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Jul 28, 2011 03:58 PM

Good sub rolls in Bay area?

The lack of a great hoagie/grinder/sub shop in the Bay Area is not only deplorable, but well covered on this and other boards. I plan to change this in the next year or so, and am doing extensive research on the ingredients that will contribute to my vision. Over the course of the past few months, I've visited many local sub shops, with the result of being mostly disappointed, but confident in my ability to change the local atmosphere for the better. The key is in the bread, and too many places are either using really tough, sourdough, or baguette-style rolls that are not conducive to a friendly bite, or on the flip side, really tender too-soft rolls that collapse or dissolve under the weight of a hot juicy filling.

That said, three subs have met my standards for bread, for different reasons.

1. Freddie's (they use Wiedermeyer, and so does Subs, Inc)
2. Genova Delicatessen (they use Maggiora)
3. King Foot Subs (counter people don't know/won't say)

Anyone know who supplies the bread to King Foot Subs? Or have you had a great sub with great bread lately and want to share? I am not interested in importing Amaroso's or Sarcone's (the superior Philly bread, in my opinion), as I would prefer to support local businesses and keep the rolls as fresh as possible.


Freddie's Sandwiches
300 Francisco St, San Francisco, CA 94133

Genova Delicatessen
2064 Treat Blvd, Walnut Creek, CA 94598

King Foot Subs
724 Bush St, San Francisco, CA 94108

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  1. Check out the rolls at Boccalone in Ferry Plaza, if I recall what they said it's a custom item from Acme.

    Have you looked into the part-rice-flour baguettes some banh mi places get from the Vietnamese bakeries?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      the Vietnamese rolls in the bay area are the worst pieces of styrofoam crap ever. Try an Banh Mi in Paris or NY and sad that I don't even bother in the area.

    2. Uncle Dougie's (a pretty great sub shop - NY-style Italian heroes, to be specific) gets its bread custom-made daily by Italian French Baking Co, in SF.

      Italian French Baking Co
      1501 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

      Uncle Dougie's
      362 17th St, Oakland, CA 94612

      Uncle Dougie's
      2328 Bowditch St, Berkeley, CA 94704

      1. You need to find out a way to make or get Semolina Rolls with and without sesamee like they have in NYC.. The crust is slightly crunchy, but soft.. not too chewy but not like styrofoam like the crappy rolls here..

        1. Hm. The Bay Area has it's own Submarine tradition that you frankly can't duplicate in parts of the East Coast. Yellow Submarine, or Submarine Center in West Portal comes to mind, and they use a soft bread. Then there's the Roxy's Market genre, which bridges the gap to the old style Molinari's, and Lucca style. All of these let you pick your bread - typically a harder sourdough type bread.

          I don't think we've ever had the grinder/hoagie style you're looking to duplicate - but that's a regional difference, not a failing.

          Italian breads, characterized with the soft texture, and light flavor aren't readily available in SF. It was never something you could get at the supermarket. The closest would be the previously mentioned Italian French baking company in North Beach. Parkside Market has at times carried something very similar as well (they also carry Italian French Baking, but not the hoagie style you want) but I don't recall the bakery.

          Parkside Cafe
          43 Arenal Ave, Stinson Beach, CA 94970

          The Submarine Center
          820 Ulloa St, San Francisco, CA 94127

          1. Finally, some news of the sub shop project, Merigan, opening in SOMA in the fall.

            12 Replies
            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Oh, this sounds awesome. I have been on the hunt for a decent Italian sub (grindah, hoagie, whattevah ya wanna call it) for a long time. Not having this style readily available in SF might not be a "failing", but I consider it a (first world, admittedly) problem that needs solving. Looks like Liza is a good candidate to take it on!

              The Italiano at Toaster Oven is about the best I've been able to find and it's close to work, but I am looking forward to stretching my legs out on a nice walk much further down 2nd street to grab "a killer Italian combo"! Great pic on Tablehopper with the bottle and keys, too.

              1. re: lakemerritter

                I'm not sure we need another "inspired by" attempt at a sub shop, with classic sandwiches reinvented using higher end ingredients. The one picture in that article just looks like a restaurant quality sandwich, not so much a sub, hoagie type thing.

                The Philly style pork with broccoli the article mentioned is a good example of a sandwich with a very distinct flavor profile you can't knock off without respecting the formula that makes it so good. Heritage pork isn't going to work unless they slice it and soak it the same way. Sharp provolone has to be hand cut from a hard provolone. It's would be great if they could pull it off though.

