Adam Mesnick’s premier Deli Board creation, the Gold-N-Berg-N-Stein ($10) — corned beef, pastrami, Kosher salami, Muenster cheese, house slaw, house Thousand Island on a sweet French roll — practically ruined me for any other sandwich. It sets the bar. Soft, salty, buttery, piquant and creamy, this sandwich transcends its components to become a higher food, some kind of manna.
He builds this sandwich on a house-baked white roll, filling it with paper-thin layers of meat, slaw, sauce and cheese, and warms the whole thing so it practically melts in your mouth. Though the Gold-N-Berg-N-Stein is as over-the-top as any sandwich could possibly be, it is constructed so precisely, it somehow eats light and stays neat.
Word spread among the kitchen brotherhood in town when Deli Board started selling sandwiches out of a shared catering kitchen on Howard Street. Crowds congregated on the sidewalk, waiting for their sandwich fix. For a short time, Mesnick delivered sandwiches by bicycle. Then, four months ago, he opened his own hip little shop with seating a block away on Folsom, across the street from Cleveland Alley.
He regards this location as a sign, since he grew up in Cleveland, started washing dishes at age 12 in Cleveland, and formed his taste at six different delis around Cleveland.
A presence at his shop, Mesnick elicits almost weeping gratitude from his clientele. Devotees see him rushing from the kitchen to hand out half-sour pickles or a taste of soup, and they feel compelled to say things like “You make the best corned beef sandwich I’ve ever eaten, and I’m Irish” or “You’re a genius.”
Mesnick, who wears his heart on the red sleeve of his Deli Board T-shirt, lives only to give his people pleasure. He’s pure.
Take, for example, the lrb, ($10) one of the most insane sandwiches I’ve ever stuffed into my mouth — chicken salad, Kosher salami, Muenster, cherry peppers, pickled onion and board sauce. This special sauce, which goes on many sandwiches, is based on Mesnick’s house-made ranch dressing, but I think the real secret is those plump, barely vinegary cherry peppers, which Mesnick doctors. They add juiciness and texture, but I really can’t put my finger on what makes the lrb so addictive.
From what planet did Fatty Matty ($10) descend, with tuna salad, falafel, Muenster, hummus, pickled onions, sprouts and board sauce on a sweet French roll? In this one, a layer of micro sprouts makes all the difference. Somehow, the tuna salad with the warm, crunchy falafel suggests crab. The wacky collection of ingredients tastes inevitable.
I’ve only given a hint of the possibilities here, since the menu changes often with sandwich specials, two daily soups and appetizers such as Mesnick’s house Buffalo chicken wings.
Frankly, I’ve never had the will to go beyond the sandwiches. One day I did order Mesnick’s chicken potpie soup ($4), which conjured the filling of the frozen American classic, though his was made with fresh chicken stock, moist shreds of chicken breast and cream.
Deli Board reminds me of my other favorite sandwich place, Crabby Jack’s in New Orleans, whose cochon de lait, roasted duck, and fried green tomato and shrimp remoulade po’boys, also play with the magic ratio of fat upon fat.
Location: 1058 Folsom St., between Sixth and Seventh streets, San Francisco
Contact: (415) 552-7687; www.deliboardsf.com
Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays
Price range: $4 to $10
Recommended dishes: Gold-N-Berg-N-Stein; Fatty Matty; Boca; Munsoned; lrb; chicken pot pie soup
Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard
Reservations: Not accepted; food to go
Patricia Unterman is author of many editions of the “San Francisco Food Lovers’ Guide.” Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.