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Hot Sandwich Hunt

  • r

OK, I really need some help here. I've been in the Bay Area for about a year now and I'm missing some of the things I used to be able to find in LA. To wit, certain hot sandwiches, like the classic Beef Dip at Phillippe, the real carved Pastrami at Langer's, the Meatball at Bay Cities Deli, etc.

So where are the best hot sandwiches in the Bay Area, on the order of the above kinds of places? I'm talking about places that don't use microwaves (like Kinder's does) and not wannabe upscale places that are actually fairly mediocre (i.e., stale bread joints like Wichcraft). No, I mean places that specialize in one thing, owner-run, walk up stands, etc.

Anybody got some tips (or Tri-tips for that matter)?

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  1. This is not an area known for delis or pastrami, so I'd suggest you recalibrate a little.

    A few places I would go for a great hot sandwich:
    Wrap Delight for bbq pork banh mi with pate
    Tommy's Joynt for fresh turkey or other hofbrau meats served with gusto
    On the upscale end, Birley sandwiches in the Embarcadero Center has excellent rare roast beef and pressed sandwiches
    the Lone Star special at Memphis Minnie's, half brisket, half pork
    eggplant sandwich on foccacia at Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store
    Mexico City style tortas at La Casita Chilanga in Redwood City; the chorizo is worth the drive.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Windy

      A 2nd on Tommy's Joynt, a place often over looked. Lots of good choices. I usually get the turkey but bbq brisket is very good. They do serve a good french dip. There's other stuff, like the buffalo stew.

      Another option is the fresh roast pork sandwich at Ted's Market at Howard around 10th. There's other hot sandwiches but I've never tried them but I wouldn't doubt them. During lunch you can walk in and find a line of 40 people but it moves very fast, big sandwiches, everything around $5-6 bucks. Lots of cops...so you know there's value.

      1. re: ML8000

        Tommy's also serves hot pastrami with a side of jus for a pastrami dip, which I like as a changeup for usual pastrami.

      2. re: Windy

        Re eggplant sandwich on foccacia at Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store

        I've long loved Mario's eggplant sandwich, but while I haven't experienced this personally, long time North Beach friends told me a couple of months ago that the Cigar Store is under new management and that the food has taken a huge dive.

        Anyone been there recently?

        1. re: TopoTail

          Here's Chuckles' downhill alert from March,
          I'd like to hear a more recent report for further confirmation or any upticks.

      3. you make me cry, I miss all three of those places!! I would drive from Santa Monica across town when I got the craving.
        I have lived here for 9 years and yet to find anything close, I don't understand why it is so hard.
        Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store does make a pretty good presssed style sandwich.
        I did not care for the sandwiches at Birley.
        The best Tri-tip sandwiches are down in San Luis Obispo in parking lots in the middle of town.
        There is a tiny sandwich shop in Oakland on Lake Shore at Mandana Ave. I use to live around the corner about five years ago, so not sure if the lady owns the place is still there. She made a hot chicken sandwich that rocked.

        I heard that Houston's on the Embarcadero makes a great French Dip, this is a chain and I have never been.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Lori SF

          I don't care for Tommy's Joynt turkey - it tastes like frozen turkey that's been boiled - and the one time I had it they had just brought out a whole, just-cooked bird that my turkey was cut from. Also, they have cheap commercial bread.

          I think the turkey at the Lee's Deli's that are all over the Financial District tastes better, though they don't have good bread either.

        2. Brazil Fresh Squeeze Cafe, Berkeley can't be any more walk up than the parking lot at the
          top of University. Very good Tri tip and great street atmosphere

          16 Replies
          1. re: wolfe

            yes, great, cheap, and unbeatable atmosphere

            1. re: Windy

              Yeah, that tri-tip is great. They have a second location two blocks away on Shattuck.

              As someone mentioned, the thing out here is to go on the strengths. In that light, Gregoire, up the street from Brazil Cafe makes some nice sandwiches on good bread at lunch time. Nothing remotely East Coast about it though.

