If you grab a quick to-go lunch in downtown San Francisco, you don’t have many choices of where to eat – a dreary corner of the sandwich shop, or sitting on some concrete. Or if you’re shopping and just want to take a quiet break for a few minutes, you end up paying $6 for an espresso just to get off your feet. And in either case, our summer weather doesn’t cooperate, frequently being too cold and foggy to enjoy an al fresco moment.
Luckily, there are pockets of POPOS (privately owned public open space) around downtown where you can enjoy a packed lunch or a quiet break – away from crowds, and frequently outside in a lovely setting. This is a periodic update of my experiences with those spots, including where to get your lunch or snack.
1 Montgomery Street
If you walk by the corner of Montgomery and Market, look above the rotunda entrance of the Wells Fargo Bank and you’ll see a fringe of trees above. A secret banker’s lair? Nope, it’s a POPOS which is open to everyone during business hours.
It’s accessible by using the elevator in the building lobby (not from the bank branch to the right) to go to “R” or roof. There’s a small section to the right of the elevator with a lovely sculpture, and a larger portion to the left. Both feature benches tucked against the hedges and walls, so they’re nicely protected from the ever-present wind.
Today, however, was foggy, and it was just too cold for me to eat my lunch there. Although when the sun came out a couple of hours later, it would have been a lovely little sun terrace.
For more information on the building, see: http://www.artandarchitecture-sf.com/the-first-national-bank-building.html
So, where did I end up eating that was warmer?
55 Second Street
This is an inside POPOS, which is kind of cheating, but you need a refuge when the fog gets to be too much. Follow the signs from the building entrance, and you’ll find a huge, bright, art-filled space complete with tables and chairs for easy (and warm) dining.
And for the most important component of a to-go lunch, the lunch:
The Sentinel, 37 New Montgomery
When a former fine dining chef like Dennis Leary opens a sandwich shop, you know to expect something beyond PB&J. And The Sentinel doesn’t disappoint. It is to-go only, with no seating, so eating at one of the nearby POPOS is a great option. I had the cheddar cheese and pear chutney sandwich, which was very good. (The bread could have been heartier, making it more along the line of a ploughman’s lunch, but the soft roll was tasty.)
Other nearby to-go options:
Subway, 30 2nd Street
Starbucks, 36 2nd Street
Caramba, 78 2nd Street
Sushirrito, 59 New Montgomery
Boudin Bakery, 619 Market St.
Lee’s Deli, 615 Market St.
Uno Dos Tacos, 595 Market St. (at the corner of Stevenson)
Yank Sing, 49 Stevenson
Split Bread, 560 Mission
Mixt Greens, 560 Mission
El Faro, 82 1st St.
And if you need something to read over lunch:
Alexander Book Store, 50 Second St.