Sunday, July 4, 2010

Quick Bites V - Sandwiches

For the last month or so I've really been eating against the norm - my norm, anyway. For a couple of years I've been focused on exploring little hole-in-the-wall, mom-and-pop ethnic restaurants and for the last 8 or 9 months, really into street foods. Here recently I've been hitting more sit-down-service type places, even white table cloth places. I just needed a change of pace. I'll probably get around to writing some reviews of the fancier digs I've visited and I haven't given up on the other types of eateries, at least I don't think I have, I'm just taking a hiatus and re-adjusting my aim. And it hasn't been a total abandonment of those pursuits. Here are a few places I've eaten at over the last several months but not reported on.

Tan Ba Le, Baguettes and Fast Food, 11169 Beechnut @ Boone  This restaurant has changed names and is now known as Bo Ne Houston after its most famous dish, Vietnamese Steak and Eggs.

I first saw this place several months ago but only recently got around to trying it. I thought it was new but maybe not. I ordered two banh mi; I saw the long baguettes on the counter and assumed they would be cut in half but it turned out they already had - each sandwich measured 11" in length. This place could up its American appeal by advertising them as foot longs. The bread was lightly toasted just before the sandwich was assembled; I got a pork bbq and a vegetarian one. Both had a very rich mayo, tons of shredded carrots with just a few shreds of daikon, cucumber, cilantro and jalapeno. The meat in the pork bbq was a bit overcooked and dried out; in fact as she was preparing it the server was picking out some pieces and discarding them in the trash. The meat was very flavorful, however. The bread was amazing, I think the lightest, least dense and chewy Vietnamese baguette I've ever had but the sandwich's size was too much for me, I got a meal, a late night snack and a breakfast snack out of these.

As they were putting the rubber band on my first sandwich and starting on the second one I saw their steak and eggs platter come out; the place was doing a good business but I hadn't had to pass by any occupied tables on the way to the counter so hadn't gotten a good look at anything but I immediately thought I'd have to come back and try one of those. When I had first spotted this place I had looked it up on line but found nothing. Now I find that it had been blogged about last fall, specifically the steak and egg dish, bo ne, the house specialty, and I had missed the report or I certainly wouldn't have taken so long to get around to trying this place.

The staff has been very friendly and helpful; the menu board is mostly Anglicized Vietnamese.

My pork bbq sandwich was $3; the vegetarian one was $2.

Parisian Bakery III + Cafe, 8300 W. Sam Houston Parkway South, @ Beechnut in the Viet Hoa Center

Ziggy Smogdust turned me on to these last year. There are two other locations, one on Beechnut @ Wilcrest and one on Gessner @ Harwin. I've been to the Wilcrest location and like this one better; it's a bit cheerier and more friendly and it's also closer to me.

The baguettes here are shorter than Tan Ba Le (8"), fatter though and a little denser and chewier. I got the bbq pork banh mi here, too (and I nearly always get a pate chaud when I go here). What really stood out on this was the huge amount of meat; it was tender, not overcooked, but didn't have as much of the marinade and wasn't quite as flavorful - but there was a lot. There were also a few larger strips of daikon in the toppings, visibly identifiable but not really noticeable taste-wise, which otherwise were identical to Tan Ba Le, the cilantro was pretty bland.

The sandwich was $3, the pate chaud $1.25.

Comparing these two, I'd give the edge to Tan Ba Le, though I'd have to admit it was my first visit. I preferred the bread and that it was toasted just a bit, and, though it was overcooked, the more flavorful meat. Meat lovers might prefer Parisian however I'm sure the sandwiches differ from visit to visit depending on whose making them. I wouldn't avoid either place and it'll be partially a matter of convenience for me which one I go to.

Both the above places sell their baguettes separately. At Parisian, the 8" baguettes are 3 for a $1; each weighs about 3 oz. At Tan Ba Le, a full 22" baguette is $1 and weighs 6 oz.

