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Roast beef at Lucinda’s Deli
Lucinda’s Deli
Patricia Chang

14 Stellar Lunch Spots Across San Francisco

The answer to the time-honored question: What’s for lunch?

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Lucinda’s Deli
| Patricia Chang

Finding a go-to spot for a reviving lunch has long been the white collar recipe to get through a slogging work week. It’s the kryptonite to an otherwise overwhelming 9-to-5 job; lunch gets us to the finish line where a satisfying clock out awaits. Working from home doesn’t need to stop the mid-day ritual, either; in Japantown there’s Marufuku Ramen, or one could try Lazy Susan in West Portal. For those headed to the office — or WeWork or cafe — and for those staying home, hit any of these 14 standout lunch destinations across the city for a reminder of why we’re working in the first place.

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Popi's Oysterette

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There’s no shortage of lunch options on Chestnut Street, but, since opening earlier this year, Popi’s Oysterette has been winning over the neighborhood with a menu of raw bar standards and seafood-centric favorites. You can’t go wrong with a platter of shellfish and a glass of bubbles for a leisurely lunch, but the menu also offers more casual fare including fish and chips, salads, and a shrimp or lobster roll if that’s more the mood. There’s a small dining room, a couple of bar seats with a view of the kitchen, and a smattering of tables on the bustling sidewalk. 

Lauren Saria

Maison Nico

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Elegant French viennoiserie is the specialty at this bakery and cafe, tucked down a side street just off Columbus Avenue. You’ll know it by the line of customers that often snakes down the sidewalk outside but it’s worth the wait for a thick slab of pate en croute or a jar of rustic, garlicky rillette de cochon served with sliced baguette and a medley of pickles. Snag one of the seats inside and enjoy your light fare with a canned cocktail or glass of wine.

Chef Nico of Maison Nico Patricia Chang

The power lunch lives on at Akikos, the stylish new iteration of chef Ray Lee’s longstanding sushi restaurant, which opened in the East Cut earlier this year. For lunch, the restaurant offers a $150 omakase experience that includes a procession of small bites such as snow crab-topped chawanmushi and shokupan crowned with toro and caviar, followed by seven pristine pieces of nigiri. The whole meal takes about an hour and a half from start to finish. 

A piece of orange-skinned fish sprinkled with salt. Joseph Weaver

Mattina

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Chef Matt Accarrino’s all-day cafe still only operates Thursday through Sunday, but you can swing by the Fillmore District restaurant for a midday meal of salad, pasta, or charcoal-grilled meats four days a week. The fresh pastas star local and seasonal ingredients like spring vegetables and Point Reyes Toma cheese while the meaty entrees include smoked brisket or a massive pork chop with a zesty salsa verde on the side. Don’t skip dessert: there’s a creamy buffalo milk ice cream sandwich that’s not to be missed. 

Stephanie Amberg

Kin Khao

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Widely accepted as one of the finest Thai restaurants in town, Kin Khao is the more casual sister restaurant to owner Pim Techamuanvivit’s Nari in Japantown. Here, the menu skews more toward street food, so don’t skip dishes like the mushroom hor mok and fish sauce-infused Pretty Hot Wings, which do require getting your hands a little messy but are more than worth sacrificing a few extra napkins.

Lauren Saria

Birdbox

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This fast-casual fried chicken shop from the team behind Michelin-starred Birdsong might offer up some of the most exceptional birds in the Bay. Not only do they source quality chicken, all organic and free-range, but they also fry them flawlessly and then douse them in an array of funky and unexpected seasonings: think Classic Yeast, Spicy Falcon, and sour cream and onion. There’s buttery cornbread to be had on the side, and a double-fermented hot sauce if you’re into spice.

Cielito Lindo

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This small Mexican restaurant planted its flag in the Outer Sunset, bringing with it a menu of flavor-packed tortas and tacos. The stars of the show are the quesabirria tacos, which can be ordered as a plate of four or individually. The tortillas get grilled to a crisp and shelter a mountain of tender meat that’s best enjoyed with a shower of cilantro and raw onions. The cozy blue-and-white space offers a few tables where diners can enjoy a meal under a canopy of papel picado. 

Lucinda's Deli & More

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A former Horsefeather chef opened this sandwich spot near Alamo Square because he likes taking a mortadella sub to the park with his pitbull. The sandwiches are simple, but the chef touches come through with lots of different spreads and toppings, from flavored mayos and housemade barbecue sauce to pickled and crispy onions. Drop by for a latte from the meet-cute team behind Third Wheel Coffee, too.

