Jul 2009

Lee’s Sandwiches – Alhambra

Lee’s Sandwiches wants to bring banh mi to the masses and in the process, redefine the concept of fast-food. All franchised locations are outfitted with Krispy Kreme-esque fluorescent signs, automated ordering systems, and full-color bilingual menus. With 37 operations in California, Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, and a handful of international locations, for better or worse, Lee’s Sandwiches is the face of fast-food Vietnamese cuisine. This ain’t no Mom and Pop shop op.

Prior to my recent trip to The Aloha State, I swung by Lee’s Sandwiches in Alhambra to pick up some banh mi for my in-flight dinner. The store’s interior reminded me a bit of the air-con street food shops in Vietnam, but slightly less polished.

Ordering took longer than usual due to the bilingual menu—it was boggling to see photos of banh mi accompanied by English descriptors. The menu featured Vietnamese text as well, but the font was so small that squinting was required. Even though “banh mi dac biet” and “combination” are one in the same, the Vietnamese name is more familiar, and thus makes more sense.

While automated ordering systems and fluorescent signs add nice touches of modernity to Lee’s Sandwiches, the innovation that impressed me the most were the wrappers the sandwiches arrived in. Usually, banh mi comes wrapped in plain white butcher paper. If a vendor is especially mindful, she’ll scribble the sandwich’s name sloppily on the paper.

The sheets of butcher paper at Lee’s Sandwiches have the name of each sandwich neatly printed on them, which makes the process of figuring out which sandwich is which a breeze.

I picked up three sandwiches to sample; each one was priced at $2.45. From left to right—banh mi dac biet (cold cuts, forcemeats, pate), banh mi thit nuong (grilled pork), and banh mi xa xiu (sweet Chinese barbecued pork).

Firstly, an assessment of the bread. The baguettes at Lee’s Sandwiches aren’t a thick mess like some, but were so chewy that my jaws ached after a few bites. I’m not sure if I was served particularly old loaves, but dang, chew, chew, chew!

As far as fillings go, the “combination” banh mi was smeared with a great pate that moistened and seasoned the entire sandwich. The thit nuong was a major disappointment due to its saccharine-like sweetness, odd texture, and lack of charcoal essence. The xa xiu was solid.

The banh mi at Lee’s Sandwiches aren’t especially awesome, but compared to other fast-food options on the market, their product is easily tops. If there was a Lee’s Sandwiches for every McDonald’s, the world would be a better place.

Lee’s Sandwiches
1289 East Valley Boulevard
Alhambra, CA 91801
Phone: 626-282-5589

Lee's Sandwiches on Urbanspoon

Lee's Sandwiches in Los Angeles

Previous Post
Next Post

15 thoughts on “Lee’s Sandwiches – Alhambra

  1. Hold the phone. I’VE BEEN TO LEE’S SANDWICHES (in Irvine)! Yes, it’s true — our tastes have aligned! (I won’t mention that I ordered a turkey sam)

  2. LOL at β€œShe paid two extra bucks for turkey?!” My hubby used to do the same thing until I gave him the lecture. haha

    Bahn mi are the best to bring on flights!!! That, and spam musubi. πŸ˜‰

  3. I was gonna say, this is the one near my house! But then I realized they might all look the same inside, too. I go here when I need a sandwich fast. Their cafe sua da is pretty good for a quick hit, too. So…where was it? =)

  4. If you are going to be in Alhambra, might as well go down the street to Mr. Baguettes. I live in the area and have tried 6 different banh mi locations and Mr Baguette has the best bread. If going to Lees grab an order of the Deli Manjoo, it’s awesome.

  5. I used to go here perhaps three times a week to feed my coffee addiction. Then I got really sick from perhaps leaving a sandwich out a bit too long. Haven’t been back or had a banh mi sandwich from anywhere since. And with it went my coffee habit. πŸ™

  6. not sure if we’re the only ones, but we always cut the roof of our mouths after eating lee’s banh mi…so it’s Saigon bakery in the SGV or in OC, top bagguette or tip top for us.. πŸ™‚

  7. I think Lee’s makes a really good baguette but I can’t say the same for the fillings although, better than the other chain banh mi & che cali in SGV.

  8. Come to think of it… wouldn’t it be nice “banh mi” with French Fried and a coke?

  9. iluvhatemail has eaten only 6 banh mi joints in the hood? *psyeah* Someone didn’t head down to Garvey Blvd. Hue Tai and City Baguette awaits. During the last count, no less than 1 dozen joints (Ba Le on San Gabriel/Valley, may you rest in peace) were found to serve V-sammies.

    As far as Lee’s go… Isn’t this a bit like the Panda Express of Vietnamese food?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *