Breakfast & Lunch, San Francisco: The Banh Mi Sandwich @ Viet Nam on Broadway

The #6 at Viet Nam on Broadway, San Francisco

I’ve eaten banh mi sandwiches all over the Bay Area, though I don’t claim to boast any first-hand experience with the banh mi sandwiches of Southeast Asia. I will say, however, that on most afternoons, the Vietnamese language flows freely at Viet Nam on Broadway, both behind the counter and within the restaurant’s tiny dining room. Does that guarantee anything in terms of quality or authenticity? Perhaps not, but it’s never a bad sign, either. Frankly, I just can’t imagine that Viet Nam’s banh mi could be that far off the mark, considering just how delicious it is. Even better, the sandwich pictured above is only $3.50 at lunch, making the notion of authenticity practically irrelevant. It’s inexpensive, and it’s one of the best examples of banh mi that I’ve found so far. And that’s really enough in itself. End of story.

Unlike most of the Bay Area’s banh mi spots, Viet Nam doesn’t offer multiple variations of the banh mi sandwich, which many people may find unusual. In most cases, a typical banh mi shop might offer 10 or 12 choices of meat — anything from Asian-style meatballs to French-style pate to the more basic roasted preparations. But at Viet Nam, the choice is rather simple: grilled pork, or grilled chicken? (And I think you know the answer to that one.) The grilled pork is actually marinated tenderloin, wonderfully flavored, cooked to order, served charred and tender, and just as juicy as you could ever hope. The smoky grill advertises itself several doors down, and the dining room is usually quite warm, which can often be a benefit in San Francisco. Cash only.

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