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Dec 19, 2010 04:53 PM

Albany Cafe new on Solano

A cafe has recently opened at 1309 Solano in a spot that's been closed for a long time -- I think it was a tapas place before this. The menu is mostly Vietnamese -- sandwiches, iced coffee and tapioca drinks, spring rolls, also Italian sodas. The prices are low. Banh mi are from 2.95 for vegetarian or B.B.Q. chicken to 3.95 for the crab. The pate, steamed pork and B.B.Q. Pork combo (3.25) sounds interesting. I will definitely try it soon. The space is awkward -- long and skinny in front and then a larger space in back. I spent many dull hours there when it was the Crayon Cafe and my son was a toddler. I'm glad to see something new there.

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  1. I tasted 4 of the sandwiches yesterday. They are smaller than usual banh mi, served on a freshly baked baguette (according to the menu). The curry chicken was my favorite. It was very mild, but had a nice flavor. The BBQ Chicken -- well, I literally don't remember it. The crab was nice, with a hint of horseradish and shallot and quite of bit of fresh crab. The tuna was pretty much like a regular tuna sandwich. I would've liked more of the carrots, daikon, and cilantro on all the sandwiches and would've preferred hotter jalapenos. The food was fairly bland, but fresh tasting and well-priced.

    The space has a few tables and chairs, as well as a sofa and a couple of easy chairs and low tables. There's a bookcase with some magazines. Sort of a spartan-pub decor. The layout is very much like Rivoli's, only the windows look out on a cement yard instead of a garden.

    Empty at 4:30. Maybe they do better business at other times.

    Has anyone tried anything else here? My companions didn't want pork, so I'll have to go back for that.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Glencora

      I went in and tried the crab sandwich and the peppered pork. Both very good and a great deal for the price as they are non-traditional types of Banh Mi. The crab filling is a bit spicy with a potent horseradishy kick. A good amount of crab.

      The peppered pork is really nice too, not what I was expecting, more savory, like sauteed slices of pork loin or something. Of the two, I would say the peppered pork was my favorite.

      The two sandwiches with an iced vietnamese coffee came to under $10. A great deal.

    2. Did you happen to catch their hours?

      1 Reply
      1. re: nicedragonboy

        Monday -- Saturday 10-8, Sunday 10-6

      2. I was there last week and was pleased with everything we tried. I had the combo bahn mi and as noted, on a nice crunchy baguette. I'd ask for extra jalapenos.

        The goi cuon were very good, and we shared a sliced mango with sugar and salt on it. And they have free wifi.

        10 Replies
        1. re: Windy

          Hmmm..I missed these posts before this--I think the name Albany Cafe on Solano spelling something boring to me, but there are few things I love more than bahn mi. I'm excited to try this.

          1. re:

            You also won't find it if you look for Albany Cafe (which is on the window). The awning says Vietnamese.

              1. re: Windy

                I think there was a sign when I went there ... because if there wasnt a really obvious sign, I think I'd have been dubious ... since when I walked in, it looked like the lobby of some kind of small office ... long, totally empty corridor, with some magazines at empty tables etc.

                I really like this place and hope inspite of the odd geometry, it does ok. I havent analyzed the crab sando yet, because they were out several times.

                1. re: psb

                  Oh, that space. It does have a bizarre floor plan. It used to be a tapas place cum daycare center called Pri Pri.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    I remember that Pri Pri incarnation. It was truly weird.

                  2. re: psb

                    The awning still says Albany Cafe. The space may be strange with the long "hall" back to the kitchen but with the easy chairs in front and back seems a nice place to sit and eat.

                    1. re: wolfe

                      I had lunch there today. It is a very odd space. I had the #1 sandwich (I think it was 1 - pork, pate, etc.), along with an order of spring rolls (seemed made to order) and an iced coffee. Under $10 for everything, and I was full. Tasty enough. Nice people. I didn't know if they make my sandwich "whiteboy version" because there was no heat at all. Easy to put on the revolving lunch repertoire.

                      1. re: lmnopm

                        Once again ALBANY CAFE was out of the crab by the time I showed up for a sando.
                        However, what I believe is a new sandwich, the SAUTE BEEF, is quite good. Not just tasty, but decent amount of protein too. Possibly the best sando I have had here and on the upper end of the SFBA BANH MI offerings. $3.50, I believe.

                        BTW, I believe the ALBANY CAFE bread is superior to the canonical BAHN MI bread.

                        1. re: psb

                          Just missed you. I had the #1 pork and again a good sandwich for $3.50. Nice to see them busy at about 1:00 with 4 WiFi-ers and a gaggle of school girls.

            1. The baguette appears to be Acme. The chicken sandwich had less pickled veggies than I usually see but a good amount of chicken and while it wasn't very banh miey it was a heck of a good sandwich for $3.24, tax included.

              2 Replies
              1. re: wolfe

                I saw a bag of Semifreddi in the kitchen. Agree on the veggie component, and the barely-sliver of hot pepper was not enough.

                372 Colusa Ave, Kensington, CA

                1. re: lmnopm

                  Ya gotta admit they look similar but good eye.

              2. Looked to be closed last time I drove by.

                Anyone know for certain?

                1 Reply
                1. re: drewskiSF

                  Still going -- but they now close at 7 instead of 8.