Saldivia's South American Grill, 10234 Westheimer, just inside BW 8
Saldivia's has moved to 10850 Westheimer

In my explorations of South American cuisine over the past couple of years I learned that some version of a steak sandwich is very popular in several South American countries, in some said to be as popular as hamburgers in the USA. In Uruguay it's called a Chivito but despite the name there is no goat in a Chivito. I saw some awesome pictures of the sandwich online and when I found out we had a Uruguayan restaurant that served one, I had to try it out. Saldivia's, which is very new but recreates an earlier restaurant by the same owner, serves the dishes of both Argentina and Uruguay.

I fell in love with the room and it's rich woodwork; it's the former space of Cafe Malay, I think. Despite the somewhat upscale setting, the restaurant has the feel of a neighborhood cafe for expats and the owner, Gus, is a very friendly guy who likely will welcome you at the door and treat you like a friend.

The sandwich includes a grilled steak, thin slice of deli ham, lettuce, tomato, mayo and a fried egg served on a slightly crunchy and chewy baguette and was very tasty. I think the egg may have been fried in butter; even the tomato stood out - as tasty as home grown. The roasted potatoes were a little tough and chewy. There is chimichurri on the table which I had tried with an empanada and the complimentary mini-baguette appetizer but I found it too vinegary and didn't try any on the sandwich.

I've had the Churrasco sandwich at Marini's and the Lomito, a virtually identical Argentinan steak sandwich at El Gaucho and this is the best example of a South American steak sandwich I've had by a wide margin.

There are some other interesting entries on the menu including grilled mollejas on the appetizer menu. Besides the menu shown online there is a daily lunch special, Monday thru Friday, for $8.95.

As of my visit a couple of weeks ago there was zero signage along Westheimer and the restaurant, hidden in the back row of a strip center behind the Brookwood Gift Shop, is easy to miss.


City Eats, 4003 B Rustic Oaks Dr., Kingwood (faces West Houston Parkway) - CLOSED

My first taste of Sabrett's hot dogs and the typical condiments and I was underwhelmed. I bought a pound of the wieners to bring home so I could try them with some different condiments and decided I liked the Sabrett's wiener a little better than the Vienna Beef wieners used in Chicago Style Dogs because of the slight smokiness but it didn't have as much snap. I like a Nathan's Natural Casing dog over both Sabrett's and Vienna Beef, however, The Sabrett's onion sauce would take some getting used to - there really isn't that much onion in it, at least as far as bits and pieces. Besides selling the wieners (in strings, not pre-packed and cry-o-wrapped) they carry all the condiments - Sabrett's onion sauce, sauerkraut and mustard - and they also serve Italians. The website doesn't mention it nor did the in-store menu but signs in the window and on the counter said they are now serving Zweigle's White Hots from Rochester.

I went thinking I would be coming home with some of the mustard, onion sauce and kraut, but having tasted the first two, I just bought the wieners. I have to say, I saw a burger being served and it looked pretty good.

City Eats


Windy said...

City Eats has fantastic burgers! I actually like their burgers better than their dogs. I've also had their Italian Meatball Sandwich which was sublime. Delicious. The owners are two guys from New Jersey and are very happy to make substitutions when you want to mix it up.

jtinder said...

Parisian Bakery on gessner just south of the westpark tollway is my goto place. It costs an extra 50 cents but i get extra vegtables on my bbq pork and it makes for a perfect sandwich. They also have these deep fried banana eggroll things that are from the gods when they are fresh, otherwise move on.

Bruce said...

Looks interesting; I'm not sure I've even seen those. Plenty of veggies on them for me but I like more daikon, less carrot than either of these places uses. BBQ Pork was my go to banh mi for a long time but not so much anymore. I tried the Special at Tan Ba Le - mayo, pate, pork, ham, turkey, and meatballs. I think that's going to be my new go to sandwich. Never tried the meatballs anywhere but they are great.

Ziggy Smogdust said...

Great write-ups Chili Bob! I will have to try Tan Ba Le soon.

Misha said...

Steak and Eggs at Tan Bo Le are pretty good, but the best version of this dish I've found is at Huynh. They are only served once a week on Saturday mornings, but it's very much worth a visit.

Try Paris Bakery for bahn mi. Vegetables are better at Alpha Bakery, but the bread at Paris Bakery is outstanding when fresh. They also have some interesting noodle dishes, but I haven't made it that far down the menu.