The best part of dating a graduate student is the reinstatement of spring break. After graduating from college, I worked diligently from the holidays up until summer vacation before I enjoyed any sort of breather. March was just another month, and my annual trips down to Florida with the track team became a pleasant and distant memory.
I welcomed spring break back into my life last year when The Astronomer enrolled at Caltech. For our inaugural post-collegiate spring break, we packed our bags and headed to Yountville to dine at The French Laundry and Ad Hoc. Observing spring break without having to stress over papers and exams beforehand was a beautiful thing.
This year, we decided to travel even further north to Seattle. Prior to boarding our Jet Blue flight, we stopped by Tip Top’s Sandwiches in Rosemead to pick up sandwiches for the ride. DirectTV + banh mi = a delightful way to spend two and a half hours.
The original Tip Top’s Sandwiches is located in Garden Grove in the heart of Little Saigon. A second branch recently opened in Los Angeles to serve the substantial Vietnamese community residing in the San Gabriel Valley. In addition to “Asian Sandwiches,” Tip Top’s also sells “Euro Sandwiches,” house-made baguettes, frozen yogurt, prefabbed spring rolls, and Vietnamese sweets. We ordered strictly from the banh mi menu.
The Astronomer and I procured four sandwiches. My banh mi dac biet ($2.95) was passable, but not especially great. My main beef with the sandwich was its lack of beef, so to speak. I felt that Tip Top’s long and narrow baguette didn’t provide enough surface area to properly stuff and dress the banh mi. As a result, there was a lot of bread and pickled veggies, but not very much meat. I also thought it was strange that the sandwich contained slices of boiled pork. Boiled pork is lovely atop noodle soups, but has no place inside a banh mi.
The Astronomer and I were mixed on the bread. Two of our sandwiches were made with fresh baguettes that were warm, crusty, and quite pleasant. However, the other two were made with older baguettes that pained the roofs of our mouths with each bite.
For my second sandwich, I chose a vegetarian banh mi ($2.95) with lemongrass tofu. The tofu was plentiful and well-marinated, but it left a lingering garlicky aftertaste that I wasn’t too keen on.
The Astronomer’s banh mi bi ($3.25) suffered the same fate as my banh mi dac biet—too little meat. However, it must be noted that the porky strands of meat and skin that were present tasted very good. Still, all bread and no pork makes for a dull sandwich.
The Astronomer’s banh mi thit nuong ($3.45) packed lots of meat but not very much flavor. While we appreciated the pork’s charcoal essence, its lack of lemongrass and fish sauce was disappointing.
Although we had high hopes, Tip Top’s Sandwiches weren’t in tip-top shape during our visit. With plenty of cheaper, tastier, and more conveniently located banh mi shops in town [See: Bánh Mì & Chè Cali, Saigon’s Bakery & Sandwiches], The Astronomer and I have little reason to return anytime soon.
Tip Top’s Sandwiches
8522 Valley Boulevard
Rosemead, CA 91770