Roast beef at Lucinda’s Deli Patricia Chang

Beit Rima

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The menu of simple but excellently executed Arabic food at this casual full-service restaurant never ceases to satisfy. Just off the main drag in Cole Valley, Beit Rima serves flavorful hummus, smoky baba ghanoush, and grilled meats in either a comfy dining room or at tables outside. It’s a solid choice for vegetarians and omnivores alike.

Stewed fava beans at Beit Rima. Beit Rima

Palm City

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Palm City calls itself the “premier westernmost hoagie destination in the country.” It’s an Outer Sunset cafe and wine shop where Dennis Cantwell and Monica Wong serve the Philly-style sandwich with mortadella, finocchiona, mozzarella, parmesan, arugula, and nduja mayo; traditional garlic roasted pork with broccoli raab, toma, and cherry pepper aioli; and a well-stuffed BLT. It’s open for seating at tables inside and out, first come, first served.

Hoagie from Palm City Patricia Chang

Chuck’s Takeaway

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Chef Charles Phan’s casual sandwich counter in the Mission goes all in on an array of sandwiches. The CP OG #3 is the chef’s take on a classic banh mi built on a baked-in-house baguette using the chef’s pate and pickles. It’s essentially a takeout-only situation but these handhelds make a perfect park lunch.

The CP’S No. 3 on a baguette, with pate, pork cha, chicken liver pate, shallot mayo, cucumber, and jalapeno. Patricia Chang

La Palma Mexicatessen

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Pop into this classic Mission District deli and grocery store for fresh tortillas, sweat-inducing salsas, and a menu of Mexican food offered to go including burritos, tacos, nachos, tamales, and more. The pro-move is to get a foil-wrapped Mission-style super burrito, a San Francisco special, which can be stuffed with your choice of protein. Carnitas makes a respectable option but if you want to break out of the usual suspects, go for La Palma’s chicharrones.

A burrito, salsa, and a bag or tortillas on a table. Nat Belkov

Dinosaurs

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The Ocean Avenue location of mini-chain Dinosaurs makes for a great grab-and-go lunch option, with affordable Vietnamese iced coffee, avocado milkshakes, spring rolls, and a good-sized banh mi stuffed with shaking beef, lemongrass pork, or spicy tuna.

Dinosaurs

Baby's Eatery & Palabok

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There are just a handful of places in San Francisco where one can reliably get crispy lumpia, rich dinuguan, and tender chicken adobo six days a week from morning until night. Excelsior residents and devotees alike head to Baby’s for affordable prices and dynamite flavor. It’s a “turo-turo” restaurant, literally translated as “point-point” and common in the Philippines, so most dishes are on display on steam tables and ready to eat within seconds.

Popi's Oysterette

There’s no shortage of lunch options on Chestnut Street, but, since opening earlier this year, Popi’s Oysterette has been winning over the neighborhood with a menu of raw bar standards and seafood-centric favorites. You can’t go wrong with a platter of shellfish and a glass of bubbles for a leisurely lunch, but the menu also offers more casual fare including fish and chips, salads, and a shrimp or lobster roll if that’s more the mood. There’s a small dining room, a couple of bar seats with a view of the kitchen, and a smattering of tables on the bustling sidewalk. 

Lauren Saria

Maison Nico

Elegant French viennoiserie is the specialty at this bakery and cafe, tucked down a side street just off Columbus Avenue. You’ll know it by the line of customers that often snakes down the sidewalk outside but it’s worth the wait for a thick slab of pate en croute or a jar of rustic, garlicky rillette de cochon served with sliced baguette and a medley of pickles. Snag one of the seats inside and enjoy your light fare with a canned cocktail or glass of wine.

Chef Nico of Maison Nico Patricia Chang

Akikos

The power lunch lives on at Akikos, the stylish new iteration of chef Ray Lee’s longstanding sushi restaurant, which opened in the East Cut earlier this year. For lunch, the restaurant offers a $150 omakase experience that includes a procession of small bites such as snow crab-topped chawanmushi and shokupan crowned with toro and caviar, followed by seven pristine pieces of nigiri. The whole meal takes about an hour and a half from start to finish. 

A piece of orange-skinned fish sprinkled with salt. Joseph Weaver

Mattina

Chef Matt Accarrino’s all-day cafe still only operates Thursday through Sunday, but you can swing by the Fillmore District restaurant for a midday meal of salad, pasta, or charcoal-grilled meats four days a week. The fresh pastas star local and seasonal ingredients like spring vegetables and Point Reyes Toma cheese while the meaty entrees include smoked brisket or a massive pork chop with a zesty salsa verde on the side. Don’t skip dessert: there’s a creamy buffalo milk ice cream sandwich that’s not to be missed. 

