Lunch Queen

Never take Judy Han's sandwiches for granted

Chef Judy Han has worked in high-end kitchens like Lucques and Literati II, but her greatest skill is making a perfect sandwich. At Mendocino Farms–downtown's best lunch secret–she's mastered the art.

This eco-artisanal café has been feeding busy office workers in California Plaza since 2005, and for those near 5th St. and Flower, a new, larger location will debut at the Citibank Center on November 16 (with a soft opening this Thursday).

Han (pictured) says the secret to Mendo's addictive and unique sandwiches is simple: Use great ingredients, balance their flavors, then add a bit of whimsy.

She adds crushed honey-roasted almonds to give some crunch to a prosciutto, chicken and fresh mozzarella sandwich. Her new Pineapple Winter Vacation panini is a nod to Hawaiian pizza, with grilled pineapple and tomato, honey and oozing cheese fondue.

One of our favorite creations–duck confit with duck-skin chicharrones on ciabatta–might appear effortless, but it takes at least two days to prepare. And accoutrements like spicy pepper relish and fig spread, or innovations like the quinoa-butternut squash patty for a vegetarian sandwich, are all made by hand.

"Give each component love, and you can't help but have a good sandwich," says Han. The lines that wrap around the café at lunchtime are proof.