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Banh Mi Crawl in Rosemead...Or Why Lee's Kicks The Crap Out Of Mr. Baguette!

  • aching Apr 16, 2007 08:36 AM
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SO was having a serious banh mi craving yesterday and I was intrigued by the many CH recommendations of Mr. Baguette - so we headed out to beautiful Rosemead. We were pleased to see an entirely Vietnamese clientele - always a good sign at an ethnic restaurant. The blow-up of the LA Times rave review on the wall was reassuring too. We moseyed right in and ordered one chicken and one grilled beef sandwich. So far so good. Then we got our sandwiches, and the confusion began. Where was the cilantro? Where were the hot peppers? Where were the pickled vegetables? Nowehere to be found. Both sandwiches had iceberg lettuce and tomatoes on them. They seemed to both have - could this be - mayonnaise? And the chicken sandwich had...cue the Jaws theme music...American cheese. Yes, you heard me correct - American cheese. As in Kraft singles.

Well, we said, perhaps this is a different kind of banh mi. Mayonnaise, after all, is a French invention, as are baguettes - perhaps this is not as incongruous as it seems. We started eating - and ate our way politely through one and a half sandwiches. We were trying to stay positive - but at the end of our meal, SO looked at me plaintively and said in a small voice, "Can we go to Lee's now?" One of the many Lee's outposts, it turns out, is just up the block from Mr. Baguette. So off we went, and SO got the banh mi he wanted, fresh and delicious, complete with cilantro, peppers, and pickled vegetables. Happiness was restored.

Now, I'm the first to make the disclaimer - I'm not Vietnamese, I've never been to Vietnam, and I had my first banh mi only a couple years ago. So I'm no expert. But I do know food, and objectively, Lee's banh mi is just better food - fresher, tastier, more unique, more satisfying. And - though again, I can't claim to be an expert - I have to believe that it is more authentic as well (American cheese - WTF?!). And, to top it all off, Lee's sandwiches cost half as much! So I won't be going back to Mr. Baguette - and I will continue to go to Lee's whenever possible!

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  1. I believe you ordered the wrong type of sandwich. They have American style and Vietnamese style. I personally don't like Lee's; instead take a trip to little saigon for the best Bahn Mi at Bahn Mi Che Cali .

    4 Replies
    1. re: dagrassroots

      Are you serious? We didn't get that at all from the menu! We'll have to try again - and I take back the blanket statements about Mr. Baguette - although my comments still absolutely apply to the "American" or "Contemporary" sandwiches - blech!

      1. re: dagrassroots

        Bahn Mi Che Cali can be very very funky and not the best bread.

        1. re: dagrassroots

          What's wrong with the Banh Mi Che Cali in San Gabriel?

          1. re: monku

            i've never had a bad sandwich from banh mi che cali. yum!

        2. As many will chime in to say, what you got was the "Western" style sandwich (classified as "Contemporary" on the menu), which are more expensive than the Vietnamese style sandwich (classified as "Traditional" on the menu) and I usually avoid at both Lee's and Mr. Baguette. Mr. Baguette offers these disparate kinds, and so does Lee's.

          For example, the "Special Sandwich" is the Dac Biet, special of the house, which has Vietnamese cold cuts, daikon and carrot pickles, cilantro, jalapeno. And it rings up at $2.85...still more expensive than Lee's to be sure, but there you are.

          Search out Banh Mi Che Cali. They're my personal favorite. More homey, and cheaper than the rest too.
          http://elmomonster.blogspot.com

          1. You got the amercanized sandwich, I always order by number, no confusion, happened to me my first time there. I really like Baguette express, they have a cajun shrimp i love. Lee's is my second choice. There is also Banh Mi Che Cali in Rosemead, which i like also. Good Eats!

            http://www.baguetteexpress.com/

            22 Replies
            1. re: Burger Boy

              Have you tried the xiu mai sandwich?

              1. re: Cicely

                What is in that?

                1. re: Burger Boy

                  It's usually translated as "meatball sandwich", but it's really more like a chopped pork sandwich. I've had some that were dry, and others that were like a sloppy joe.

                  1. re: raytamsgv

                    Who makes a good one, I tried to order at Lee's last week, but they were out. I just call it a meatball sandwich, not the vietnamese name.

                    1. re: raytamsgv

                      Boy, I disagree -- xiu mai is always meatballs cut in half... where did you have the one that's like chopped pork?

