Not much has really changed here. Older gentlemen gather, have coffee, chat....and do guys gossip? For lack of a better word, let's just call it that. It's the coffee culture of Vietnam translated here....mostly men, each with his group. Hey, it's almost like high school huh? I'm thinking that it is....only the topics of conversation have probably changed, or perhaps not?
What really motivated me to visit on this bright Sunday morning was a conversation I had with FOY("Friend of Yoso") YummyYummy. Her dad is a regular here so she really has a inside track on the food. She told me that the pork belly banh mi...Ba Chi had really improved over the last year or so. Pork Belly? I'm so there.....
As I walked from my car to Cafe Dore, guess who I see? It's YY's Dad! It was nice seeing him. it had been a while. I told him that the reason I was here.....his daughter's recommendation. He invited me to have coffee with his "group"....very nice, but I had errands to run and food to prep on this morning. He also told me the Ba Chi here is "famous"....
I couldn't wait to have at it. So I opened it eagerly upon arriving home. It's pretty interesting, even though the bread for the banh mi here are from the same source as every other place that doesn't make their own, it's usually pretty fresh and flakey.
The pork was rather thickly cut, not a bad thing, and very moist. The flavor was pretty good, mildly sweet, with a slight swiney flavor. YY had told me that's it's getting better and I'll agree with that.
The pickles are a lot sweeter here than what I remembered and there was some major "jalapeno roulette" going on, with some slices being very mild, but a couple of slices were just explosive. All in all, a nice sandwich, one that I'll return for.
The service was very typical Cafe Dore, guys still play on those "machines" in the back....middle aged guys....hmmmm. It was a nice sandwich for a sunny Sunday....I'd like to tell you the price, but YY's Dad somehow paid for it without me even knowing...... Sneaky, but very nice, it made my day. Make sure to thank your dad for me YY!
Having not set foot in this shop in about six years, I'd forgotten just how large the place was. There seemed to be so much open space. It's a far cry from the other location. Yes, I said other location. I recognized the older woman, who was always so chatty. She and the young woman making my sandwich, her daughter, were very talkative on this morning.
Apparently, they've been in need of much more space for a while now, so this location fills the gap. I was told that the other location will still be open, which I found odd since you can literally see the other Paris Bakery if you walk out to the street. Her son will be running that location, her daughter gets the new shop. I mentioned that parking....oh boy.....that triggered a discourse about how bad the parking situation is/was at that location. "People come in to buy a bread and spend two dollars, they walk outside a minute later to find a ticket on their car....it was bad!" No wonder those little old Vietnamese ladies would rush out of the place practically running me over. You don't mess with them; they're tough. In their hands, a simple baguette becomes a deadly weapon.
I ordered two sandwiches ($3.50/each) eating half of each for breakfast than lunch.
Starting with the Dac Biet. The bread for this sandwich was decently crusty and slightly bready as is standard for their baguettes. If you've had a Banh Mi from any shop that makes their own, you've either had it from here or Le Chef Bakery. It's still a bit more dense than I prefer, but not bad.
I'd forgotten that Paris tends to be somewhat heavy handed in the application of mayo at times, which was the case with this sandwich.
With regards to that most enjoyable game of jalapeno roulette....this one was pretty spicy!
There was a good amount of pickled vegetables, which were nice and crisp, though on the mild side. The meat was decent for a banh mi, except that it as ice cold. In terms of proportion, I thought it was good.
I also ordered the Jamon, which I thought was better than the "special" for a couple of reasons.
Apparently the young lady started on a new baguette for this sandwich as the bread was still warm when I got to work. It was nice and flaky/crusty and fairly light.
The amount of "Jamon" was on the small side and it was also very cold, but the flavors of the meat, pickles, cilantro, and pate blended pretty well together. All in all, a decent banh mi.
I actually thought the sandwiches here were better than I remembered. Which means I'll be returning soon. Heck, at the least you'll know that the bread is fresh...or should be fresh. I was told that both shops have the same hours, which means opening early, like around 5am and closing in the late afternoon as well.
Paris Bakery 4616 El Cajon Blvd San Diego, CA 92115
Now I've got to check out the Thanh Son Tofu in their new location! Stay tuned!
