The Best Sandwich Spots In San Francisco

From bánh mì and tuna melts to Philadelphia-style hoagies, here are the best sandwich spots in the city.
The Best Sandwich Spots In San Francisco image

photo credit: Carly Hackbarth

Much like the creators of dry shampoo, puffer jackets, or blenders, the inventor of the sandwich really was onto something. The handheld classic is endlessly versatile and consistently delicious. And lucky for us, San Francisco is a fantastic sandwich town with plenty of bánh mì, Philly-style hoagies, and massive subs that could double as a doorstop. Here are the best sandwich spots in SF.


photo credit: Carly Hackbarth



$$$$Perfect For:LunchWalk-InsQuick Eats
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Bow down to San Francisco's muffuletta king. There are two muffuletta options at the counter-service sandwich joint in the Haight—a meaty original and a mushroom—and they’re both awe-inducing and not exactly typical of the New Orleans classic. For one, they use mayonnaise—a big no-no to purists—but the Duke’s mayo adds an essential layer of decadence that takes the dream sandwiches to the next level. More importantly, their sesame bread is specially made for them by a bakery over in Oakland. And it’s coated with a thick swath of spicy olive spread that has us under its fermented cauliflower and carrot giardiniera spell. They’ll suggest you make your sandwich toasted (another controversial move), and we do too—if you want maximum melted cheese satisfaction.

This cash-only Tenderloin institution has been around for decades, and it’s earned legendary status for one simple reason: it’s home to the best bánh mì in San Francisco. Biting into the crackly, fresh-baked roll feels like a shot of serotonin thanks to the well-spiced meat, mayo, and pickled daikon and carrots that come in every sandwich. Plus, at around $5 each, lunch here is a deal that’s hard to beat.

At Limoncello in Lower Nob Hill, sausages hang over a loaded deli case, shoppers browse the aisles of shelves stocked with every Quadratini and San Pellegrino flavor, and friendly staff wraps up sandwiches behind the counter. Those sandwiches are the main reason we return to this Italian deli as often as Adele sings a tear-jerking ballad. The fillings are classic Italian, from tissue-thin mortadella and hot coppa to eggplant parmesan and spicy marinara meatballs. We’re always pulled toward the Mafioso. Getting the stunner stuffed with mortadella, prosciutto, bacon, and turkey, plus pepperoncinis for added tang is the best decision you’ll make today.

It’s easy to take this Italian deli on Columbus Avenue for just another North Beach tourist trap. But Molinari is the real deal—you’ll find as many locals as visitors here ordering one of their hefty sandwiches with fantastic cured meats. Definitely add their basil-garlic spread to whatever you get, or roll with one of their pre-designed sandwiches like the Renzo with prosciutto, coppa, and fresh mozzarella.

Walk anywhere in the vicinity of Alamo Square and you’ll probably see a few people on a park bench, gazing lovingly at a tightly-wrapped sandwich from Lucinda’s Deli & More. The NoPa spot is SF sandwich royalty—their baguette sandwiches are stuffed with so much filling that they look like burritos, and each has expertly balanced levels of salt, sweet, and spice. Case in point: their spicy tuna melt masterpiece with rainbow layers of pickled jalapeños, cheddar, arugula, and tomato. It’s also our go-to order.

It’s not that hard to make a good sandwich. But making a great one that’s worthy of planning an entire day around? That’s a feat—and no place does it like Deli Board. The SoMa spot cranks out tank-sized sandwiches that are well-stuffed with everything from corned beef to tuna salad and falafel. Whatever you order off of their usual menu or eponymous board of daily-changing specials will be fantastic, but get anything with pastrami when in doubt.

Palm City is a wine shop in the Sunset that also serves excellent Philadelphia-style hoagies. They’re gigantic, but the fresh toppings—like broccoli rabe or the mound of arugula—make these sandwiches taste light and almost refreshing. The one that keeps us coming back is the Italian American hoagie with thinly sliced mortadella, ’nduja mayo, and a long, sesame-covered roll. We love grabbing a seat at one of their big tables and drinking a bottle of natural wine with it.

Simplicity is the key to greatness, as proven by our trusty pair of white sneakers. SF Chickenbox knows this well. The takeout-only North Beach spot specializing in fried chicken sandwiches tops theirs with only house sauce and shredded lettuce. Add their flawless fried chicken breast and squishy buns to the mix and you have one of the best fried chicken sandwiches in the city. We also come here for the sides, like the refreshing macaroni salad or housemade ube mochi muffins.

The tortas at this Mexican restaurant in the Mission live up to La Torta Gorda’s oversized moniker. Sandwiches here come in two sizes (junior or regular) and both are monstrous. Don’t believe us? Kindly refer to the Mega Cubana, a behemoth featuring milanesa, sausage, pierna, ham, chorizo, eggs, turkey, queso fresco, and American cheese that’s large enough to feed five or six people. Share it with friends at a table inside the diner-inspired spot, or under an umbrella out in the back garden.

The hot pastrami sandwich at Submarine Center in West Portal is a tangy, beautifully toasted masterpiece overflowing with thin-sliced smoked meat. But don’t let it be the only thing you get at this small, counter-service spot. The meaty Atomic is stacked with pastrami, turkey, and corned beef, and we absolutely adore the mayo-y hot sub with avocado, turkey, and melty swiss. You have three sizes of sandwiches to choose from (mini, center, and the forearm-length super), and an assortment of chips to grab by the check-out line.