              The best pastrami like back East is going to come from the few remaining hofbraus. Another good one besides Tommy's is Chick 'n' Coop.

              The of the best deli pastrami I've found is at Saul's in Berkeley, but I haven't had it since there was a change in the kitchen. I did have some really good latkes there recently though.

              This is a stupid place, but the closest I've come to my East Coast meatball fix is at The Submarine Center in the West Portal section of SF. As I say in this link there is not one exceptional thing about the ingrediants, but they are masters of putting the sandwich together and they toast the bun really nicely in their oven.

              One place I once liked a lot was AK subs in SOMA. Then they went downhill. I've read some good things about them lately and they have a second location now in the Richmond which has an attached meat market. Haven't tried it yet. It's on my to do list.

              I'm blanking on the name, but the market on the Embarcadero across from DeLancy's has a nice turkey sandwich. They roast the turkey daily. The usual sandwich is cold, but they sell pieces of turkey so you can buy a piece of turkey and have them make a sandwich out of it. That is still one of the things I miss about living in that area. That was my comfort food fallback ... that turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce ...plain old, jellied canned cranberry sauce ... like God meant it to be ... no fancy stuff going on.

              1. re: rworange

                Brazil Cafe has the best chicken hearts of palm COLD sandwich.

            2. re: wolfe

              Yes, yes, yes! And they have an indoor cafe on Shattuck just around the corner.

              But I want a hot turkey with gravy/mash/and cranberry sauce. Yes, non-gourmet. Yes, diner-trash. BUT I WANT ONE. Where to get?

                1. re: Glencora

                  Great rec. The senior crowd during the day suggest solid food and good value.

                  1. re: Glencora

                    Thanks--do they have that old-fashioned tan library paste turkey gravy? I want the works! Cranberry sauce too?

                    1. re: Glencora

                      I thought Brennan's closed down ... great news if it's still operating.

                      1. re: Sarah

                        Was there last night. Had hot roast turkey. Can't say if good--leftover from cold is total lack of sense of taste. But was very comforting to have that sandwich. Husband's roast beef was allegedly great.

                        1. re: lintygmom

                          My fave from way back was the Tues special of Ham Hock w/Limas -- not that it was great, but it is what it is. My husband loved their roast beef sandwich -- somehow it works. Glad to hear it's still there.

                          1. re: Sarah

                            I have to also admit, it's still kind of disgusting.

                            1. re: Sarah

                              They still have daily specials but maybe we should start a thread on "faves from way back." Mine was on Tuesday as well: turkey giblets and gravy on mashed potatoes with mixed veggies. I think it was $1.95.

                      2. re: lintygmom

                        Harry's Hofbrau in Redwood City = you are describing their food to a "T"
                        Try their open-face hot turkey over bread with mashed potatoes, gravy and cranberry.They also have retro carrot salad with raisins and pineapple.


                        1. re: lmarie

                          seconded. they have several other locations too.

                          1. re: lmarie

                            The carved meats at HH are good for the price but the gravy (canned) is bad, very bad. The mashies weren't much better. Could be an off day, but I would proceed with caution.

                            1. re: ML8000

                              Don't disagree, but it delivers exactly what it promises.

                              One other idea that came to mind is that people tend to like the turkey sandwiches at Pete's Barbeque on Mission near 20th.

                      3. Moishe's Pippic in Hayes Valley has some of those. Also, if you want to go for a good Cuban sandwich Sol Food in San Rafael is good. I love their Pollo sandwich.

                        1. You might want to check out these threads on West Side Cafe (fka Gumbah's) and meatball sandwiches.

                          1. Tommys Joint is not that great, last time I went, I was treated to dry meat, a cup of hydrated beef bullion for dipping , and stale bread.