This is probably the only Banh Mi place in the area I haven't posted on. Mostly because I'm not the biggest fan of the place. But recently, I decided to just go ahead and give it a try again. For those that don't know Sau Voi Deli; it's the little shop inside the 99 Ranch Market structure.
The place is starting to look even more worn recently and the folks who run the place seemed to have aged a bit as well. Things don't go too quickly here, you just order and kick back and wait for your sandwich.
I ordered the Dac Biet just to get some feel of how they're making banh mi nowadays.
To be fair, the sandwiches are pretty hefty for the price ($3.75), the bread seemed pretty fresh and it was perfectly toasted....not toasted to bits where it shreds your palate.
There's a ton of pickled veggies as well, though I didn't care for the flavor.
I think you can tell the problem I had with this sandwich......man, it was so D-R-Y....really. The proteins had the texture of rousong, which I guess is ok if you like the stuff. And you may well like it that way, since I've been told by Kirbie that I'm the only person she knows of who doesn't like the stuff! It's also pretty flavorless. Look, I'm the first to say when there's too much mayo or spread on my banh mi, but this was just too dry. What mayo the sandwich had was spread over one thin line near the edge of the bread. Even the cilantro looked wilted....
Of course, being the glutton for punishment I am, in the spirit of fairness, I returned to try something else. This time the pork (cha lua) and shrimp (cha tom)cake banh mi ($4).
This time along with the bread, everything else seemed a bit fresher, but the cha lua, which has almost a light smokey flavor to my palate was like rubber and the cha tom, while decent, having a mild shrimpy flavor, this still didn't satisfy me.
I'm looking for a certain proportion of ingredients and flavors....I don't want a super-stuffed sandwich, just one that fulfills my sense of balance and this really didn't do it for me. I mean, they'll do a decent job of filling you up, but to me not much more. Kind of sad actually......
Sau Voi Deli 7330 Clairemont Mesa Blvd Ste 109 San Diego, CA 92111
Well it took them awhile but Bale has returned to Linda Vista for a third time, this time in the space formerly occupied by Toan Ky, LV Sandwiches, and Le's.....sheesh, this location doesn't have that great of a track record, huh? Anyway, the place reopened on August 25th, a few days later the mercury was telling me that a banh mi might not be a bad idea.
Man, the place was just besieged by older Vietnamese women.....who were giving the two young ladies total hell. A lot had to do with the sign in the front.
Apparently, folks read the sign that said "Buy 1 Sandwich Get One Free...." and stopped there without reading the "coffee or Thai tea" part of the sign. In some ways I don't blame them. They could have written the sign a bit better. Anyway, when I stepped up to the counter the girls asked me if I understood the sign and I said yes. They could not understand why folks were just reading the first couple of words......I explained that many times we see what we want. Also, they were catching hell in Vietnamese, so obviously English was not the primary language here. The young ladies could not for the life of them understand...meanwhile, a woman stepped in front of me and gave the girls a piece of her mind! Yikes! I mentioned that perhaps they could let the manager or the owner take care of the irate customers....the two girls looked at me like I had lost my mind! Well then, what can I say????
Anyway, the prices looked pretty good, sandwiches ranged from $2.95 to $3.45. I decided to just get the Dac Biet (the special - $3.45):
A bit different from my previous experiences with Bale in San Diego, this place used the longer baguette instead of the standard issue banh mi. This meant less bread, more crust, which, though not as good as Cali Baguettte Express, was flakey enough for me. Bale has a long history of toasting the bread to death, not so in this case either. The pickled vegetables were on the bland side, but there was a good amount of pate smeared on the sandwich and just the right amount of mayo. Proportion matters and I found the thin slices of protein to be sufficient. Not bad at all.....
That Thursday I was at the Linda Vista Farmer's Market and did some shopping at Thuan Phat. It was pretty hot so I thought I'd grab another banh mi. I guess convenience is playing on the side of Bale here. It being about 4pm, the place was fairly empty. This time I went for defatted pork sausage - Cha Lua ("Pork Bologna on the menu - $2.95):
This time the bread was a little old for my taste...kind of chewy and not as crusty. Also, a bit too much mayo and hardly any pickled vegetables....which, based on the blandness wasn't really missed too much. Nice pate, which was about all of the flavor, except for the cilantro and jalapenos which were pretty hot this time around. Not good, not terrible......
