Under normal circumstances you’d have to wait until the end of the week to get your fix because, as fans know, Friday usually is the only day of the week when Dennis Leary’s cult-favorite sandwich counter the Sentinel busts out its best seller, a meaty corned beef sandwich served on fresh baked bread. But this week is special — Thursday being St. Patrick’s Day — so Leary’s making an exception and offering the corned beef sandwiches on March 17. Oh, and they’re free.
If you want in, you might want to plan ahead: Leary says he’ll start the giveaway around 11:30 and there will be just 50 free sandwiches up for grabs. For those not familiar with the sandwich in question, it’s served not on San Francisco’s favorite crusty-topped Dutch crunch but on grilled slabs on made-in-house focaccia and stacks slices of corned beef from Roberts Corned Meats with Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and coleslaw. Leary, who was a fine-dining chef before pivoting into a bar owner and sandwich savant, says it’s been on the menu for 12 years. “It’s greater than the sum of its parts,” he attests.
Leary, who also owns the historic House of Shields next door to the Sentinel and a couple of other bars in the area, admits the sandwich giveaway is about more than just celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. He’s hoping the schtick will bring more people back downtown — if only for the afternoon. Both the Sentinel and House of Shields reopened after year-long closures due to the pandemic in June 2021 but Leary says business has been slow to return. The office building that rises above the bar remains mostly empty, he says, and the Palace Hotel across the street still hasn’t seen occupancy rates rebound to pre-pandemic levels.
Of course, with Twitter reopening its offices this week (though remote work remains an option for those who want to stay home) and more tech companies following suit in the coming month, there’s some hope the area may finally begin to recover.
If nothing else, tomorrow there are free sandwiches.