                            1. In Marin, there's Roast Haus, a classic hofbrau at Northgate One in San Rafael, with another branch in Novato. It does a big business among the locals. AFAIK, they are the only remaining hofbraus in Marin. Expect the strengths and shortcomings of the genre.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: Sharuf

                                The Raust Haus in Novato has changed hands (and names). It is still a Hofbrau, but the Owner was a cranky old dude who was brow-beating his young staff for giving out too large of portions (among other things) on my last visit. I t will be interesting to see if the place remains in business for long...

                                1. re: Civil Bear

                                  I've seen him do that at the San Rafael store too. He also owns Sam's something on Alameda del Prado in Novato. Amiable enough w/customers but rude and overbearing to staff. I avoid the place when he's around.

                                  1. re: Sarah

                                    Is there ever a good time to go? If the owner isn't there the teen age staff puts together a sloppy sandwich on bad bread. I honestly didn't see any haufbrau strengths at Raust House.

                                    1. re: rworange

                                      Do you prefer the Chicken Coop to the Raust Haus? To tell you the truth, I kind of like the pastrami at both places, although I am a bit embarrassed to admit it. For some reason I don't feel very comfortable in the CC in the Mission. The folks seem friendly enough, but can't help but feel like I am being rushed or ordering wrong or something...

                                      1. re: Civil Bear

                                        Yes. The food I've tried to date at Raust Haus has been just awful. I did give them a second chance but that was worse than the first visit, And I can't remember what I had there either time ... report for visit one is somewhere on Chowhound but all that sticks in my mind is stale bread, sad looking steam table items and indifferent careless service.

                                        I'm a fan of even mediocre hofbrau food but Raust Haus didn't make it as far as being mediocre.

                              2. M&L Market on 14th just below Market is supposedly the place to get hot pastrami sandwiches, but the ladies who own it are on an extended vacation for another few weeks, I think. I tried to get my first sandwich there in November and they were closed :(

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: SteveG

                                  2nd attempt with the place link:

                                  1. re: SteveG

                                    I really do like M & L or May's as it is commonly known. I must admit though, it's not the most amazing sandwich ever. The pastrami itself is nothing special but it's steamed which makes it enjoyable and served with your choice of a variety of familiar sandwich toppings. The place is very charming, May is a pleasure and there is a nice feel to the place.
                                    I really like Moishe's in Hayes valley for pastrami but after visiting Katz in New York's lower east side everything else seems to fall a bit short. I don't care how much they charge for that sandwich (I think mine was $14) I love it so.

                                    1. re: virtualguthrie

                                      I feel that the pastrami sandwich at M&L is really quite ordinary. Also, they wanted to put things like lettuce, tomatoes, etc. on my pastrami. That's just wrong.

                                2. I can't speak to the hot food selection, but Genova Delicatessen in Oakland is quite similar (and imo, better) than Bay Cities.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: a_and_w

                                    Know they have hot dishes but am unaware they have hot sandwiches.

                                    1. re: wolfe

                                      They do hot meatball, tri tip, and sausage sandwiches. I thought the tri tip was ok the time I had it, but I much prefer their cold house roasted turkey breast, so that's what I always get. My son (age 13) loves the meatball sandwich, but I cannot vouch for it from personal experience. They serve it with peppers and onions (same with the sausage) that my son skips.

                                      1. re: lexdevil

                                        Turkey is great. I'm a (genoa) salami and cheddar man, myself. Pick up some pesto while you're there -- pure garlickly goodness. Favorite sides include potato salad and marinated mushrooms (also very garlicky). Oh, and the fried artichoke hearts...and the frittata. Man, I miss Genova....

                                        1. re: lexdevil

                                          Thanks for the tip. Didn't know about Genova's tri-tip or meatball. I'll have to try them during a dual Bakesale Betty/Genova run.

                                      2. re: a_and_w

                                        i would go there when i lived over in the east bay, good not a great sandwich. they do have good lasagne in the freezer to take home. i love their chicken soup.

                                        1. re: Lori SF

                                          Perhaps I'm allowing my love of the other items I mentioned to affect my appraisal of the sandwiches. As I say, however, I like Genova more than Bay Cities, which the OP mentioned and where I eat often.