                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                        I had them at the now-defunct Paris Sandwich. I also believe Che Cali served them that way, but I didn't like their version all that much. Of course, in the interest of the finding out the truth, I will need to obtain more samples for observation and testing. :-)

                    2. re: Burger Boy

                      Whenever I saw the xiu mai, it reminded me of the sui mai from dim sum, which my family always describes as meatballs. Often the flavor is similar, so I would also assume that it means meatballs, since it sounds similar to the chinese ones.

                      1. re: justagthing

                        In fact "xiu mai" is the same exact word that Vietnamese use to describe the shu mai at dim sum! Notice how similar they are phonetically, especially when you consider that the Viet letter "x" is pronounced as an "s". They're meatballs, but most sandwich shops will mash up the ball when they insert it into the sandwich. I suppose this is for even distribution. Sometimes they overdo it to the point where the "ball" is unrecognizable...

                        1. re: hch_nguyen

                          Thanks, glad to know that my suspicions were correct. Just like sui mai in dim sum places vary, that would make the difference for the variance in viet sandwiches. I've had the ones that were unrecognizable, but as long as the meatballs were good, and the texture was on, then I don't have a problem with them mashing it. But, I do like the regular traditional ones best!

                          1. re: hch_nguyen

                            Thanks for the clarification. My wife informed me that the xiu mai sandwiches I ate were basically unidentifiable from that standpoint--mashed up beyond recognition. But they were so good!

                    3. re: Burger Boy

                      Lee's Menu:
                      http://www.leessandwiches.com/ls_Menu...

                      Mr Baguette's Menu:
                      http://www.mrbaguettesandwiches.com/

                      1. re: WildSwede

                        Boy, reading Mr. Baguette's website, you'd think they created the notion of french-vietnamese culinary fusion when it was just a natural evolution of colonization.

                        1. re: hch_nguyen

                          ;-)

                        2. re: WildSwede

                          Hum, the description for some of the classic sandwiches still contain mayo .

                          1. re: notmartha

                            Even the most classic Viet sandwich will have mayo. True it's not classic Vietnamese, but neither is bread, nor the concept of sandwiches for that matter. They all came in by way of the French through colonization. Even banh mi is a derivative of the French "pain de mie". Keep in mind that Viet mayo is not, say, Kraft.....it's generally a homemade whipped mixture of raw eggs, which is a major ingredient in traditional mayo.

                            1. re: hch_nguyen

                              I think the confusion is that Lee's don't put mayo on their Asian style sandwiches. I thought a lot of posters said get the classic, not the American ones and you will avoid mayo. Not so in Mr. Baguette, apparently.

                              I was rather put off by the mayo when I ordered sandwich at my local pho/sandwich shop one time too. It's like kraft's. But then everything on that sandwich was wrong - from the bread to the meats to the mayo, so I just chalked it up to a bad joint.

                              1. re: notmartha

                                Every asian-style sandwich I've ever had at Lee's has had the mayo on it. "Mayo" is as much a part of the traditional Viet Sandwich as the Russian dressing (or thousand island or what have you...) is a part of the reuben. There are other interpretations, but that is the exception and not the rule, so to speak.

                                1. re: hch_nguyen

                                  That's strange. I've never seen it on mine. But then I don't pick it apart so if it's itsy bitsy amount I wouldn't have noticed.

                                  Now I have to do the $1.75 experiment soon. ;)

                                  1. re: notmartha

                                    Viet sandwiches DO have mayo in them, however as somebody noted above, it's not a 'normal' american style mayo. Quite frankly, I was boggled by it myself. It's damn tasty though, and IMHO without it makes the sandwiches dry. But then again, I get mine w/o pate.

                                    1. re: notmartha

                                      Some places just put a dribble of it on. Lee's is one of those places. In addition, their rendition of the Viet mayo is runny, lifeless, and mass-produced and lacks the whipped and creamy texture that is the hallmark of any good mayo, including the Viet kind. Theirs is like liquid and to me is an abomination. It's like Ranch salad dressing that's like water, unappetizing needless to say.

                                      This is another reason I dislike Lee's sandwiches. If Lee's has set your expectations for banh mi, It doesn't surprise that you didn't realize that they are by default made with "mayo"

                                      1. re: hch_nguyen

                                        It's usually aioli, though, right? I distinctly taste garlic.

