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Specialty's Cafe and Bakery

Darwin's Cafe



Senor Sisig

​The Sentinel

​It’s bahn mi time

​The Creamery

​The Salt House and Town Hall

The location on 1st and Howard is a popular spot for a midday meetings. Crowded with employees from startups like wearables company Fitbit, this corner in SoMa -- that's short for San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood -- attracts some of the best and brightest in the city.

It’s a little chaotic, but the sandwiches are classic lunch fare, like a turkey cranberry for $8. There are also locations on Market and New Montgomery streets and another north in the heart of the Financial District.

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A block over from China Basin’s quiet South Park, further south than the heart of techland, little Darwin’s Cafe buzzes with tech folk willing to shell out $12 for a hot pastrami sandwich. It also has a fancy baguette-and-spread menu for those looking to really take their time for lunch.

On the same corner, Asian fusion HRD Cafe is a bit cheaper with some fat burritos -- spicy rice, spicy pork, kiwi, daikon and cucumber -- you can scarf down on a park bench. Both spots are popular among the deep South of Market offices like Dropbox.

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Ever just want to shove a gyro in your face? Ayola’s got you covered. Just make sure you wipe the tzatziki sauce off your fingers before going back to hammering the keys.

Ayola has famously fast service: it's often just a 5-minute wait for your gyro to be served up. It’s right around the corner from the Yelp headquarters on New Montgomery Street, a thoroughfare of startups, where quick lunches are king.

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Four words for you: Japanese gourmet rice balls. Some 2,300 years ago, Samurai made these nifty little sushi snacks for battle breaks. Likewise, tech warriors can stop in for a quick bite from two different locations in the Financial District. It’s about $3 per ball and $10 for a meal. You can be in and out in 15 minutes.

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The line will be a block long by 11:30 a.m. The Filipino fusion food truck is both alliterative and tasty to boot. It’s only in SoMa on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. So plan accordingly -- you’ll be in a (California) burrito coma for the entirety of those afternoons.

Wait time’s about 30 minutes for the $10 burrito.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

This little walk-up, which feels like a literal hole in the wall, is a favorite on New Montgomery Street, a strip that feels like its own lunch district. The Sentinel makes one helluva sandwich, though. “Even in a city as sophisticated as San Francisco,” the site says, “lunch is still all about the food.” That doesn’t mean you won’t hear plenty of startup-speak waiting in line.

A sandwich will run you about $9 and you’ll wait about 15 minutes for it.

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There are a few good spots for fresh Vietnamese sandwiches downtown. We didn’t want to pick just one. Check out Cafe Dolci, the one-woman counter operation on Market Street, between 3rd and Grant. In SoMa, Dragon Eats is pretty quick and tasty. Muffins Muffins (yes, two of them) on Second is also popular.

Bahn mi are famously cheap by San Francisco standards. Look to spend about $6 or $7 for one with a standard wait time around 10 or 15 minutes.

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We tried to stick to only lunch places for this list, but an exception had to be made for this hip, little corner spot in the China Basin. The Creamery is the beehive for venture capitalists for Silicon Valley North. If you want to eavesdrop on some deals goin’ down while sipping a $3.75 latte, drop by during the late lunch hours. It’s a bit far off from the rest of downtown but worth the walk.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

These two cater a bit more of to the upscale scene in SoMa -- pricey but great for impressing during a business meeting. Make a reservation and expect to see notably more of the CEO, upper management crowd.

The Salt House is perfect if you’re into lunchtime comfort food and wine, high ceilings and old, industrial fixtures. Town Hall is more of a tuna tartare, “sparkling or still?” kind of place. At both restaurants it's $15 - $20 for a sandwich, $20 - $25 for a lunchtime main course.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
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