Merigan’s Italian combo. All photos: © tablehopper.com.
The chicken Parm.
The interior of Merigan, outfitted with brightly colored vintage chairs.
Sandwiches. I live for them. And when they’re bonkers good, if I get one in my mind, I will literally drive or ride my bike across town to get it. The sandwiches at ~MERIGAN SUB SHOP~ are like that—they haunt me like the ghost of Christmas past. Any faint excuse I have to swing by there for a sub, I’m all over it. Writing this review killed me, trust—I was even trying to justify ordering one on Caviar for delivery.
Chef-owner Liza Shaw is well known around town: she was rocking things in the open kitchen at A16 for seven years, and prior to that she was at Acquerello. So yeah, this Baltimore-raised woman has some serious Italian cooking chops (a lot like the shop name—it’s “American,” with a heavy-ass Italian accent). But Shaw had a hankering for a quality sub in SF, and with her SoMa shop, she’s applying all her mad skills to crafting some truly fantastic subs.
Where to begin? Well, as the daughter of a former deli owner (and I practically teethed on the Godfather sandwich from Woodside Deli), the Italian combo ($13) is near and dear to my heart. Shaw worked with Cheryl Burr of Pinkie’s Bakery to custom make their perfect seeded soft Italian roll. They reverse engineered the roll from Caputo’s in Carroll Gardens (Brooklyn), and 10 tries in, they nailed it. It’s flaky, with a tender crumb, and Shaw thinks their version turned out to be even more flavorful than the original inspiration.
So, the Italian combo comes with layers of mortadella, salami, prosciutto cotto, provolone, shredded lettuce, onion, dressing (made from a salsa verde instead of the usual oil and vinegar), hots (housemade, from Mariquita’s peppers), and tomato (when it’s in season—in the winter, Shaw is using a conserva she made). It’s layered perfectly, the meats are sliced just right, it’s a helluva sub. Can’t. Get. It. Out. Of. My. Mind. (Psssst, there’s also an off-menu sub called the Widowmaker, with roast beef, turkey, and pickled onions added to the Italian combo set—be careful with that one.)
My other favorite is the chicken Parm ($12), one of the hot subs. Shaw uses chicken thigh from Biagio Artisan Meats, which is so juicy, and the breading isn’t heavy with oil (it’s fried in rice bran oil). The chicken comes topped with a bright marinara, sharp provolone, creamy mozzarella from Di Stefano (this is one of the crucial parts of why the sandwich is a game changer), and there’s a nice pop from the fresh basil leaves. If you want to go to the dirty place, you could get it topped with burrata instead (+$4). This sandwich is a beast—extreme comfort food all snuggled into a roll.
If you’re a vegetarian, or you just love eggplant (raises hand), the eggplant Parm ($10) is the way to go. It doesn’t have too much breading either—you totally taste the eggplant. It’s also really good hours later—I ate the other half late one night (I was sober, promise!) and I was definitely in my happy place.
Another fan favorite is the Arista ($13), which has braised pork shoulder and roasted loin with sharp provolone, hots, and rapini (again, this one is insane with burrata, if you want to go there). It’s hot, drippy, and the braised pork has a whisper of Eastern spices, like star anise, cinnamon, and allspice. (Shaw says it was inadvertently inspired by one of her favorite dishes, the pork leg stew from Thai House Express.)
She is breaking down 1 1/2 pigs a week from Llano Seco, which she uses to make coppa di testa, porchetta (yup, it’s a sub), meatballs (the meatball sub is SO GOOD—they’re made with beef and pork), cracklings, and more. Yeah, there’s a lot of heavy labor that goes into your sandwich, and everything is top quality—no shortcuts here.
The menu has some more traditional subs (roast beef, egg salad) or you can go more Italian (panelle, baccalà, ciccoli). These sandwiches are hearty—I usually only make it through half and save the rest for later (unless it’s the chicken Parm—monkey brain took over while I totally horked it). There are also large-format subs and platters you can order for your office or party (people will love you forever).
Things are gonna get busy down there when the ball game season kicks back in, so head over now and start chipping your way through that menu. And Merigan is not just a takeout joint—there are plenty of seats (cute vintage ones at that), beers ($5 drafts all day on Saturday), and bonus, there are some quality wines on tap and in the bottle too. I think it’s the only sub shop serving half bottles of Roederer Estate (how’s that for a high-low pairing?). And with warmer days arriving, wrapping things up with an Italian ice off their vintage Japanese machine (I loved the almond) makes for a nice finish.