Tourists may flood into our city each year just to eat bread, but we locals know that bread tastes a whole lot better if you make it into a sandwich. A good sandwich can cure a hangover, elevate a bad mood, decrease boredom, increase likeability, boost physical performance, raise your appeal to the opposite sex, hone your intellect, enhance your memory, and improve your personality really, it’s shocking how little a sandwich can’t do. I could wax poetic until 2012 about the merits of two pieces of bread separated by edible fillings, but I believe my stomach says it best when it, quite simply, growls.
ATOMIC SUB AT SUBMARINE CENTER
I don’t know what kind of sandwich voodoo they practice at Submarine Center in West Portal, but their subs are so yummy I’ve decided not to question it. For nearly 30 years, Submarine Center has made some of the best and most enormous hot subs in SF. Their gargantuan Atomic Sub is one of the few sandwiches in the world that could probably shoot down a military aircraft if blasted out of a bazooka. A beautiful symphony of ingredients, the Atomic Sub features toasted white French bread, hot pastrami, hot ham, hot roast beef, lettuce, tomato, fiery jalapeños, onions, mayo, and an unexpected grace note of piquant Italian dressing. The fact that they’ll put crushed rather than cubed ice in your Coke is just icing (ha ha) on the cake.
820 Ulloa, SF. (415) 564-1455, www.submarinecenter.com
GRILLED CHEESE AT BLUE BARN GOURMET
Why offer just one type of grilled cheese sandwich when you can offer six? Blue Barn Gourmet, a rustic café housed in a barn (you can’t miss it) in the Marina District, answers this important philosophical question by giving the venerable grilled cheese its own special menu. The apotheosis of the grilled cheese has never looked so heavenly. Brie d’affinois, provolone, white cheddar, manchego, Jarlsberg and Gruyère, or mozzarella burratta whatever the craving, Blue Barn aims to nurse that grilled cheese fever. Our favorite is the simple and effective cheddar panini, a textbook on proper sandwich- making written on pages of black forest ham, white cheddar, and honey mustard and bound with two slices of freshly baked sourdough. This is Velveeta on Wonderbread all grown up.
2105 Chestnut, SF. (415) 441-3232, www.bluebarngourmet.com
SHRIMP PO’BOY AT YATS’ IN JACK’S CLUB
It’s comforting to know, before diving into the behemoth fried shrimp po’boy sandwich at Yats’, that San Francisco General Hospital is across the street. It’s still unclear why Jack’s, a humble Potrero District dive bar, made the decision to start serving authentic N’awlins style po’boys, but since that decision was made, we’ve all benefited. Featuring real Louisiana French bread shipped from the Leidenheimer Bakery in NoLA, this mountain of fried shrimp snow-capped with mayonnaise is so delicious it’s worth the risk to your heart. You won’t get your three-to-five daily servings of veggies, but if you feel guilty, they’ll readily give you extra lettuce and tomato. Finish your meal with a thick slab of cornbread and a beer or three. Your soul will thank you, even if your arteries don’t.
2545 24th St., SF. (415) 282-8906, www.whereyats.com
MEATLESS MIKE AT IKE’S PLACE
For the meatball fan who likes everything about meatballs except for the meat, the Meatless Mike sandwich at the popular sandwich shop Ike’s Place will happily satisfy that craven need for animal protein, sans animal. Tasty ground soy protein "meatballs" are thickly slathered in marinara and Ike’s own house-made garlic aioli ("dirty sauce") and topped generously with pepper Jack. Served on a toasty Dutch crunch roll, it’s so good that your next sandwich is on me if you aren’t convinced it tastes as good if not better than real meat. Instead of eating your sando on the sidewalk and using up a roll of napkins, eat in Dolores Park around the corner and wipe your hands on the grass. So gooey, messy, and delicious, you’ll proudly wear that dirty sauce stain running down the front of your shirt as if it were a gold medal.
3506 16th St., SF. (415) 553-6888, www.ilikeikesplace.com
FRESH, SMOKED SALMON SANDWICH AT THE SENTINEL
A sandwich so elegant, it’s like the Lawrence Olivier of sandwiches. Fresh baked wild salmon topped with a layer of smoked salmon, with fennel, dill, and a sheath of iceberg lettuce on a soft roll, this sandwich is thoughtful and deliberate in its approach to taste and texture. It might sound fancy, but don’t confuse this sandwich for a snob. At $8.50, you get a bang for your buck. "The Sentinel" is an imposing name for a SoMa sandwich stand that offers no seating, let alone a bathroom, but like Thomas the Tank Engine, this tiny place means serious business. Owned and operated by chef Dennis Leary of Canteen who will personally wrap your sandwich for you these sandwiches work so hard at being good it makes other sandwiches look like lazy bums in comparison.
37 New Montgomery, SF. (415) 284-9960, www.thesentinelsf.com