I did take a look at the sit down menu......but I think I'll do that when the weather gets a bit cooler.....
Anyway, this past week, I had to run and buy some rice. Not really for us, but for Da' Boyz who eat rice with every meal....we hardly consume rice anymore. There's something wrong in the world when my dogs are consuming Three Ladies or Buddha brand jasmine rice!
On this visit, I noticed that the new deal was "Buy 2 Sandwiches, get 1 Free"....I felt much better for the poor young ladies....this time it was pretty cut and dried. Then I stepped in and took a look at the prices for sandwiches.....
What the heck? All sandwiches had gone up by about 10-12% in two weeks? All the $2.95 sandwiches were now $3.39. The $3.45 sandwiches were now $3.69. The BBQ Beef had been $2.95 and was now $3.69......this time, I don't blame customers for getting a bit upset. It is "only" 20 to 40 cents or so.....but it just doesn't seem right to raise prices so quickly....2 weeks?
Speaking of upset, I ordered a Dac Biet and got this instead.....
Whatever, at least it was same priced sandwich.
Tell you what though....I'm not going back for a while.
Bale Restaurant and Deli 6925 Linda Vista Road San Diego, CA 92111
mmm-yoso!!! is the Food Blog you have stumbled upon. Kirk and ed(from Yuma) are not blogging today, for various reasons. Cathy has no reason to not be blogging.
If you go to the "Search" box at the top left column of this blog and put in "K Sandwiches", you'll get 2600 links to mentions of it on this blog. Between all of us blogging here, we haven't even written 2000 posts yet. Apparently we at mm-yoso!!! post about it, or places near it, using this former Bank Building on the intersection of Convoy where it turns into Linda Vista and Mesa College Drive where it turns into Aero Drive as a Point of Reference/Landmark as well as posting about the food here.
The parking lot is not this empty very often; such emptiness is unusual.
Inside, there is a small area with fresh baked breads, rolls and croissants.
As well as a "steam tray" area, with rice paper rolls and various other savory choices.
There is also a small area of fresh made dessert items(I don't have a photo, but there is Vietnamese yogurt here; it is different and very good).
Here is a view of the cash registers from a table against the wall. You order (the menu is just behind and above the cash register area-straight ahead when you walk in) and/or pay for items you have picked up. The steam tray and all the other above photographed area is just on the other side of the registers.
This is Sandwich #25- tuna salad ($3.99). The simple tuna and mayonnaise mix is spread on the fresh baked large croissant and filled with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and pickled jalapeños.
One day we picked up (from left) two shrimp cakes (50¢ each), a pate chaud ($1) the shrimp spring rolls ($2.50)and two eggrolls ($1). All fresh, light and crispy and filled with the corresponding meats.
Our latest 'must get' is from the steam trays- the chicken curry ($4.99). When you get it to 'eat here', it is served in this glass pie plate. The chicken is tender, and the curry sauce is fascinating- coconut milk is definitely part of the base, along with those chilis you see in the photo...and it is served with a fresh, hot, crispy roll. Lately, we make sure we get here before noon, so the curry won't be gone for the day.
Then there is another current obsession. Sandwich #7- the sardine banh mi ($2.85). A fresh crispy roll. The sardines -in a tomato sauce- are heated, crushed and served on the sandwich with the standard accoutrement-pickled daikon, carrot, cucumber, fresh cilantro (still on the stem...a bit annoying, but expected here) and raw jalapeño. It is perfect. The flavors are complimented by the hot cafe ($1.75)-strong coffee- I added half and half to it...and new/not on the menu but taped near the registers- mung bean milk (iced or hot, $2.75).
Always an adventure ending in a great meal. I hope everyone is having a good start to Summer.
K Sandwiches 7604 Linda Vista Road at Mesa College Drive San Diego 92111 (858)278-8961
I went to buy some produce at Henry'sSprouts on Clairemont Drive and noticed the place was closed:
The sign said it all. Originally, the place was excellent. The chef/owner who worked at the French Laundry made all his own pasta and some major chops. I ate there twice before the chef left....sorry, I usually don't do posts on places like that. I guess Clairemont just wasn't ready for, or prepared to support a place like that. Too bad. He left the place to his parents and it settled into simple, everyday eats.....sometimes a decent place for quick take-out, at other times, well, not so good. The woman who worked there looked really tired and I'm kinda relieved for her. Godspeed......
