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better than Lee's Sandwiches in Little Saigon?

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  • Thi N. Mar 5, 2003 08:41 PM
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Chris G., in posting on Lee's Sandwiches, noted that he liked it for convenience, but thought there were far better banh mi places.

Where? Where?

(Am Vietnamese, raised on banh mi. Am from San Jo, the home of Lee's. Lee's I find an alright, but not incredible, banh mi. I want better.)

-th9

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  1. I've never tried Lee's, so can't compare but, try Ba Le in Alhambra. There was another place on Main Street, but thinks its closed now called Thanh Loi that was fantastic, nothing over $1.25! I was spoiled going to Alhambra HS with all the great local Vietnamese and Chinsese places :)

    Ba Le
    1426 S. Atlantic Blvd
    Alhambra
    (626) 308-3003

    1. I'm still on a quest to find really awesome banh mi, but here are a few places I've tried that I like better than Lee's. My recollection isn't too good as far as names or addresses go, since I usually just stop wherever I see a shop or bakery advertising banh mi. Sorry about some of the following vagaries:

      -Banh Mi Che Cali; I like the one on Brookhurst better than the one on Bolsa, but I've had a few disappointing sandwiches the last few times I went. I think it's time for another try.
      -Banh Mi So (?); somewhere on Magnolia, I think; good cold cuts and pate.
      -A tiny shop on Bolsa on the east(?) or north (?) side of the street, between Thanh My and Lee's (same side of the street); a Vietnamese friend recommended it; probably the best I've had in L.S. but it closes too early for me.
      -A bakery/banh mi shop on Westminster Blvd. a few blocks north of Lee's (red sign, in small shopping mall, south of Capital Seafood); only went here once, but it was better than Lee's - somehow Lee's usually gets me first, though.
      -Gala Bakery on Brookhurst; I tried this place once after the Times recommended it, also good.

      I think I should just avoid going to my regular meals at Lee's and Thanh My and try some new places. All the choices can be a bit overwhelming. And I should try to get out earlier. Next time I'm in that area I'll try to take some more specific notes.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Chris G.
        h
        highendpalate

        I agree with Chris G's assessment of Banh Mi Che Cali. On a quest for Banh Mi one Saturday, my sis and I bought assorted Banh Mi from both Lee's and Che Cali in Westminster and fed them to our large extended family (mostly Chinese). Hands down, the ones from Che Cali won for flavor and freshness.

        Lee's has the advantage of the corporate, sleek look, but we prefer the fresh soulful flavor of the mom and pop places like Banh Mi Che Cali.

        Thanks, Chris G, for the other recommendations.

        We need native residents who live in Garden Grove and Westminster who eat a ton of Banh Mi to contribute a post about the best places to go. I'm willing to drive the 50+ miles from the Westside of LA to pick up great Banh Mi for my family.

        1. re: Chris G.
          h
          highendpalate

          I agree with Chris G's assessment of Banh Mi Che Cali. On a quest for Banh Mi one Saturday, my sis and I bought assorted Banh Mi from both Lee's and Che Cali in Westminster and fed them to our large extended family (mostly Chinese). Hands down, the ones from Che Cali won for flavor and freshness.

          Lee's has the advantage of the corporate, sleek look, but we prefer the fresh soulful flavor of the mom and pop places like Banh Mi Che Cali.

          Thanks, Chris G, for the other recommendations.

          We need native residents who live in Garden Grove and Westminster who eat a ton of Banh Mi to contribute a post about the best places to go. I'm willing to drive the 50+ miles from the Westside of LA to pick up great Banh Mi for my family.

          1. re: Chris G.

            my favorite place is a tiny bakery in chinatown, college street....called rainbow bakery. Try their papaya salad....YUmmy!!!!

          2. For us uninitiated, anyone care to provide a basic description of "banh mi"?

            1 Reply
            1. re: David Kahn

              think of banh mi as french bread. generically speaking, that is the basic definition of banh mi. when you notice words following banh mi, that indicates a sandwich.

              ex: banh mi ga - chicken sandwich

            2. yes, i second this request! I've tried too many banh mi places that skimp out on the filling... I know the sandwiches are cheap, but I'm willing to pay more for a better sandwich! There's a couple places on the corner of Westminster and Magnolia that are ok, just as good as Lee's but without the presentation and slightly more meat. Also another place next to the vegetarian restaurant on Bolsa and next to Lee's seems pretty good but stay away from the vegetarian banh mi! But if someone can find a better banh mi, please, please let me know!

              1. Good chicken: CHO CU on Magnolia and Hazard or BANH MI CHE CALI on Harbor and First

                Good overall (including pork loaf and pate-called Pate Cha - or traditional meat - called Banh Mi Thit): GALA BAKERY on Brookhurst and Hazard (while you're there, pick up some of the best VN iced coffee a couple doors down at Dakao Seaport Food to go)

                For those of you who like fish, you should try the sandwiches that have canned sardines in tomato sauce. BANH MI SAIGON on Harbor and First (across from Banh Mi Cali) has good ones, but they can pretty much be found everywhere. Avoid ones where you see the fish sitting out in the open air. Cold sardines are not too good in sandwiches.