The BEC breakfast sandwich from this Mission spot is more effective at getting us out of bed than our sunrise alarm lamp. That’s because of the bacon, American cheese, and over-medium egg that comes together to create a mix of gooey, salty goodness. Newkirk’s also has other “East Coast-style” sandwiches that we’ll always wake up an hour early for, stuffed with things like pastrami, grilled ribeye, and hash browns.

We start most mornings weighing the pros and cons of going to get the Special Breakfast Sandwich from Devil’s Teeth. And since there really are no cons, we usually end up in line at the Sunset bakery with others who also made the very good decision to start their day with one of these delicious works of art. As soon as you unwrap it, the smell of bacon and buttery biscuit will hit you like a brick. The thick chunks of avocado cut through the richness nicely, and the soft-scrambled eggs melt in your mouth. This is the best breakfast sandwich in SF, hands down.

The smell of slow-roasting rotisserie chicken will draw you into Polk Street Market in Nob Hill like a black bear to a tent of snacks. Follow the scent all the way to the small back counter for your reward: the spicy Spitfire sandwich, featuring that perfect rotisserie chicken, plus bacon, jalapeños, and sriracha mayo. And, like all the other sandwiches here, it’s loaded with all the fixings and enough to last two meals. Also check out the rotating sandwich specials filled with things like brown sugar tri-tip or pulled rotisserie chicken with coleslaw and chipotle mayo. 

We usually come to Cafe Okawari to chill with a book and a matcha latte and enjoy their relaxed space. The Japanese cafe in SoMa also draws us in with their incredible chicken katsu sandwich. The milk bread they use is so soft it’ll feel like you’re sinking your teeth into a cloud. And the golden-brown chicken thigh is even more tender than Love Actually. Order a side of potato croquettes and you have the perfect lunch.

Quesabirria tacos are a highlight at this Mexican spot in the Richmond, but don’t sleep on the tortas. There are nine on the menu, but we especially love the milanesa and carne asada. You do also have some customizable options: monterey jack or queso fresco (queso fresco, always). And it’s $2 cheaper for a smaller size, which, unless you’re sharing with another person or two, is something to consider—these tortas are huge.

The big subs from Lou’s Cafe deserve their own national holiday. And while we probably won’t have time off to honor Turkey Cranberry Sandwich With A Generous Swath Of Garlic Aioli Day any time soon, we can still grab the actual sandwich from this family-run Richmond spot. For something this big and this good, $10.90 for one is a steal. They also have tons of other options, from hot pastrami brisket to meatballs covered in housemade marinara.

There are now two locations of The Bird: the original in SoMa, and a newer outpost in Hayes Valley. Both serve one of the best hot chicken sandwiches in the city. Massive chicken thighs are dipped in a bright red spicy sauce that will stain your fingers and lips in the best way. The sandwich is then topped with mayo, pickles, and a sweet apple slaw that cools your tongue down nicely. If you want something milder, get it “classic”—either way, adding on a few freshly fried apple fritters for dessert is non-negotiable.

RT Rotisserie is the casual spinoff of one of the best restaurants in the city, so it’s no surprise that their sandwiches are also top-tier. You can get them with things like the titular rotisserie chicken or roasted cauliflower, but we like the version with fried chicken. It’s loaded with tangy pickled onions and a chipotle yogurt sauce that complements the chicken perfectly. Just be sure to save room for dessert, as their sweet milk and seasonal fruit soft serve is incredible.

The sandwich GPS in our brain always directs us to Turner’s Kitchen, especially when we’re on our way to spend an afternoon at Dolores Park (Turner’s is right around the corner). We come back for their constantly rotating sandwich specials, like tuna salad with chipotle-lime coleslaw or roast turkey and mole negro. Or you can always stick to their trusty standbys, like the french dip or the Thanksgiving-inspired "Gobbler." Check their Instagram for suggested chip and drink pairings before heading over.

We come to the longstanding Italian butcher shop in the Sunset for hefty sandwiches that run only $10 each—a.k.a. less than it costs to park for two hours on Valencia St. More specifically, we’re here for the Sicilian stuffed with tissue-thin sliced hot coppa and salami, provolone, tomato, and lettuce. Your nose might run from the jalapeños, in the best way. Whatever you do, get this sandwich on a Dutch crunch roll—the one used here is buttery, dark golden brown, and has a soft crackly topping that won’t shred up the roof of your mouth. 

During the primetime lunch hour, the Italian deli in the Marina is crammed with people ordering half pounds of prosciutto, stocking up on pantry essentials like olive oil or crackers, or grabbing a tray of meatballs to go. Successfully navigating the crowds just to get to the ticket dispenser should be considered a sport. But once you order, and one of their Italian combos or caprese sandwiches lands in your hands, the effort will all be worth it. Or maybe just order online in advance.

The char siu sandwich from this Richmond bakery and cafe is a sight to behold. The milk bread is so thick it could double as a mattress. And the sticky-sweet glaze on the char siu is so shiny we can almost see our reflection. You’ll stare at the stunner for so long you might forget to start eating—but when you finally dig in, you’ll marvel at how light the whole thing tastes. Make sure you save room for some of Breadbelly’s fantastic pastries for dessert.

Arguello Market is a grocery store in the Richmond that also happens to make a phenomenal roasted turkey sandwich on a Dutch crunch roll. It’s so great, in fact, that we actually refer to Arguello Market as The Turkey Sandwich Emporium. Their deli case also has plenty of other housemade pastas and salads. Get whatever looks good, and don’t leave without stocking up on drinks and chips.

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