Expectations were low today as the MSG150 crew headed out to meet up with Michael and Veggie Roberto at the New Saigon Deli. Having scoped out this Bahn Mi only joint on a previous venture up Jackson, we were put on guard by the run-down storefront and cluttered interior, even though we are all fans of the Vietnamese Bahn Mi sandwiches. Michael met us there and Rob showed up on his bike a short time after. We scoped out the menu and then stepped up to the counter to order.
Luncher: GearyLunch: BBQ Pork Bahn Mi + Sardine Bahn Mi + Mystery Dessert + Bubble Tea - $2 + $2 + $1.50 + $2.50
I gave Yelp a peek before heading out and was intrigued/terrified by a reviewer who recommended the sardine Bahn Mi. I imagined a baguette with a dozen tiny fish heads poking out. However, having overdosed recently on Andrew Zimmern, I resolved to give it a try.
I can't imagine what the Old Saigon Deli was like. This place is a pit. There are a couple of chairs and a stool in one corner, food and snacks on tables in the middle and at the counter, and an old cake display refrigerator in another corner with only a couple of lonely items in it. The food menu lists Bahn Mi sandwiches exclusively but there is also a large picture menu of bubble tea offerings as well.
I went with the Sardine Bahn Mi that I had previously committed to and the BBQ Pork. There are two prices for Bahn Mi and mine were both the expensive price at $2 each. The cheaper sandwiches are $1.75. How do they make any money on these? Maybe they are just the loss leader and they get you on the phone cards and cigarettes that are also for sale behind the counter. Since I was still far from my spending limit, and worried about the sardines, I grabbed a colorful dessert-looking concoction from the table and ordered a bubble tea.
Since there is essentially no eating room in the deli, we decided to walk down to the Kobe Terrace hillside park and p-patch and look for a spot for a picnic. Having secured a picnic table I unwrapped my sandwiches and dug in. I decided to start with the Sardine Bahn Mi using the logic that this would optimize the amount of other food I had left to wash away any horrible Sardine Bahn Mi taste. To my utter surprise the Sardine Bahn Mi was not only edible, it was great. Not only was the crisp baguette stuffed with tons of tasty pickled daikon, pickled carrots, onions, and cilantro, the sardines themselves were delicious. Plus, no head! It wasn't whole sardines at all but sort of a sardine salad similar to tuna salad. In fact if you like tangy tuna salad you would like this. It wasn't mayo based, but it had onions and some sort of chili sauce. I really can't say enough about this sandwich. I was even regretting I hadn't ordered two until I started in on my BBQ pork Bahn Mi. It too was delicious. The pork was tangy and tender with very little of the gristle you might expect for $2. While the sandwich was not as substantial as Sub Sand, the BBQ pork was better.
I made it through both sandwiches, the bubble tea, and bites of the delicious mystery dessert but I was stuffed. One and a half Bahn Bi is the right number. Go with a friend and split three, just make sure you get a whole sardine one to yourself.
Luncher: EmmettLunch: BBQ Pork Bahn Mi + Banana Rice - $2 + $2
This place has the potential to scare off every female I've ever met. Mental note, don't bring a date here. The entrance is basic enough. When you enter there are tables covered with to-go sweets and foods. There's a counter where you order. A total of two places where you could sit. Two dollar sandwiches. Hells yes.
I grabbed a BBQ Pork Bahn Mi, a banana rice, and a diet coke for the grand total of $5 I think. They are SLOW. They offered to heat my bun. Seriously? Yes please! I patiently waited outside for the others so we could proceed to the nearby park to eat our food.
The sandwich was fantastic. It's definitely on par with the best Bahn Mi from the nearby bakeries and delis. It falls a bit short of Sub-Sand, but then again, for $2, it comes in at less than half the price. The banana rice was a little bit gross to look at, and was cold, but in spite of that, was tasty.
