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Deli Board in SoMa.
Deli Board in SoMa.
Photo: Live SoMa

San Francisco's Most Iconic Sandwiches

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Deli Board in SoMa.
| Photo: Live SoMa

The Eaterverse was presented with an important question this week: if you could pick the sandwiches that define your city, the ones that meet with more or less universal acclaim (and the lines to back it up), which would you choose? From downtown corned beef to Mission tortas to a Dutch-crunch wonder made by a dude named Ike (maybe you've heard of him?), these are the 16 lunchtime perennials that place everything that makes SF great between two slices of bread. (Listed in no particular order, by the way.)


Which sandwiches are (and aren't) worthy of iconic greatness? Sound off in the comments.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Meatball Focaccia Sandwich at Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe

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566 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA
(415) 362-0536

The indifferent staff may take a while to get it to your plate, but once you bite into this oven-baked combination of crisp green-onion foccacia, tender meatballs, rich sauce, soft red onion, and melty Swiss cheese, all will be forgiven. Throw in an Anchor Steam for the full effect.

2. Renzo Special at Molinari Delicatessen

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373 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 421-2337
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Grab your preferred roll from the bin (we like it on toasted Liguria Bakery foccacia for an extra $1) and let the friendly Italian crew whip you up this combo of tender prosciutto and coppa with fresh, creamy mozzarella and sweet sun-dried tomatoes.

3. Porchetta Sandwich at Roli Roti

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Brannon St
San Francisco, CA 94103

What can be said about Roli Roti's porchetta that hasn't already been said? You will wait in line for it. A long line. You will smile at the sandwich-maker and be given a chunk of astoundingly glazed skin, as crisp as caramelized sugar. You'll watch as your sandwich is mopped in juice and piled high with tender meat and crunchy arugula and more of that skin. And then you'll be carried away on a cloud of porky deliciousness.

4. Grilled Cheese at Hog Island Oyster Co.

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1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 391-7117
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It may seem counterintuitive that a spot known for its bivalves has one of the best grilled cheeses around, but the triple threat of Cowgirl fromage blanc, mezzo secco, and cave-aged Gruyere on Acme foccacia has become almost as well-known as the oysters at this Ferry Building joint. At $12, it might be the most expensive grilled cheese you ever buy, but damn if it isn't worth it.

5. Boca at Deli Board

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1058 Folsom St
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 552-7687
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A trio of meats (corned beef, pastrami, and brisket) is the cornerstone of Deli Board's most iconic sandwich, which is definitely not for the faint of heart (or those who forgot to refill their Lipitor). Topped with Muenster cheese and brown mustard, it's supreme hangover fare.

6. Corned Beef Sandwich at The Sentinel

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37 New Montgomery St
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 284-9960
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Lunchtime crowds flock to Dennis Leary's sandwich stand for fresh-baked foccacia packed with tender corned beef, creamy Russian dressing, and plenty of shredded cabbage. A housemade pickle and a signature Andes mint for afterwards complete the tableau.

7. BBQ Pork Banh Mi at Saigon Sandwich

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560 Larkin St.
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 474-5698
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Far and away the most inexpensive option on this list, this confoundingly cheap baguette ($3.50!) is packed with tender roast pork, creamy pate, and tons of pickled carrots, jalapeno, and cilantro. It's the Platonic ideal of a banh mi.

8. Menage a Trois at Ike’s Place

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3489 16th St
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 553-6888
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Ike's menu is as long as a Pynchon novel and about as full of wacky names, but this sandwich is the budding empire-builder's perennial best seller: chicken breast, BBQ sauce, honey, cheese, and the signature Dirty Sauce, a garlic aioli.

9. Hot Capicola with a Fried Egg at Giordano Bros.

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3108 16th St
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 437-2767
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We have Pittsburgh to thank for the outstanding all-in-one sandwiches served at these Mission and North Beach twins, which are stuffed with provolone, slaw, and the linchpin, fries. A runny-yolked fried egg completes the tasty melange of hot, creamy, vinegary goodness. Grab a beer and root for whatever Pennsylvania sports team is at it this week.

10. Korean Steak Sandwich at Rhea's Market & Deli

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800 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 282-5255
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This unassuming corner deli blossomed a few years back into a sandwich magnet for Valencia types, and now you'll always find hungry folks waiting for lunch on the benches outside. They're here for a variety of items, but the Korean steak sandwich, with chili and garlic-marinated ribeye, house pickled onions and jalapenos, and plenty of cheese, is the perennial favorite. (In a just world, this spot would be held by the late, lamented pork katsu sandwich, which we're still missing two years after it disappeared from Rhea's menu.)

