The Most Unusual Sandwiches Ever — at Clover Bakery

Yes, that is spaghetti in a hot dog bun. Find it only at Clover Bakery.

New York has its mile-high pastrami sandwiches. Los Angeles is home to the French dip.

But no place has sammies like San Jose’s Clover Bakery does.

Get ready for some jaw-dropping concoctions, including a hot dog bun, filled not with a wiener, but a heap of chow mein or even a tangle of spaghetti with red sauce. I kid you not.

Or imagine slices of soft, airy white bread spread with just a thick layer of creamy potato salad or a sweet filling of strawberries and whipped cream in a twist on a shortcake.

And would you believe chow mein or yakisoba in a hot dog bun?

Other Asian bakeries may bake some unusual filled buns, but none has quite the crazy-creative selection as this 10-year-old Japanese bakery in the Mitsuwa market plaza. Visitors from as far as Sacramento and Los Angeles come calling to buy armloads of buns to take home for their freezer. Clover also delivers regularlly to Super Mira market in San Francisco’s Japantown and to Suruki in San Mateo.

Owner Hisae Liang used to work in an office building. But when this former Japanese cake bakery came up for sale, she pleaded and convinced the owner to sell it to her even though plenty of ramen cafes were vying for it. The former owner taught Liang how to bake bread and a relative who was a chef helped create some of the more outlandish buns.

The offerings at Clover Bakery.

In Japan, where buns are eaten as a quick snack or lunch on the go, the classic croquette sandwich is the most popular. Liang sells that variety, but also jalapeno-laced ones, which are not popular in Japan, but are here. One of her newest creations is a bread baked with bright-orange fish roe and shards of nori.

Eaten at room temperature or warmed in a toaster oven, these carb lover’s treats ($1.75 to $3 each) are weirdly satisfying. The spaghetti bun has slices of hot dog over the top, as well as a sprinkle of Parmesan. There’s quite a lot of spaghetti stuffed into it, too, with a sweet, almost catsup-like sauce.

The chow mein bun has soft, thin noodles and a garnish of pink, pickled ginger. The potato croquette bun is like a patty of mashed potatoes on bread, with slivers of cabbage and a thick teriyaki-like sauce.

Fish roe and seaweed buns fresh out of the oven.

A potato croquette stuffed into a sandwich.

The matcha roll is soft, fluffy, vivid green and barely sweet.

A roll made with the Japanese ceremonial green tea, matcha.

Clover Bakery also makes outstanding onigiri — rice balls wrapped in crisp nori. ($1.75 each). A signature creation — and my favorite — has a filling of miso-flavored stewed eggplant hidden in the center.

The bakery is also open for dinner now, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, when it offers hearty dishes such as fried pork cutlet with tonkatsu or ponzu sauce, along with rice, soup, salad and bread ($9).

When Liang first opened her bakery, her customers were primarily those of Japanese descent, who longed for a taste of home. Then, other Asians started discovering the fun food on the shelves. Now, it draws a cross-section of curious customers, many of whom come in to take a photo of the superstar spaghetti bun.

For the best selection, come before 3 p.m., when many items sell out. And bring cash or check, as Clover Bakery doesn’t take credit cards.

More: My Write-Up on Clover Bakery on Tasting Table San Francisco

More Sandwiches Worth Trying: Ike’s Place at Stanford University

And: The Sentinel in San Francisco

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  • Wowza, what a neat, unique selection!

  • Now I have seen everything! Spaghetti sandwich….huh… That matcha roll looks really good, so light and airy.

  • now that is a sandwich joint that i would be proud to recreate. i bet they have amazing sales. that first one has me sold. and the green tea bread

  • OMG, that spaghetti bun looks so comforting and enticing! Plus it’s crazy! I would definitely give it a try, but I’m not so sure about the chow mein bun. Maybe because the spaghetti bun has the tomato sauce which is like ketchup on a hot dog bun so somehow seems fitting. All the other creations are really wacky, but I guess that’s the fun of checking it out!

  • I don’t mean to sound weird, but my honey actually makes sandwiches out of spaghetti! We also used to buy potato salad filled rolls at the Asian market as a kid. Chow Mein, however, I’ve yet to try!

  • That’s the biggest carb OD if I ever saw one. I’m a sucker for anything with matcha.

  • Spaghetti in the sammie? Wowzas! If the buns were buttery and garlicky, then that’d be the perfect all in one meal.

  • Now I know why I am left with limited choices in this bakery – cos every time I am there, it is past evening. Nothing left for the late bird. :O…Awwwww….

  • Haha! I was at Mitsuwa about a month ago and was starving… I so wanted to taste one of those carb bombs but the line to heat them up was outrageous. Ended up getting something else, and regretting it ever since. πŸ™‚ Next time…

  • Oh my goodness…real unusual sandwiches!! Can’t believe what I see….noodles sandwiches…haha. Asians are just creative!

  • I’ve been to the Mitsuwa in Chicago, I loved their bakery there called Hippo. I just wish there was a Japanese bakery here in Maryland, it makes me want to cry that I can’t get this stuff!

  • I love spaghetti sandwiches! When my mom would make spaghetti I would be so happy because I knew the next day we could make sandwiches with the leftover spaghetti.

