Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Rhea’s Market and Deli
Reviewed Rhea’s Market and Deli: Thursday, June 16, 2011
About a year ago while at work, someone asked if I had any suggestions on where to eat lunch. We have many favorites, but on this day we were searching for something new. I did a search for “sandwiches” and this is how I discovered Rhea’s Deli. I did some digging and found that while the name says “deli,” I was looking at photos of a liquor store. I was also looking at photos of some amazing sandwiches! I made a fateful choice that I was going to try this place, upper GI tract be dammed.
We all got the Korean steak sandwich, and we were all totally blown away. Marinated shredded rib-eye steak (with soy, honey, garlic, and honey), pickled onions and jalapenos, garlic aioli, lettuce, and a slice of cheddar cheese. The result is a tangy, sweet, spicy sandwich that is really tied together with the cheddar cheese, which sounds like it shouldn’t really work on the sandwich, but, in fact, is a vital component. This sandwich puts to use all of the senses. It is without a doubt one of the best sandwiches around and only rivaled by another of Rhea’s sandwiches: the Van Ness sandwich. This sandwich is breaded and fried chicken, bacon, melted pepper jack with a homemade kimchi-type slaw, pickles, chili sauce, bbq sauce, roasted red peppers, and garlic aioli. On paper it sounds strange and perhaps wrong, but the end result is something that is unlike anything I have had before. As with the Korean steak sandwich, the Van Ness gives you tangy and spicy and sweet, but it is also quite crunchy. There is not enough space to describe how good they are.
One note I would make, because for some it can be a drawback, is that the spiciness of the sandwich can fluctuate. I really like spicy food, so I haven’t had a problem, but I have had people order the sandwich “medium” and get what they believed to be a very spicy sandwich. Just something to bear in mind.
Other sandwiches include:
The Pork Katsu: fried pork loin coated with breadcrumbs and served with slaw, pickled onions and jalapenos, aioli, and a tangy sauce that is slightly sweet. It is a great sandwich.
The 18th Street: Buffalo chicken, with Munster cheese, bacon, arugula, red onions, tomatoes, Rhea’s pickles, and chipotle aioli. You can have this sandwich hot or cold, the sauce has a great kick to it, and it is also a quite refreshing sandwich.
Rhea’s uses really amazing ingredients. The bread is Acme, the kimchi is homemade, the aioli is homemade, the meats are Boar’s Head brand, the cheese selection is very artisanal, and the produce is always fresh. This place really takes what it does seriously and you get a sense of that with every bite.
The staff is friendly. George, who runs the counter during the day, is really funny and obviously really loves the popularity that Rhea’s is enjoying. The service is good (it can be a bit of a wait during the lunch rush), the seating is limited, and you are fully aware at all times that you are standing in a liquor store. That is, until you start eating the sandwiches and then you don’t really care where you are.
Friends and co-workers have tried the other sandwiches and give them very good marks. (I hear the vegetarian chicken sandwich is very good for any vegetarians out there.) My problem is that I can’t go there and not get one of the sandwiches I listed above. To leave the place without one of those sandwiches in my hand feels wrong, I don’t care if the other sandwiches I try are amazing, I need to have a Korean Steak or a Van Ness. I have gotten so hung up on this that I will force a co-worker to get the Korean Steak while I get the Van Ness and then I FORCE them to share with me. I don’t have this experience at any other restaurants. Generally, I love to work my way through a menu, sampling all the items over time. But not with Rhea’s. I tried to broaden my horizons and in the end displayed no personal growth.
Occupation: Airline Pilot
Favorite Restaurant: the girl and the fig
Reviewed Rhea’s Market and Deli: Wednesday, June 15, 2011
We were a little surprised when we arrived at this deli because we were expecting a little more than a sandwich shop inside of a mini-mart; however, the food was not disappointing! We were very fortunate to have pre-read the menu online, because there had just been a delivery of wine and beer just prior to our arrival, and the cases were almost completely blocking their menu.
