The second in our series of food reviews along San Bruno Ave in the Portola heads to the White Palace on the corner of Silver and San Bruno. It might not initially be obvious why we would choose to go to what seems to be just a plain old liquor store. But as soon as you walk in and talk to Charles and Ray behind the counter, eat one of their creations and then realize you get change from your five dollar bill, it makes sense why we headed in for lunch.
Walking through the door, we were met with two smiling faces, Charles and Ray. Tucked just inside the entrance is a long, traditional deli counter which they both stood behind dressed in red aprons. During the time it took to talk to the brothers and place our order, quite a few customers came by. I asked one of them, a lady called Ines who worked across the road at the Silver Avenue Family Health Center, what her favorite lunch sandwich was. Without missing a beat she said, “the crab sandwich!“.
But she didn’t stop there, she went on to applaud Ray and Charles for being great community people. She cited an example of when a woman once came into their store and started to make racist comments towards another customer. Ray and Charles didn’t stand for it and intervened.
The name White Palace comes from its original incarnation as the White Palace Tavern. Opened in 1934 as the Lucky Lager Tavern, the name was changed in 1936 to White Palace Tavern because the Lucky Lager Brewery opened a few blocks to the south.
The current White Palace location is across the road from the tavern’s original location and was moved because the old building was torn down for the new 101 freeway. Ray has worked in the store since he was 14. His Mom and Dad ran the place, starting the deli in 1979 and finally retired in the 90’s. Ray then took over the business in 2000.
I asked Charles, Ray’s business partner and brother-in-law, what the most popular order was, “A lot of people want turkey and seafood. We get crab and tuna locally and make the fillings right here, every morning. With all fresh ingredients.”
While chopping up the tomatoes and making our lunch, he went on to say that the store is very popular in the morning and at lunch with school kids and local business workers. We were in during spring break, but usually the guys don’t get time to speak because the line is out the door. Not surprising when the sandwiches are such good value, nearly every option can be had for around five dollars.
Ray also made a point of mentioning their health inspection report and noted not only the score of 100 (of a possible 100) but also that they have received an award from the Department of Public Health for achieving consecutive scores of 100 for cleanliness. While we were chatting yet another worker from the health services agency across the road came in to order her favorite avocado sandwich. A business couldn’t survive opposite a health center if it wasn’t running a clean and organized operation.
Soon our food was ready and we left the store to go eat at the proposed site of the new pocket park at the end of Burrows. We dug in and found the sandwiches to be very well-balanced. I have little patience for eating a sandwich which starts to fall apart and eject filling after the first bite. However, I was able to manoeuvre my crab salad sandwich with ease and very little mess considering I had asked Charles to put everything he could in it! The bread was nice and soft, it really had a very fresh taste and while the salad filling had a decent amount of mayonnaise, it wasn’t too much. Just right. For the price, I don’t think you can get a better sandwich in the whole of San Francisco!
[Update] Unfortunately due to unforeseen travel plans for the editor, we won’t be reviewing another restaurant for a few weeks. No fear, we will be back for lunch on the 18th April! We’ll update you closer to the time.