie

Photo: Courtesy of Southie

Southie (from Wood Tavern)
6311 College Ave., Oakland
(510) 654-0100
Mon-Sat, 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Sun, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Why? Opened in 2011 as a casual sister restaurant right next to Wood Tavern, Southie offers a changing menu of sandwiches that locals and out-of-towners love. The giant meatball sandwich gets a lot of attention, but the Dungeness crab sandwich is worth trying during crab season and the pork belly sandwich is covered with carrot, kohlrabi slaw, and crispy jalapeños. Why not follow it up with a different kind of sandwich: an ice cream sandwich — homemade cherry vanilla ice cream in between two gluten-free brownies.

Photo: Courtesy of Rhea's Deli

Photo: Courtesy of Rhea’s Deli

Rhea’s Deli
800 Valencia St., San Francisco
(415) 282-5255
Mon-Thurs, 11:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Fri-Sun, 1:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Why? For the Korean steak sandwich. The deli may be in a small shop, but the meat on the Korean steak sandiwch is juicy and tender and comes with a variety of flavors: spicy chili-garlic sauce, garlic aioli, lettuce, cheese, jalapenos, and multiple kinds of onions. Be careful about the spicy sauce, unless you really like things spicy.

Photo: Courtesy of Wise Sons Deli

Photo: Courtesy of Wise Sons Deli

Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen
3150 24th St., San Francisco
(415) 787-3354
Wed-Fri, 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.; Sat, Sun, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Ferry Building Farmers’ Market
Tues, Thurs, 9:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.
736 Mission St., San Francisco (inside the Contemporary Jewish Museum)
(415) 655-7887
Everyday, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Why? This New York-style deli is considered one of the best in the city. It was named by Bon Appetit one of the four best Jewish delis in the country. Try the pastrami. The Semite sandwich, which won over the Bon Appetit critics, is pastrami, Swiss cheese, and fried egg on rye. The sandwiches aren’t huge and the menu isn’t limitless, but your stomach won’t mind.

The Sentinel
37 New Montgomery St., San Francisco
284-9960
Mon-Fri, breakfast 7:30 – 10:30 a.m., lunch 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Why? The menu changes, but the classic corned beef sandwich is one of the best in the Bay Area and typically on the menu. The meat comes on fresh-baked foccacia with Russian dressing and shredded cabbage. Bonus: you also get a housemade pickle and an Andes mint for after.

Saigon Sandwich
560 Larkin St., San Francisco
(415) 474-5698
Everyday, 7 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Why? Tucked into the Tenderloin, Saigon Sandwich specializes in banh mi — the traditional French-Vietnamese sandwich with grilled meat and crunchy, pickled veggies on a baguette. The New York Times recommends Saigon Sandwich’s combo as some of the best banh mi in the country, though locals also love the meatball pork sandwich. And, anyone can love the price: less than $4.

Ike’s Place
3489 16th St. San Francisco (multiple other locations)
(415) 553‑6888
Everyday, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Why? Ike’s has become a Bay Area staple, with a dozen locations. And, it got that way by delivering a massive selection of delicious sandwiches, including gluten-free options. But, the favorite is Kryptonite (only you’re no Superman) — a massive stuffed sandwich with six kinds of meat, avocado, beer-battered onion rings, extra pepper Jack cheese, mozzarella sticks, pesto, and jalapeno poppers. If you’re looking to put yourself in a sandwich coma, or just order a normal-sized lunch, call ahead.

The Bay’s Best Sandwiches, According To KQED’s Social Media Fans:

“The pollo sandwich at Sol Food with the hot sauce & a side of maduros. Worth crossing the Golden Gate.”
Ava Zavora, Twitter

“The banh mi at Castro Tarts is the best ever.”
Robert la Bohème, Facebook

“As a vegan, the best sandwich I’ve ever had would be the tempeh/quinoa sliders at Portal in Oakland. I’m actually kind of angry I’m not eating one right now.”
Logan Bartling, Facebook

Irish breakfast sandwich at Beachside Coffee Bar and Kitchen. Best sandwich in the world!”
Patrick Maguire, Facebook

Pastrami with everything at Yellow Submarine!”
Jason Thorpe, Facebook

Spicy turkey from Cafe Algiers… Come on now.”
Tobia Martens, Facebook

The turkey sandwich at Arguello Supermarket
Seth Heller, Facebook

The Tri Tip Sandwich from Brazil Cafe. Olive, pineapples and jalepenos, oh my!”
Joey Lee, Facebook

The Cuban style pork & ham pressed sandwich at ‘wichcraft in downtown SF is fantastic! Crunchy and tender at the same time with great flavors: pickles, aji verde & melted gruyère on ciabatta roll”
Glenn Huang, Facebook

Build Your Own from Lunardi’s Bakery is my favorite. Quality ingredients and the price is right!”
Kacey Scherf, Facebook

Niman Ranch Pulled Pork at Slow, Berkeley!”
Sophie Van Ronsele, Facebook

“Daly City, Mr. Pickle’s Sandwich: ‘DCFD‘ or ‘The Fog.’”
Britta Katharina Lorenz, Facebook

Duc Loi on 18th & Mission has the best damn pork barbecue sandwich in the city and it’s only $5.”
Javier Leocadio Colón, Facebook

Cowgirl Creamery grilled cheese at the Ferry Building, San Francisco.”
Jonathan T. White, Facebook

Genova’s: outstanding! Went to the Oakland location for many years and now the Napa location. Fave is roast beef on Dutch crunch with a side of 3 bean salad.
Geoffrey Hargrove, Facebook

How is almost ANY sandwich from Memphis Minnie’s [San Francisco] not on this list? The pulled pork? Their in housemade pastrami, available only on Wednesdays. The smoked, then fried chicken sandwich? Tri tip?
Laurie Cahn, Facebook

The Lobster Rolls at Old Port Lobster Shack in Redwood City are phenomenal.
Noelle McReynolds, BAB comments

I cannot believe the The Submarine Center in West Portal [San Francisco] is not on this list. Their Hot Pastrami is unbeatable.
Janet Lynn, BAB comments

The Chris sandwich at La Villa’s deli in San Jose is not to be missed. They don’t tell you exactly what’s in it. But man, is it worth trying!
Lindsay Taylor, BAB comments

Davey Jones Deli [Sausalito], hands down. Make your own sandwich with Punjabi carnitas, roasted real turkey (as in Thanksgiving) or fresh brisket, add fixings, homemade sauces. YUM!
Grace Hoffman, BAB comments

California Sourdough in Northeast San Jose is my favorite place, but their sister location, Freshly Baked in downtown is just as good. Their house-seasoned spicy turkey on their steaming fresh sourdough rolls (also made in-house) is to die for.
Carlos Orellana, BAB comments

The Oakland Sandwich from The Grand Tavern [Oakland] is truly divine. Gluten free funnel cake bread, grilled ham & turkey, bacon, pickled onion, dijonaise, and Swiss cheese. Uh-MAZING!
Courtney Baxter, BAB comments

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Category: bay area, Bay Area Bites Food + Drink, Guides, restaurants, bars, cafes, street food and fast food

About the Author ()

Kelly O'Mara is a writer and reporter in the San Francisco Bay Area. She writes about food, health, sports, travel, business and California news. Her work has appeared on KQED, online for Outside Magazine and in Competitor Magazine, among others.
  • linus

    Well then add to it…

  • broshar

    Tortas. That’s It (made famous by Bourdain) or Boos Voni. Both on Mission. If in doubt, get the cubano.