                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                          Traditionally, I don't believe it's an aioli. That doesn' t mean that there aren't places that do make it as an aioli, although I think, if anything, it is rare. I've never really tasted garlic or anything else in it unless it absorbed those flavors from the seasonings of the surrounding meats, charcuterie, etc.....I'll play closer attention next time.

                        3. Not just to chime in with a ``me too'' post, but Mr. Baguette bakes its own bread continuously throughout the day (the sesame bread is worth the extra few cents), makes its own top-rank charcuterie, and has a liver paste - essential for the dac biet sandwich - that is second to none. And the pickles and fresh chiles come in a separate little baggie, so that you can get the sandwich home before it turns soggy; an elegant touch. That being said, the Vietnamese cold cut sandwiches there are almost always better than the others. Lee's is fine, but a step or two behind in banh mi quality.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: condiment

                            Are you sure they make their own, i looked at their web site and it does not mention that?

                            1. re: condiment

                              the thing i don't like about mr. baguette these days is that they've ditched the cucumber and skimped on the cilantro in the baggies. i find myself going to lee's a lot more now, despite them not having beef.

                            2. this is making me so hungry. where is some good banh mi closest to the westside?

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: luvgrub

                                There was a brief discussion about this maybe 2 months ago. Sadly...there's not much supply.

                                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/371533

                                1. re: Tmblweed

                                  as a vietnamese person who has frequented sandwich shops for the past 20 years, let me chime in

                                  Banh Mi Che Cali was the originator, however they're not that great. They were the original pioneers of buy 2 get 1 free, and are known for cheapass sandwiches. Their Cali restaurant on McFadden/Brookhurst in Santa Ana though is great tasty, esp. french cubed beef steak.

                                  I've been to Mr. Baugette a few times, and I gotta say their bread is f'n amazing. I've had their sandwiches a few times and thought them to be quite tasty, although I have no yet been their recently. Mediocre vietnamese coffee.

                                  Lee's is the McDonald's of vietnamese sandwiches. Their bread is very consistent and very good, although I find Mr Baughette to be just a bit tastier. Their sandwiches have gotten alot better through the years, and their almond pastries are fantastic. Also mediocre coffee however.

                                  1. re: ns1

                                    Have you been to Baguette Express? It's my favorite so far but I'm by no means an expert. Curious as to your opinion

                              2. Personally, I like Ba Le.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  Another vote for Baguette Express. I find it less greasy than some of the other places, but just as flavorful. A tiny bit more expensive but worth it for the cleanliness and the ability to sit in the restaurant and enjoy your meal. And a good selection of filllings -- love the Cajun shrimp and the bbq beef.

                                2. Not SGV, but I like Top Baguette in Garden Grove.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: SauceSupreme

                                    I've got to agree with you, Sauce, on this one. It is a few miles past my regular joints, but they have the best ones I have tasted. Their bread has a crust that is crispier than most, almost like biting through a potato chip. My favorite sandwich there is the meatball, which is really moist and delicious.

                                    For me, a close second (closer driving distance, that is!) is Che Cali in Santa Ana, already mentioned by previous posters.

                                  2. I've never eaten at Mr. Baguette. I went into the new one in Monterey Park near NBC and walked out because the price point turned me off, but I will say this. Lee's sandwiches is, hands-down, the worst banh mi I have ever had in my life, as far as the traditional ones are concerned. I am Vietnamese, but more importantly, I've been eating banh mi's a very long time. While I believe I do know what an "authentic" banh mi should taste like, I also believe I know what just tastes bad period, authenticity notwithstanding. The bread was the only thing that I didn't find totally unappealing, but again it was just...meh :-| ... I've had the meatball and the cold cuts and the combination (I like to give things more than once chance in case you're wondering why I actually went back). Their mayonnaise is runny and insipid. The meatballs are mushy and lifeless. The cold cuts are blah. The pate is cakey and flavorless. While I haven't eaten at Mr. Baguette, I'm confident that it would not be that hard for their traditional banh mi to kick the crap out of Lee's. The bar is not that high. Lee's is a perfect example of how an efficient business model and some savvy marketing can truly mask an inferior product. It saddens me to think that Lee's has come to represent for a lot of people the standard by which to judge one of the stars of my native cuisine, the deceitfully humble banh mi.....sigh....They've done for banh mi's what Pizza Hut has done for pizza.....There are those that will disagree with me, and they are entitled, but that's how I feel about it personally.

                                    I do qualify my post by saying I've only eaten at the Lee's in Fullerton on Harbor. If someone can convince me to give another location a try, I will go there.

