Once Sherman and I were back from Hamburgers in Sausalito, we took a detour to visit one of the places where FoodBuzz Food Bloggers Festival was taking place. However, while there was a bit of chaos, at least it wasn’t the gong show you would see in open public events like Eat Vancouver! Even then, we were only there to make a token appearance and we left short after. Why the hurry? Well, in a quid pro quo, I agreed to go with Sherman to a banh mi shop in, out of all places in San Francisco, in the Tenderloin area. Considering going to such places does no faze me, hey, why not! The place’s name? Saigon Sandwich Shop.
It is quite evident from the screenshot above this ain’t a fancy place. However, they have a claim to fame: their banh mi/Vietnamese sub/sandwich are supposed to be really good. How good? Well, would you believe there was a queue that stretch out of this shop almost to the corner of the street? Just in case, again, this is in the Tenderloin area of San Francisco and the customers were pretty much from all ways of life. If it can attract everybody, they are certainly doing something right.
Simple menu, that’s all you need to know. OK, this ain’t a restaurant per se, it is a small shop of sorts but I am willing to bet they make most of their revenues from this small menu than the rest. Having said that, we were debating what to order and settled for two to have a good representation (hopefully) of what they were good at. (And this is despite we were partially full already after the burgers from Hamburgers and the stuff we had at the FoodBuzz convention!).
Behold, their roasted pork banh mi and their special combination banh mi . Of course, visuals ain’t too relevant here as, from the outside, it is pretty much the same. Rather, it is what’s inside… In both cases, it was a baguette filled with the appropriate meats and then some vegetables. Sorry, too generic of a description but, let’s face it, it is what it is. Instead, it was how does the final product tasted.
Starting with the bread… Well, it depends on how you like yours. If you are expecting sort of an airy type bread (similar to, say, Ba Le here in Vancouver), sorry, this is a bit denser than that. Now, it wasn’t hard either, just that, compared to the before mentioned Ba Le (and other banh mi found in Vancouver), it felt the baguette was borderline a regular baguette. Not necessarily wrong (no authenticity police running amok here) but different set of expectations. As for the vegetables, it was mostly carrots, though with some token daikon radish and cilantro. Oh, yeah, jalapeño peppers! The oddity, though, wasn’t the proportion of vegetables but the distribution. I gave Sherman the choice to choose first and, in both instances, he chose the side loaded with the peppers while mine didn’t have any. In fact, for the second sub, he played safe by opening the sandwich and removed them before biting into it! And I was wondering why Sherman was complaining it was hot! As for the meats, well, they were moist, full or pork taste. Sorry, won’t go into further details as I might be doing some injustices (in both ways), as while not earth shattering it did make the sandwich taste good. The ham, though was a bit odd, it didn’t add but didn’t detract. One detail I thought was missing was the absence of pate (either that or I didn’t really taste it). While the roast pork does not necessarily had to have it, the special one technically should have but I thought it was MIA. Still, a good sandwich nevertheless. But, given the special had pork and other ingredients, would I go for it rather than the stand alone pork? Actually, I will stick with the stand alone roasted pork because, well, I like pork! If I had to choose, this would be a case where I wanted to savour that one ingredient, hehehe.
All in all, this place is what it is: For $3 and change you get a (Vietnamese) sandwich. You obviously don’t go for the ambiance or service (with such a long queue, it was more on the lines of order and just wait). You go because you believe something good is served. And, from that perspective, they delivered.