By Melanie Graysmith
Downtown San Francisco at lunchtime is a hectic place. With office workers and the City’s venerable tourists out hitting the streets to buy lunch with limited time and an eye on good value for tasty and wholesome meals, the best lunch spots are convenient and quick, and bring in the crowds.
37 New Montgomery St.
San Francisco, CA 94105
The Sentinel is a sandwich shop, plain and simple, although the sandwiches that pull in the crowds are anything but the ordinary, simple kind. Although the Sentinel offers its daily menu cold and hot sandwich selections, like cold turkey with cranberries, Havarti cheese and chipotle mayo ($10.5), and hot lamb and eggplant with chickpeas and herb pesto ($11), the shop also boasts seasonal menu changes that may include egg salad, or famed BBQ roast beef with caramelized onions, or a beef stew sandwich that’s messy, but a winner. The place is known for its long wait lines, the only downside, though added evidence that the sandwiches are worth the wait. Sentinel really is a light breakfast (fruity muffins, coffee cakes) and lunch sandwich shop that opens at 7:30 am and closes at 2:30 pm, so if you’re looking for a fast, late lunch, you will need to go someplace else.
240 Kearny St.
San Francisco, CA 94108
With eight San Francisco locations and two “Rover” MIXT on wheels spots for lunch order pickups, MIXT makes the quintessential “quick lunch” a reality every weekday. MIXT is the place for salads and grain bowls, healthy, nutritious options for fast lunch fixes you can feel good about, although sandwich pickings are slim with just two ready-set meat sandwich choices. Customers can create their own salad and grain bowls, with ingredients galore for vegetarians and vegans, but no DIY veggie sandwich options for non-meat eaters. Visit the website for additional MIXT locations around town.
235 Montgomery St.
San Francisco, CA 94104
You want quick? Here‘s quick, and pretty good all around. Lee’s Deli is a San Francisco lunchtime favorite and the prices are always right. With fresh food almost guaranteed, Lee’s inexpensive sandwiches practically fly out the door, as the deli’s fast moving lanes can attest. Lee’s has 10 San Francisco locations serving fresh, made to order deli, premium, hot, and Vietnamese sandwiches, plus a hot food bar and salad self-serve, pay-by-weight bar ($8.58/lb). If you’re looking for hot food with some tasty Chinese hot dishes, or a few sushi-like bites to add to the mix, Lee’s has those too. Take a peek at Lee’s extensive menu here, but note that all locations may not serve all the same items. Breakfast items like bagels and a variety of baked goods are here as well, plus a breakfast hot food bar ($8.58/lb) for scrambled eggs, potatoes, breakfast meats and more, served until 10 am. Check the website for additional locations.
Don’t let the name scare you off for a quick lunch, though aim to hang around for a while to enjoy the nostalgic feel of this throwback, neighborhood watering hole that offers take out lunch, making it a lunchtime fit at San Francisco’s bustling merge of FiDi – SoMa districts. Fans rave about the Archive pizzas, available at lunch and dinner ($15.5 – $18) tagged locally with names like Coit, Moscone, Hearst, DiMaggio, Bolinas, and 1906. Also available are several lunchtime sandwiches ($13.5 – $13.95), though none for vegetarians, plus pulled pork tacos ($12.5). Several fresh salads, just right for vegetarians, are here too ($12 – $15).
Spark Social SF
601 Mission Bay Blvd., North
San Francisco, CA 94158
Spark Social SF is not exactly downtown but in a sub-neighborhood of nearby SoMa, a district at the heart of the Mission Bay neighborhood that has seen an uptick in business and housing development. Spark serves the new business and residential hub as an urban gathering space designed to bring the neighborhood together day and night with a food truck park, beer and sangria garden, and event space for neighborhood gatherings. Spark works with more than 150 Bay Area food trucks that rotate daily for lunch and dinner, and is a deliciously fun venue for neighborhood workers, residents, and visitors to grab lunch or dinner. Visit the website and click the Events link to view the daily food truck roundup and schedules for weekdays and weekends, or view here.