4421 Genesee Ave San Diego, CA 92117
I've been eating at home alot.....
I don't know if I'm bored, tired, or if what seems like early summer weather is affecting my appetite, but I've been having stuff like this at home.
Just Tako Sashimi......
And some grape tomato and sweet onion salad with ponzu dressing.....
Of course natto and rice with some boiled eggs suit me just fine as well.....
It was sunny for a few days there, wasn't it? Before this gloomy weather set in, I stopped into Flavaful Yogurt before doing a bit of shopping for a cookout the Missus was going to (I heard the Char Siu Chicken Wings did well). I'd seen the sign saying they were now serving Banh Mi back in June and feeling a bit peckish I decided to try out one of their Banh Mi.
Actually, this took only five minutes....kinda helps that I was the only customer in the place. The sandwich was pretty hefty weight wise and landed with a thump on the little kiddy table out front.
You really can't tell how large this Banh Mi by my photos....
I'm thinking that maybe this is a better shot??
It just seemed like maybe a bit too much in terms of "stuff"........but was very filling.
I'm not quite sure if I enjoyed the pungent onions in the sandwich...though I generally love onions. The pate was very nice and funky, and there a good bit of it. The cucumber played an important role....it helped to cleanse my palate. Gladly, this wasn't over-mayo'd, and even though it's third-party bread, it was toasted well.....not too hard, but just a bit of crunch.
If you enjoy hefty Banh Mi's this might be what you're looking for. It's not bad......
Flavaful Yogurt/Avian Fresh Drinking Water 6937 Linda Vista Rd San Diego, CA 92111
I'd been waiting a while for Cali Baguette Express to open on Convoy. I figured that by the time we returned from vacation CBE would be open.... and we were kinda close; they opened the Saturday after we returned.
Banh Mi has been conspicuously absent from this part of Kearny Mesa for years. I know we have Sau Voi Deli in the 99 Ranch Market shopping area.... but I've never been a fan. The Missus enjoys the Banh Mi from Cali Baguette, and the Mira Mesa location tied for first on our MM Banh Mi sampling. The Missus was happy that we wouldn't need to drive down to the El Cajon Boulevard location when She craved a Banh Mi. The shop is bright and sunny; stack of canned Pate stacked up nicely, Cha Gio and Banh Pate Chaud in bright metal pans under the heat lamps.
On my first visit I went with, well good ol' #1, the Dac Biet (special - $3).
The bread didn't hold up well on my trip home, but otherwise this was pretty much the same as I've always had on my visits to the other locations, save one thing. There was muc more pate on it then usual, which was a mixed blessing....good for flavor, bad for bread.
I'm not sure what time this location opens, and keep on forgetting to ask. I do know when I pass on my way to work they aren't open yet. Too bad, because I enjoy the Banh Mi Trung (Egg - $2.75), which seriously beats out any other "Mc-whatevers" in my book.
At the ECB location, I've actually watch the women there crack the egg into the deep fryer! I don't think they do it that way at this location, but the combination of crunchy pickled daikon and carrots, the Maggi (which tastes good on everything), light a flakey Banh Mi really does it for me. This time the bread was very good!
I've never been a big fan of the Banh Mi Xiu Mai (meatball) at Cali Express.... I prefer the version at Saigon Sandwiches and Deli, but I thought I'd give it another shot.
And though the bread was perfect, I really didn't care for the crumbled very wet meatball...... the texture was too wet, almost like snot, not great mouthfeel.
Overall, I'm happy to see Cali Baguette Express..... when the weather gets a bit warmer, I'll probably be stopping by quite often on the way home. All I can really say is..... it's about time!
I nearly forgot a question I had..... has anyone ever tried the soup or rice dishes at CBE? There's a menu of stuff like Bun Bo Hue, Bun Rieu, and even Bo Kho, but I've never seen anyone (other then the owner, or the owner's kids) eating the stuff.
Cali Baguette Express 4425 Convoy Street San Diego, CA 92111
A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that Bale on Linda Vista was gone (again) , and in its place was Farm Sandwiches and Market. With a name like that, I almost expected a little mercado making tortas on the side. A bit confused I decided to drop by a couple of days later......
