First of all, it’s fun to say, “Bun Mee.” And like it’s name, the matching restaurant, opened April 1 on Fillmore Street, is quirky and something different in a sea of the same.
Denise Tran, a former business transactions lawyer, opened her Vietnamese sandwich shop Bun Mee, (phonetic for Bahn Mi, the word for sandwich) just a few weeks ago and when I stopped in, they were still working out some first-week kinks. But that didn’t stop the steady stream of people lined up for take out and occupying the few tables in the casual eatery. San Franciscans know a good thing when we see (and smell) it.
The menu is pretty simple, its muse the humble Vietnamese street food experience, but wrapped in a pretty Pacific Heights package.
“Street food in Vietnam is a very interesting way to experience Vietnamese cuisine,” said Tran. “It generally is where you can find the best food.”
In Vietnam, she says, almost anyone can purchase a small cart and serve their specialties, allowing talented home cooks to set up shop without much capital. Tran likens it to the mobile truck dining phenomenon in the US, but this miniscule restaurant is more inviting than a truck.
The staff at Bun Mee is friendly and don grey t-shirts with a logo of a red Vespa , swarms of which buzz around Vietnam. The scooters, not the t-shirts.
A giant black chalkboard in the main (only) room displays a straight forward menu: two types of salads, two types of rice bowls, and of course, the namesake, the Bahn Mi.
“First timers shoudl try the five spice grilled chicken Bahn Mi,” says Tran. “If you are feeling more adventurous, go for the sardine sandwich, porkbelly with boiled egg, or sloppy with fried egg.”
I chose the pork belly and washed it down with a Vietnamese Iced Tea that probably had more calories than 10 sandwiches. It was divine. The sandwich–simple, a little spicy, and tucked between a cruncy French baguette. Tran says people have asked her to add more to her menu but she has a philosophy ont on that: Don’t try to be all things to all people. Do a few good things really well.
And that she does.
Next time you are on Fillmore, drop in to Bun Mee and have a seat if you can snag one, or take haul your Bun Mees over to nearby Alta Plaza Park.
And don’t forget to say “Bun Mee” a few more times, just for fun.
Kimberley Lovato is a freelance writer and Bahn Mi enthusiast based in San Francisco.
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