Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Los Angeles Area >
Apr 16, 2009 09:56 AM

Best banh mi

I've tried multiple locations of Banh Mi Che Cali and have not been terribly impressed. Any recs for better banh mi? I live near SGV but will travel. Thanks.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. You live near the heart of "bahn mi central" and you're asking for the best?
    You should be the expert telling us where to go.

    I got a few favorites and you mentioned one of them-you can't beat their buy 2 and get 1 free and they offer to give you the veggies on the side and you usually get lots.

    Some might not consider them the "best". I like them.
    Saigon Sandwich
    Baquette du Jour
    & Lee's Sandwiches

    15 Replies
    1. re: monku

      i was told the other night by some bahn mi affiicionados that Lee's is not authentic. however, i love the sandwiches there.

      1. re: lotta_cox

        imo, lee's is the mcdonald's of banh mi.

        1. re: wilafur

          this was precisely the phrasing used. i think it tastes good anyway.

          1. re: lotta_cox

            What exactly makes Lee's so bad as to be compared to McDonald's?

            1. re: huaqiao

              The people I was discussing this with say the sandwiches are inauthentic. It is also a chain, and a little pricier than smaller one off Vietnamese/Pho cafes. There is supposedly a classic prep of the bahn mi that always includes a schmear of pate along with the other ingredients. I am no expert on bahn mi, I love Lee's personally, I am simply repeating second hand the conversation I was part of with some people the other night.

              1. re: lotta_cox

                I can't understand what people on CH are complaining about.
                Every Lee's I ever go to there are quite an abundance of Vietnamese people buying sandwiches and baguettes to go.
                Tell them it isn't authentic....or they don't know any better.

                1. re: monku

                  re: monku

                  Not everybody is a hound. I got friends who don't like pho minh because it's not salty enough (aka not enough msg), which would explain why places like pho pasteur stay so busy.

                  Some people don't care , some people don't know any better, or hell, it might be good enough for them.

                  My relatives love chinese buffets because quite frankly it's good enough for them.

                  1. re: ns1

                    Actually I love a good Chinese buffet myself (though they do them best in Texas in general and San Antonio in particular), but it's not really what I mean when I say I'm in the mood for "Chinese food".

                  2. re: monku

                    Lots of white people eat at McDonald's. That doesn't mean it's authentic or good. People who habitually eat there have no taste. Lee's is great... right up until the time you try a place that is actually good. At that moment, Lee's loses you as a customer.

                    If you are in OC, try Top Baguette near the corner of Bolsa & Magnolia in Garden Grove.

                2. re: huaqiao

                  Generic run of the mill bread, relative stinginess with condiments/meat, crappy quality products, no care AT ALL in making said products, and a cafe sua da that makes me want to cut myself.

                  IMHO, of course.

                  1. re: ns1

                    Run of the mill bread compared to where? I always see lots of people at Lee's there just to buy baguettes. Something I don't see at some other more highly regarded banh mi places.

                    I'm not trying to vouch for Lee's as the best banh mi place or anything, but a lot of the hate this place gets strikes me as going overboard.

                    1. re: huaqiao

                      Let me give you specific gripes, then, about the one on Harbor Blvd. near GG Blvd.:

                      1. The bread is too crunchy on the outside and not chewy enough on the inside. You are right: people stand on line to buy the baguettes and I think this is because as odd as they are, they are better than Albertsons baguettes and they are cheaper, particularly in the evening.

                      2. The charcuterie has no particular taste. The white pork and the cha lua and the head cheese are all interchangeable, flavour-wise. Only texture sets them off.

                      3. The sauce they use is oddly sweet. WTF? Why does it need to be sweet? Nobody else's is particularly sweet.

                      4. If you order a sandwich with pate the pate is all jammed up in the middle since they keep it too cold to spread efficiently.

                      5. Their service model is bad. It takes longer than average to make the sandwich (not sure why) and if you order ca phe sua da you still have to wait while they make everyone else's sandwich, when the ca phe sua da is just in tamarindo-style agitators behind the counter. It would take thirty seconds for the cashier to fill the coffee and hand it over the counter.

                      6. Their breakfast banh mi are a shame. Bland, from that carton-type pre-made egg mix, mushy bacon. Real breakfast banh mi have sunny-side up eggs on them -- the one at Zon Baguette, while expensive, is probably the pinnacle of the fried-egg banh mi in Orange County.

                      7. They're stingy on the pickles, but they seem to have a deal with the jalapeno suppliers.

                      8. Their "Lee's Iced Coffee" is to real ca phe sua da what the boba milk tea at Lollicup is to real nai cha at a place that makes it by hand like Au 79.

                      I've stopped going to that Lee's. Nhu Lan Bakery, which is on the opposite corner of GG Blvd. and Harbor Blvd. (near King Harbour Seafood and the oh-so-mediocre Pho Nam Dinh) is so far superior that it's hard to imagine a circumstance in which I would pass it to go to Lee's.

                      1. re: huaqiao

                        "Run of the mill bread compared to where? I always see lots of people at Lee's there just to buy baguettes. "

                        People who don't know better or don't care.

                  2. re: lotta_cox

                    Hey, leave McDonald's out of this!

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      I am loving this thread. I am also not against McDonald's when occasion calls for it, and I find it perfectly authentic. Authentic fast food.

            2. On the suggestion of another poster, I tried Banh Mi My Tho, and found it better than Lee's and Banh Mi Che Cali.

              Banh Mi My Tho
              304 W Valley Blvd, Alhambra, CA 91803

              2 Replies
              1. re: Chowpatty

                This is my preferred place for Banh Mi and has been for years. Although I do love the Che Cali deal of buy 2 get 1 free at all the branches. Can't beat for value.

                I'm not a particular fan of Saigon Sandwich and Bakery. While the bread is fantastic, there is something about the meat ingredients that tasted "off" to me. Maybe it was because the thit nuong (bbq pork) was too red and sweet to be Vietnamese-style, it was bordering on just bad Chinese char siu pork.

                1. re: Chowpatty

                  third re: banh mi my tho. good stuff.

                  whever i golf at alhmansor, i always pick up a few banh mi prior to the round.

                2. I <3 Ba Le sandwiches

                  WAAAAAAAAAY better than bagette express, lee's, and che cali (imho)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ns1

                    Haven't been in years (one on Atlantic near Valley in Alhambra). Still good I guess.

                    At Lee's, chicken banh mi is all I get. Other meats too inconsistent, at least at the Artesia/Cerritos branch.

                  2. My fave by far is still Gala in Little Saigon.

                    1. I love the fresh-out-of-the-oven bread at Hue Thai off of Garvey. Get it with the curry. The ice coffee's are good too! :)

                      Hue Thai Bakery & Deli
                      8968 Garvey Ave, Rosemead, CA