The Bay Area has been home to countless culinary innovations, but if there's one area where our friends back East have us beat, it's sandwich engineering. The hot pastrami, the Reuben, the submarine — they're all simple blueprints we follow out here, even in a city so focused on the new. Adam Mesnick, the brains behind his original Deli Board and the new 1058 Hoagie in SOMA, has taken those traditions with him from the East to create a temple to the Old World sandwich. But while his first place has become a destination for its playful takes on the classics, the new location has some improving to do before it earns a place on the list of great S.F. sandwich spots.
Mesnick opened the Deli Board, the brick-and-mortar location of his popular pop-up lunch counter by the same name, on Folsom a little more than a year ago. Word spread about his masterfully cured pastrami, corned beef, brisket, and the unholy creations he makes with them, and today a line stretches out the door before noon. Standbys on the changing menu like the Boca (corned beef, pastrami, brisket, Muenster, brown mustard) and the Gold-n-Berg-n-stein (corned beef, pastrami, kosher salami, thousand island dressing) are true paragons of hot sandwich-making, wedding flavors in a sculpture of salt and grease barely contained by the bread. Like the offerings at the great Katz's Deli in New York, these are sandwiches worth a trip to the caloric dark side.
At 1058 Hoagie, which opened last month around the corner, Mesnick took a different tack: Instead of hot sandwiches, he serves cold, Philly-style hoagies (different from a submarine because it uses soft, flat rolls instead of crusty Italian rolls). 1058 Hoagie has the same poured concrete, sandwich-porn adorned, turntable-soundtracked interior as Deli Board, but it feels less polished, from the graffiti-like logo to the narrow layout separating the ordering line from the tables with a metal barrier, which gives the feel of a spruced up Subway. But the biggest deviation between the two shops is the creativity with sandwiches — the hoagies follow the standard Italian sub playbook almost exactly, and when they do deviate from the expected, their flavors aren't special enough to seek out.
The differences start with the bread. Deli Board's sandwiches are mostly served on pillowy French rolls, which hold up under the onslaught of the ingredients despite fading into the background, flavor-wise, letting the meat speak the loudest. Others are served on garlicky Dutch Crunch, like the vegetarian Maeday, where the flavorful bread gives the grilled squash and goat cheese a necessary counterpoint.
All hoagies at 1058 come on a traditional soft sesame seed roll. But there's a bit too much bread for the cold fillings, especially when those fillings don't offer enough flavor to stand on their own. Such is the case with the No. 1, a trio of Italian meats (Genoa salami, mortadella, and capicola) with provolone and cherry peppers; the toppings are good, but the sandwich never fuses into a meaty, spicy bite like a great Italian sub should. No. 2 is better — it swaps fiery pepperoni for the mortadella and capicola, and adds olive salad and sun-dried cherry tomatoes, which complement the meat nicely. Although it didn't manage to rise above the subs at Italian delis around town.
Mesnick's creativity can backfire. At Deli Board, the Fatty Matty pairs albacore tuna salad with falafel for a sandwich that offers a confusing blend of flavors — the spiced chickpeas didn't meld with the mayonnaise-heavy tuna salad, leaving me wanting either a falafel or a really great tuna melt, not a weird Frankenwich of both. Same with the No. 5 at 1058 Hoagie, with shaved fresh turkey along with house-made bacon cream cheese, a brilliant idea on paper that somehow manages to evade both the sweet creaminess and necessary bacon flavors to be anything above a turkey sandwich with cream cheese.
Many of Mesnick's sandwiches still manage to be just right. Deli Board's Zeke has the same sliced turkey as the disappointing No. 5, but it's paired with avocado, bacon, cream cheese, and pickled onions for a warm turkey sandwich that goes way beyond the ordinary. And at 1058 Hoagie, No. 4 is vegetarian but I didn't miss the meat in the face of sliced fresh mozzarella, artichoke hearts, olive salad, and shum spread (mayo, garlic, and basil pesto).
Mesnick also offers daily specials, hearty lunch salads, and soups; the shops also do a brisk catering business for nearby offices. Like most good things in town, there's a line that forms a few minutes before noon, and not enough tables to accommodate the crush — but there's a nice park across the street from Deli Board, and the line moves quickly enough. The menu changes every so often, making room for new creations; with Mesnick at the helm, let's hope his expanding sandwich empire will keep refining flavors until it dreams up a new hoagie sandwich the Bay Area can call its own.