The southeast corner of Broome and Mott streets in Chinatown is a tight intersection that packs a big punch. Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich Deli, like many restaurants in Chinatown, has a loyal band of followers and is easy to miss if you blink too hard. If you’re a Saigon Sandwich first timer, just look out for the man-sized chubby baker statue outside the pizza place next door and avoid staring up at all the awnings in confusion.
Image: Kalpana Ganti
A century of French colonization left its mark on traditional Vietnamese cuisine and banh mi is no exception. A typical banh mi consists of your choice of pork, beef, chicken, or vegetarian fillings with pickled carrots and radish, cilantro, cucumber, jalapeños (optional), and some French flare with hollandaise sauce between a French baguette. Even if this combination doesn’t sound like a winner, trust your taste buds that will likely advise you otherwise. Order any of the twelve sandwiches by their number at the counter and request hot peppers and hot sauce – this is really the best way to go. The spicy elements and fatty fillings balance each other perfectly, and are both finished off cleanly by the fresh cilantro in the end.
An order is a full baguette’s worth of goodness, all twelve of which are under $5 each. The most popular and traditional option is the Banh Mi #1 that includes Vietnamese salami, pork roll, and minced pork in addition to all the other ingredients and will only take $4.25 out of your pocket. If you’re going for a lighter lunch, split the sandwich with a friend and you’ve dropped less on lunch than you would on a latte. The most expensive sandwiches are the vegetarian options but still only cost $4.95.
The whole process takes only about 5 minutes from the time you order so it’s perfect for a quick bite, but expect longer lines in peak meal times. Call in your order if you’re in a rush from their online menu and have it ready for pick up. Seating is limited to two or three stools at the window front bar, but the sandwiches come with each half individually wrapped so on-the-go eating is an option. If you want to take a load off despite a full bar, just plop down on the stoop next door and relish your lunch in peace. You may just inhale it so quickly that you’ll forget to sit down all together.
Image: Kalpana Ganti
Feature Image: Kingfox