                CHO CU (see above) also has really good Vietnamese meatball sandwiches (called Siu Mai).

                I could go on forever...:)

                1 Reply
                1. re: UN

                  Hi UN,

                  Saw you post and would concur with your assessment of the Banh Mi places in Little Saigon. Do you have any suggestions for places in Little Saigon that served standout VN food?

                  I keep going to the same places and would like to branch out. My taste runs to the exotic, so that's not a worry.

                  Thanks...

                2. I too have been on the hunt for the best Banh Mi's. My favorite places are:

                  Tai Boo - Behind 7-11 on the northeast corner of Magnolia and Bolsa - Excellent sandwiches, fresh French bread made in house stuffed with pate/chicken or BBQ pork or other. A little on the expensive side for Banh Mi at $1.75-$2.00 / sandwich. Good coffee too. Other foods are French style.

                  Song Long Bakery - Bolsa East of Magnolia a couple of blocks, north side of street, yellow sign. Bakery with fresh French bread, Meaty sandwiches with a good amount of peppers. $1.50-$1.75. Good coffee too.

                  Unknown place at northeast corner of Euclid and Edinger, behind Sam Woo's BBQ. Best iced coffee. Meaty sandwiches on French roll or bread (bread is made there and is more chewy than roll), chicken in black pepper sauce, cold cuts, meatball, fish in tomato sauce are all great. $1.50-$1.75.

                  I agree that Che Cali is better on Brookhurst and Westminster than at Magnolia and Bolsa, but only marginally. Sandwich meats are usually not very good quality but they do get you on quantity. Buy 2 get 1 free. $1.25-$1.50 each. For $4 you can get 3 sandwiches and a coffee.

                  Mr. Lee's (various locations) - Ok if you are a McDonalds kind of eater. Clean, cheap, and ok quality meats but not much flavor or a lot of meat. $1.50-$2.00. Ok coffee.

                  Although not Banh Mi, this place has a very cool meal in an appetizer form. The restaurant is called Brodard. It is a Nem Nuong Restaurant. They serve all kinds of Vietnamese foods but their specialty is spring rolls filled with a strip of BBQ ground pork and a strip of fried eggroll skin with various leaves. Then they serve with a delicious yellow/orange garlic sauce. For $4 you get 4 spring rolls and they are good. They also have coffee which is ok. But the sauce is perfect. The place is at 9892 Westminster, Suite R. They are lcoated behind the mall at Westminster and Brookhurst. Go south on Brookhurst past the mall and turn in behind mall. Go midway back. Open 8am-9pm, Wed to Mon. Closed Tuesday.

                  Hope this helps someone eat right.

                  Michael

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Michael

                    Michael, you really know your viet area. the places you listed, i have been eating there for years. my real secret, however, is trieu chau in santa ana, right across the library. there's alwayyyys a line outside of the door (even at 8 in the morning) and you'll have to wait from twenty to forty minutes but it is soo worth it. all the soups are great; the broth is beyond amazing. no msg; it's a secret recipe. i swear if you eat there you will come back. it's so busy though (for good reason!) so it closes at 5 or else they wouldn't be able to handle the dinnertime busyness. people bring containers and pots and line up to buy some of the broth at 5.

                    but you must order a soup; the crabcakes are delish as well.

                  2. Though I'm not a connoisseur of Banh Mi by any means, I have had Banh Mi at two locations, and I prefer Zon's on Newport Ave in Tustin to Lee's. The bread is superior, which I think makes a difference since the sandwiches are mostly bread with little meat.

                    1. I was introduced to banh mi while working in Vietnam for a couple of months. I would by them off the street carts around Saigon. My favorite place back in the states is Mr. Baguette. Here's a clipping from LA WEEKLY:

                      Mr. Baguette Rosemead French
                      Mr. Baguette, a Vietnamese sandwich shop in Rosemead, makes its own high-quality charcuterie — ham and headcheese and steamed pork loaves — that it sells separately by the pound, and bakes its own baguettes. There are fresh fruit smoothies, ham and cheese croissants, Vietnamese iced coffee, and pickled vegetables that come packaged separately from the banh mi sandwiches in little Baggies, so that you can garnish yours to taste. For a quarter extra, you can get the banh mi made on a fresh baguette frosted with toasted sesame seeds. Seven days, 6 p.m.-9 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. Sandwiches, $2-$3.95. Cash only. Vietnamese-French. (Jonathan Gold)
                      8702 E. Valley Blvd., Rosemead, CA, (626) 288-9166

                      1. Professor Salt's great banh mi crawl post, part 1:

                        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/58140...

                        (I still remembered it, lo these several years since it was orginally posted. Memorable writing! There's a Part 2, too.)