I love sandwiches. They are the people’s food. Sure, many of the Bay Area’s most brilliant culinary minds devote their energies to beautifully plated (and often very expensive) meals. But there are plenty of sandwich savants who put just as much care in their creations. And rarely do they ask for more than $20 in return.
Sandwiches are the great equalizer.
Many moons ago, “Between Two Slices” was the name of a short-lived column I wrote for SF Weekly. From the old school vibe at Balboa Park institution Roxie Food Center, to debating the piety of pastrami with cheese at Wise Sons to documenting a then-new Greek outpost named Souvla, I documented the lives of Bay Area sandwiches.
This is the return of Between Two Slices, a column dedicated to highlighting this highly portable, arguably perfect food—one that you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to enjoy.
Read on to learn about Sanguchon, a Peruvian sandwich shop in the Mission.
Sanguchon is the brainchild of acclaimed self-made chef Carlos Altamirano. Born in Nazca, Peru, the 20 year veteran of Bay Area kitchens—including One Market and Kuleto’s—became known for his Peruvian fare and authentic Lima-style ceviches at his outposts like Mochica in Potrero Hill, Parada in Walnut Creek and Half Moon Bay’s La Costanera. But we’re here to talk about sandwiches, and this is Altamirano’s focus at Sanguchon.
Arriving on the Valencia Street corridor (on the corner of 23rd) last year, the restaurant is the permanent home for the chef’s Downtown-focused Sanguchon food trucks, which have not been getting the same level of foot traffic in San Francisco’s greatly depopulated post-pandemic Financial District.
Sanguchon slots into the same fast casual umbrella as the aforementioned Souvla; instead of Greek food, it’s Peruvian. And while the menu offers a range of options from bowls to skewers, it’s the sandwiches that reign supreme. A “sanguchon” loosely means “big-ol sando” and these fit the bill in spades.
The Lomo Saltado ($16) is perhaps the most traditional Peruvian item on the menu. Juicy chunks of beef tenderloin are stir-fried with red peppers and onion in a Pisco reduction. The dish’s origins are rooted in Peru’s Chinese cooking tradition known as “chifa.” And while typically served on a plate with rice, Sanguchon puts it all within a locally baked focaccia with rocoto crema and fries.
This sandwich-ification of a meal traditionally tackled with a fork and knife makes for a messy proposition if you dare cut it in half, so best to just grip this bad boy whole and chow down. The rocoto crema is made with the traditional Peruvian rocoto pepper, a unique, authentic touch that adds flavorful spice without overpowering the focus of the creation, the delectable beef.
But there’s a serious star of the show at Sanguchon: The Pan con Chicharron ($15). It’s built around chunks of roasted pork loin with the holy trinity of textures that I quest for: Crispy, fatty and juicy. It comes with razor thin sliced red onions marinated in lime juice, balancing the sharpness of the onions with an inviting tang. Sliced fried yams are also inside, adding a hint of sweetness, and that smooth rocoto crema is slathered on the plump and airy ciabatta. Every bite was a dream. The pork is cut into sliced chunks; the skin blistered and pronounced. The flavors meld with precision and I haven’t stopped thinking about this sandwich since I left. It alone is worth the trip.
But Sanguchon is much more than just a sandwich shop. The options are plentiful across the board, Anticuchos (skewers; $15-16) of melt-in-your mouth pork belly, spiced chicken or hearty, err… beef heart, are served over mixed greens with an exotic maracuya (passionfruit) vinaigrette. Giant empanadas ($10) are filled with either chicken or mushrooms. I had the mushroom, which was generously stuffed, but the pastry-like crust stole the show. It resembled a millefuille and was even curiously-dusted with powdered sugar, but it totally worked with the croissant-cousin crust.
The Yucca fries are a highly recommended addition to any sandwich ordered, cleanly fried and served with a cilantro chimichurri and aji amarillo dipping sauces; both excellent. I’m originally from Brazil and yucca is as major a part of South American populist cuisine as potatoes in Ireland. In short, this is a glorious comfort food item. The chicha morada is the traditional Peruvian bev made with purple corn, and Sanguchon’s brew has a dash of cinnamon that stands out delightfully.
There’s a happy hour Tuesday-Sunday, with food and drink specials. The house made sangria ($7, $22 pitcher) won’t hit you over the head with sugar. I feel like that’s all I want out of a sangria—something that isn’t going to give me a headache.
There’s live music on the patio on Saturdays, which leads me to my one qualm with Sanguchon: The parklet blocks the storefront from Valencia Street, and could hamper the restaurant’s chances of truly taking off as a go-to spot in the Mission.
The beautiful signage (with a cheeky pig logo) and interior of the restaurant are hidden behind the plastic siding-lined dining patio. It’s welcoming within the parklet walls, but I’d love to see siding removed in favor of a more open-air feel.
Until then, for those who walk around the parklet into the restaurant, there’s a handsome reward awaiting them. A welcome addition to the San Francisco sandwich scene and to the Mission’s growing fast casual offerings. Because everyone should be able to experience a world-class chef’s food without breaking the bank.
1182 Valencia St., San Francisco