901 Take Out—an unassuming shack just uphill from a pair of gas stations—is home to something rare: a veggie, gluten-free food item even better than its meaty, carb-laden original. 

The sweet-potato layers in 901's gluten-free lasagna ($7) don't so much substitute for the dish's customary sheet noodles as reinvent the dish around them. Lasagna is, more than anything, a feat of engineering, the noodles mere girding in savory Italian layer cake. By contrast, the flavorful sweet potatoes in 901's rendition are the dish's actual centerpiece, the ricotta, tomato, carrot and onion the accompaniments. It was a lovely surprise, a warm garden of humble delights. Fewer surprises await elsewhere on the menu. 901 Take Out is a neighborhood utility shop geared for comfort, with a capable enough beef or chicken lasagna available not only by the slice but by the tray (provided you call ahead of time). Its traditional lasagna is the thick, sauce-laden, slightly char-topped American classic, womblike in its familiarity.

The counter spot also offers a rotating array of hearty soups ($3-$5), plus a likewise ever-changing cast of grilled sandwiches ($5) that recently included a lovely French-Italian Thanksgiving of a sandwich: turkey, cranberry and brie on peppery bread. 

But while the rest of the menu may be a boon mostly for locals at the northerly edge of Nob Hill—one of the worst spots in the city to find food that's both good and cheap—the sweet-potato lasagna might give you reason to travel.

  • Order This: Sweet-potato lasagna. 
  • I’ll pass: The soups, uniformly, could use extra spicing. 

EAT: 901 Take Out, 901 NW 21st Ave., 274-8901, 901takeout.com. 11 am-7 pm Monday-Friday. $