We admit it. After a certain amount of time in the Bay Area, our carnivorous, carb-heavy ways have receded some. We often opt for the salad bowl over the burrito, the tofu over the kalbi beef. We’ve come to think of avocado as a major food group. But there remains something visceral about a sandwich: meat and bread, sauce of some kind, held between two palms.
We pay attention when its form is taken to the next level. When new meats are introduced, toppings are elevated and eggs are added, we notice. Some merchants think that a Dutch Crunch roll compensates for slimy deli meats and basic fixings. We’re here to say — not so fast.
And so we honor those getting creative with their sandos and tip our hats to their commitment to quality. (Please note: towel not included for the meat sweats that may ensue.)
The Brown Derby from Ace of Sandwiches (Palo Alto)
Walk into Ace of Sandwiches on El Camino and you’ll notice “Indulge” in huge lettering on the back wall. Ponder its meaning and placement while ordering The Brown Derby ($12.99). A breakfast sandwich-and-reuben love child, this baby is made of peppered pastrami, a fried egg (over medium), two hash browns (McDonald’s style), bacon, swiss cheese, coleslaw, and spicy aioli all tucked between a toasted Dutch Crunch roll.
The pastrami is the star here, dominating the flavor of the initial bite. The egg and aioli keep it moist. The slaw gives it a crunch. And the bacon gives an extra layer of pig you didn’t even know you wanted. Together, the Brown Derby’s components work in a calorie- and cholesterol-packed harmoney. Go at 11 a.m. and have this pseudo-breakfast sando kill two meals at once. P.S. Comes standard with potato chips and a can of soda but the cashier might forget to mention that (don’t be shy, grab your goods).
New location—Stanford University S.O.M// 1070 Arastradero Rd, Palo Alto //Mon-Wed-Fri , 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.; Tues.-Thurs., 8:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m. //
The Ham I Am from The Greedy Ant (Belmont)
Advertised as a fine cheese shop, The Greedy Ant also crafts some of the finest sandwiches on the Peninsula. We went for the Ham I Am ($9.25) with shaved truffle ham and everything on it — creamy havarti cheese, marinated cipollini onion, organic greens, extra virgin olive oil and “magic mayo.” We didn’t realize you can add locally sourced tomatoes for $.50 but we survived without.
One bite and you’ll know why this hidden cheese shop in sleepy Belmont sports a passionate following among connoisseurs. The truffle in the ham, which owner Mark Paladini sources directly from Parma, is inescapable and delicious. Mark tells us that “After curing, the ham is opened up and given a liberal amount of shaved black summer truffle and is pumped with real truffle ‘juice’ giving it a surreal finish of earthy mushroom.” Mhmm, what he said.
The Cipollini onions are also sourced from Italy and their agrodolce marinade ( “agro” = sour and “dolce” = sweet, bene! ) is a tangy counterpoint to the truffle ham and the creamy havarti. The magic mayo ties it all together, magically. Tip: grab a flavored Pellegrino (we went with blood orange) to wash it all down and cut the lingering truffle breath. Unless you want earthy mushrooms to last all day because — trust us — they will.
// 932 Ralston Ave, Belmont, CA // Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat 10:30–4pm, Sun 10:30am-2pm //
The Lucca Dog from Little Lucca (Burlingame)
If you’re coming home from SFO and the line for the In-N-Out off Millbrae Avenue is around the block, keep driving until you hit Little Lucca. This little Italian deli has quite the reputation for it’s italian subs with meats including prosciutto, hot coppa and sopressata. But that’s not why we went to Little Luca.
We wanted to put our paws on the Lucca Dog ($10.50) — a behemoth of a sandwich that contains two ballpark-sized hot dogs, pastrami, bacon and cheddar cheese. We got it with all the fixings — shaved lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickle, mayo, mustard and Little Lucca’s famous hot pepper and garlic sauces.
