Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Thursday, January 27, 2011

No. 78: Meatball Sandwich at Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe

Posted By on Thu, Jan 27, 2011 at 12:55 PM

Mario's meatball sandwich on onion foccacia. - KEITH Y./YELP
  • Keith Y./Yelp
  • Mario's meatball sandwich on onion foccacia.

SFoodie's countdown of the 92 best things to eat and drink in San Francisco, 2011 edition.


North Beach's reputation as a Bohemian neighborhood has been on the wane since the 1970s ― SFoodie imagines the neighborhood crankily shaking its head at those Mission upstarts. But for all its tourist appeal, Mario's still seems imbued with the spirit of the low-rent, high-minded drunkards and speed freaks who made the neighborhood great. And while the carved wood bar and yellow walls are encrusted in nostalgia, take advantage of the January heat wave to sit on the sidewalk, facing Washington Square Park and Sts. Peter and Paul Church, while you wait for a hot meatball sandwich.

A spell in the toaster restores the oil-brushed sheen to the scallion-spotted focaccia, with its astrakhan-like folds, its hills and dimples: more surface area for the crisping. Each bite propels flecks of the crust across the table.

The meatballs inside ― sliced into thick rounds ― are barely more substantial than the airy focaccia, and they're coated in just enough tomato sauce to stain the bread carmine and goose it with a little acidity. The blanket of melted mozzarella is barely able to keep the sandwich from falling apart, so it takes a lot of juggling and a couple of napkins to prevent your shirt from becoming stained, too. Order a tumbler or two of wine, even if it's noon and you have to go back to work afterward. Spend an extra half-hour with a book. Call it a North Beach breakfast.

Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe: 566 Columbus (at Union), 362-0536.

Dishes in our series so far:
92: Goat tacos from El Norteño
91: Faux shark's fin soup at Benu
90: Esperpento's alcachofas a la plancha
89: Poco Dolce's olive oil chocolate bar
88: Decantr's chicken-liver mousseline
87: Outerlands' levain bread
86: Fraîche's frozen yogurt
85: Gyro King's spinach pie
84: Tandoori fish from Lahore Karahi
83: Braised oxtail and daikon from Namu
82: Golden Gate Bakery's custard tart
81: Commonwealth's cured foie gras with umeboshi purée
80: Star Stream's Liège-style waffle
79: Mexican hot chocolate from La Oaxaqueña

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Follow me at @JonKauffman.
  • Pin It

Tags: , , , , ,

About The Author

Jonathan Kauffman


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"