Given the care that San Francisco cooks lavish on the humblest of vegetables, it's no surprise that sandwich-making in this town qualifies as an artisanal pursuit. Even journeyman makers hunt down the perfect bread for their masterpieces and whisk together small-batch mayonnaise. In fact, we're surprised that no one has come up with a sandwich-making certification program. Or a guild. Or at least a manifesto. Then again, that's what we love about sandwiches. You can make a sandwich fancy, you can charge $14 for it, but in the end, it's still a food meant to be eaten with your hands. Here are our 10 favorite right now:
10. Turkey sandwich from Arguello Super Market (pictured above)
782 Arguello (at Golden Gate), 751-5121
9. Turkey-pastrami sandwich at M & L Market
This small grocery in the Richmond backs its roast turkey sandwich up with a big marketing push: 'World's best turkey sandwich." World's best? We can't judge that claim, but it's certainly San Francisco's best, layered with fat slices of meat sliced off a freshly roasted bird. The grocery store can roast up to a dozen birds a day, just to keep up with demand. With good meat in the middle, there's no need to zhoozh it up, though if you're feeling Novemberish, you can add cranberry sauce for an extra 75 cents.
691 14th St. (at Market), 431-7044
Over the course of its 32 years, this mom-and-pop market, now more of a mom-and-daughter market, has developed rules so stringent they rival the U.S. Customs Service's. As numerous signs instruct, you must order the sandwich in a certain order -- bread first! -- and it helps to speak slowly and clearly, showing Judy and May deference rather than fear. The sandwich you get in return isn't just cheap, it's unique to the market, stuffed with sliced turkey and M&L's signature meat, a mild, fat-streaked pastrami that heats and crinkles up in two rice cookers.
8. Chicken milanesa torta from Tortas Boos Voni.
5170 Mission (at Geneva), 585-5880
American tortas are like American, well, everything: bigger, louder, cheesier than the Mexican original. The breaded chicken cutlet -- freshly fried -- at the center of Boos Voni's milanesa torta is padded out with an inch-thick layer of shredded lettuce, tomato, onion, and avocado, glued to the telera bread they're pressed between with fat doses of cotija cheese and crema. That girth, though, guarantees that the torta balances out the tang of the sour cream with the fresh crunch of the vegetables. Just make sure to split it with a friend.
7. Pastrami sandwich from Jablow's Meats
Various locations; check the Facebook page
For the past year, Dan Jablow, a former Fatted Calf butcher, has been selling his smoked meats at popup restaurants around town
. And if his pastrami sandwich is hard to come by, it's worth the hunt. Jablow brines and smokes Piedmontese beef over apple and cherry wood, and it comes out is smokier and less salty than the stuff in your average deli sandwich. When the cooks slather the pastrami in whole-grain mustard, cover it in a vinegary slaw, and mount it between slices of thick-crusted rye, you get an excellent package, not a mediocre vehicle for good meat.