I speed walked down Brannan Street, narrowly avoiding traffic and sidewalk-hogging pedestrians. I had one thing on my mind: the roast beef sandwich from Darwin Cafe. This is the kind of sandwich that would knock most vegetarians off the bandwagon. It’s that good. The problem is that the sandwich loves to sell out. Or, I should say, the sandwich loves to be eaten, therefore always sells out. So I continue to race down Brannan, then turned into a narrow but sunlit alley called Ritch Street, which was tucked away from the hustle and bustle of SOMA. Ahead, a hand carved wood sign that hung over a large front door read: Darwin Cafe.
I went inside and stood in line and looked back into the tiny kitchen, which is tiny in every sense of the word. In fact, the entire place is quaint and tiny. There is only a front bar, maybe the length of my arms spread out, that lines the open kitchen, where four people do a super-efficient job of pushing out some excellent food. I stood up on my tippy toes and tried to see the giant roll of brown butcher paper that displays the daily menu. Sandwiches both hot and cold and a long list of hand tossed salads. Don’t overlook the little portion at the top of the menu with the granola and fruit because the cottage cheese and mission figs will blow your mind. It deserves its own category.
As I slowly inched my way to the front of the line, I continued to read the menu, searching for the roast beef sandwich. I saw the sandwich on the menu, and then I saw that it had a mockingly adorable sign pinned to it that read, “All Gone.” This is when the panic set in. The hardest thing about dining at Darwin Cafe is choosing what you want to order and also getting there before the top hits sell out. I was now at the front of the line, stuck there unsure, so I quickly chose the kale salad with pecorino and prosciutto – always a good staple. Plus, mixing it up at Darwin is never a bad idea because everything is so damn good.
Although I didn’t end up with the roast beef sandwich, I ended up with a great meal. Lesson learned: when in doubt get there early 11:15ish to have the full menu available and a few open seats. Darwin Cafe is one of those places that if you are lucky enough to snag a seat you are going to want to stay for awhile.