San Luis Obispo’s local delis have their own unique character, specialization and location, but each triumph in satisfying customers’ hunger with premium sandwiches.
SLO delis take their sandwiches exceptionally seriously. Only the freshest produce, finest meats and friendliest service are acceptable when creating authentic, worthwhile experiences for patrons.
These dependable shops have served the community for much longer than the average Cal Poly student has been alive and will continue to as long as they feel like blessing the city with their sublime creations.
I only realized how stacked the sandwich scene is in SLO after visiting seven local joints and tasting what each one had to offer. If you enjoy sandwiches or food in general, you must visit these storied shops:
Since 1989, Kona’s has delivered a laid-back, Hawaiian atmosphere and premium sandwiches to Cal Poly students and other SLO residents. While I could not eat inside the shop, I felt welcomed by the staff and was treated to a quintessential Kona’s experience.
The Teddy (by the sea) is served on Hawaiian white bread, layered with turkey, flavorful chipotle pesto, tangy mustard, and the works. This heated sandwich, paired with Hawaiian sweet Maui chips and a Kona Longboard Island Lager, provided me with a strictly Kona’s meal. Some may find Kona’s works a little bare, so don’t forget to add tomatoes, pickles, pepperoncinis, jalapeños, or olives onto your sandwich if you want more of a kick.
It is apparent that the owners, Mattia Tedeschi and Filippo Giordano, are fulfilling their set standards to offer fresh and local ingredients to their customers just like every panini and sandwich shop in Italy.
Start preparing for THE CHALLENGE 2.0 now, as the shop has had to pause the two-foot Destroyer #17 sandwich competition since they cannot host customers indoors.
Music to match the vibe: “Arnold” by Dudeo Perez, “Funky I Like It” by Babe Rainbow and “Hi’ilawe” by Gabby Pahinui
Synopsis: Like Kelly Slater going off at Morro Bay.
Like Kona’s, Gus’s Grocery has been serving the community excellent sandwiches since 1989. Gus’s classic menu item is a unique and memorable chicken strip sandwich.
Served on a soft french roll, with steamed Jack cheese, crunchy cucumber, onion, lettuce, and tomato, this sandwich exceeded my expectations and has left me wanting more! I never thought chicken strips would fit well on a sandwich but they definitely enhance the flavor profile. Gus’s innovation makes their sandwiches memorable.
Gus’s also has a wide selection of drinks and snacks in their store, so there are multiple ways to personalize your meal. Their breakfast burrito is definitely worth checking out too, so stop by for breakfast or lunch and take a seat on their chill outside patio.
Music to match the vibe: “Time in a Circle” by Próxima Parada, “Lake Shore Drive” by Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah and “Raspberry Jam” by Allah-Las
Synopsis: 22-time best sandwich champion in SLO.
If you are looking for a quality joint with east-coast style sandwiches that make Jersey Mike’s throw jealous fits, then The Broad Street Giant Grinder Shop is your place!
The Original Giant Grinder opened in 1970 in Manhattan Beach, CA but, in 2008, they began serving SLO residents when the original owner relocated here. These grinders are full of meat, herbs and, most importantly, flavor.
The popular East Coast Combo is stacked with fine Mortadella, Salami, Capicola and topped off with the works. It’s like the staff of the shop stuffs a charcuterie board worth of meat inside each grinder. Their succulent pastrami sandwich will satisfy any pastrami junkie.
Get one of their hot or cold sandwiches, a side of macaroni salad or a freshly baked cookie and enjoy!
Music to match the vibe: “Maple Blue” by Honeyboys, “Brooklyn (Owes The Charmer Under Me)” by Steely Dan and “Moby Octopad” by Yo La Tengo
Synopsis: The largest and most envied grinder west of the Mississippi.
After initially opening in 1969 as Ben Franklin’s Electric House, this shop now specializes in submarine-style sandwiches. For freshmen stuck living on campus, you can finally give up Subway and move on to these subs next year.
I wasn’t sure where to start here, so I got the daily special – their Reuben. The flavors of the first bite smacked my taste buds like the lightning that cracked Ben Franklin’s kite. The corned beef melted in my mouth alongside the scrumptious sauerkraut and distinct Swiss cheese.
