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The Best Home Sandwiches

orderpizzaonlinewalledlakemi finds the best thing since sliced bread: locally made sammies.


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Finely crafted sandwiches stood out in 2018 as menus across the Home elevated the lunch classics. Due to the sheer magnitude of sandwich-focused restaurants that opened in the area this year alone, orderpizzaonlinewalledlakemi limited its search for the region’s best to local spots that excel in at least one of three categories: fried chicken, house-cured pastrami, and avocado toast—awarding gold, silver, and bronze medals in each. But we challenge you to judge for yourself.

 

Fried Chicken

Gold Medal: The Bird

The Sandwich
Despite its irreverent name, The Bird in Berkeley does everything it can to serve the Bay Area’s best fried chicken sandwich at the lowest possible price point. Free-range thighs are brined and then double-breaded (in a gluten-free mixture) before being dipped into a buttermilk egg wash with North African seasonings (think allspice, cinnamon, smoked paprika, and chile de árbol). Fried in neutral rice oil, the chicken’s natural flavor shines through alongside the toasted spices. The buns are soft yet sturdy, and the slaw—crunched up with celery and fuji apple—cuts through the sandwich’s richness. The chicken comes in a classic or spicy style (chef-partner Blair Warsham likens the piquant version—spiked with chipotle and cayenne—to barbecue Fritos), but the house-made sriracha sauce, thick with roasted peppers and a great dip for the fries, lets you control the heat.

The Vibe
Bare bones is an understatement.

Tip
A small portion of fried chicken is available inside a house-made biscuit at half the (already-low) price. It comes bare, but ask for slaw and a pickle; there’s no extra charge. Go low-brow with a quart of Miller High Life ($5), or pair your sando with the locally made, not-too-hoppy Gilman Brewing Company IPA. 2400 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, (510) 665-3137, . Lunch and dinner daily.

 

Photo courtesy of Proposition Chicken

Silver Medal: Proposition Chicken

The Sandwich
This socially conscious venture (the store’s name is a reaction to Chick-fil-A’s anti-same-sex marriage stance) delivers a classic-yet-hip chicken sandwich with ultramoist meat born from a flavorful brine, creamy-spicy coleslaw, and a killer side of thick, house-made potato chips. If life permits, get your chicky on a Monday, when a portion of Proposition’s sales goes to a local nonprofit.

The Vibe
Red, white, and blue tiling; neon birds; and egg-y kitsch create a chic, chock-full-of-chick setting.

Tip
Balance the naughty with a side of caramelized brussels sprouts, and kick back with a bottle of craft beer. 3260 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland, (510) 808-5172, . Lunch and dinner daily.

 

Bronze Medal: Plucked Chicken and Beer

The Sandwich
Founded by the creators of Sauced BBQ and Spirits, Plucked embodies America’s unapologetic, in-your-face ethos. Rather than refining a perfectly fried bird, Plucked packages its crusty, free-range chicken in a buttery brioche bun with a deadly combo of bacon, fried egg, and cheddar. With enough calories to carry you through the day, this sandwich—known as The Rooster—is smartly bound with a sweet pepper jelly. It was also easy to fall for the Sticky Chicky, a jalapeño-laced creation featuring good ol’ coleslaw—an homage to the fried chicken classic.

The Vibe
Neat and plucky.

Tip
With huge franchise potential (a second location is already slated to open in Pleasanton early next year), Plucked features a dozen rotating, serve-yourself beers. Great chicken tacos are a bonus, and the white cheddar mac and cheese will please the poultry-averse. 3191D Crow Canyon Pl., San Ramon, (925) 380-6981, . Lunch and dinner daily.

 

Pastrami

Gold Medal: Salt Craft

The Sandwich
Few local dishes have earned as much acclaim as chef-owner Matt Greco’s lamb pastrami. Previously the executive chef at The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards, the remarkably innovative Greco offers his signature pastrami as a charcuterie plate for dinner at his Pleasanton eatery. But when it’s in a sandwich at lunch or brunch, the pastrami—stuffed between house-baked coffee rye bread—is right at home. The shaved lamb, completely greaseless and perfumed with coriander in a “secret sauce,” melts in the mouth. Greco’s sauce offers an unctuous touch, but this hearty sammie—brightened with fresh herbs—does not weigh you down the way so many Reubens do.

The Vibe
All three seating areas are outdoors (two enclosed side patios and a main dining space with umbrellas), lending Salt Craft a relaxed air to counter its sophisticated food.

Tip
The breads are all fantastic and made in-house, and Greco’s avocado toast—simply seasoned with olive oil and sesame seeds—is a pristine version. The 2017 Ragbag WineWorks albariño pairs beautifully with the lamb sandwich and the toast. 377 St. Mary’s St., Pleasanton, (925) 425-9716, . Breakfast and lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner daily, brunch Sat.–Sun.

