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This is a guide to my favorite sandwiches in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Joe's Cable Car
Bill's Place
In and Out
Zuni Cafe

Classic American
Corned Beef
Sloppy Joe
Beef Brisket
Sloppy Jose
Brazilian Beef
Cheesesteak Shop
Cheesesteak Shoppe (Eureka)
Catfish Po Boys
Hard Knox
Mama Lucy's
Vietnamese sandwich
Pittsburg All-in-One
Hoisin Pork Tenderloin


Joe's Cable Car - San Francisco (map)

Joe's is a peculiar place, located way south on Mission St near the Excelsior district. It's a relic from simple times. Joe is very proud that he grinds all his meat fresh on the premises; not only does he tell you so in large signs all over the restaurant, but the in-house butcher does this grinding behind display glass for all to see.

This is one of the best burgers in the city. There is a big difference when a restaurant grinds their own beef fresh for burgers (see also Bill's Place). The meat is loose and fresh, a burger at it's best. At Joe's or Bill's I recommend ordering something simple, like a regular cheeseburger. There is no need to add the flavor or texture of toppings. Although at Joe's I do enjoy and recommend the number 2, which has diced onions in the patty.

One drawback of Joe's is that it's expensive. The 4 oz. burger with cheese is north of $9. Joe offers 6 and 8 oz. burgers too, so if you get 6 ozs you are up at $11. This is high quality meat, but it feels pricy at what looks like a diner. The Zuni burger is expensive too, but Zuni is a nice restaurant with tableclothes and good waiters, and it feels appropriate.


Bill's Place - San Francisco (map)

Bill's Place is my favorite burger in the city. Like Joe's Cable Car, they grind their own beef in the restaurant. This gives the burgers a texture and flavor that you cannot get at a restaurant that buys pre-ground meat.

Why is Bill's the best? Let's be clear that all of the burgers on this page are excellent, and if you are visiting any of the establishments described here you should be excited. But Bill gets top honors, based on the combined factors of taste, ambiance, and price. Joe's is a close second, but Bill's wins on two points: first, Bill's Place has as much character as Joe's without the kitch and effort, and second, Bill's is priced more reasonably. Depending on the size you order, Joe's cheeseburger will cost over $11, and that does not include fries. Bill serves a basic 1/3rd lb cheeseburger with fries for under $9. And Bill's has a nice patio and fish pond. Delicious!


Double Double, and Triple Triple
In and Out Burger - Several Bay Area locations

The Double Double is a classic California prize, one we share with the good states of Nevada and Arizona. In and Out Burger runs a different kind of fast-food restaurant. It's squeaky clean, both the restaurant and the politely scrubbed teens who are always in a good mood.

While they only serve hamburgers, fries and shakes, they offer many variations on these basic ideas to provide a surprisingly wide range of choices. A Double Double is a standard choice, although getting it served Animal Style is always something to consider.

Pictured right is a Triple Triple, a good burger for certain situations, but not to be overdone. In general they are beefy and delicious; the burger pictured here was poorly assembled--a rarity at In and Out--but still wonderfully and deeply satisfying.


Bacon Burger
Ikeda - Auburn (map)

Auburn is not in the Bay Area by any stretch of your lunch hour, but it is on the way to Tahoe, which means you do pass it from time to time. And you should be aware of it; a lot of people stop at the In and Out in Auburn, but Ikeda's is special.

They make a lot of things: pies, dressing, sauces, salsas, actually offering a full produce market right next door. But in the restaurant area, you will be focusing on burgers and milkshakes. The burgers are made well, dressed well, and come with terrific options. The bacon burger has several well cooked slices of bacon piled high, as pictured.

The best thing about their shakes is the range of flavors, which of course can be combined. I recommend the half chocolate half peanut butter.


Zuni Cafe - San Francisco (map)

Zuni is a classy joint on Market St that serves fancy California cuisine. All of their food is reliably delicious. They have a good selection of local oysters and their roast chicken is probably the best restaurant chicken in America.

Their burger is expensive and highfalutin, but it's a good variation on the classic formula. Served on foccacia with exotic cheese and pickeled onions, it's a really nice sandwich. Depending on toppings it will cost around $12-15, and the shoestring fries are extra.

The burger is not served between 7-10pm! Go for lunch or late dinner, Zuni serves food until midnight. Keep an eye out for celebrities, I once saw Tom Waits dining with Kirk Hammett.