Stephanie Amberg

Kin Khao

Widely accepted as one of the finest Thai restaurants in town, Kin Khao is the more casual sister restaurant to owner Pim Techamuanvivit’s Nari in Japantown. Here, the menu skews more toward street food, so don’t skip dishes like the mushroom hor mok and fish sauce-infused Pretty Hot Wings, which do require getting your hands a little messy but are more than worth sacrificing a few extra napkins.

Lauren Saria

Birdbox

This fast-casual fried chicken shop from the team behind Michelin-starred Birdsong might offer up some of the most exceptional birds in the Bay. Not only do they source quality chicken, all organic and free-range, but they also fry them flawlessly and then douse them in an array of funky and unexpected seasonings: think Classic Yeast, Spicy Falcon, and sour cream and onion. There’s buttery cornbread to be had on the side, and a double-fermented hot sauce if you’re into spice.

Cielito Lindo

This small Mexican restaurant planted its flag in the Outer Sunset, bringing with it a menu of flavor-packed tortas and tacos. The stars of the show are the quesabirria tacos, which can be ordered as a plate of four or individually. The tortillas get grilled to a crisp and shelter a mountain of tender meat that’s best enjoyed with a shower of cilantro and raw onions. The cozy blue-and-white space offers a few tables where diners can enjoy a meal under a canopy of papel picado. 

Lucinda's Deli & More

A former Horsefeather chef opened this sandwich spot near Alamo Square because he likes taking a mortadella sub to the park with his pitbull. The sandwiches are simple, but the chef touches come through with lots of different spreads and toppings, from flavored mayos and housemade barbecue sauce to pickled and crispy onions. Drop by for a latte from the meet-cute team behind Third Wheel Coffee, too.

Roast beef at Lucinda’s Deli Patricia Chang

Beit Rima

The menu of simple but excellently executed Arabic food at this casual full-service restaurant never ceases to satisfy. Just off the main drag in Cole Valley, Beit Rima serves flavorful hummus, smoky baba ghanoush, and grilled meats in either a comfy dining room or at tables outside. It’s a solid choice for vegetarians and omnivores alike.

Stewed fava beans at Beit Rima. Beit Rima

Palm City

Palm City calls itself the “premier westernmost hoagie destination in the country.” It’s an Outer Sunset cafe and wine shop where Dennis Cantwell and Monica Wong serve the Philly-style sandwich with mortadella, finocchiona, mozzarella, parmesan, arugula, and nduja mayo; traditional garlic roasted pork with broccoli raab, toma, and cherry pepper aioli; and a well-stuffed BLT. It’s open for seating at tables inside and out, first come, first served.

Hoagie from Palm City Patricia Chang

Chuck’s Takeaway

Chef Charles Phan’s casual sandwich counter in the Mission goes all in on an array of sandwiches. The CP OG #3 is the chef’s take on a classic banh mi built on a baked-in-house baguette using the chef’s pate and pickles. It’s essentially a takeout-only situation but these handhelds make a perfect park lunch.

The CP’S No. 3 on a baguette, with pate, pork cha, chicken liver pate, shallot mayo, cucumber, and jalapeno. Patricia Chang

La Palma Mexicatessen

Pop into this classic Mission District deli and grocery store for fresh tortillas, sweat-inducing salsas, and a menu of Mexican food offered to go including burritos, tacos, nachos, tamales, and more. The pro-move is to get a foil-wrapped Mission-style super burrito, a San Francisco special, which can be stuffed with your choice of protein. Carnitas makes a respectable option but if you want to break out of the usual suspects, go for La Palma’s chicharrones.

A burrito, salsa, and a bag or tortillas on a table. Nat Belkov

Dinosaurs

The Ocean Avenue location of mini-chain Dinosaurs makes for a great grab-and-go lunch option, with affordable Vietnamese iced coffee, avocado milkshakes, spring rolls, and a good-sized banh mi stuffed with shaking beef, lemongrass pork, or spicy tuna.

Dinosaurs

Baby's Eatery & Palabok

There are just a handful of places in San Francisco where one can reliably get crispy lumpia, rich dinuguan, and tender chicken adobo six days a week from morning until night. Excelsior residents and devotees alike head to Baby’s for affordable prices and dynamite flavor. It’s a “turo-turo” restaurant, literally translated as “point-point” and common in the Philippines, so most dishes are on display on steam tables and ready to eat within seconds.

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