And noticed that not much had changed, except the name. The shop still made Banh Mi and the market side, though looking a bit worn was still trucking along.
Even the sandwich sign looked the same, as were the prices....... for some reason, I couldn't recollect seeing Bo Dao Phong (a peanut butter sandwich) on the menu before! (no kim chi peanut butter banh mi, though).
Since I was here, I decided to order a couple of sandwiches. This might have been my most unfortunate decision of the week. The guy in front of me started snickering when I placed my order. When I asked him what was up, he shook his head and told me he had ordered a dozen sandwiches, and was still waiting for them 25 minutes later. There was one woman who also placed an order for two sandwiches right before me. She was smart enough to leave and returned for her sandwiches later. The poor guy waited another 25 minutes for his sandwiches! Then it was my turn to be the poor guy......
Pacing the floor, I noticed how worn down this place is looking.
Half open containers, partially cut fruit, the place looked quite disheveled. Meanwhile, I looked and noticed that there were three people working on making sandwiches. The woman returned for her sandwiches, and still had to wait ten minutes. It really looked like the folks making the sandwiches were walking under-water...... another ten minutes, and my sandwiches were ready. Forty-five minutes for two sandwiches......
Carrying the bag to the car, I noticed how heavy these sandwiches were.
I started with the Dac Biet (House special combination - $3.50) first.
The bread (from Le Chef..... standing around so long, you couldn't help but pick up on things) for both sandwiches was severely under-toasted. Thus the always pleasing flaky-crusty texture was missing. The sandwich was stuffed with generous amounts of a very bland Cha Lua (defatted pork sausage) and a tough and bland BBQ Pork. The pickles were really cut thick and didn't have much flavor either. I won't even go into the very old and thick cilantro stems.....
I thought I would fair better with the Nem Chua ($3) Banh Mi. Nem Chua, a naturally fermented pork based sausage, is one of my favorite things.
In spite of having all of the sort-comings my other sandwich had, this was a tad better. There was quite a large portion of Nem Chua in the Banh Mi. Still, it was a lot milder than the sour-tangy-salty notes I love in my sour sausage.
I must admit, the folks looked to be trying real hard, but really seemed like they were not up to the task. I don't think I'll be rushing back for Banh Mi from here.
Farm Market and Sandwiches 6959 Linda Vista Rd. San Diego, CA
A couple of weeks ago, while having my SPAM® and Egg Banh Mi and Baguette Up I suddenly realized that perhaps Mira Mesa had the most Banh Mi shops on one single stretch of road in the greater San Diego area. I could recall at least seven places; which sounded just enough to do a super-duper crawl/comparison.
And my good friends, bless their hearts, are always game and up for something different, and have been with me on different food excursions, crawls, and meals. Since I've done a shorter rendition of this before, I pretty knew what I wanted to do. There would be two cars; we'd meet in the parking lot of Lucky Seafood. We'd order the "special" at every stop, and get it just the way the sandwich is served. We'd hit BaLe, Tan Ky Mi Gia, and Express Deli first since it's in the same parking lot. I handed out pens and sharpies to mark each restaurant with the name and prices. Of course I didn't count on PeterL writing the wrong prices down on a sandwich (it's a darn good thing he's got Angela to keep things straight), but I remembered the prices anyway. There were also some timing glitches since Express Deli seemed to have a thousand sandwich orders and took a while to make our sandwich. We headed off across the street to Cali Baguette Express, while TammyC and MrC headed off to a place I'd seem recently called Corner Sandwich & Cafe, located behind Popeyes in the same mall as Seafood City. We hit Baguette Up, while the other team headed to the finish at the other end of Mira Mesa Boulevard and Sorrento European Bakery. This was our meeting area as the food court is empty on Sundays, giving us ample room to do a tasting.
We had come prepared; disposable cutting mats, paper towels, knives, and water. And PeterL was our "cutter" and displayed great skill in cutting each Banh Mi into six pieces. In order to keep things as fair as possible, we ate the sandwiches in chronological order.... not quite FIFO, more like FIFI - first in, first in. I've been told in emails and some comments that the differences in Banh Mi are so small that it's really not worth mentioning. While I've always believed that I could make out differences in various sandwiches. And this tasting bore that out; and I was very surprised at how significant the differences were.