Sloppy Jose
Joe's Taco Lounge - Mill Valley (map)

The Sloppy Jose is a shredded pork sandwich flavored with a chipotle barbecue sauce. It is delicious. The pork is slow cooked and not fatty at all. It comes with "firecracker" fries, which are some of the best seasoned fries around. Dusted and caliente!

Joe's taco lounge is also a fun place. One wall is an excellent collection of hot sauces, available to guests, and the other wall is Jesus stuff.


Brazilian BBQ Beef
Prince of Wales - San Mateo

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Prince of Wales closed on January 21, 2007. It was a special place, so it will be immortalized here forever.

The Brazilian Beef sandwich is slow cooked, shredded, and served with a brazilian-style barbecue sauce. A little sweet, but good beefy flavor.

The Prince of Wales is a very colorful and interesting place. Their menu is mostly pub-food meets firey dare-food. They are famous for their habanero hamburger. Get the fries with "house ketchup," which is seasoned with chipotles and garlic. Or if you get the fish and chips (excellent), have the jalapeno tartar sauce.


The Cheesesteak Shop on Divis. - San Francisco (map)

This is the best sandwich in the city. Cheesesteak fans know it, even people who just like hot greasy meat sandwiches know it. This place is a Bay Area chain; they are all good, but the epiculinary mecca of this sandwich is found here on Divisdero street. You will wait in line no matter when you go. Some people phone in their orders ahead of time, even if they are eating in.

The standard cheesesteak is a solid order, but they also have great chicken cheesesteaks, and other kinds of sandwiches. The italian combo, served hot, is shiney and terrific.


Philly Cheesesteak Shoppe - Eureka (map)

Eureka is 270 miles from San Francisco, but it gets a mention because of a truly great cheesesteak. A good cheesesteak is hard to find, but you never know where you might.

The place is very similar to the Cheesesteak shop on Divisidero, and if you said they were equally good, I couldn't call you a crazy person. Everything is perfectly done, and unlike the 'Shop on Divis, this place gives you a choice between regular melted cheese and Chezwiz. Tastykakes too.


Vietnamese Sandwich
Saigon Sandwich Shop - San Francisco (map)

This is a very unusual sandwich, but one of the best on this page. Vietnamese sandwiches are served on fresh french-bread rolls (Remember the French colozined Vietnam for a long time, they know their bread and coffee. Cheese, however, didn't seem to take). Sandwiches include a roasted meat, cilantro, jalapenos, carrots, mayonaise, and other secret Far East seasonings.

There are a lot of Vietnamese sandwich shops in the tenderloin, but this one is the best.

A remarkable thing about these sandwiches is the price. BBQ chicken and roast pork are their two high end sandwiches, both pricing in at $2.25. They also offer meat ball pork, fanci pork, and liverwurst (enlarge menu phot at right), for $2.00. I know people who have tried these, and the bottom is, you don't need to ever order them. The BBQ chicken and roast pork are wonderful, safe, delicious options.


Pittsburg style All in One
Giordano's on Columbus - San Francisco (map)

I've never had one of these anywhere else, but apparently this is a common sandwich in Pittsburg. "All in One" is a hot sandwich with meat, cheese, coleslaw and french fries all stacked together on italian bread. Giordano's does a great job. The steak sandwich is popular, it's similar to the style of steak you would find in Philadelphia. They also offer italian meats like coppa and hot capiocola. Steak and coppa are pictured to the right.

If you get the steak, you should opt for "extra meat," which is not overkill by any means. Really it's a little light on the steak if you don't. But if you are getting a spiced italian meat, leave it at a regular portion. Since you already have fries and coleslaw on the sandwich, you don't really need a side dish, but the wings make a good appetizer.


Corned Beef
M & L Market - San Francisco (map)

May's is tiny, hard to find, closed most of the time, and generally an unfriendly place. That being said, they have great, simple sandwiches. No fancy bread, no fancy toppings, just good honest piles of meat. Their hot corned beef and hot pastrami are so good that business is brisk, despite the aforementioned quirks.

Actually, May's reputation as a "sandwich nazi" is not warranted much these days, as the next two generations of the family are behind the counter most of the time, and they are more laid back. But if you are there when May herself is working, be warned: she is very strict about the sequence of ordering your sandwich components. God help you if you don't start with your choice of bread.

May's is only open Monday through Friday, 11am-4pm.


Zazie on Cole - San Francisco (map)

This is a little "fancy" for a simple American classic, but they do a beautiful job. In addition to the standard ingredients, Zazie's BLT includes two dollups of goat cheese, which add a subtle but distinctly creamy dimension to the familiar BLT experience.

