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Is it just me, or is Lee's Deli Horrible?

You think its a New York style salad bar/ lunch place. But it is just bad. What do others think? They have multiple downtown locations.

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  1. I don't think Lee's ever pretended to be anything more than an affordable, locally based sandwich place. Its chief attraction is that it serves the most underrated coffee in the Bay Area, Peerless (which beat the pants off of Starbucks and about a dozen other competitors a few years ago in a Chronicle blind taste test).

    1. I don't think it aspires or pretends to be a New York deli/salad bar. I actually find the hot pastrami sandwich to be good enough to tide me over at an affordable price.

      1. As a buddy of mine said the other day after we left with our $5 sandwich, chips and drink, "it's so fast, cheap and the sandwich is so big....what a genius concept!". The one that I find more annoying is Max's. Was it EVER any good?

        More importantly, where is a good NY-style deli that you can rely on in SOMA?

        4 Replies
        1. re: Tatum

          Even more importantly, where is "a good NY-style deli that you can rely on" anywhere in the Bayarea? Okay, some don't mind, even like, Sauls....and the others? There used to be a place that was pretty good around San Rafael (on the way to Inverness on or near SFDrake) - Brothers? Don't know if it even exists anymore. But for an LA girl, there's mighty slim pickins.

          Btw, somebody mentioned that Lee's bakes its own turkey. For you Oaklanders, Fat Cat Cafe (I think that's the name) on Telegraph near 17th, bakes its own turkey as well and even ASKS IF YOU WANT DARK MEAT MIXED WITH THE WHITE MEAT!! Whoa! You have to ask them to go light on the dressing or skip the mustard - they mix mustard and mayo together for the turkey sand.

          1. re: oakjoan

            Brother's deli is in Burlingame, several downhill reports with the new owners.

            1. re: oakjoan

              They briefly tried out dark meat turkey at Lee's, but it didn't catch on. By the time I wanted some and went in, it had already been discontinued.

              I am partial to their chopped olives on sandwiches. I believe it's just chopped up canned black olives in mayo, god help me. Good with cream cheese and pickles and pepperoncini.

              I don't like Specialty's because if I'm getting a sandwich and going back to work, it means I'm eating at my desk. Specialty's sandwich middles slide out of the bread, making me want a bib.

            2. re: Tatum

              Not NY-style per se, but you might want to check out Ted's Deli on 11th and Howard. Here's a link to some older comments (scroll to near the bottom or use "find" on page for Ted's) -

            3. I agree with Tatum -- as long as you stick to the basics you can do pretty well there. I almost always get the same thing: roast beef on whole wheat (with cream cheese, red onions and sprouts -- cringe if you must). The roast beef is "real," reasonable quality and a generous portion. The sandwich is made to order by people who are willing and able to do it exactly the way you ask. One of the sandwich-makers at the Lee's closest to my office even remembers my weird sandwich order. For $4.10 you really can't complain.

              1. I think its like many Bay Area lunch places, you can order wisely and get a great deal or you can imagine every is great and get a really suckie meal.

                On the few occasions I don't bring my own lunch and actually leave my building for lunch, I'll occasionally get food there -- but I go there for very specific things. My local Lee's is right next door to Specialties which I think is the worst food around, yet people from my office get stuff special ordered from that crap-hole!

                My Embarcadero Rules
                1. Lee's is for yourself, not a business lunch.
                2. Never force Specialties on anyone.
                3. Never buy birthday "treats" from Miette

                2 Replies
                1. re: larochelle

                  Could not agree more on the Specialties comment. I think people order it to the office because they have a great online ordering portal saving the orderer from human contact

                  1. re: dkgoody

                    Amen, preach it about Specialties...aiyee..back to original topic...I have never thought of Lee's as a NY-style deli, having been to a few in my time and certainly, they've never advertised themselves that way...nope, just plain, old good sandwiches fast and super-cheap....

                2. I think Lee's is pretty good.... I know what I'm paying for, and I get a good quantity for what I pay for.. I don't have high expectations, but I'm satisfied with the price....

                  They have a good selection.. It's also a great place to go if you're in a hurry and need to grab something quick...

                  There's plenty of other bad places around SOMA if you're willing to give away your money...

                  1. There was once a posting on ePinions (I think) simply titled "Lee's: You will not die". That just about sums it up.

                    1. Lee's vary quite a bit by location as well. When I was working at Mission and Beale there were about 3 different Lee's within a two or three minute walk. The one closest to there (Mission between Beale and Main) is kind of awful. They don't have the fresh foods except for sandwiches and it's always a bit dirty in there (lots of flies around the front door too).

                      In contrast, the one a block away on the other side, at the corner of Mission and 1st is MUCH better (and as a result, I always went there when going out for a Lee's sandwich). A co-worker swore that even better than that was the one down on New Montgomery. Go figure :)

                      Kathy/Kuisine (formerly KathySK)

                      1 Reply
                      1. Perhaps I'm in the minority, but I will gladly eat food from Specialty's any day over Lee's (1st & Mission). Gladly.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Frosty Melon

                          agreed. I think we are all just sick of Specialy's

                        2. Lee's is one of the few (if not the only) lunch spots in the Financial District that roasts its own turkey. Their basic sandwiches really can't be beat, and they are one of the only places I know of near the office where you can get a satisfying lunch for under $5. Quite a few people I know are addicted to their egg or tuna and olive sandwiches. I do agree there is a difference in quality depending on which Lee's you go to--I prefer the one at New Montg'y and Mission, and didn't have a good experience at the Lee's on 1st near Market.

                          1. i don't think it's worse or better than most of the lunch spots in downtown and i do enjoy their crab and egg salad sandwich. better than most places, imo.

                            1. The only one I've been to is the one on 2nd by Folsom. I was told that this was one of the larger ones. I am one of those folks who really enjoy the egg salad sandwich. And for under $3, it really can't be beat. I've also tried the Chinese food bar as well as the Chinese noodles in soup. They were just ok, not as good in quality and value as the sandwiches.

                              1. Like everyone else, I go to Lee's when I want a cheap sandwich, and fast. It's not meant to be a great sandwich place, just a reasonable, reliable place.

                                1. I've never ordered a sandwich from Lee's. I have tried their chinese food in the counter. That stuff is yucky. Greasy, slimey and generally unedible! I guess Lee's is only good for their sandwiches. Stay away from their chinese food!