                                      3. How about banh mi? I'm no expert but there are a lot of Viet sammich joints out there. I just had a fine example for $3.50 (and isn't that what 'hounding is all about) at a little place half-way between a joint and a dive on the north side of B'way (S.F.) just west of New Sun Hong Kong. Pork and chicken only, toasted roll and lots of the requisite ingredients.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: little big al

                                          The curried chicken sandwich at Cam Houng Deli in Oakland is served reasonably warm. It's my favorite sandwich there. Do not skip the chilies...they bring it to life.

                                          Cam Huong Cafe
                                          920 Webster St, Oakland, CA 94607

                                        2. GIORDANO BROS. for the unique hot sandwich experience. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/414079 Check this link out for more details but...

                                          If you haven't had a Pittsburgh style (All in one) sandwich at the original Primanti Bros. (as seen on Food Network) then you should try the closest thing to it in SF. Try the Coppa at Giordano Brothers: 303 Columbus Ave. tel: (415) 397-BROS
                                          It's also a good place for watching sports too.

                                          I love having the coleslaw and fries in the sandwich. It's sounds odd but if you've had one before it's delicious, and fairly unique. A must try if you are a Sandwich aficionado.


                                          1. What's the hole in the wall Sandwich shop off of Park St. in Alameda by the bicycle shop. They had a pretty good fresh turkey sandwich last time I was there.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: nicedragonboy

                                              Is it Dimitra's? I didn't like my turkey with avocado when I went. It was mostly lettuce, really.

                                            2. And, don't forget the Cheesesteak Shop on Divisadero. Pretty good cheesesteak on a roll imported from Philadelphia.

                                              1. ah...Phillippe's... I worked at the Terminal Annex P.O. on the 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift 40 years ago when I was in college. Phillippe's was still open at 9 p.m. for "lunch." I liked the beef dip, but the pork dip was what I lived for, and on.

                                                1. Hands down - The pulled pork sandwich with spicy Carolina bbq sauce and cole slaw at Ravioli House in downtown San Mateo!

                                                  1. I haven't had it but I've seen (gorgeous, chock-fulll of meat) and smelled it (heavenly) and the pastrami at Wood Tavern is rated by many The Best Pastrami Ever at Wood Tavern in Oakland. It's not primarily a sandwich place.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: lintygmom

                                                      I had a bite of one. Very, very salty. I also noticed that the regulars ordered it without the cheese. With cheese, it's pretty over-the-top.

                                                      1. re: Glencora

                                                        I consider extra salty pastrami a guilty pleasure. It makes it less authentic, but sometimes it works really well. The Wood Tavern pastrami is on my list. I have seen a lot of people talking about it, and need to find an excuse to get across the bay.

                                                    2. Well not exactly the LA hot sandwiches but I like the hot beef and turkey sandwiches at Harry's in Redwood City, In the day when the boys were little it was the place the 49ers hung out after work. But that was before they moved to Santa Clara.

                                                      But the food is the same. Freshly craved sandwiches from whole turkeys and baron of beef.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                        1. After a quick scan of everything on the list I didn't see Eastside West DELI on Polk and Washington in the city. No affilication to the cougar bar in the Marina but it is the BEST RUBEN I have ever had and I am from new york and new jersey. You have the option to have corned beef or pastrami and a few other meats. THey also have great matzo ball soup and all the other jewish deil favorites. They do a lot of take out but have a few seats to eat in too - better to stay in to keep the ruben hot!

                                                          1. Don't know why it took me so long to think of it in this context (possibly because they are not at all of the Hof Brau, Jewish Deli, or French Dip persuasion), but there is a tasty hot sandwich at the various branches of Bongo Burger in Berkeley. No, I'm not thinking of the burger variants (like the tasty lamb Persian Burger or the Bean Burger), but the grilled eggplant sandwich (on a French roll with sautéed onions, tomatoes, garlic, Swiss cheese and tahini sauce).

