banh mi in the Financial District
There is a small shop called Latte Express on the corner of Sacramento and Kearney which does a cheap but plausible version of banh mi. I'm sure there are better versions in other parts of the City, but not (to my knowledge) in the Financial District.
Latte Express has two small tables outside on Kearney Street and a minuscule counter (two or three seats) inside. The bread is the classic crunchy bahn mi French bread and the sandwiches are absolutely full of fresh vegetables, though not a ton of meat. A bahn mi, two fresh donut holes (!) and a Diet Coke, and you've got the best $5 lunch in the neighborhood...
Funny... I saw this subject line and immediately thought "I need to post about the Latte Express if they haven't mentioned it already!"
Their #4 sandwich is one of my favorite cheap lunches. (Don't bother with the Royal King cafe a little farther down Kearny - their banh mi are comparatively a huge disappointment.)
Les Croissant at 2 California has okay enough banh mi for $4 or less. There are probably 8 or so options, including grilled pork/chicken/bbq chicken/pate/beef ball/meatball/veg There is tapioca tea as well but I've not tried that... and croissants bigger than my head, which I've also not tried.
2 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111
I just tried my first banh mi sandwich this afternoon. There's a tiny coffee shop called Cafe Dolci on Market just south of 3rd. At a first glance, they seem to be focused on coffee, pastries, chocolate (though, I hear they don't actually carry chocolate anymore, since it didn't sell well). There's also a poster showing these sandwiches, and a small sign inside saying "We have Vietnamese sandwiches" or something.
They have 5-6 different options, I tried grilled chicken. He asked if I'd like jalapeno, and I said yes. The heat was a good level for me, but a few bites were pretty out of control, haha.
Overall, I thought this was a pretty tasty sandwich, cost me $3.50. It was a little light on the meat, but as I don't have a real comparison point, I have no idea what's "standard." Anyway, I'm intrigued enough to check out some other places, hopefully close to this one! Any suggestions other than the one listed above?