  • I love this place! It’s on my way home from work and I have hit it up more than once for a quick dinner. Happy to see it on the pages of Food Gal!!!

  • Hey, whenever we had spaghetti w/ meat sauce, there was always good Italian bread to sop up the extra. Why not put it all in one bite? Interesting!

  • Sounds good to me! I’d go for that Chow Mein sandwich any day of the week!

  • Carolyn,

    They make really good anpans and other sweet buns too. I have enjoyed their chestnut buns in particular. I didn’t make it to their store too often because the buns were a little costly (which was why I ended up making my own). But their quality is outstanding and yes, some of the creations, quite outlandish.

    You’re making me miss California! Boohoo!

  • This is nothing new – it is a Cincinnati style hot dog a la Skyline Chili.
    In case you’re not familiar – a hot dog with spaghetti on it & chili (no beans, of course) which is essentially meaty tomato sauce…also loads of cheddar cheese.
    again, nothing new. been eating this dog in ohio for at least 100 years.
    Thanks, Jeff

  • Next thing you know, the Vietnamese are going to get into it, using their own sandwich breads. Hope to try some when we get back!

  • Haha although its carb on carb, I would have to order the spaghetti roll! I remember ordering pizza in Japan, it was expensive and they topped it with tuna and corn. But I grew to love it! πŸ™‚

  • Fun and fascinating. I’d love to try these goodies, though I’m curious about the spaghetti hot dog roll… doesn’t it get all soggy and fall apart everywhere? Maybe its like a sloppy joe kind of thing.
    *kisses* HH

  • OMG, Carolyn! These look fabulous. I wouldn’t know where to begin to choose! But I think perhaps the potato croquette bun….

  • I stopped by here on my last trip to the Bay and was so bummed they were closed that day. πŸ™

    I forgot which sandwiches my cousin recommended to me, but the spaghetti sandwich was one of them. πŸ˜›

  • Did I really just see a spaghetti and meat ball sandwich??? OMG that’s insane. Comfort food doesn’t usually come in a convenient package like that. Thanks for the rec and the photos… looks like a wild store!

  • Girl, you are making me crave soft, carby buns and rolls right now. When I used to live in the East Village in NYC I would often treat myself to a custard filled sweet bun. Ahhh, the days of burning off those calories just by walking around the city. We have a Mitsuwa market near by, my kids would love these!

  • Carolyn, after seeing your fab photos of this place I’ve put it on my must-do list for my next trip to the Bay Area. I call myself a breadaholic, so my reaction to seeing these unusual things on bread is “Why didn’t I think of that?!”

  • Boo, San Jose. Actually in San Fran at the moment and needed a good lunch spot before we fly out tomorrow. This sounded like it would have been fantastic.

  • I had the spaghetti sandwich ones. I’ll have to give their other creations a try…

  • Incredible and atypical collection of sandwiches. That bakery is really very creative, good for them!



  • I love Clover! I didn’t realize that the owner wasn’t Japanese–either she or her counter staff speak Japanese. Their yoshoku dinner is fantastic. Few of their creations seem to be 100% original (most of them are things I’ve seen in Japanese or Taiwanese bakeries), but they’re all top quality.

  • Wintersweet: Actually, the owner IS Japanese. Her husband is Chinese, hence her Chinese surname.

  • and now i want a spaghetti sandwich. what in interesting idea!

  • Very interesting buns! I must say I would prolly need some convincing to get the bun with chow mein! But definitely creative πŸ™‚

  • Makes a change from bacon, lettuce and tomato. Give me some of that!

  • I eat spaghetti sandwiches alllllll the time! This makes me so happy…I’ll now make it a actual meal and not just a spontaneous bread and pasta concoction, lol.

  • I make spaghetti sandwiches as well …. I have since I was a kid….I am over 50.

  • Oops, my mistake about the owner (not that it matters in terms of food or hospitality!).

    Love the place–recommend that everyone gives it a try!

  • I have been reading about Clover Bakery, have the directions printed out so next time I have a meeting in the area, I am there. I had so much fun checking out all the wonderful creative options.

  • wow, I haven’t heard of this, but must visit! I grew up eating spaghetti sandwiches!

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  • Hey, thanks for revealing your ideas in Food Gal » Blog Archiv » The Most Unusual Sandwiches Ever — at Clover Bakery. This is really a cool website.

  • A lot of this stuff is standard fair in Japanese convenience and grocery stores. ^_^ the noodle sandwiches put me off initially due to being carbs stuffed in carbs, but they’re most definitely tasty and can be kind of comforting. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if their spaghetti sandwich really did utilise catsup! Napolitan is a common way to eat spaghetti in Japan and its primarily comprised of ketchup, hot dogs, peppers and onions- turn those left overs into a sandwich the next day and there you go. The eggplant onigiri sound pretty tasty, too! I miss all those sandwiches… my neighbourhood 99 ranch has a decent bakery section, but it’s a bit different than what I got used to in my local Yaoko grocery in Urayasu…

  • Nau: I, too, was dubious about the noodle hot-dog sandwiches. But just like potatoes on top of pizza, the double helping of carbs actually isn’t as heavy as you would think. And there is something so comforting about it.

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