The food quality and price merit this Deli a 4, but the lack of space and slow service brings it down to a 3. I'll definitely come back but I like a place to sit.
Luncher: AdamLunch: Cha Lua Chay Bahn Mi (vegetarian ham) + Chinese Sausage and Rice - $2 + $1.50
New Saigon Deli has a Maxang-style interior. It's dumpy. Although, this place doesn't have tables.
The food here was actually pretty good, I just ordered the wrong sandwich. I am now 100% anti-Vegetarian-"Ham". The other stuff in the sandwich was actually quite good. Pickled vegetables on a sandwich always throw a nice pick up on it. I ordered mine to be "warm"... which means they toasted it first. Definitely recommended if you have the time.
For a little bahn mi sandwich shop, these take a surprising amount of time to make. To get all 8 of us in-and-out... it took at least 20 minutes. I know this isn't the world's most complicated sandwich, but if it's the only kind of sandwich you make... you should be able to get it down to only a minute. Jimmy John's can do it in about 30 seconds.
Next time I'll be ordering one of the other sandwiches... but the important thing to note is that I'm definitely heading back to this place.
Luncher: RobLunch: Tofu Bahn Mi + Ginger Candy - $1.75 + $1.00
Well, I'm back in Seattle, and back to the MSG150. Traveling around and about South America was fun, but now I've returned, and I'm hungry for lunch. And it's good to see everyone again.
Speaking of lunch, my "welcome home" outing was to this curious establishment. The decor lends itself more to the practical than to the aesthetic, but the bahn mi prep time surprisingly lacked the efficiency I expected when I walked in. At least I had good company while waiting for the sandwich.
So yeah, the tofu bahn mi. I liked it. It wasn't the best bahn mi I've had, but I liked it, and it had a good spicy jalapeño edge. Would I eat here again? $1.75 for the sandwich = you certainly bet I will. If I'm craving something tastier and have more coin in my pocket, though, I would probably venture elsewhere, such as Sub Sand or Baguette Box.
What else? While I was munching away, I was thinking that one sandwich wouldn't be quite enough, but after I'd finished and had a brief walk, it felt just right. Maybe all the various and sundry GI problems I had in Bolivia and Peru actually had a beneficial effect of helping shrink my stomach a bit. I'll see how long that lasts...
Luncher: MichaelLunch: BBQ Pork Bahn Mi + Chicken Bahn Mi - $2 + $2
Very nice and simple Bahn Mi priced just right for the unemployed. You really can't find a tastier cheaper lunch than this. The only down side is there isn't a place to sit down and enjoy it.
Luncher: DaveLunch: Meatball Banh Mi + Chicken Teriyaki Banh Mi - $2 + $2
Well, this isn't the place to take a big crowd. It took forever to get all the sandwiches made and cycled through. Next time I won't bother getting it heated; it was cold by the time we got around to eating. Still, the banh mis were pretty good, especially at $2 a pop. 2 was too much food, 1 probably not enough. Bring a friend and split 3. The meatball was more like cooked ground flavored mystery meat (probably pork) spread in a layer; tasty. The chicken teriyaki was unremarkable but good. Still, for $4, go to Sub Sand and get one salt-and-pepper tofu banh mi instead.
Luncher: AlLunch: Special Bahn Mi + Almond Bubble Tea - $2 + $2.50
Bahn Mi -- Good; Price -- Fantastic! Almond Bubble Milk Tea was extra sweet too.
New Saigon Deli PhotosNew Saigon Deli
Not so new New Saigon Deli sign
New Saigon Deli Menu
Bubble Tea Mennu
The Eye is watching
Table of assorted treats
BBQ Pork Bahn Mi + Banana Rice
Cha Lua Chay Bahn Mi (vegetarian ham)
BBQ Pork Bahn Mi + Sardine Bahn Mi
Tofu Bahn Mi + Ginger Candy
Adam's Sticky Rice & Chinese Sausage
Emmett's Banana Rice
MSG150 Crew Picnic