Food & Drink

The 13 Best Banh Mi Sandwiches in SF

Published On 02/10/2015 Published On 02/10/2015
Trevor Felch/Thrillist
Dinosaurs
Courtesy of Mission Banh Mi
Trevor Felch/Thrillist
Rice Paper Scissors
Bun Mee
Flickr/Karin Neoh
Trevor Felch/Thrillist
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1. Bun Mee Vietnamese Sandwich Eatery 2015 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115 (Fillmore)

If you're one of those annoying critics who complain Bun Mee’s banh mi go over the top with creativity and aren’t “authentic,” shut the hell up and try Bun Mee's simple, Hanoi-style fried catfish banh mi. If you're NOT one of those annoying critics, then... try one of Bun Mee's banh mi that go over the top with creativity and isn't “authentic” like, say, the lemongrass pork banh mi with garlic mayo.

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2. Castro Tarts 564 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114 (The Castro)

If the fabled Zuni chicken and a banh mi did the sex, and then nine month later popped out a little one, it'd look kinda sorta exactly like Castro Tarts’ version of a roasted chicken banh mi. So, yeah, get that, and also maybe the pork loin banh mi with sautéed onions and the rosemary chicken banh mi with all the regular pickled fixings.

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3. Café Bunn Mi 417 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118 (Inner Richmond)

Real talk: why do we even care about pork belly and cold cuts when we can have shredded duck banh mi? Is it really just because nobody came up with using it before this charming little five-year-old spot? SF's loss: get in on this quack attack, or if you're not a meat-dude, cry a bunch, and then pounce on SF’s finest vegetarian banh mi: the “Smoked Vegetable” sports portobello mushroom, eggplant, and homemade soy sauce in place of pâté. Umami is a cliché, but you’ll be knee deep in it with this sando.

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4. Cafe Dolci 740 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94102 (Union Square)

Spring for the classic with ham and pâté in this tiny spot that's studio apartment-level small. Note: there's a Caffé Dolci in Cow Hollow that serves paninis and gelato -- don't go to that one if you're after this banh mi.

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5. Dinosaurs 2275 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94114 (The Castro)

This modern day banh mi is deeply rooted in the traditional style. The three to know: steamed pork meat balls, the rare-worth ordering tuna (FYI: it’s tuna salad, not “rare” sushi…), and the Prince at the Ball, aka the shaking beef, which is in must-add territory for virtually any banh mi out there.

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6. Mission Banh Mi 2200 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110 (Mission Bay)

These are truthfully hybrid banh mi-tortas, the size of which Mission Banh Mi self-applauds on its website. Head inside Duc Loi Market (where it's located) and get “The Authentic” banh mi full of roasted pork belly and five-spice-rubbed pork shoulder, house-made head cheese, and Vietnamese pork sausage. Mission-style, please.

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7. Latte Express 48 5th St, San Francisco, CA 94103 (Soma)

They could serve Folgers and you’d still be glowing after either the pork meatball or the slick, sweet grilled pork banh mi. The owners are from Cambodia and the coffee shop really is a donut shop that specializes in banh mi. Welcome to San Francisco. If you really want to be a baller (you do), put that glazed donut inside the grilled chicken banh mi. You're welcome.

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8. Little Vietnam Cafe 309 6th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94118 (Inner Richmond)

The grilled five-spice chicken bursting with potential energy from its marinade is the way to go here. The pork meatball also deserves a nod too, as does the quality and proportion of protein to garnishes to baguette -- it's next to none at this handicap-bathroom-sized storefront. Also: give the spring rolls a try.

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9. Rice Paper Scissors 1710 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94103 (Mission Bay)

Doesn't matter what you choose, you'll win the game of banh mi roshambo at this place. At lunch, order fried chicken in a banh mi or a fried egg with Vietnamese ham banh mi. At anytime, order the grilled hanger steak banh mi that's been bathed in oyster sauce. Oh BTW: Scissors always wins.

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10. Wexler's 568 Sacramento St, San Francisco, CA 94111 (Financial District)

Chef Charlie’s barbecue at Wexler’s is quite simply some of the most notable smoked meat not just in our city, but anywhere in this country. It’s a polished, sophisticated restaurant with the soul of an Arthur Bryant’s or Kreuz Market.

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11. Saigon Sandwich 560 Larkin St., San Francisco, CA 94109 (The Tenderloin)

This is possibly THE perfect banh mi -- from the baguette to the buttery head cheese. You’ll probably still stumble over a few needles here and there approaching the deli, but oh is it worth it. Everyone, everywhere falls in love with it.

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12. Sing Sing Sandwich Shop 309 Hyde St, San Francisco, CA 94102 (The Tenderloin)

Hiding in the shadow of Saigon Sandwiches, the "no we're not referencing a prison" Sing Sing's a straight-outta-Nam "cafe" run by a gregarious, next-to-no English-speaking dude named Harry Lam who fails to provide a menu because the only thing Harry makes is the best damn pork banh mi you've ever tasted (sorry, Safeway).

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13. Wooly Pig Cafe 205 Hugo St, San Francisco, CA 94122 (Inner Sunset)

Wooly Pig is totally not Vietnamese, yet the people here know how to layer myriad cold cuts and pâté for the UCSF med students who think of this as a part of their apartment. On special days, don’t think twice about getting the pork meatball banh mi. Other than that, you’re in non-banh mi territory.

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