The SF Sandwich & Park Power Pairings guide image


The SF Sandwich & Park Power Pairings

The best combinations of handheld meals and grassy areas to eat them in.

The city worships sandwiches. Everyone has an opinion about the best place to get the stellar handheld combination of bread and filling. And eating one is always better in a gorgeous park, which this town has no shortage of either. But not just any park or sandwich will do. That’s where this guide comes in. It’s a definitive list of iconic parks, and the sandwiches that go along with them. So clear your schedule for the afternoon, pick a pairing, and enjoy the meal on a nice patch of grass.  


Palm City

The Park: Golden Gate Park 

As far as life's greatest pleasures go, making a mess of the Italian American hoagie from Palm City is high up there with catching all the green lights while driving down Pine. The Philadelphia-style sandwiches from this Outer Sunset spot are the length of a forearm. And you'll need to employ a small army of napkins while devouring the mortadella-stuffed sesame roll overflowing with arugula, parmesan, onions, and ‘nduja aioli. Also grab a bottle of pét-nat (this place doubles as a wine shop) for the bison roaming show at the paddock.

The Park: Lafayette Park

The top of Lafayette Park is where to sit on a bench and romanticize your SF life. But not without a trip to Limoncello first. The Italian deli and grocery store is well-stocked with every San Pellegrino and Quadratini flavor possible. And their sandwiches, which are made behind a deli case with sausages hanging overhead, have flawless, high-quality Italian fillings—they’ll make you pledge your lunch allegiance to this spot forever. Go with the Mafioso, a knockout loaded with mortadella, prosciutto, bacon, and turkey, plus pepperoncinis for that zippy tang.

The Park: The Marina Green

Shielding your sandwich from a rogue frisbee or extra curious golden retriever is the Marina Green experience. But we'll do anything for Golden Gate views that remind us we live in a really cool place. Pick up a sandwich from Lucca Delicatessen on Chestnut Street—the Italian deli is always packed, mildly chaotic (orders are shouted out from every direction), and charming, especially because their sandwiches with standard fillings are so incredible and always hit the spot. Get a stacked Italian combo or caprese with thick mozzarella slices, and any of their assorted Italian cookies to round out the picnic spread. 

The Park: McCoppin Square

A day imitating a sunbathing lizard at Parkside’s green gem calls for something special—like the hot pastrami sandwich from Submarine Center. It’s a tangy, beautifully toasted showpiece overflowing with thin-sliced smoked meat. But don’t let it be the only thing you walk away with at this counter-service West Portal classic (est. 1981). 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 to choose from (mini, center, and super), and an assortment of chips to grab by the check-out line.

The Park: Golden Gate Park

Palm City is the power pairing for Golden Gate Park’s south side, but Cielito Lindo over in the Outer Richmond runs the north. Their hefty, tank-sized tortas are the energy burst you need before a major zonk out at Spreckels Lake. This counter-service Mexican spot inspires divine waves of euphoria you only feel when gobbling down fluffy bread, flavor-packed carne asada, sour cream, mayo, and oozy Monterey jack cheese. There are nine tortas on the menu, and there is no wrong choice. 

The Park: Alamo Square

Lucinda’s rules Alamo Square. Look around and everyone in your line of vision will be opening their precious, tightly-wrapped prize in the company of the Painted Ladies. The deli is on a corner right across from the park, so you’ll only have to travel 100 steps max before plopping down and sinking your teeth into a baguette sandwich (the colorful fillings make up about 85% of each one). Go for the spicy tuna melt with pickled jalapeños, or the BLTA with enough arugula to count as a side salad. 

The Park: Dolores Park 

Sorry to all of the other sandwich spots near Dolores Park, but Rhea’s takes gold. This corner store also serves as a deli, and all of the sandwich sorcery happens in the back past the shelves full of chips and Milano cookies. Each is an all-out flavor explosion with fillings that don’t hold back—like the “Diamond Hts” with turkey, bacon, BBQ sauce, and honey dijon on toasted dutch crunch, or the “Three Lil’ Pigs” loaded with ham, salami, and bacon. 

The Park: Washington Square

Molinari Delicatessen is in the North Beach tourist zone, but substandard money-suck this is not. The Italian spot is a temple of house-cured meats. Customize your sandwich, or go with something off the menu of specials—the Renzo, with silky prosciutto, mozzarella, and sun-dried tomatoes, is a fireworks finale explosion of salty-sweet flavors. Settle in at nearby Washington Square Park, and munch away while you contemplate a gelato run for dessert. 

The Park: The Presidio

Simple is best, especially when you’re complicating your life by entering the maze of eerie bunkers, parking lots, golf courses, and fields known as the Presidio. Bread n’ Chu delivers. They’re a takeout-only Japanese sandwich spot in the Outer Richmond serving uncomplicated, mathematically perfect square sandwiches, like egg salad, choux, and potato croquette. The star is the chicken katsu sandwich, featuring only chicken, shredded cabbage, a layer of mayo, and crustless milk bread.

The Park: McLaren Park 

You’ll always want a bánh mì from Ty Sandwich in hand before trekking up the hill to McLaren Park for those city views. This tiny, counter-service Vietnamese spot in Excelsior makes some of the best marinated meats in town, from juicy grilled pork to tender lemongrass chicken. Huge portions are what make these sandwiches shine. Their baguette is very long, and each one is stuffed—thick carrot and cucumber strips, and heaps of fresh herbs. Even the fresh spring rolls—the side pairing to the sandwich pairing—are packed with a ton of pork and shrimp.

The Park: Conservatory of Flowers

The roast turkey sandwich from Arguello Market is, according to the handwritten menu board above the deli case, “World Famous.” While that might not be completely true, it’s at the very least a local celebrity. Thank the tender white and dark turkey meat that takes up 60% of this sandwich’s real estate for that. All the usual fixings are stacked on a soft roll of choice (go dutch crunch). It’s simple, and it’s flawless. And it’s what you need before making the ten-minute walk to the Conservatory of Flowers, an elite picnic destination, even if you’re not planning on entering the actual botanical garden. 

The Park: The Panhandle

McBaker Market & Deli is another corner store that’s also a sandwich destination. And in this case, it’s The Panhandle’s soulmate. Most of the sandwiches are SF-themed, like the excellent 49er with chicken, bacon, and pepper jack. We also love the “Garden of Eatin,” a vegetarian option that makes most other meat-filled sandwiches in the city look skimpy. Wander the aisles filled with candy and jarred pasta sauces while you wait. 

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photo credit: Erin Ng

The SF Sandwich & Park Power Pairings guide image