                                    8 Replies
                                    1. re: hch_nguyen

                                      The one across from UCI is better than the Fullerton one -- but in going from one to the other you pass approximately 5,382,492,192 banh mi-erias that are better than either location that it's really not worth doing the comparison.

                                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                        Yeah, I figured that the difference would be marginal. The only reason I would actually consider it is that there is a small franchise of Viet sandwich shops in my hometown where all the food tastes completely different from one location to another. Strikingly different that is....I think maybe they just license the name, and that their operations, right down to the food itself, are all wholly independent, but that's prob not the case with Lee's.

                                      2. re: hch_nguyen

                                        So which place do you think has the best banh mi?

                                        1. re: hch_nguyen

                                          Of the places I've tried in SoCal, I think probably Banh Mi Che Cali would be my pick all things considered. I've never been to the one in SGV and have tried a couple of them in Little Saigon. I usually get meatball or coldcuts there. It's not earth-moving by any means, but considering the quality and amount of food that you get vs. the cost, it beats out all the others and it hits the spot when I'm craving a banh mi. I had a bad experience at Top Baguette in Westminster, but it was more about the experience than the food itself. I've been meaning to give them one more try. I thought Rainbow bakery in LA's Chinatown proper wasn't half-bad either, but I in general don't like Chinatown and the parking stinks. I truly think you could throw a dart and hit any Viet sandwich shop that could outdo Lee's.

                                          I've heard KP's deli in Silverlake is good, but I'm wary since most of the people who rave about it are people whose first experience with banh mi is at KP's deli itself. They don't have enough comparison points and are struck by the novelty of it all. It is Silverlake after all. At $6/sandwich, I can't bring myself to pay it unless I hear from a true aficionado, but it's looking like that afionado might have to be me eventually....

                                          Now, the best banh mi I've had period was in Paris, and it wasn't just about the bread itself. It was a very lighty filled sandwich, but it sure did pack the flavor in. As subtle as the flavor was, it was still striking somehow . That was ages ago and I still remember which Metro line to get off at if I'm ever in Paris again, but that's for a different board.....

                                          One of the Viet sandwich shops in Texas is tops for me in the U.S., but again, for a different board...

                                          1. re: hch_nguyen

                                            I prefer Mr Baguette over Lee's. Pho 79's version, the Vietnamese Ham, is good, too, but does not come with pate. I liked KP's deli version (Kold Kut) (and that is the most recent place I have ordered Banh Mi, so I have had the others first and had something to compare it to!). It is definitely pricier than the others, but the sheer size of it more than makes up for it!

                                            1. re: WildSwede

                                              Thanks! I'll have to give KP's a try!

                                          2. re: hch_nguyen

                                            I totally agree with you about Lee's! To me, the bread is the worst part of their sandwiches. Tough, chewy, and almost painful to bite into. They sure did a good job of establishing brand recognition, though. And besides, where else are you gonna go when you're jonesing for a banh mi and a sinh to bo late at night?

                                            Personally, I grew up on Banh Mi Ba Le (weren't they 3/dollar at some point?) and--barrring the bad service that you wrote about--I've had good luck at Top Baguette.

                                            1. re: hch_nguyen

                                              ITA. And well written. With so many choices with food in this country, few remember the real pleasure of good food. It's not all about fast, cheap and familiar.

                                            2. The bread at Mr.Baguette's is way better than Lee's.

                                              Also to anyone...which place in the SGV has the best "meatball" sandwich or "siu mai meen bao"? I usually get my fix in Chinatown. (For $2 :) But it would be nice to know where I can get it out there.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: yum4fun

                                                I agree! I love the bread and pickled veggies there. I've never had that weird Westernized one that the poster described with cheese and ice burg lettuce though. That's just weird (and gross).

                                              2. Banh Mi Che Cali is good. A little more rustic than Lee's Sandwiches. They also have crazy specials (Buy 2 get 1 free) on a sandwich that is already super cheap. They also have pretty good Che.

                                                I think the best quality of meat ingredients is at KP's Deli in Silverlake. It is a little bit more Americanized (a lot bigger , more expensive), but everything is high quality with a lot of flavor. Plus, the owner is very nice too.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: bsquared2

                                                  I've been to a few places, mostly Lee's and Mr. Bag. So I checked out Che Cali in Rosemead, and it is my new favorite. To me everything was where I wanted it, in terms of flavor. The meat was a little softer, 'melting' if you will, with a nice gamey funk to it, the chiles had a little more bite, there was mayo — which I like, and it was less than $2 for the #2.