After ordering, we went to sit down. There were seven of us: two moms and five kids. However, there was only window seating for five. There was a very nice man (the owner?) who was nice enough to bring us out a wooden bench for additional — he said, “mom” — seating. We came at a good time during the day, because after we ordered it started to get busy, and there was even a customer who was told he would have to wait up to 30 minutes for his order. There was no bathroom in the deli, so we had to walk across the street and use an Irish bar’s bathroom, which they said they had arrangements with. We did not get all of our sandwiches at the same time. It’s a deli, but the same man who brought us the bench delivered our sandwiches to us when they came out.
The kimchee that we bought was tasty. A lot of time went into making it. It had a good spice level — not too hot, not too mild. Eight dollars was a tad expensive for this jar, but they give $2 back when you return the jar. However, this is only helpful if you are local. Overall it was tasty, because of the sharp flavors.
Everyone agreed that the bread (they use Acme bakery) was extremely fresh and was simply incredible. The Valencia Street sandwich (Boar’s Head turkey, havarti, avocado, baby arugula, Champagne vinegar-pickled red onions, pickles, tomatoes, garlic aioli, and country Dijon mustard) had a great combo of flavors, however there was a tad too much mayonnaise (aioli). The turkey was extremely moist, and there was a perfect amount of meat-to-condiment ratio. We ordered this sandwich warm, and I would highly recommend doing this instead of eating it cold. We also go the Chicken Katsu Sandwich: lightly fried chicken rolled in Panko on an Acme organic roll with Rhea’s coleslaw, house-pickled red onions and jalapeños, spicy aioli, and a tangy katsu sauce. The sauces were perfect, and the coleslaw was incredible. The chicken was cooked perfect, and all the flavors married nicely. The Korean steak sandwich with marinated rib-eye in soy sauce, garlic, ginger, honey and spices and served on an Acme organic roll with a choice of cheese, chili garlic sauce, house-pickled red onions and jalapeños, grilled onions, fresh red onions, iceberg lettuce, and garlic aioli was very rich. It was one of the best sandwiches I have ever tasted. It was spicy, juicy and flavorful — enough to keep you going all day. The salami sandwich was on the best Dutch crunch roll ever, though it was not quite spicy enough.
All in all, we would definitely go back if in the city for a quick lunch! I would not drive an hour and 45 minutes to go, but can’t say I would drive that far for much.
Favorite Restaurant: Sauce
Reviewed Rhea’s Market and Deli: Sunday, June 5, 2011
Born and raised in the city, I hadn’t known of Rhea’s — what a surprise!
We decided to have a late lunch on a Sunday afternoon with friends. We drove to the Mission District and found parking about 1 1/2 blocks from the store located at 19th and Valencia Streets. This is a busy part of town. It’s filled with shops and restaurants and very alive with all kinds of people.
We arrived about 3:30 and got lucky, in the fact that it wasn’t busy. We took our time looking at the selections. The young staff was very friendly and helpful in assisting us. This place is all about their great sandwiches. They sell “street food” sandwiches that are named after streets in the area (nice idea). They also sell signature sandwiches. Unfortunately the signature sandwiches were all sold out from a busy lunch earlier. (No problem, good excuse to make another visit.)
We chose four different “street food” selections. We weren’t disappointed. All four were fantastic. I had pepper turkey, havarti, and bacon toasted on a Dutch Crunch Roll with avocado, baby arugula, red onions, jalapenos, pickles, tomatoes, and Dijon mustard. This was one of the best sandwiches I’ve had in a really long time. It was perfectly put together where you could taste every ingredient.
My wife ordered the 19th Street, which had Boar’s Head roast beef, Vermont cheddar, pepper jack, avocado, Champagne vinegar-pickled jalapenos, and arugula on a toasted organic Acme sweet roll. (Also excellent!) The store is very well stocked with beverages of all kinds and lots of chips.
Grab a stool at the window for some great people watching. Don’t forget to check it out. Well worth it! Loved it!