The Best Grab-and-Go Lunch Spots
Here’s the deal: Quick, packable, healthy lunch recipes are very much our jam—but we all have those days when pre-planning a week’s worth of meals, much less an emergency trip to the grocery store, just isn’t in the cards. The grab-and-go spots below offer low-maintenance alternatives to a packed lunch and, for the most part, won’t set you back from your clean eating goals (we threw in a few indulgences, just for fun).
Seed & Salt2240 Chestnut St., Cow Hollow | 415.872.9173
Historically, vegan, gluten, and dairy-free food can resemble cardboard in both taste and consistency. That's not the case at Seed + Salt. Here, the 100% clean menu is thoughtfully developed to make the most of local ingredients' inherent flavor, which translates to delicious plant-based dishes like the S+S Beet Burger, Quinoa Falafel, and Horchata Chia pudding. And while the light-filled café is great for a casual hang, the takeout menu is a welcome alternative to fast food on busy weeknights.
Ferry Building MarketplaceOne Ferry Building, The Embarcadero | 415.983.8000
This gorgeous building right on the Embarcadero houses some of San Francisco's most notable food merchants including Hog Island Oyster Company, Cowgirl Creamery's Artisan Cheese Shop, and Blue Bottle Coffee. It's the ideal place to bum around on a rainy day and the outdoor farmers market (they set up on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays) is not to be missed.
Blue Barn Gourmet2237 Polk St., Russian Hill | 415.655.9438
Sure, it's technically a deli, but that's only because there isn't really a fitting name yet for a quick and easy lunch spot (they're great for dinner and breakfast, too) that does the requisite sandwiches, soups, and salads while adhering to the tenets of the slow food movement. This means that everything on the menu is sustainably and locally sourced, mainly from Sonoma's family-owned Oak Hill Farm. The grilled cheese sandwiches are especially insane. There's also an outpost in the Marina.
Salumeria3000 20th St., Mission | 415.471.2998
The name kind of says it all—house-cured meats are the main draw. The minimalist (and mini) space serves as an artisanal grocery store and Italian-themed lunch counter where the food selection, while on the skimpy side, totally hits the spot when a sad store-bought salad won't do. The oversized sandwiches are stuffed with gourmet meats (get the Salumi sandwich to get a good idea of their offering) and organic veggies while the salads are sprinkled with fancy add-ons. Needles to say, the charcuterie boards are the real deal. There's another location in the Mission.
Jane925 Larkin St., Tenderloin | 415.593.5359
Jane is known for venturing beyond the expected coffee-and-pastry formula and providing locals with wholesome and delicious organic breakfast and lunch. The granola, which they sell in to-go jars, is particularly memorable. Owner Amanda Michael made it a point to make each of the two locations (there's also an outpost in Pacific Heights) as comfy and welcoming as possible, which explains why both are perpetually packed.
Lucca Delicatessen2120 Chestnut St., Marina | 415.921.7873
Lucca deli has been a family operation since 1929—brother-and-sister pair Paul and Linda Bosco are actually the grandchildren of the original owner. Accordingly, the place has all the trappings of an amazing Italian deli: salami hanging from the ceiling, cheese wheels aging behind the counter, shelves packed with canned and jarred goods, and fresh tortellini and ravioli, which is still made by hand. The Italian sandwiches are a worthy lunch indulgence, with crusty rolls (delivered fresh daily), provolone, fresh-sliced meats, and their secret ingredient, a roasted red pepper spread.
Working Girls’ Cafe259 Kearny St., Financial District | 415.398.1390
Working Girls is specifically designed for grab-and-go lunch, so it’s exactly the kind of place you can stop into for quick breakfast when you’re running late, or head to for lunch when you just can’t leave the desk (you can order online so the food’s ready when you arrive). The menu is miles-long, so they’ve got whatever you’re in the mood for, from classic sandwiches and paninis to light salads. They’re now three locations strong. There are locations on New Montgomery Street and Mission Street, too.
Eatsa1 California St., Financial District | 415.930.4006
The concept of Eatsa is to provide the convenience and speed of fast food with the nutrition of the slow food movement. The speed comes from their specially designed ordering system—you’ll order and pay either on your phone ahead of time or on an iPad in store. When you arrive (or in a few minutes if you order on-site) your food is ready to take away with you. They achieve this efficiency in the kitchen by offering a few easy-to-build bowls that you can customize to suit your tastes. The mediterranean salad is great for the carb-conscious, as is the “no worry curry.” There's a second location on Spear Street.
The Golden West8 Trinity Pl., Financial District | 415.216.6443
The Golden West is tucked into a small alley in the Financial District, and its takeout-only counter is marked with a neon “Au” sign. The menu is limited to a few items, and while everything from the salads to the daily specials is excellent, they’re really famous for the pork rib sandwich—a messy, sauce-y pile of stewed short ribs topped with caramelized onions and served on a freshly baked roll. If you must be health-conscious, the spicy chicken salad is also great. Photo: Alex Roberts.