                                                2. I like Lee's, but I have to say the quality is somewhat inconsistent. I think the Anaheim branch may not have enough turnover to warrant the freshest product.

                                                  I generally pick the sandwiches up for home, and toast lightly to crisp up the baguette, which helps some.

                                                  One time we dropped by at Lee's at 8AM on the way to LAX, and boy was that sandwich good with the just baked bread. It's like night and day with the others ones we had before.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: notmartha

                                                    Actually, the Lee's in Fullerton/Anaheim was pretty hopping each time I went in there. As a chain, I think their food is probably pretty formulaic from one location to the next. It didn't taste bad in the sense that it was "un-fresh", it just tasted bad (to me). Their formula just doesn't jive with me and after giving it several whirls, I have difficulty understanding why anyone would prefer their formula over the dozens and dozens of other formulas out there. Lots of times I don't like something due to personal preference, but I can still understand why someone else might enjoy it. Not in this case though, but everyone's taste buds are different, and the right sandwich is the one that tastes right to you!

                                                    1. re: hch_nguyen

                                                      I've been to the Anaheim location at least 10 times, and every time there's really at most 5 people there. But I am usually there at 5:30PM or so weekdays, so maybe that's their off time?

                                                      Dunno, I always stick to #7 and 11, so they worked for me. I really like the crunchy headcheese and I love pate, but I think I am just more picky about the bread than any of the fillings.

                                                      1. re: notmartha

                                                        My guess is that 5:30pm on a weekday would be at least a fairly off-time for any eatery.

                                                        I'm probably a little pickier. When I have any sandwich, I want a good sandwich, which means both bread and filling. If either of them fails, the whole thing kind of fails for me, and I would venture to say that while they're both important, the filling is more important as it sort of "makes" the sandwich in my eyes. Sort of like the corned beef on a reuben. After all, if I wanted to just eat a baguette plain (which I do on occasion, especially when it's piping hot fresh from the oven), I would just do that and not bother with the sandwich, but that's me....

                                                  2. I'm a fan of Mr. Baguette. My first Banh Mi was in Vietnam off a cart in Saigon. I was amused; it had laughin cow cheese on it! It was SOOOOOO GOOOOOOD!

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: markethej

                                                      Laughing Cow Cheese?? Now that's a new one! Come to think of it, my sisters and I ate more than our fair share of Laughing Cow Cheese when we were kids. I guess it's another one of those fairly obscure European imports by way of French colonization that has become a part of the Vietnamese culinary psyche, just like Maggi sauce.

                                                    2. Lee's and KP do not resemble the banh mi I grew up with in SGV. They look way too huge and the fillings seem Americanized. My favorite banh mi shop is Baguette du Jour in Alhambra. The BBQ beef sandwich is excellent, bread is freshly baked daily, and not too thick.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Ernie

                                                        I have only tried Baguette du Jour and Lee's, and I definitely prefer Baguette du Jour. The service is friendly, and the price is right. Also, I preferred the bread and filling at Beguette du Jour. The bread was softer, and the filling was tastier.

                                                      2. OK. I am the opposite. I only go to Mr. Baguette -- its the bread! As for the fillings I keep away from anything that I do not recognize. Therefore I only get the liver. In fact tonigt I was at Mr. Baguette and bought two long of their breads only and usd them to make subs with our own meats -- great. I really only usd one so far. The other is to put some fresh butter on and enjoy it that way --- wow!

                                                        1. I'm a banh mi newbie, having had my first one just a few weeks ago. So far I've tried Lee's and Banh Mi Che Cali, and of the two, definitely prefer Lee's. The bread at Lee's was good, fresh with a nice crust and good flavor, while the bread at Banh Mi Che Cali was almost mushy. The Lee's sandwich, I felt, had the right amount of the pickled veggies plus a couple of pieces of cilantro. The BMCC one was a little skimpy on the veg and no cilantro. Next up is Mr. Baguette.

                                                          7 Replies
                                                          1. re: slacker

                                                            Well, learn from my hard-won experience and make sure that you are ordering the Vietnamese/Traditional sandwich and not the American/Western/Contemporary/Crapola sandwich!