11. Torta Cubana at That's It Market

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2699 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 285-9833

No less a figure than Bourdain himself has dug into this hulking monster, with every meat you can think of (chorizo, egg, hot dog, bacon, beef milanesa, ham), not to mention the standard beans, avocado, mayo, and jalapeno. It's as much dare as meal, and at $10, worth taking at least once (preferably with Tums in tow).

12. Cheesesteak with Whiz at Phat Philly

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3388 24th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 550-7428
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There's no need to sell anyone on a great cheesesteak, so we'll keep it simple: this is SF's best iteration and they sell Tastykakes, too. All you need to know, really.

13. Aunt Malai's Lao Sausage Sandwich at Pal's Takeaway

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2751 24th St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 203-4911
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The numerous creative sandwiches on offer at Pal's Takeaway make it hard to pick just one, but the perennial favorite is the Lao sausage banh mi, with spicy, lemongrass-infused sausage topped with sweet pickled carrots and bitter greens. It's not always available, so check their Twitter before you visit.

14. Pierna Enchilada Torta at La Torta Gorda

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2833 24th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 642-9600

All the tortas here are great, but it's the pierna enchilada, a mound of pulled pork topped with plenty of beans, avocado, and jalapenos and stuffed inside a crisp-soft torta roll, that makes this 24th St. joint an icon. No need to order big, by the way: the mini version is more than enough for most eaters, and full-size is best for hangovers or leftovers.

15. Turkey Sandwich at Arguello Market

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782 Arguello Blvd
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 751-5121

The sign says "Home of the World Famous Turkey Sandwich," and the sandwich itself delivers: full of juicy, hot roast turkey, it's best ordered on a Dutch crunch roll with the full complement of lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onions. And if you're feeling a little nostalgic for Thanksgiving, they'll add cranberry sauce for an extra 75 cents.

16. Fried Chicken Sandwich at Bakesale Betty

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5098 Telegraph Ave
Oakland, CA 94609
(510) 985-1213
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Each day, the lines extend out the door for the one and only sandwich Bakesale Betty makes: a cold duo of fried chicken and jalapeno-studded, crunchy-spicy slaw on a torpedo roll. It's enormous, delicious, and delivered by a crackling-fast staff that probably continues making these things in their dreams. The gigantic cookies are great for dessert.

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1. Meatball Focaccia Sandwich at Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe

566 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA

The indifferent staff may take a while to get it to your plate, but once you bite into this oven-baked combination of crisp green-onion foccacia, tender meatballs, rich sauce, soft red onion, and melty Swiss cheese, all will be forgiven. Throw in an Anchor Steam for the full effect.

566 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA

2. Renzo Special at Molinari Delicatessen

373 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

Grab your preferred roll from the bin (we like it on toasted Liguria Bakery foccacia for an extra $1) and let the friendly Italian crew whip you up this combo of tender prosciutto and coppa with fresh, creamy mozzarella and sweet sun-dried tomatoes.

373 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133

3. Porchetta Sandwich at Roli Roti

Brannon St, San Francisco, CA 94103

What can be said about Roli Roti's porchetta that hasn't already been said? You will wait in line for it. A long line. You will smile at the sandwich-maker and be given a chunk of astoundingly glazed skin, as crisp as caramelized sugar. You'll watch as your sandwich is mopped in juice and piled high with tender meat and crunchy arugula and more of that skin. And then you'll be carried away on a cloud of porky deliciousness.

Brannon St
San Francisco, CA 94103

4. Grilled Cheese at Hog Island Oyster Co.

1 Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA 94111

It may seem counterintuitive that a spot known for its bivalves has one of the best grilled cheeses around, but the triple threat of Cowgirl fromage blanc, mezzo secco, and cave-aged Gruyere on Acme foccacia has become almost as well-known as the oysters at this Ferry Building joint. At $12, it might be the most expensive grilled cheese you ever buy, but damn if it isn't worth it.

1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94111

5. Boca at Deli Board

1058 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94103

A trio of meats (corned beef, pastrami, and brisket) is the cornerstone of Deli Board's most iconic sandwich, which is definitely not for the faint of heart (or those who forgot to refill their Lipitor). Topped with Muenster cheese and brown mustard, it's supreme hangover fare.

