Friday afternoon on Larkin St. - Banh Mi and other goodies
I was in the neighborhood today and went in search of banh mi. I had been to Baguette Express before and didn't love it (though I did like it), so today it was between Lee's and Saigon Sandwich. I parked my bike and went into Lee's. I was pretty impressed with the place....it was late lunchtime, so it was pretty crowded. I hadn't realized how many items they offered....various spring rolls, Vietnamese snacks, sticky rice, desserts, several drinks, etc all pre-prepared. It's a pretty fun place!
I didn't buy anything here, and instead walked down to Saigon Sandwich where I got the pork banh mi to bring back to the office. I ordered a pork sandwich and one had just been made so I got it right away. I also got some black sesame mochi that are OK but a good deal for 1.50 (though the original price at Mai's Bakery in Monterey Park, CA is $1.36). The sandwich was 2.50 which is really a steal. I liked this much better than my sandwich from Baguette Express.
The bread was a bit softer than a normal baguette, which I liked, and it was thicker which allowed for more soaking up of the mayo and pork juices. The roast pork was tender, warm and sweet. In my opinion, much better than the pork at Baguette Express, and as good as (but different from) the pork at Latte Express on 4th St. The green chilis were stingingly hot, carrots, cukes, and some pickled onions too were nice. Also plenty of cilantro.
I walked past several places on Larkin and all were full of diners....Turtle Tower even had a line out the door! This really isn't too bad a place to be at lunchtime on a weekday. I'd really recommend this neighborhood to anyone (at this time of day).
Good thing you went to Saigon Sandwich, the banh me at Lee's doesn't even come close to SS. My fav is the roast pork and cha gio (meatball) combo, the meatball is very fatty and juicy and works well with the hot jalepenos and vingary carrots.
I used to work in the area and I for Pho I like the place on the corner of Larkin and Eddy (or Ellis?) it's a big place on the Northwest corner run by a chinese vietnamese family. Their Pho broth is meaty and deeply flavored and you can order your beef slices separate so they don't get overdone sitting in the soup. Just talking about it makes me hungry.
There's also a place on Larking that has the best spicy basil chicken I've ever had. The chicken is chopped up almost ground up with spicy jalepeno and basil -- beware because it is super spicy. It's a place that specializes in the something over rice lunch plates, it's on Larkin about half way up the block between Eddy and Ellis -- a blue sign. Sorry, I can't remember the name, it's been a while.
First Restauarnt was the restuarant on Larkin between Eddy and Ellis, on the same block as turtle tower and right next to bodgega bistro. THEY HAVE CLOSED. The Basil chicken was the speciality there (must order item) as well as their calamari (sauteed or deep fried) + whatever veggie you liked (green beans, snow peas, brocolli, etc.)
Sadly this restaurnant is gone, probably could not compete against the other restaurants. They only had business during lunch and almost no customers at night or on the weekends (less compared to Hai Ky, turtle tower, etc.)