It is extremely easy to get to this shop but you might have trouble finding parking because these subs are a hot commodity. I am excited to try more hot subs from here again!
Music to match the vibe: “Buzzard (Melted)” by Pancho and the Wizards, “Ben Franklin’s Song” by The Decemberists and “Blue Sky” – Allman Brothers Band
Synopsis: Like a stack of freshly printed $100 bills.
Located downtown off Higuera street, Captain Bill’s Subs have been serving tasty sandwiches since 1981. This shop has a fun inside environment, with a section of funny stickers and memes. Captain Bill’s can be a little difficult to spot the first time, but after you go once, Bill’s Subs will be on your radar.
The Italian Munchie Special comes in many sizes, starting at $4.20, for different hunger levels and comes with ham, salami, pepperoni, provolone, and your choice of the works. The Up in Smoke sandwich is pretty filling and comes with ham, bacon, brisket, cheddar cheese and your selection of the works.
You can also have more freedom creating your sandwich and choose one of the house BBQ sauces: the original, sweet and sassy or sexy chipotle. The BBQ sauce tastes great and pairs well with the meat and condiments on the Up in Smoke. This shop also has a fairly stacked breakfast menu featuring breakfast sandwiches, burritos and bowls.
If you even somewhat enjoy Firestone’s $13 tri-tip sandwich but want a little more from a sandwich besides meat, bread and sauce and don’t want to walk through a feeding frenzy, stop by Captain Bill’s Subs right down the street and get the Up in Smoke sandwich for twelve dollars.
Music to match the vibe: “Babybell” by Gone Fishin’, “Yellow Submarine” by The Beatles and “Let Go” by Justin Jay, Josh Taylor, Benny Bridges
Synopsis: Like finding a diamond in the rough.
This trendy market and deli has been serving SLO residents palatable breakfasts and sandwiches since 1941.
Their most popular sandwich, the Tassajara Delite, is a refreshing and undoubtedly delightful sandwich. The honey-jalapeno sauce, crunchy bacon and crisp lettuce raise the profile of this sandwich. It is a light sandwich that you can indulge in without overstuffing your stomach.
If you need niche products, Valentine’s Day gifts, CBD products, wine, beer, coffee, or kombucha, stop by Lincoln Market & Deli and pick up one of their numerous specialty sandwiches or breakfasts while you are at it. Their outdoor patio offers a secluded and peaceful dining experience.
Music to match the vibe: “Do The Right Thing” by The Charities, “A Fan’s Mail (Tron Song Suite II)” by Thundercat and “Águas De Março” by Elis Regina, Antônio Carlos Jobim
Synopsis: Like a sunny 3-day weekend.
What SLO sandwich deli list would be complete without High Street? Constructed in 1927, High Street Market & Deli served as a store for railroad workers to pick up essentials between home and the railroad station.
High St. will turn 100 this decade and will continue to serve as a cultural cornerstone for the city as long as the sandos are crafted with passion, happiness and authenticity. If you haven’t found your go-to sando, try the Dutch Punch or get the godly daily special each time.
The expert sandwich artisans at High St. keep impressing with their new Phat Tuesday Sando special. Stacked with Soppressata salami, mortadella, sharp provolone, olive salad, the works with “shrettuce” on a Sicilian hoagie this sandwich put me in a food coma that I still haven’t quite recovered from yet.
If you haven’t tried this joint yet and you still haven’t put in an order for pickup then you should probably get on that. Order your sandwich between 4:20 PM and closing and get it for $6.99!
Music to match the vibe: “Nature’s” by The Vibesetters, “Bowl For Two” by The Expendables, “Ventura Highway” by America and “High Time” by Grateful Dead
Synopsis: 420 out of 10
Delis that closed in 2020
- Sidewalk Market and Deli (Operating under the same name but with Taqueria 805 instead of a sandwich deli)
- Monterey Street Market (Italian market and deli that recently closed)
Songs to remember them by
“Skatin’” by Autopipe, “Ghosts at Night” by Depressed Specter, “Cycles of Existential Rhyme” by Chicano Batman, “Raid” by MF DOOM, Madlib, MED “Goodbye Stranger” by Supertramp, and “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” – Charles Mingus
Listen to the vibes of SLO’s delis here.