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: lexdevil

                                                              The Persian Burger is quite good...really a kabob sandwich. Use to order it all the time.

                                                              1. re: ML8000

                                                                I'm a fan of the Persian Burger and lots of other items at Bongo Burger. I just assume that the OP is not looking for burgers, based on the LA sandwiches mentioned. Always get lots of extra sumac on the Persian Burger...so tasty.

                                                                1. re: lexdevil

                                                                  The Persian Burger is pretty unique, or I just haven't had anything that compares. As a student it was something I really looked forward to, when I could afford it. For some reason I always went around 9 or 10 p.m.

                                                                  Looking at the website, I guess half the time I was ordering the kabob sandwich...which was always like $2 bucks more. You're right about the sauce (sumac? never knew what it was)...it really made it.


                                                                  1. re: ML8000

                                                                    Sumac is the red herb they sprinkle on it. It has a nice tart flavor.

                                                            2. My favorite sandwich place of all time was Little Lucca's in S. San Francisco. Is it still good? Do they have hot sandwiches? Their chicken tenders were amazing but best of all was that hot paste they spread on at your request.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: lintygmom

                                                                I'm always surprised of the love that's thrown little lucca's way these days. twenty years ago it was a really good place , but these days it little more than a decent although dirty place for a sandwich. I would much rather go to Darby Dans if I was in south City and wanted either a hot or cold sandwich. As for their location in Burlingame I would sooner go to the deli in Lunardi's then Little Lucca's.

                                                                1. re: chipman

                                                                  I haven't been there in 5 years, not since we moved from the City, but it was mighty tasty back then.

                                                              2. Today we had a very good Cuban Sandwich from Delissio market from the 302 Broderick St.location. We brought it home and heated it up in the oven, left the foil on it and it was delicious! I will go back for this again. Nice crunchy baquette, roasted pork with a nice BBQ style sauce, good slices of ham, swiss cheese, dill pickle. Heat it up in a low temp oven for about 12-15 min.
                                                                rdjd- I am very familiar with all the placed you mentioned use to frequent them quit often when I lived in LA. There really are not too many places here that can do those sandwiches. I have tried most of the places mentioned here and nothing has come close.

                                                                1. I have always enjoyed the sandwiches at the Marina Deli on Chestnut @ Scott. I ususally get the turkey or chicken salad sandwich. Today I got a hot pastrami on a roll with Swiss cheese and peppers. This was a pretty good pastrami I have to say. I always forget to mention this place when we get on these sandwich threads. They make a good quality deli style sandwiches, good rolls, fresh meats, roasted chicken and so on. The have some hot sandwiches- sausage, pastrami, meatball and chicken. They do make a pretty good meatball, but you do need to ask for extra sauce. This is only a deli take out style place.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Lori SF

                                                                    I usually go to Lucca up the street but have also enjoyed the occasional sandwich at Marina Deli, myself. Haven't tried the hot sandwiches, but I'm a fan of turkey and avocado on dutch crunch. While we're on Chestnut Street, Pluto's makes a pretty decent hot sandwich. Certainly not worth going out of your way, but quite tasty in a pinch.

                                                                    1. re: Lori SF

                                                                      Been meaning to come back and post some good sandwiches I recently had-
                                                                      Mastrelli's Delicatessen in the Ferry Plaza came through with a pretty good meatball- decent soft meatball with marinara sauce and melted provolone on a soft roll not too think thank you.

                                                                      Boulettes Larder- Amazing pulled pork sandwich braised in pimenton date served with a beet and blood orange salad.. this is not always on the menu so go now. I shared this sandwich with someone and I was tempted to go back to get another one.

                                                                    2. I like the Tri-Tip Sandwich at Mocca on Maiden Lane, a good portion of cut to order tri tip on a baguette with butter and jus and a little bit of arugula, pricey, but good. I used to enjoy the meatball sandwich at Mario's Bohemian and am sad to hear that the place may have changed. For something a little bit different: Tortas El Primo and Tortas Los Picudo.