 

Photo by Mike Machado

Silver Medal: Bottletaps

The Sandwich
Executive chef Patrick Tripp has perfected his juicy pastrami with a five-day pickling brine, a crust of cracked black pepper and coriander, and five hours of hickory smoke at 275°F (basted halfway through with vinegar and Worcestershire). For the meaty sandwich, slices of marble rye are slathered in mustard mixed with IPA syrup. Tripp also adds sauerkraut and provolone (or ghost-pepper cheese for those who like it crazy hot), and then presses it all together into a crispy, gooey, oozy panini.

The Vibe
The spacious, brick-accented, ultracasual dining room boasts 30-plus rotating taps.

Tip
Pair the sammie with a malty beer showcasing plenty of umami, such as a brown ale or altbier. The Cubano panini here is equally killer. 3020 Bernal Ave., Ste. 160, Pleasanton, (925) 399-8322, . Lunch and dinner daily.

 

Bronze Medal: Batch and Brine

The Sandwich
With a 13-day brine; a long, slow smoke; and a final steam that renders the fat into delectable succulence, the pastrami at Batch and Brine deserves the best accompaniments: Acme Bread Company rye, Emmentaler cheese, and house-made slaw. The sandwich is grilled a la plancha until the bread becomes crunchy, the meat warms through, and the cheese begins to melt. All told, it’s a two-week process. The final product comes with fries or a green salad.

The Vibe
The airy, urban design has a decidedly hip yet easygoing feel.

Tip
Each of Batch and Brine’s refined sandwiches—including the fried chicken (featuring a brined chicken thigh, slaw, pickles, and Calabrian chile aioli)—comes with a pairing suggestion. Seismic Brewing Company’s Shatter Cone IPA—bright, aromatic, and hoppy—was the drink of choice on our visit, but the draft beers are always changing. 3602 Mount orderpizzaonlinewalledlakemi Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 298-5687, . Lunch and dinner daily, brunch Sat.–Sun.

 

Avocado Toast

Gold Medal: Cafe Umami

The Sandwich
Sang Lee and Sungsoon Park have created a wholly original café featuring Asian-influenced grain bowls and toasts. All but one of the avocado toast varieties start on thick slices of Acme Bread Company sourdough brushed with miso-brown butter before being topped with smashed avocado. We tried two versions: one with roasted, lightly seasoned, and thinly sliced cremini mushrooms; and one with overnight-poached chicken salad that was so tender and sweet, it tasted more like fresh Dungeness crab. A sprinkle of Aleppo pepper gives these low-salt toasts a kick.

The Vibe
The cozy space is utterly simple, with one large communal and four small tables.

Tip
Chai, matcha, and medicinal herbal lattes are energizing pairings for the toasts. (Beef broth is a more substantive option.) If you’re not into toast, the brown rice Vege-Power Bowl shines with mushrooms and avocado. 2224 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland, (510) 646-2394, . Breakfast and lunch daily.

 

Photo courtesy of The Gastropig

Silver Medal: The Gastropig

The Sandwich
Created by Loren Goodwin, this spacious eatery in Uptown Oakland feels like a daytime oasis. Most dishes are for the truly hungry, but the avocado toast is titillating as well as satisfying. Ripe avocado laced with cilantro cream sits atop crusty Pugliese sourdough generously brushed with olive oil. Cutting all that natural richness are pickled red onions and a pile of peppery baby arugula dressed with red wine vinegar.

The Vibe
Casual and stylish, The Gastropig’s best seats on a nice day are along the extensive open-air counter facing the street.

Tip
The Baconslut breakfast sando can be made even more indulgent by adding a burger patty. Pair the comparatively civilized avocado toast with a mimosa. 2123 Franklin St., Oakland, (510) 817-4663, . Breakfast and lunch daily.

 

Bronze Medal: The Press an Artisan Cafe

The Sandwich
Marshall and Rebekah Culp’s winning café—the original Press opened in Pleasanton in 2015—offers eight toastinis (with seasonal specials like chèvre with fresh figs), including a simple avocado version on crispy Acme levain topped with a just-set, split hard-boiled egg. A lush alternative is Press’ toast smeared with goat cheese and topped with sliced avocado and halved orange wheels; it’s both decadent and refreshing. If you want to go for the jugular, try the Avocado Tripled Cheese Panini—hot and melty with cheddar, provolone, and brie.

The Vibe
Located right by Livermore 13 Cinema, the restaurant is bright and immaculate.

Tip
A crazy alternative toastini is the Elvis Presley, a sticky-naughty combo of banana, peanut butter, honey, and bacon. The best drink pairing for the avocado toast might be the citrus-infused water or one of the superior java drinks made with Chromatic Coffee. 2470 First St., Ste. 110, Livermore, (925) 292-1916, . Breakfast and lunch Mon.-Sat. 

 

 

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