Also they serve it on foccacia, but this is not lame, thick, oily foccaica that is common in wanna-be fancy joints. Zazie's foccacia is thin and crunchy, a nice backbone to the light and fresh ingredients.

Zazie has a nice patio, and many other delicious items on the menu. Their weekend brunch is great.


Catfish Po Boy
Hard Knox Cafe - San Francisco (map)

The Hard Knox Cafe is a hidden gem out on 3rd St, in Dogpatch. They serve "soul food," including southern standards like fried chicken and meatloaf. Sides include mac and cheese, black eye peas, and collard greens. The portions are huge and the prices are very reasonable.

They have great fried catfish, which is available as an entree, or as a po boy sandwich. The catfish po boy is served just like it should be, lightly dressed with lettuce and tomato, with the emphasis entirely on the fish. A little hot sauce compliments the light mayo.

All of the food is great at the Hard Knox, but the entrees include two sides and cornbread, and a full meal there can put you down for a few hours. When I visit during the day, I always go with the catfish po boy; it's not a 'light' sandwich, but you can function after eating one (unlike the meatloaf, which will kick your ass).


Beef Brisket
Memphis Minnie's - San Francisco (map)

Memphis Minnie's is the best barbecue in San Francisco, and their brisket and pork shoulder sandwiches are both excellent. The meat is smoked for 15 hours, producing a flavor and texture that are only produced by patience and deep bbq know-how.

They serve the meat dry, which is the purist way to do it. There are three sauces available: texas style (red tomato-based), south carolina mustard, and north carolina vinegar. In my opinion none of the sauces are as good as the meat, but with three to choose from you will find something you like. Really the meat is so good you can eat it dry and be very happy.


Miller's East Coast West - San Francisco (map)

This is a kick-ass reuben. A mile of top notch corned beef, swiss cheese, perfect amounts of sauerkraut and russian dressing, all served on buttery grilled rye. They also offer a Rachel, which is a reuben with pastrami instead of corned beef.

ECW also has good brisket and all sorts of ginormous deli sandwiches. Their pickels are pretty good too. And, they have those black and white cookies like on Seinfeld.


Catfish Po Boy
Mama Lucy's - San Francisco (map)

Mama Lucy's is another hidden gem, located across the street from the Hall of Justice in the Puccinelli Bail Bonds building. Mama's main entrance is on the alley, but enter through the Puccinelli office to look a cognoscenti (or bail bondsman).

Mama serves "comfort cuisine." Southern classics like fried chicken and gumbo are excellent. But the stand-out sandwich is the catfish po boy. It comes with a ridiculous amount of mayonnaise on it, which is awesome.

The sides are good too. Balance out your fried fish and mayonnaise sandwich with an order of collard greens and your mama will be proud.


Sloppy Joe
Brenda's French Soul Food - San Francisco (map)

Brenda serves authentic Creole food in a small but elegant space on Polk St. Everything on the menu is excellent, particularly the beignets and the po' boys.

While the sloppy joe is not a traditional New Orleans sandwich, it gets a mention here because it's the best sloppy joe this side of your high school cafeteria. Brenda makes hers with turkey, which sounds crazy, but it works.

Brenda is open for breakfast and lunch, but finding a table at lunch can be tough. While you are waiting, you can try to figure out why you stopped going to Jazzfest.


Hoisin Pork Tenderloin
Little Piglet Cafe - San Francisco (map)

Prepare yourself for a statement that is bold, surprising, and accurate: Little Piglet is the best sandwich shop in San Francisco.

The proprietor is a sandwich mad-genius. Equal parts inventor and artist, he uses fresh rolls as canvas to create dizzying works of high artwich. Recent compositions have been the Turkey Teriyaki with Pineapple Marmalade, Swedish Meatballs with Mushrooms and Cranberry, Lime Flank Steak with Chinese Sausage, and Curried Lamb Shanks with Baba Ghanouj.

Featured here is the Hoisin Pork Tenderloin, which is made with cole slaw, provolone, and ketjap manis. It is tender, quirky, and delicious. Also pictured is another recent standout, the Mongolian Beef.

Piglet has many vegetarian options too, such as the Thai Peanut Tofu and the Avocado Cheddar Falafel. I have never contemplated such a thing, but intelligent, sensible people I know have said good things.

But wait, there's more! The decor is political tomfoolery meets kitch-pork. Every sandwich comes with a salad. Hot sauce abounds. And, the prices are remarkably reasonable, with most items arriving at $6 after tax. Go! Now!!