Bale French sandwich, San Diego
Wow, my first experience with banh my (hope my spelling is good enough).
Lunchtime, I investigated the Vien Dong supermarket complex in-and-on Linda Vista, San Diego. The market is huge and sprawling with an awesome selection of fresh produce, meat, seafood and packaged foods to suit asian recipes - but no ready-to-eat takeout. I was starving and in search of something. The courteous and friendly produce manager wanted to give me a tour of their vast inventory of food, but I needed to eat - now!
Dejectedly, I left and was going to get into my car, when something made me look over my shoulder, along the signage and I saw the words, "Bale French Sandwich".
Being a devoted Chowhound, I recognized the name from the board. The "A" rating posted in the window drew me in.
The walls are covered with pictures and descriptions of offerings, the entrance area is stuffed with wonderful exotic foodstuffs, dried shredded meats, sour pork, pickled this-and-that, things in liquid that I have no vocabulary for (I read the names, but have no idea how to pronounce them properly, and can't remember the spelling - hey, I'm whitebread).
I ordered the #5 BBQ pork banh my, the rice paper wrapped spring roll containing shrimp, lettuce, basil, rice vermicelli, etc., and the fresh orange juice.
My sandwich was at least 10", if not 12" long, warm with a crunchy exterior and soft interior baguette that was stuffed with tasty pork, cucumbers, bean sprouts, etc., etc. I took three bites and was full, wrapped it up and took it home. Split the leftover between the hubby and myself.
The three spring rolls were impeccably fresh and delicious, the tray had two sauces, a light peanut/nuoc mam (?) with chopped peanuts on the lid to add in and a fiery chile sambal in a separate container (ate one and took two home to split).
The fresh OJ was exactly that, delivered over ice in what looked like a twelve ounce cup (I like OJ on ice, so I was delighted).
Cost out the door for this feast - $5.75 (WHAATT UP?!). I was charged less than the prices posted on the menu.
I did joke a little with the counter people about how could I get one of their "Buy 5, get one Free" cards that was advertised in the store, but I certainly didn't expect this consideration.
During my lunch, there was a steady stream of Asian customers, I was the only non-Asian and the takeout business was heavy.
Cute note, a group of eight Asian teenagers on lunch break from school (I am guessing), came in and bought a few soft drinks, sat and waited for the bag man of their group to show up with a giant MacDonald hamburgers and fries takeout from the restaurant on the end of the parking lot.
They weren't even looked at crosswise by the Bale people.
Hi Jan - Soon you'll be totally hooked and eating the Dac Biet, with ham and head cheese, it's really good!
I think I mentioned that the "deli" in Vien Dong had shut down, too bad, the Goi Cuon (Shrimp spring roll) there was much better then Bale's.
Also if you get a chance and enjoy spring rolls, Kiddy corner on the Ulric/Linda Vista intersection you'll notice a little shop called Linda Vista Food to Go.I didn't care much for the Banh Mi, but thought that they had really good spring rolls:
I'm sure you'll be eating at Kim Chan and Cafe Dore in no time. And of course K Sandwiches, further up the street on the corner of Mesa College and Linda Vista.
Try the #9 (sweet pork) next time.
I'm a professor down the street at USD and my English department buddies and I head over to Bale for lunch at least once a week.
Another spot in the area is Super Bronco, a real down-home taqueria with vats of goat stewing behind the counter.