Banh mi in SF (Saigon Sandwiches)

One of my favorite cheap eats in SF is Saigon Sandwiches on Larkin Street on the edge of Little Saigon. There are a lot of places for these Vietnamese sandwiches, especially in the Tenderloin. There is branch of the Lee’s Sandwiches (not to be confused with Lee’s Deli) across the street up half a block on Larkin Street. Lee’s has a few dozen more sandwich and bakery options, and is a slick, flashy and sanitized version of a Vietnamese sandwich shop. This is precisely why I enjoy Saigon Sandwiches so much. It is a veritable hole in the wall, with one or two crammed stools at the tiny counter in the window, but other than that, it is takeout only. They only offer a few choices for fillings, as you can see below.

Roast chicken, roast pork, “fanci pork”, pate, “meat ball pork”, “jambon”, or the very popular combo which includes a little of evrything. The prep area is kinda grubby, and the decor is little more than two drink coolers filled with sodas as well as various Vietnamese drinks and desserts, as well as a variety of packaged snacks on the counter. You can pick up anything from squid chips to Vietnamese “tamales” filled with rice stuffed with salty pork or banana. The prices are downright cheap, although they are a dollar more than they were about 2 years ago. Still, $3.00 for a sandwich on a fresh, crusty French roll slathered with a mayo-based sauce and stuffed with your choice of fillings and topped with pickled daikon and carrots, cilantro and sliced jalapeno is not bad.

The reason I like Saigon is the place is an honest, no-nonsense, family run place. There is always a line out front during lunch hours, but the line moves fast. The combination of the crusty. toasted bread, the salty pork and pate, the creamy mayo and the crunchy pickled carrots along with the herby cilantro and spicy jalapenos all for $3.00 cannot be beat! You might find a better banh mi elsewhere (if you know where, please let me know!), but the combination of the low prices, homey atmosphere, friendly service and seedy neighborhood is tough to come by.

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