                                                                      1. One of my favorite sandwiches is the Tri-tip sandwich at Fresca (I have only had it at the 24th street location). They are served at lunch and brunch, but I am fairly certain they aren't on the dinner menu.

                                                                        1. I LOVE Ted's Deli on Howard and 11th in SF! There is no seating there so you have to take your sandwich to go and gobble it, but they make 'em big and cheap. Ted's has a rotating weekly menu of hot roasted meats available different days-- turkey, (steamed) pastrami, pork, and tri-tip plus meatloaf and meatballs. If you want the daily special, just make sure to get there early cause they seem to sell out. I showed up at 2:30 one Thursday for some NY pastrami and was out of luck.

                                                                          My co-worker loves Morty's on Golden Gate & Hyde for their hot meatball sandwiches.

                                                                          Does anybody remember Eugene's Ranch House, now the site of Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe? I used to love getting the hot open-faced beef sandwich with gravy and a side of their house hot mustard before they closed some years back.

                                                                          But damn if I've seen a lamb dip like they serve a Philippe's or a pastrami on rye like they have at Langer's in the Bay Area. Sometimes I just have to weep quietly to myself about this and then walk to Ted's to cheer myself up by wrestling with one of their tri-tip sandwiches on a soft roll.

                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                          1. re: rccola_and_moonpie

                                                                            Okey doke, so after reading down through the whole post so far my mouth is watering and I want to take BART into SF and hit Ted's, then Saigon, and then back to Berkeley for Bongo Burger.

                                                                            But I wonder, she said piteously, is there any great Italian American hot sandwich places in the East Bay? And by that I mean Berkeley/Oakland. Chicken parm, eggplant parm, or a meatball to bring a tear to a girl's eye? I see Genova has some, but... would they make an old East Coaster tear up?

                                                                            I'm looking for good, hot, tomato-ey, cheesy delight. Saul's has great deli, but that is not this. Gregoire has amazing sandwiches as well, but they are chamber music and I'm searching for Wagner,

                                                                            1. re: bunky

                                                                              My favorite meatball sandwich in San Francisco is at Mozzarella Di Bufala on West Portal. It's just like you described...mmm...

                                                                              p.s. I never understood what the attraction was at Bongo Burger. It all tastes like frozen food to me.

                                                                              Mozzarella Di Bufala Pizzeria
                                                                              69 W Portal Ave, San Francisco, CA 94127

                                                                              1. re: Civil Bear

                                                                                Starving students need fuel. Some people swear by Blimpie Burgers at Crazy Jims, Ann Arbor. See Food Network Diner Dives etc.

                                                                                1. re: wolfe

                                                                                  I agree, but with all the good cheap eat options around campus, Bongo Burger never got anywhere near my rotation

                                                                            2. re: rccola_and_moonpie

                                                                              I loved both Eugene's Ranch House and the Bavarian Village!

                                                                              But I will stand by my rec for Tommy's Joynt--stopped by to get the roast turkey dinner to see if it had slipped and found it as good and huge as ever. (Skip the gravy though).

                                                                            3. You know what else? The roast pork sandwich from Saigon Sandwiches on Larkin in SF has that whole juicy, hot, meaty thing going on that works when you're in a "hot sandwich" mood.

                                                                              OK, yeah, I know...

                                                                              Like another person needs to mention Saigon Sandwiches! But there's a line out the door every single day of the week for good reason.

                                                                              1. You didn't mention BBQ, but ff you are ever in Calistoga, try Busters Original Southern BBQ. His tri-tip is so good - he does sandwiches and full plates. You can also buy the cooked meats to take home and make your own. He cooks everything over wood outside. See photo/menu at the link below below.


                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: sonomasal

                                                                                  that is a fun place, thanks for the reminder.

                                                                                2. Chow with branches in SF, Lafayette, makes a good meatball sandwich, BLT, and during the summer their Wednesday special sandwich is soft shell crab and bacon.