1058 Folsom St
San Francisco, CA 94103

6. Corned Beef Sandwich at The Sentinel

37 New Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94105

Lunchtime crowds flock to Dennis Leary's sandwich stand for fresh-baked foccacia packed with tender corned beef, creamy Russian dressing, and plenty of shredded cabbage. A housemade pickle and a signature Andes mint for afterwards complete the tableau.

37 New Montgomery St
San Francisco, CA 94105

7. BBQ Pork Banh Mi at Saigon Sandwich

560 Larkin St., San Francisco, CA 94109

Far and away the most inexpensive option on this list, this confoundingly cheap baguette ($3.50!) is packed with tender roast pork, creamy pate, and tons of pickled carrots, jalapeno, and cilantro. It's the Platonic ideal of a banh mi.

560 Larkin St.
San Francisco, CA 94109

8. Menage a Trois at Ike’s Place

3489 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94114

Ike's menu is as long as a Pynchon novel and about as full of wacky names, but this sandwich is the budding empire-builder's perennial best seller: chicken breast, BBQ sauce, honey, cheese, and the signature Dirty Sauce, a garlic aioli.

3489 16th St
San Francisco, CA 94114

9. Hot Capicola with a Fried Egg at Giordano Bros.

3108 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

We have Pittsburgh to thank for the outstanding all-in-one sandwiches served at these Mission and North Beach twins, which are stuffed with provolone, slaw, and the linchpin, fries. A runny-yolked fried egg completes the tasty melange of hot, creamy, vinegary goodness. Grab a beer and root for whatever Pennsylvania sports team is at it this week.

3108 16th St
San Francisco, CA 94103

10. Korean Steak Sandwich at Rhea's Market & Deli

800 Valencia St., San Francisco, CA 94110

This unassuming corner deli blossomed a few years back into a sandwich magnet for Valencia types, and now you'll always find hungry folks waiting for lunch on the benches outside. They're here for a variety of items, but the Korean steak sandwich, with chili and garlic-marinated ribeye, house pickled onions and jalapenos, and plenty of cheese, is the perennial favorite. (In a just world, this spot would be held by the late, lamented pork katsu sandwich, which we're still missing two years after it disappeared from Rhea's menu.)

800 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA 94110

11. Torta Cubana at That's It Market

2699 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

No less a figure than Bourdain himself has dug into this hulking monster, with every meat you can think of (chorizo, egg, hot dog, bacon, beef milanesa, ham), not to mention the standard beans, avocado, mayo, and jalapeno. It's as much dare as meal, and at $10, worth taking at least once (preferably with Tums in tow).

2699 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94110

12. Cheesesteak with Whiz at Phat Philly

3388 24th St., San Francisco, CA 94110

There's no need to sell anyone on a great cheesesteak, so we'll keep it simple: this is SF's best iteration and they sell Tastykakes, too. All you need to know, really.

3388 24th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110

13. Aunt Malai's Lao Sausage Sandwich at Pal's Takeaway

2751 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

The numerous creative sandwiches on offer at Pal's Takeaway make it hard to pick just one, but the perennial favorite is the Lao sausage banh mi, with spicy, lemongrass-infused sausage topped with sweet pickled carrots and bitter greens. It's not always available, so check their Twitter before you visit.

2751 24th St
San Francisco, CA 94110

14. Pierna Enchilada Torta at La Torta Gorda

2833 24th St., San Francisco, CA 94110

All the tortas here are great, but it's the pierna enchilada, a mound of pulled pork topped with plenty of beans, avocado, and jalapenos and stuffed inside a crisp-soft torta roll, that makes this 24th St. joint an icon. No need to order big, by the way: the mini version is more than enough for most eaters, and full-size is best for hangovers or leftovers.

2833 24th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110

15. Turkey Sandwich at Arguello Market

782 Arguello Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118

The sign says "Home of the World Famous Turkey Sandwich," and the sandwich itself delivers: full of juicy, hot roast turkey, it's best ordered on a Dutch crunch roll with the full complement of lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onions. And if you're feeling a little nostalgic for Thanksgiving, they'll add cranberry sauce for an extra 75 cents.

782 Arguello Blvd
San Francisco, CA 94118

Related Maps

16. Fried Chicken Sandwich at Bakesale Betty

5098 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

Each day, the lines extend out the door for the one and only sandwich Bakesale Betty makes: a cold duo of fried chicken and jalapeno-studded, crunchy-spicy slaw on a torpedo roll. It's enormous, delicious, and delivered by a crackling-fast staff that probably continues making these things in their dreams. The gigantic cookies are great for dessert.

5098 Telegraph Ave
Oakland, CA 94609

Related Maps