For the sake of time; I'll spend most of the post on the two favorite, and the two that we thought really weren't to our tastes. Strangely enough, the voting was unanimous on the two best, and the two worst.
The two favorites:
Even though our sandwich took forever, and what's up with giving us mostly stems of cilantro(?), we really enjoyed Express Deli. The portion seemed on the small side, meat cut into very thin slices, but you make out the flavors of the Jamon and other meat, and the bread was toasted perfectly, making this heck of a good Banh Mi. Proportionally this was our favorite....plus the pickled carrots and daikon tasted good.
At $3.25, it's one of the more affordable sandwiches.
Express Deli 9326 Mira Mesa Blvd (inside Lucky Seafood) San Diego, CA 92126
Cali Baguette Express:
I like the sandwiches from the El Cajon Boulevard location, but haven't tried the Mira Mesa location until today. Like Express Deli, Cali Baguette Express was either first or second on everyone's list.
At three bucks this was the cheapest sandwich. Cali Express makes their own bread, so even though we noticed that they didn't toast their banh mi, it was still slightly warm when we ate it. The bread is pretty light, and even though it's nothing close to what we had in Vietnam (what is?), the crust was flaky, and the bread to fillings ratio was good.
It was a long, but not huge sandwich, which looked the prettiest of them all when unwrapped......
Cali Baguette Express 9225 Mira Mesa Blvd #106 San Diego, CA 92126
And much like the two favorite, the two we enjoyed the least was also a unanimous vote. Sadly, the second to last was.....
Sorrento European Bakery:
I've had some pretty good sandwiches here before, but the bread on this day was especially stale....... and having had six sandwiches before this one, everyone noticed right away.
We all oohh's and aaah'd at the chunky pate, but it had no taste. The probably from a can pate on the Express Deli sandwich had more flavor. Actually, the flavor of the cucumber over-powered everything else in the sandwich.
Sorrento European Bakery 6755 Mira Mesa Blvd #117 - in the Sorrento Plaza Shopping Center San Diego, CA 92121
The unanimous last place, and I do mean for all six of us was.......
Corner Sandwich & Cafe:
This was a mystery place, as I've only passed it once. It looked like one of the Viet coffee places with all the older men hanging out outside. The Banh Mi here tied for the most expensive at four bucks.
The sandwich itself looked promising when opened up.
And then it happened, as we each took our first bite of the sandwich. Starting with MrC, then Angela.... an "whoa, this tastes really fishy". And yes indeed, there was fish cake in this one. The bread also seemed a bit old...... but the fishy taste pretty much overwhelmed everything.
TammyC was the last to have a bite.... she was taking notes, not fooling around, was she? We pretty much agreed with her notes on this one.
"Nuoc Mam Taste......fish cakes....bread sucks....." She never finished her slice......
Corner Sandwich & Cafe 9005 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92126
As for the rest? I'll just keep this short:
Bread was on the mealy side, kind of hard overall. PeterL and Angela said they got an "eggy" taste, probably from the spread that BaLe uses.
Ba Le French Sandwiches 9396 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92126
Tan Ky Mi Gia:
Had the most hefty sandwich of the bunch.
The crust of the banh mi was too hard and chewy....it was also a bit too bready and dry for us along with not being toasted. This Banh Mi was tied at the most expensive at four bucks. We all liked the choices of meat in this sandwich, but there was just too much bread.
Tan Ky Mi Gia 9330 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92126
Even though this sandwich had the nicest looking Thi Ba Chi (roasted pork belly), TammyC in her notes summed it up for us..... "bland". Nothing really there to make this sandwich stand out. I will say, that along with Cali Baguette Express, Baguette Up has the nicest service.....
Baguette Up 8155 Mia Mesa Blvd. Suite #3 San Diego, CA 92126
This was a fun time, and also an eye opening experience, especially for JohnL, PeterL, and TammyC who are Vietnamese and have grown up eating Banh Mi. We never expected such great differences, but each sandwich was very different from the other!
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I've been blessed to know folks like JohnL, PeterL, Angela (whose warmth and graciousness always keeps us going), TammyC, and MrC! So what's next guys????