“No giggling. We’re on a mission.” Christine made it clear that the four of us still had plenty of work to do before we could crown the best banh mi in Little Saigon. We were only on Stop Three, with three more Vietnamese sandwich shops to invade. We based our Little Saigon banh mi bender on Amy Scattergood’s November round-up in the LA Times. Overall, we consumed ten sandwiches, three pate chaud, three pastries, six drinks and one meatball skewer. This post is the product of our “research.”
#1: Tip Top Sandwiches, 14094 Brookhurst Street, Garden Grove, 714 530 9239
We arrived at this sprawling café at 10 AM to find a packed patio, a line that never shortened and a dinging Keno screen. We split two sandwiches constructed with supple, crackly house-made baguettes. BBQ Pork (Thit Heo Nuong – $3.45) was scintillating, with caramelized strips of pork, julienned daikon and carrot. Pate Meatball (Pate Xiu Mei – $3.25) hosted crumbly pork meatball, aioli, cucumber, cilantro, carrot and onion. The meat could have been warmer and the mayo was too creamy, but the overall effect was good. Two of us downed Vietnamese iced coffees. After all, banh mi is often considered breakfast food.
Behind the pate chaud case, we spotted a rack of fresh-baked baquettes, which move quickly due to the high volume. Overall, it was easy to see why Tip Top was packed. Scattergood reported that Tip Top’s owners are planning a branch for Rosemead, and it will instantly become the best banh mi emporium in the San Gabriel Valley.
#2: Boulangerie Pierre & Patisserie, 14352 Brookhurst Street, Garden Grove, 714 418 9098
This strip mall bakery featured music and vibe befitting Paris. Unfortunately, the food held little charm. Our banh mi contained flimsy fillings and came on thick, hard bread that shredded the roofs or our mouths. Grilled pork ($3.25) amounted to fatty, chewy pork and misshapen clumps of carrot and daikon. Special Pork (pate, ham meatloaf – $2.95) offered little flavor, even with jalapeno and aioli. After ordering, we spotted a rotisserie cooking small chickens, which probably would have improved the sandwich, but no filling has the power to overcome that bread.
After we left Boulangerie Pierre, Christine said, “We need to raise our spirits…That place scared me, literally, with the bread.”
#3: Gala Bakery, 14570 Brookhurst Street, Westminster, 714 775 7327
Tiny Gala Bakery didn’t have a single seat, but it did deliver a decent baguette and some of the day’s best fillings. Special Sandwich ($2.75) contained slices of Pate and Pork Paste, plus market-fresh aioli, carrot and daikon. Gala’s triangular pate chaud wasn’t as greasy or peppery as Tip Top’s version. Therefore, it didn’t have as much flavor.