|Though it suffers from being premade, it's still a solid FiDi bargain|
While San Francisco street food purveyors in institutional settings (e.g. Off the Grid or SoMa StrEatFood Park venues) have vied to keep my attention, I've been overlooking independent enterprises that streamlined San Francisco permitting procedures have encouraged. To be sure, some of the food trucks that appear at OtG and SSFP also have their own spots on City streets, but what about those vendors, particularly non-motorized, that choose to fly solo?
Thanks to a chowhound.com thread and some Yelp reviews, I was alerted to the presence of the Vietnamese Sandwiches Stand, which operates on the west side of Main Street, just south of Market St. in downtown San Francisco, and set out yesterday to check it out. The stand features both Vietnamese sandwiches (banh mi) and spring rolls (ban cuon) but by 1:00 when I arrived had sold out of the latter, so I contented myself with a BBQ Pork Sandwich from the menu. My sandwich was generously filled and nicely balanced though somewhat lacking sharpness in flavor. (I would have liked the option of throwing in some jalapeno slices, but this option was not available.) The sandwiches are pre-made and kept warm and, as Chowhounds and Yelpers have pointed out, thereby suffer from muddled flavors and textures. Mine was no exception, especially given the lateness of my arrival, and toasting the sandwich for me did little to help. Overall, though, it was a solid and tasty sandwich experience and at $3.50 a true bargain for the Financial District. (Any comparison with the haute $8.00 food truck banh mis at Off the Grid would be out of line!) I plan to return to vet the spring rolls, perhaps a comparative tasting again on a Thursday when the Soup Junkie down the street on Market Street offers the same item.
Incidentally, although the sign captured in my photograph specifies Tuesday and Wednesday, the stand is reportedly there every work day. According to the Chowhound.com thread, the operator has a second stand two days a week at California and Sansome Streets, and it's likely the stall (or just the sign) was pressed into service on Main Street on the Thursday I was there. Also according to one of the Chowhound posters, an Indian wraps cart may soon be joining the banh mi stand on Main Street. It's certainly heartening to see the streets of downtown San Francisco populated by street vendors offering other than cellophane-wrapped white bread sandwiches or overpriced hipster junk food.