Although dimsum will always reign as the classic San Francisco takeout food, The Vietnamese sandwich has gotten more and more popular in recent years. And no one puts together these sandwiches like the Saigon Sandwich shop, which is no more than a hole in the wall in San Francisco's Tenderloin area, a great place to grab food and go....sometimes very quickly, since it's not always the safest of neighborhoods for tourists. The trip is worth it for the signature sandwich, the Banh mi, the Vietnamese terms for bread which is then filled with your choice of pork, sausage, or chicken and dressed with cucumber, cilantro and pickled carrots.
Recommended for Take Out because: It's almost impossible to find a cheaper and more satisfying sandwich in San Francisco than those served at Saigon Sandwich Shop.
Tom's expert tip: If you don't mind your bread a little soggy, ask for extra sauce, which is excellent and really makes the sandwich.
You can't really experience San Francisco without visiting Chinatown, and you can't really experience Chinatown without eating dimsum, and you can't really say you've had dimsum until you've tried the dimsum at Good Mong Kok Bakery. The service is fast if not friendly, but there may still be a wait for takeout, as this place is renowned. But it's well worth the wait. Load up on wontons, dumplings and egg rolls and wander the streets of Chinatown, munching to your heart's delight for a true San Francisco experience. Be sure to grab some black tea to wash the take-out down, too.
Recommended for Take Out because: Although dim sum is wonderful as a sit-down meal, these tasty pastries are great to-go, as well.
Tom's expert tip: Dim sum, dim sum and more dim sum.
Clement Street in central San Francisco offers many sit down restaurants, but it's hard to beat Genki for its speed, quality and convenience in the take out category. If you're in the mood for savory, choose meats such ham, chicken, tuna salad to stuff your crepe. If you're looking for dessert, have an ice cream filled crepe. If you need to fill both hands, grab one of both to go, and get back out on Clement Street, one of the lesser known, wonderful neighborhoods, full of interesting bookstores and secondhand shops. Walking down Clement Street with a Genki crepe in one hand is definitely a San Francisco experience worth having.
Recommended for Take Out because: Whether you want sweet or savory, Genki Crepes has your take-out covered.
Tom's expert tip: The market is small and pricey, but has many necessities for those travelers who need some basic items quickly.
A hidden gem of San Francisco's Sunset district, San Tung Chinese Restaurant boasts a menu that consistently impresses locals and visitors alike. The most popular item by far is the original dry-fried chicken wings, but other patron favorites include the shrimp and leek dumplings, hot and sour soup, string beans and black bean sauce noodles. With so many Chinese restaurants to choose from, San Tung stands out for the freshness of their ingredients and the quality of their service. A San Francisco visit isn't complete without some Chinese food, so be sure to stop by San Tung Chinese to make your San Francisco visit complete.
Recommended for Take Out because: Ina town chockfull of amazing Chinese take-out, San Tung really stands out.
Tom's expert tip: Innovative and satisfying.
Soup is on the menu year round in San Francisco, a place that can stay in the high 50's for much of August. If you find yourself in San Francisco on one of those days when it feels like the wind and fog are barreling right through you, head to San Francisco Soup Company for a bowl or cup of their organic Southwestern Corn Chowder or organic Smoky Split Pea. On a chilly day, the best part of this grab and go item is that it will warm both your hands and your insides. And since all coups come with a generous hunk of sourdough bread, this quick and inexpensive meal will give you all the energy you need to tackle San Francisco's hills.
Recommended for Take Out because: The take-out line during lunch at San Francisco Soup Company speaks for itself. This is good soup.
Tom's expert tip: The name is not imaginative, but the soup is.
Location location, location works for this simple but popular seafood restaurant. If you're looking for fancy atmosphere, The Codmother is not your place, since you might have to fight off hungry seagulls while sitting at their modest patio tables. But if you want perfectly grilled, fried or baked fish, you can't do much better than this charming restaurant. While the fish and chips are a must-try, their Prawn Cocktail on a Hoagie Roll is inventive and adventurous. If you're feeling especially adventurous - and are not too worried about clogged arteries - sample some of their carny-style fried desserts, like their Fried Snickers Bar that will definitely turn heads as you walk around the piers.
Recommended for Take Out because: The Codmother is the mother of all "fish grab and go" choices.
Tom's expert tip: One of the busiest restaurants on Fisherman's Wharf - and for good reason.
If you still have savory dreams from childhood of two slices of perfectly buttered toast squeezing out melted cheddar cheese, this restuarant is for you. And, even though the recipe is simple, they take their one product very seriously, with "Commander in Cheese" Heidi Gibson dreaming up delectable sandwiches such as "The Mousetrap," which has an unforgettable mix of Tillamook Cheddar, havarti and Monterrey jack. And since grilled cheese should go hand-in-hand with tomato soup, be sure to order a to-go cup of their house-made Smoky Tomato Soup. If you think you know grilled cheese sandwiches, swing by The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen and get an education about this simple American masterpiece.
Recommended for Take Out because: What's better to beat that chilly San Francisco fog than a hot grilled cheese sandwich between your cold hands?
Tom's expert tip: The line for lunch can be very long, so try to go during off hours if you're in a hurry.
No take out list would be complete without at least one pizzeria. If you're partial to Chicago-style, check out Zachary's in Berkeley, where they specialize in that city's thick, doughy crust. But if you need the slim and simple slice that screams NYC, head to Arinell's. If you're with a group, they'll fix you a pie for a reasonable price. If you just need a few slices, they'll have those piping hot in a New York minute. And, since it stays open late in the popular Mission district, Arinell is a great late-night stop when you need that quick bite before heading off to bed.
Recommended for Take Out because: A great way to walk around the Mission Neighborhood is with a slice of Arinell Pizza in one hand.
Tom's expert tip: If you're from New York and need a slice, the best you're gonna get is Arinell's.
At La Taqueria, you'll not only get a great Mexican meal, but you'll save a little cash too! The menu specializes in burritos, tacos, and quesadillas served with beef, pork, sausage, or chicken. Carne asada comes highly praised, and chorizo sausage must be sampled before you leave. And don't be discouraged by long lines, even if it's winding all the way back to the bathrooms. This longstanding family run operation will build you a tasty burrito, taco or fajita in no time at all. Be sure to grab a few samples of their red and green salsas on the way out, too.
Recommended for Take Out because: La Taqueria remains the heart of Mission District food, so it's a must-visit for real foodies.
Tom's expert tip: Communal dining sets the pace at this casual and busy eatery.
Founded in San Francisco in 2010, Off the Grid (OTG) has championed the mobile food movement at over 15 locations with 60 weekly events that serve more than 100,000 people. When you get a half-dozen or more food trucks circled up like the OK corral, takeout food is taken to a whole new level. Why settle on one option when you can get Chinese, Mexican, Italian, and South American in one delectable truck round-up? And now that "Off The Grid" has been in the Bay area for awhile, it's become even more popular, drawing an eclectic crowd of locals and tourists. Even though you can grab and go, you might find the "Off The Grid" crowd provides the best ambience around - as well as a fantastic local resource on what should be your next San Francisco highlight.
Recommended for Take Out because: When you don't know what to take-out, just head to Off the Grid for an inordinate amount of yummy choices.
Tom's expert tip: Off the Grid continues to organize free meals for grocery store workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. OTG launched the Grocery Employees Meal Fund to raise money for Creators to help feed employees and their family members who are working at multiple grocery stores throughout the Bay Area during the pandemic. 100% of proceeds will support Creators as they curate these meals.