Monday, January 21, 2019

Quick Bite: Cali Banh Mi

A couple months back, Kearny Mesa staple Cali Banh Mi opened their second location in east PB. Since then I've stopped by probably three or four times, and on the whole I like what I've seen.

The interior is small but chic, with lots of natural light and a white and gold color scheme. There's also a little side patio to hang out on, which seems nice, though honestly this is more of a to-go spot for me.

I've gotten the savory BBQ pork banh mi a couple of times. It's only four bucks, and while it's not massive sandwich, it's just the right amount to fill me up. Visually, the red and green colors from the pork and veggies are bright and appealing nestled in the light and crunchy baguette. The pork is sweet and savory, with definite notes of black pepper sprinkled in and a touch of garlic aioli spread. The foliage is plentiful here: cilantro, jalapeƱo, cucumber, pickled carrots and daikon. I would have preferred a little less cucumber, and the pickled veggies are actually pretty mild and could have used just a bit more sharpness. For the most part, though, it's a fresh and delicious lunch option.

On those days where I feel like I deserve the royal treatment, the surf & turf banh mi (for the kingly sum of eight dollars) is another way to go. The other fixings are the same, but the pork is swapped for ribeye and black pepper shrimp. The savory, meaty flavors from the ribeye and the sweet, buttery seafood are a great combination. The ribeye could benefit from a lighter cook, but that's my only real gripe.

Though Cali Banh Mi is near one of the busiest intersections of San Diego, it's in a slightly odd location without much else around it to attract business. At least Muscle Mill, the previous fast casual joint to occupy the space, had the advantage of catering to the nearby gym. Hopefully it manages to do well there, since it's a simple, dependable lunch choice for days on the go.

Score: 7 out of 10 (Very Good)

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