Does Berkeley have crummy sandwiches?

Bakesale Betty's fried chicken sandwich

San Francisco Magazine, that oversized, glossy love letter to food and fashion*, recently named what it considers the best sandwiches in the Bay Area.

And, if you can believe it, not a single sandwich in Berkeley was selected.

There were sandwiches from Oakland (Bakesale Betty’s chicken and coleslaw on a French roll got a nod), sandwiches from Pt. Reyes Station (Osteria Stellina’s grilled cheese was singled out), sandwiches from San Carlos (The Refuge’s pastrami is apparently good enough to die for), and plenty of sandwiches from San Francisco.

But not one from Berkeley.


How can this be? Berkeley is the home of Chez Panisse, the Cheeseboard, Acme Bread, and all things artisanal. Someone must be putting ingredients together to make delicious sandwiches.

Here’s another, harsher thought: What if the magazine is right?

Berkeleyside decided to take matters into its own hands and conduct a poll of delicious sandwiches within the city’s borders. Here is what we think are some pretty tasty lunch treats.

Star Grocery

Star Grocery is more than 60 years old and from the outside looks old-fashioned. It’s not all fluorescent lights and spit and polish but wooden shelves and faded linoleum. Yet its meat department makes some of the best sandwiches around. They are so enormous it’s hard to eat an entire one, but with its crunchy Acme French bread and meats cured on the premises you can’t go wrong. Many of the sandwiches are Italian-themed, with names like the Soprano, Goodfella, the Godfather, and Raging Bull. Call ahead, if possible, as they sometimes run out.

Café Panini

This Berkeley institution tucked inside the charming Trumpetvine Court on Allston Way has been serving up fresh and delicious sandwiches for a few decades. While my 14-year old likes the artichoke sandwich on French bread, I prefer the Roma Panini with pesto, Roma tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and sun-dried tomatoes. It is lightly toasted and served open faced.  The lemonade is also great and they have this super dense chocolate cookie that is the perfect end to a meal.

Fred’s Market No. 2

Any student at Berkeley High can tell you about Fred’s Market on University Avenue. At lunchtime there is always a line and I wager that most of the people are ordering the chicken sandwich. It’s got grilled marinated chicken chunks, grilled onions, and a special Middle Eastern sauce. Provolone cheese is melted on top and the entire concoction is put on a soft French roll.  This is another sandwich that is so large it’s hard to eat the entire thing.

Café Fanny

This Alice Waters café named after her daughter has many delicious items. But I love the egg salad sandwich on toasted levain bread. It is topped with sun-dried tomatoes and anchovies. Why can’t I make this at home?

Saul’s Restaurant & Deli

If Saul’s is good enough for Michael Pollan and Michael Lewis, it is good enough for me. Both Berkeley writers are regular customers, a nod to the deli’s recent turn toward sustainable, organic meats. The Niman Ranch pastrami is served warm and bursting with flavor. The meat is not as thickly stacked as it once was, but the sandwich is still delicious.

What am I missing?

*In all fairness, San Francisco Magazine also does in-depth journalism. The magazine has been nominated for two National Magazine Awards this year, one for public service and one for general excellence.