Does that huge ensemble cast translate into witty Redford-vs-Kingsley repartee in Sneakers? Or into a self-referential mess like Ocean’s Twelve? It’s a matter of taste (unless you don’t like Sneakers, in which case you may leave now). For starters, there’s a lot of hot dog in the Lucca Dog, which isn’t bad, just an unfamiliar taste in an Italian sub. In aggregate, the flavors worked well and, make no mistake, to get all that meat and all those fixings in one sandwich without its immediately disintegrating was quite the accomplishment. Also, the homemade hot pepper and garlic sauces are worth the drive themselves. But be warned, this may be the sandwich that pushes you to go veggie for a month.
// 1809 El Camino Real, Burlingame // Open everyday 9am-4pm //
The Adam Richman from Ike’s Place (San Mateo)
Ike’s Place is known for their wacky sandwich combinations, but the Adam Richman ($11.11) was next level — fried chicken, ham, honey, pesto, avocado, swiss cheese, jalapeno, lettuce, tomato and mayo all on a Dutch Crunch roll. We got meat sweats just writing those ingredients out.
For an unruly combination of ingredients, the Adam Richman (properly named after the host of Travel Channel’s Man vs. Food), actually has decent flavor harmony. Though nearly impossible to munch everything in one bite, the honey and fried chicken pair nicely, the ham, bacon, swiss, and pesto are a savory treat, and the avocado and veggies are fresh and help you forget the calorie intake.
If you’re super hungry and feeling adventurous, we might just recommend the Adam Richman. Or, you can choose from the wall of combinations that Ike’s Place offers. Tip: there are more sandwich options than can fit on the wall. Tell the cashier the main components you’re looking for (turkey, chicken, etc) and they can make suggestions from their spreadsheet of sandwiches that’s hidden behind the counter.
// 680 E 3rd Ave, San Mateo // Mon-Thurs 6:30am-8pm, Fri 6:30am-10pm, Sat 8:30am-10pm, Sun 8:30am-8pm //
Want a few more standout sandos on the Peninsula? We got you.
Fred’s Marinated Sirloin Sandwich from Schaub’s (Palo Alto)
A part of Palo Alto folklore, the “black beef” from Schaub’s is tri-tip marinated with a secret family secret recipe that our sandwich maker said only three people in the world know. The Fred’s sandwich ($10.75), named after Fred Schaub who originally came up with the marinade recipe, showcases the storied black beef on a soft sourdough roll with fresh lettuce, tomato, pickles and provolone cheese. Ask for it hot!
// 395 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto // Mon-Fri 10am-7pm, Sat 9am-7pm, Sun 11am-6pm //
Reuben from the Refuge (San Carlos and Menlo Park)
The Refuge doesn’t shy away from their claim to having the “best pastrami” and rightfully so. Using a cut known as “beef bacon,” their kitchen follows a weeklong technique of brining, smoking and then steaming for tenderness. Try the pastrami in the reuben ($17.95) that includes sauerkraut, melted swiss, and “crazy Russian” dressing, all on toasted rye, the bread that reubens belong on. Rinse it down with a wide selection of Belgian ales.
// 1143 Crane St, Menlo Park and 963 Laurel St, San Carlos // Mon-Thurs 11:30am-2:30pm, 5pm-9pm, Fri 11:30am-2:30pm, 5pm-10pm, Sat 12pm-10pm, Sun 12pm-9pm //
Sausage sandwich of the day from Dittmer’s (Los Altos)
While other co-workers are going out for the $6 footlong of the day, break away and head to Dittmer’s for one of their signature sausage sandwiches. Monday to Friday, Dittmer’s offers a sausage sandwich of the day ($7). Past daily standouts include the Hannoverwurst, chicken bell pepper, kielbasa and garlic sausage. Make sure to get there before the grill shuts down at 2 p.m.
// 4540 El Camino Real, Los Altos // Mon-Fri 9am-6pm, Sat 9am-5pm, Closed on Sun //