I posted several times this summer about lunch options near my new office on Market between 1st and Fremont, and it is time for me to report back. I'm a desk-eater, and I look for lunch places that do a fast and high-quality take-out. Here are the places that are the most regular parts of my rotation:
Cafe Madeleine (California near Battery): Their cobb salad is probably my most regular lunch. The salads are assembled when ordered, so all the ingredients retain their texture and flavor, and they're not shy with either the bacon or the avocado.
Kamakura (77 Battery): Won me over with their teriyaki, which consists of a thin glaze rather than a gloppy sauce. They have a wider selection of Japanese items than other fast places (teriyaki mackerel, una-don, and wakame udon, for instance) and are fast. Much better than Cafe Tomo at 50 First or the place (also called Kamakura?) at 333 Market.
Palapas (Pine and Front): No, they're not El Toro burritos, but they offer brown rice and a choice of salsas. Since burritos are too messy to eat at my desk, I get a take-out container of beans, rice, and chicken, which I then top (at the salsa bar) with chipotle salsa and heapings of several condiment/salads (pico de gallo, a cucumber-lime thing, and a corn thing).
Martha Bros (50 First): Coffee that is richer than Peet's, without the long lines. This small local chain (locations in Noe and elsewhere) recently opened this downtown location -- their first -- and no one seems to have found it yet. They deserve to succeed.
Specialties: Still my favorite cookies. And the breakfast sandwich isn't bad: the eggs actually are left in their scrambled-egg shape rather than being molded into a smooth egg disc a la McDonalds.
Sai's Vietnamese (Washington and Sansome): Best way to get bun downtown that I've found. Their five-spice chicken is rich -- a good complement to the noodles.
What I still wish for: Thai. My old office was close to King of Thai -- which I know is no Osha but was good enough for quick lunch. Any suggestions for downtown Thai places that do noodles well? I agree with earlier posts about Banana House being disappointing, but I'm not aware of anything better between there and the bottom of Market.