I have a serious thing for sandwiches.
My first job as a teenager was making sandwiches at a deli, and that set my path forever. Cities I’ve visited around the world are defined by the sandwiches I’ve eaten there. Whenever I delve into a great dish at a fancy restaurant, at least 10 percent of my brain is thinking, “How could I turn this into a sandwich?”
So when I heard that V-105, run by ex-Garibaldis chef Daniel Martes, was creating some of the best sandwiches in San Francisco, I hit the ground running.
Yes, the name makes it sound like a robot factory, the walls are stark gray and the countertops are cold marble.
But the warm greeting as you walk through the door, the swoosh of frothing milk and the buzz of brewing espresso, the hubbub of neighborly voices chatting over soups and sandwiches and pastries and coffee — all of these things fill the air and instantly win you over.
The sandwich menu is exciting. Beef cheeks. Moroccan lamb. Crispy pork belly. (OK, I have a thing for meat, too.)
It’s not all carnivorous, though; one of my absolute favorites here is the butternut squash sandwich, which is vegetarian. Asiago cheese and romesco sauce meld beautifully into each slice of house-made focaccia bread. Hunks of perfectly seasoned and roasted butternut squash, topped with just enough avocado and crunchy slices of watermelon radish, make up the rest. The yin-yang pulls of sweet and savory, fruity and nutty, buttery and crunchy all make for a perfectly satisfying handful of food.
Let’s take a moment here to talk about the bread, the house-made focaccia I so callously glossed over in the last paragraph. This stuff is tailor-made for sandwiches, and you can tell it’s been lovingly created for just such a purpose.
The crust is golden, firm enough to keep the fillings from soaking through, but the inside is pillowy and light, the perfect medium to soak up sauces, juices and condiments.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the slow-cooked beef cheeks sandwich. A hefty layer of succulent, savory beef cheeks, melted Gruyere, onions and a sharp bite of piquillo pepper are all held together in that lovely focaccia, while the juice from the beef sops into its crevices but never soaks through. Only the tomatoes, which I tossed aside after a few mealy bites, seemed out of place, out of season and unnecessary.
My sandwich love affair hit a minor snag with the crispy pork belly, which didn’t exhibit as much crispiness as I had hoped for. The pickled cabbage, creamy like a slaw, added some nice texture, but the pineapple compote and dates took over with a touch too much sweetness.
I strayed over to some non-sandwich offerings and was not disappointed. I loved the lamb tenderloin salad’s complex play of flavors, with salty Gorgonzola and earthy beets.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also note that V-105 has one of the very best versions of macaroni and cheese I’ve had in the Bay Area. It’s a seasonal dish, but I hope it sticks around. Simple and creamy with the lightest touch of truffle oil, I could not stop eating it. I did, however, think about somehow turning it into a sandwich.
Location: 105 Valencia St., S.F.
Contact: (415) 525-3799,
Hours: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday
Price range: $4 to $14
Recommended dishes: Beef cheeks sandwich ($10.50), roasted butternut squash sandwich ($8), lamb tenderloin salad ($13), macaroni and cheese with bacon ($10)
Credit cards: All major
Reservations: Not accepted