The Tenderloin area isn’t the most picturesque part of San Francisco. While it has a certain character, the combinations of smell, cleanliness and portion of people who’s best descriptor are “transient”, can cause many people to avoid treading its streets. Many of the shops and businesses have a certain level of wear to them and are often lacking the sort of aura that draws one in. So when you see a small, nondescript vietnamese storefront in the middle of the Tenderloin that often has a line out the door, you know something good is inside. Saigon Sandwich could be one of a hundred small asian restaurants spread throughout San Francisco, but there is something here that sets it apart.
Banh Mi is a Vietnamese term for bread, specifically a French style baguette that is most commonly found in Vietnam. It also often refers to a type of sandwich made using this roll that combines both French and Vietnamese ingredients. The dish we came to try was their roasted pork banh mi. The sandwich is served in a roll with seasoned and roasted pork, pickled carrots, onion, cilantro and jalapeños. The key building blocks to any sandwich are bread and meat (sorry vegetarians, it’s true). Saigon Sandwich does both well. The bread is toasted per order and has that nice middle ground consistency. Not soft and mushy, and not hard and tough. A little crunch on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The meat proves the classic idiom “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” because it really does just look like mystery meat. However the Vietnamese bbq sauce (at least that’s what we think it is) has a pleasantly unique flavor and sweetness and the meat itself is nice and tender. There’s nothing worse that having to yank at a meat sandwich like a wild dog because the meat is too tough to chew through. Saigon builds on it’s solid foundation of a sandwich by adding crisp, acidic flavors with the cilantro, onion, pickled carrots and jalapeño. The sweetness in the meat is met nicely with the spice from the fresh jalapeños and tart crunch from the rest of the veggies.
Again The List has provided us with a dish that we both give two bbq covered (it can be a little messy) thumbs up. Though the area isn’t the greatest and the shop doesn’t have much charm, the flavors are good and oh yeah, the price is right ($3.25 for a full sandwich! Very rare these days to find anything under $5). Don’t let looks fool you and give this sandwhich shop a try.
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