                1. re: sugartoof

                  I generally agree--all I want is a decent Italian, the kind that gets toasted in a pizza oven and by default comes with hots and no mayo or mustard or any of that crap. Decent but not necessarily "artisan" (read super-pricey) meats, fresh veggies (lettuce, tomato, onion), with oil and vinegar and salt and pepper on top. And the all-important good bread. I know that's not exactly what Merigan is going for, but I am hopeful it'll be good. And hopefully not cost $12?

                  I blame Subway and Quiznos and all the rest of them for racing to the bottom when it comes to Italians sub. I guess I should try to Kickstart my own sub shop.

                  Also kicking myself for never making it to Dougie's, which sounds like it was pretty good.

                  1. re: lakemerritter

                    Any sub shop that uses the alternative food distribution system, butchers in house, and makes its own cold cuts and pickles is not going to be cheap.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      This is a good point. I wonder how much to the not-cheap side... My (condensed) SF sandwich price points:

                      $5: It's from Subway and sucks

                      $6: From Quiznos and not much better but at least it's toasted

                      $7: Toaster Oven, not bad--I like their gardiniere

                      $8-9: Sentinel, great sandwich and worth it a few times a month

                      $10: Shorty Goldstein's corned beef, very good but right at my limit for sandwich-spending

                      $12: Shorty's pastrami: exceeds threshold, will not get again

                      So I guess the over/under for an Italian at Merigan will be about $10/sandwich--you taking the over, Robert?

                      1. re: lakemerritter

                        Saigon Sandwich charges $3.25 for an awesome sandwich.

                        For me, Shorty Goldstein's pastrami is two sandwiches, so that's $6. I think anyplace in a high-rent district that's butchering its own Llano Seco pigs, making its own pickles, and providing customers with seats, tables, roof, and walls has to charge about the same.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          I put Banh Mi an entirely different category and don't like that type of sandwich in particular (even Saigon's). I've got red-blooded American tastes. Or bastardized Italian/Kosher. I am obviously very confused. (Thank you for clarifying that sit-down restaurants have seats, tables, roof, and walls--I do appreciate that kind of assistance to the feeble-minded such as myself.)

                          Two sandwiches for you. I'm a hearty eater. I order a sandwich, I'm stuffing the whole thing in my face and not sharing. Or saving--my wife does this and it drives me nuts because the quality surely suffers and it usually doesn't even matter because the leftovers kick around in the back of the fridge until I throw away the rock-hard uneaten half-sandwich.

                          Anyway, this is straying from topic, but I will try Merigan's Italian at least once, no matter the price. Probably $13.50. Will likely have waitstaff, another $2.50 or so for tip,then. Sigh. $16 is enough to make me consider the Banh Mi instead.

                          abstractpoet, thanks for the Star Meats lead! I also like The Local Butcher Shop.

                          1. re: lakemerritter

                            Once you get into the $12-16 range, you might as well be at a real restaurant, getting served on a plate, with some fries or salad included.

                            I'm a little more worried about the part where all sandwiches come on a seeded bun, and chicharonnes are on the menu.

                    2. re: lakemerritter

                      I don't know about Dougie's, and I still contend the Bay Area has it's own sandwich tradition that goes unappreciated... but I also feel like there are people attempting a ramped up hybrid sub that doesn't really fit my ideal. Wooley Pig, Deli Board, 1058 Hoagie, and even Rhea's or Ike's all come to mind. One element of other is usually lacking. I'm skeptical, but I guess it's a good sign that they're rising above Boar's Head.

                      1. re: sugartoof

                        Not a fan of places that use Boar's Head, I can buy that at the supermarket and make the sandwich myself.

                        Merigan's could be the sandwich place I've been looking for. The featured pork/broccoli rabe sandwich sounds like the one from Philly that Adam Richman crowned the best sandwich in America so I'll pay out the teeth to give it a try if it's anywhere close to the one he had.

                        1. re: Bunson

                          It's only after that 2nd and 3rd bite of a Dinic's roast pork sandwich that you realize how incredible it is, and it gets better with each bite. What makes that sandwich so good is the blend of flavors from each element. The wrong bread (seeded for example) or wrong cheese (doesn't have the right bite, or melt) would ruin it. There is one sandwich that you can't deviate and get creative with. It's either a perfect tasting replica, or don't bother.

                      2. re: lakemerritter

                        In Berkeley, the Star Meats butcher counter (inside Star Grocery, on Claremont Ave.) makes a good straightforward deli sandwich. They do a couple of different takes on an Italian sub, and their roast beef is very good.

                        Also, Zarri's Delicatessen, in Albany, is a good old-school kind of place. I haven't been for a while, but I remember getting pretty good (and very inexpensive) sandwiches there. (Someone needs to speak up for these places now that rworange has left the premises!)

                        And I'm quite fond of the sandwiches at The Local Butcher Shop, but it's not a full-service sandwich shop -- just one option a day, a la The Cheese Board Pizza.