Tucked away from Pacifica's main commercial area and waterfront strip, you would be forgiven for having never considered that this tiny, four table coffee shop sharing a nondescript mini-mall with a laundromat might happen to be serving some excellent renditions of the Vietnamese banh mi sandwich. It seems from the outside like the type of place you duck into for a bland coffee warm-up from the coastal foggy chill. The signs out front mention the bagels, pastries, and doughnuts, and the younger afternoon crowds that stream in when school gets out seem to be most excited by the candy and sodas collection as if this is the corner market. That's all missing the point.
Vy's is a family-owned Vietnamese coffee shop that soars above generic coffee shop status with its compact selection of Vietnamese bites and drinks at extremely compact prices.
Front and center are the banh mi ($4.50) that match almost any I've tried around San Francisco, including the fabled Saigon Sandwich in the Tenderloin. At this price, you'd expect something to be amiss, maybe in the execution or the quality of the ingredients.
The sweet and sour marinated grilled pork banh mi is pitch perfect. Each strip of pork was tender and intensely expressive of palm sugar and soy, with not a single fatty or gristly bite to be found. Spicy jalapeno bites exchange pleasantries with the soothing cucumber, daikon, and carrot garnish. A perfectly crunchy, and not tooth-shattering hard, warmed baguette holds the ingredients together for a textbook sandwich that hits all of the flavor high notes. Chicken, ham and pork loaf, and tofu are also available as fillings, but won't quite match the excitement levels achieved by the grilled pork's marinade.
Spring rolls with fish sauce or a refreshing and crunchy green papaya salad are great as sides to accompany the banh mi. Skip the green pandan puree filled coconut waffle ($1.95) -- a dessert that doesn't taste any different than a buttermilk Eggo waffle -- and opt for the vivid fresh coconut juice drunk directly from the coconut itself ($4). It's the perfect compliment to the sweet and spice excitement of the pork banh mi.
This being a Vietnamese coffee shop, the Vietnamese iced coffee with condensed milk seems pretty mandatory. However, really consider Vy's an excellent Vietnamese deli. Whether enjoying lunch in the shop or taking them a few blocks to the coast, these are banh mi worth seeking out.
1715 Palmetto Ave., Suite A, Pacifica; (415) 867-9050. Cash only.