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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

SFoodie's 92, Part 3: Our Favorite Things to Eat and Drink in S.F.

Posted By on Wed, May 19, 2010 at 10:28 AM

Page 8 of 31

xiumai_banhmi.jpg
Number 69: Xiu Mai (Meatball) Banh Mi from Saigon Sandwich

You can never calculate how long it's going to take to get your banh mi at Saigon Sandwich, because the sandwich makers like to group the orders ― basically as many French rolls as the tiny toaster oven can warm and crisp at once ― while more than a dozen customers press in to the tiny Tenderloin shop, eying one another suspiciously: Are you going to be the guy who bought sandwiches for his entire office? the glares challenge. When the crowd sees the women filling a bag with 10 paper-wrapped oblongs, shoulders slump en masse. The guilty party always leaves with a triumphant smile. 

Thankfully, the women stuff and wrap quickly, chattering to one another without pause. Just when you're ready to abandon your order and head down the street for a doughnut, one of the snaps of the rubber band that marks the completion of a sandwich turns out to be your snap. You pay your $3 and shoulder your way out.

While the classic Saigon-style banh mi is the combo with pâté, fanci (steamed) pork, and cold cuts, the one that sets certain hearts aflutter is Saigon Sandwich's xiu mai, or meatball. It's more of a hybrid between a meatloaf and a country-style pâté, smooshed into the warm, crackly-crusted bread so the rich meat juices mingle with the mayonnaise, in potent contrast with the flashy salad of pickled vegetables, cilantro sprigs, and green chile slices packed on top. The price of the banh mi here has almost doubled over the past decade, but it's still a steal. Just as long as you don't monetize the time you spent waiting for it.

Saigon Sandwich 560 Larkin (at Eddy), 474-5698

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