By Emily Laskin
What can’t a sandwich be? From a staple of a packed school lunch to a showcase for artisanal bakers, braisers and picklers, this category is humble yet huge. To narrow it down, we picked six of our favorite gooey, saucy, sloppy sandwiches. But the East Bay has no shortage of awesome meat-and-cheese, and veggies between two slices. Tell us about your favorites in the comments below.
KronnerBurger, Piedmont Avenue
The patty melt at KronnerBurger is like the best of a burger plus the best of grilled cheese, with caramelized onions and béchamel sauce thrown in for good measure. It’s pretty extreme. Is it the East Bay’s ultimate gooey sandwich? It tops this list for its excellent combination of just-rare-enough beef, melted cheese, soft vegetables and crusty bread. KronnerBurger has some serious fans who also love the restaurant’s more standard burgers, its wedge salad and all-round pretty presentation. If you’re going all out for the patty melt, don’t forget this spot’s other decadent standout — marrow, available as a small plate or as an addition to a burger or sandwich. KronnerBurger is at 4063 Piedmont Ave. (at 41st Street), Oakland. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Genova Delicatessen, Temescal
[Update: Genova is now closed.] Genova is a lot of things — purveyor of Italian imports, take-and-bake lasagna merchant, classic Italian deli counter — but for the purposes of this list it’s a deli with a brief and beautiful “specialty sandwich” menu. All 11 items on this list are worth sampling (and your time might be running out — earlier this year news broke that Genova may be forced out of its Temescal home following rent hikes). The number nine — a classic Italian sandwich with salami, prosciutto, mortadella and provolone — is a Yelp favorite. This reviewer is partial to the number two — prosciutto, mozzarella and anchovy — and the number six — a vegetarian artichoke option. Whatever you choose, get it on their house-made rolls and don’t skip the oil and vinegar! Genova Delicatessen is at 5095 Telegraph Ave. (between 49th and 51st streets), Oakland. Connect with the business on Facebook.
If you think a meatball sub is the bottom line in the saucy, hot sandwich category, go to Southie and order The Balls. The name isn’t subtle, but the sandwich is a total East Coast classic: soft pork meatballs, tomato sauce, provolone and Parmesan with a side of potato chips. This little spot often functions as a bar and waiting area for Wood Tavern next door (and is owned by the same people), but it’s a sandwich shop by day and restaurant in its own right by night. Casual but classy, all of its sandwiches follow The Balls’ laid-back and hearty example. Menus vary a bit day-to-day, though The Balls is a constant. The recent vegetarian broccoli rabe and kale option is a close second in sandwich satisfaction. Southie is at 6311 College Ave. (at 63rd Street), Oakland. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook.
Taqueria Talavera, North Berkeley
Texture is a serious consideration, even in the gooey sandwich category. Just the right amount of crunch can take a good sandwich to the next level. Exhibit A: the torta de chorizo at Taqueria Talavera. Saucy and spicy, with satisfyingly crackly chorizo and plenty of cheese and pickled jalapeños, this sandwich is simple and delicious. Its roll also makes for the prefect combination of crusty and sauce-soaked. Bonus points for the taqueria’s bright and beautiful interior and its next-level salsa bar. Honorable sandwich mention: the carne asada torta, not quite as gooey as the chorizo but equally tasty. Taqueria Talavera is at 1561 Solano Ave. (at Peralta Avenue), Berkeley.
The Cook and Her Farmer, Old Oakland
The Cook and Her Farmer inside Swan’s Marketplace in downtown Oakland, has two standout sloppy sandwiches: the “Oakland’s Own Po’ Boy” and the “Best Ever Slow-Cooked Grilled Cheese.” This spot specializes in oysters — its namesake Farmer spent time at Tomales Bay Oyster Co. — so the po’ boy with fried oysters and a light vinegary slaw is not to be missed. Then there’s the grilled cheese. Though it’s not seafood related, this melty, toasty sandwich lives up to its ambitious name and has a fan club of its own. Three kinds of cheese, Acme levain, and seasonal fruit mostarda make this a standout in a tough field. The Cook and Her Farmer is at 510 9th St. (at Washington Street), Oakland. Connect with the business on Facebook and Instagram.
Montague’s Gourmet Sandwiches, Berkeley Southside
Since Montague’s is right near campus, and as its sandwiches are frankly huge, it does a steady business with the undergraduate guy crowd. (It probably doesn’t hurt that you can play 1990s Nintendo games while you wait for your order.) But don’t let that deter you — and remember that undergraduate guys are, on the whole, expert consumers of sandwiches! Montague’s is a no-frills, build-your-own sandwich counter: you choose your meat, cheese, toppings and bread. Their Dutch crunch is a big deal with regulars, and the sourdough is also excellently chewy, crusty and sour. Definitely go for the signature Montague’s garlic spread and spicy sauce. You can also have any sandwich made hot for extra “melty” potential. Montague’s Gourmet Sandwiches is at 2510 Channing Way (at Telegraph Avenue), Berkeley. Connect with the business on Facebook.