                                                            1. re: aching

                                                              I just thought of a place. I'm not sure about their Vietnamese sandwiches, but AFAIK it's owned by Vietnamese people, and their other sandwiches are great.

                                                              Le Diplomat, same plaza as In N Out by UCI. Garlic chicken with tomatoes. Awesome beyond belief. I know they serve vietnamese sandwiches too. Hell now that I think about it, it's probably in the same plaza as lees.

                                                              1. re: ns1

                                                                Lee's is about 20 paces from I-N-O. I don't think the other place that does VN sandwiches is still there.

                                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                  NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

                                                                  le diplomat?!?!?!? right next to what I think is was an Anime shop!??!

                                                                  1. re: ns1

                                                                    I'll look tomorrow. I could totally be wrong.

                                                                    1. re: ns1

                                                                      It's definitely open, I just went there between the farmers' market and Trader Joe's.

                                                                      Got the "special sandwich with pate". The bread was good -- an actual French baguette rather than the Viet kind lightened with rice flour -- but the sandwich was not good. The pate had absolutely no flavour at all. The pickled carrots and turnips were shaved rather than cut. Perhaps it's a personal preference, but I want those things to be cut like French fries, not shaved. That they put an entire man's handful of pickled vegetables on a nine-inch sandwich meant I had to scrape out two-thirds of it. The hot chile on the sandwich was one lousy thin strip of watery jalapeno and there wasn't enough cilantro.

                                                                      The meat was tasty enough (I only ate half, intending to take the other half home after I removed the vegetables to stop it getting too soggy) but it degraded quickly -- when I got home it smelled unappetizingly like rancid raw meat.

                                                                      There were, however, some fetching-looking croissants in the case, not all nasty and greasy like most croissants... so it may be that it's a "caveat eator" type of place... enjoy the baked goods, but do not go to the Viet sandwiches, for here there be dragons.

                                                                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                        Ah damn, that's unfortunate. However, I would recommend you go back and get the garlic chicken with tomatoes. I almost want to drive down there from LA for it.

                                                            2. Che Cali is reliable, but sometimes I'm shocked by a big glob of mayonnaise. Not a good experience. My mom loves that place. The big problem I have with Lee's is the bread. I just don't think the baguette works. Baguettes are too dense, the crust too hard. The best bread are those small hoagie-type rolls made with rice flour where the crust is shatteringly thin and the dough is web-like. A very light bread so the sandwich doesn't need to be packed full of meat.

                                                              I am a hoagie loyalist. No baguette!

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: david t.

                                                                I know what you mean. I actually like both types of bread depending on what I feel like. It's like pizza, sometimes I crave Chicago-style, other times New York-style....its all about personal preference. I actually like the big glops of mayonnaise, always have, but it is a turn-off for lots of people. I always have to ask for extra mayo...again personal preferences come into play as always. If you don't like baguettes, Lee's can't help that. Their fillings are the real problem for me. At Che Cali, you get to choose your bread. I don't *think* they do that at most places.

                                                                1. re: david t.

                                                                  These hoagie rolls (called banh mi cho) are what are "mua 2 tang 1" (buy 2 get 1 free) at BMCC.

                                                                2. I also believe you got the westernized version of banh mi. Sometimes at Asian places if they look at you and see that you are non asian they assume you dont want the ethnic version and give u the westernized version of banh mi. I personally like Mr. Baguette better because I think the bread at Lee's Sandwiches is too hard. Usually cuts the inside of my mouth because of its sharp edges. I also think Lee's is kinda skimpy on the meat. Mr. Baguette has a great iced coffee. It has a hint of hazelnut flavor in it that separates it from the rest. Before there was Lee's or Mr. Baguette, I used to go to Ba Le on Atlantic/ Valley. It is in this mini plaza near the Gas station on the corner of Atlantic and Valley Blvd in Monterey Pk. It's the real deal. Lee's has become too commercialized and I think it has hurt its original recipe and flavor. Everything seems to be too mass produced there. I also agree with the other CH about Che Cali sandwiches in OC.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: karynx78

                                                                    I would like to try both Mr. Baguette and Ba Le, due to your rec. :)

                                                                    I will say that Lee's has a decent fresh carrot juice (fresh and cheap). Also, the Lee's in Rosemead has a drive-thru, so if you are feeling lazy, it *might* be worth your money. I have only tried the spring rolls, carrot juice and bbq pork baquette sandwich at Lee's. As I've said in a past post, I thought Baguette du Jour was better. I have yet to try these other places, though.

