I must’ve stumbled past Poma’s Italian Delicatessen (1846 Bacon St.) in Ocean Beach a hundred times without noticing it, and when an OBecian friend of mine found out, he ambushed me with two of the sandwiches that locals have been crazy-in-love with since 1965. Even after 20 minutes in the bag, one Italian sub (or Torpedo) and a hot eggplant tasted simply amazing. So, a couple of days later, I went directly to the magical sandwich factory for another helping.
“What makes your sandwiches so good?” I asked one of the guys behind the counter. A woman waiting for hers answered instead: “I’ve been getting the same sandwich for 20 years, and it hasn’t changed. I don’t live around here anymore, but I’ll drive for the roast beef.”
“Extra-rich mayonnaise!” an employee piped in. I’d never heard of such of a thing and doubt it really exists, but I took the bait anyway and ordered what the woman claimed was supreme.
Locally baked Solunto bread is football-shaped and perfect for hurling delicious ingredients into your mouth. It’s squirted with mayo, and thin slices of roast beef plunged in au jus are put in place. Then it’s toasted, melting copious amounts of provolone cheese. The mayo dissolves right into the meat, richening it to guilt-inducing levels; shredded lettuce and tomato finish it off. It’s well-proportioned and balanced despite being an undeniable mayo-bomb of a sandwich ($6.50).
The eggplant Parm ($6.50) might be my favorite. Zesty, rich tomato sauce is very simply seasoned, and the vegetable is flavorful—not oily or mushy, as lame restaurants often serve. All sandwiches come with a layer of plastic wrap barricading melted cheese from a pile of pepperoncini placed on top; provolone stays gooey and pickled peppers don’t wet the bread. Genius.
My usual response to cash-only restaurants is “get with the times, a-holes!” but Poma’s is excused (there’s an ATM inside just in case). The sandwiches are big, cheap and delish, the staff is friendly and home-cooked Italian flavors prevail, earning its local-landmark status.
The next time you’re slumming it in O.B., dazed and ready to munch, grab one of these sandwiches and hit the beach. Take my word for it—they travel well.