For weeks after dining at Mario's, a North Beach stand-by that sits on the park, I was agonizing over my decision to award it 4 or 5 stars. After much pacing, and a fair amount of blood and tears, it finally hit me: their specialty hot focaccia sandwich(es) have become the end-all be-all sandwich to which I compare all other sandwiches. In the last couple of weeks, every time I eat a sandwich (which seems to be fairly frequently at the moment), I catch myself saying, "It's good, but it's not as good as Mario's." Apparently, Mario's has set the upper limit of my sandwich scale, and if that's not reason enough to give this place 5 stars, I don't know what is.
Not surprisingly, I think the secret is the bread itself - perfectly crunchy but still soft. My favorite menu item, one that I like to ironically describe as "pure health," is the salami/ham sandwich.
To. Die. For. It was squishy, fatty, spicy, drippy, crispy, warm, salty...need I go on? It's truly the perfect way for you to say "fuck you, diet! You've never made me feel this good anyway!" And so worth it. Not to mention, it's the best hangover food EVER.
The service is a little...strange. They are nice and try to be funny, but come off as just a little awkward. It's really hard for me to put my finger on it, as they are attentive and not rude, but just...different.
Bottom line, even if the service was the most horrendous thing in the history of the world, the sandwiches would make up for it x20. Right on the park, cheap prices, generous portions, dripping panini goodness? Definitely a must when you find yourself in North Beach.
Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe
566 Columbus Avenue
(between Green St & Stockton St)
San Francisco, CA 94133