                                                                  2. My friends like Ba Le (not sure about spelling) on Atlantic and Valley. They say it has the best banh mi.

                                                                    1. From looking at the menu, you got one of the American-style sandwiches. Even Lee's has added quite a few American/European sandwiches to the menu.

                                                                      I've had Banh Mi sandwiches in Vietnam and Laos that came with Laughing Cow cheese (I'm not a big fan of that brand). Even in the hotels, there is always a big plate of Laughing Cow cheese in the buffets.

                                                                      Lee's is good, but more of a quick bite. The baguette can sometimes be a little too hard. Banh Mi Che Cali is a bit better and KP's is good because the quality of the ingredients is better. The best Banh Mi I've had in Vietnam didn't come on a Baguette, but more of a Hoagie-style roll. If you are ever in Saigon, stop at Nhu Lang Bakery . MMMMMMMM.... A Banh Mi there is about 50 cents.

                                                                      1. OK, had another set of sandwiches from Lee's at Anaheim last night. Their prices went up (I think). Could have sweared that it used to be $1.75, now it's $2.2. Still dirt cheap.

                                                                        So double checked the meatball sandwich - no mayo. But the #1 does have small dabs of mayo hidden in the pate. I ordered the #1 with double meat as always, and split it with my hubbie. The sandwiches toasted up pretty good at home, but still not as good as the 8AM ones I got before. I think the 'hard' bread people mentioned is just due to the bread not being out of the oven fresh.

                                                                        Anyway, will check the other restaurants mentioned and see how they stack up.

                                                                        Overall given the low prices and the alternative choices of yuckier stuff (like Subways) I still like Lee's - relatively speaking.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: notmartha

                                                                          I'm certain there was mayo in my meatball sandwich at Lee's...and crikey....even I would take Lee's over Subway!!! :D ....They ordered in Subway for everyone at work today, and, goodness, it took a bag of chips (which I rarely eat) and several pieces of Twix and hard candy for me to get the taste out of my mouth.

                                                                        2. OK, I was intrigued by this thread, and since I was staying in Pasadena this weekend, I decided to swing down to Rosemead and pick up some banh mi from Mr. Baguette. Ordered 2 dac biets, a baguette, and a thai iced tea with boba. The thai iced tea was great. The baguette was nothing special, but I'm spoiled, having spent a lot of time in Paris. It was fine. The sandwiches were also fine. The bread was good in the sandwiches, but not stellar, the cold cuts were OK, and the "salad" was good but a bit skimpy. I missed the cilantro. Nothing close to what I consider the banh mi standard -- Banh Mi So. 1 in NYC. Those included bbq pork in the dac biet, lots of pickled vegetables, enough peppers to make it really spicy, more pate, cucumbers and cilantro. Anything like that in the SGV?

                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Amuse Bouches

                                                                            I never found a decent banh mi when I lived in NYC, and I've never heard of mixing bbq pork with pate, but it's been my experience that most Viet places will at least try to accommodate you if you tell them what you want. Sometimes, they just humor you and nod and then ignore your request. Sometimes the person behind the counter doesn't bother to communicate to the one making the sandwiches. Sometimes the person making the sandwiches ignores the counter person even if they do bother. It won't hurt to try and oftentimes you'll actually get what you want!!! I'm not shy about asking. Of course, being able to speak the language helps, but I actually think a non-native might have even more luck getting them to be accommodating (why I think this is outside the scope of this post) if you can actually get your point across. There might be an additional charge though. I've been known to ask for extra mayo or carrots or chili peppers. I also like to combine the coldcuts and crushed pork meatballs, which isn't usually combined.

                                                                            1. re: Amuse Bouches

                                                                              Well, I found myself in Rosemead again yesterday in time for a quick lunch, so decided to try Lee's. The bread wasn't as good as at Mr. Baguette, but the sandwich was much better. I got the BBQ pork instead of the special (didn't have time for a thorough perusal of the menu) but also it had a lot more veggies on it, for an altogether better banh mi experience.

                                                                              1. re: Amuse Bouches

                                                                                Glad I'm not alone here! =)

                                                                                1. re: Amuse Bouches

                                                                                  I've tried the chicken sandwich at Lee's, Mr. Baguette, and Banh Mi Che Cali. The chicken all tasted pretty much the same. Only difference was in the bread, and Mr. Baguette's is the best. I did have the bbq pork at Lee's and that was good.