I've been loyal to Cafe Mong Thu, a tiny hole in the wall on Hyde @ Turk for the freshest bahn mi. I go for the "regular" for $1.75 without the extra meat because the proportions just seem to sing that way. A few thin slices of chicken roll, pate', mayonnaise, marinated shredded carrots and daikon, lots of cilantro, slivered cucumber, slices of fresh jalapeno chiles, and that wonderful spicy/sweet sauce drizzled on a crisp French roll that pulls it all together. Intense and light at the same time.
But today I tried the grilled chicken bahn mi, $2.25, from Saigon Sandwiches on Larkin @ Ellis, and it was incredibly delicious. This is heavier on the meat, and I liked how they pull out some of the inside of the French roll to make room. The chicken was so succulent and dressed with some of the jellied pan drippings for another layer of flavor. Nearly a handful of sparkling fresh and very tender coriander, lots of shredded carrots and a couple slices of jalapeno were stuffed in the roll in sequence so that each bite had a little different combination and taste. What else can deliver so much deliciousness for two bucks and change?
One to avoid is the bbq pork sandwich, $2.50, from Viet Nam Restaurant on Broadway @ Columbus in Chinatown. The meat was grilled with no seasoning at all, no sauce to add flavor, hardly any veggies, and the bread was fresh but tasted like sawdust. There's no excuse for serving up bad bread in the City.