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J.C.'s Vietnamese Sandwiches
885 Bush Street/Taylor St., SF
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Trial at The Blue Lamp

J.C.'s, minus the crazy person. McClure

I was walking down the mall when a man said, "They're for customers only." My wig fell off and rolled away past the vendors like a tumbleweed. It wasn't a clown at the door, it was the burlap sack for a hat, skirt wearing, crack smoking, vodka swillin' street living crazy guy. I remember this door show from years back. Don't miss it, and with the incredible price of the Vietnamese sandwiches available at J.C.'s you may even have a quarter or fiver to spare.

I've never been disappointed by the Vietnamese sandwich, Bahn Mi, as I have seen them called. They are large with a variety of flavors and a multitude of fixin's. J.C. served me up a pork meatball sammy and it was like nothing I'd ever tasted. Not your Italian meatball but good nonetheless. At a price of $2.75, grab one or two on your way and eat 'em up. Plenty of other goods on the menu, nowhere to sit except in the middle of the show, on the street that is, so get your grub and go go go.



Finally the Court has discovered Vietnamese sandwiches, which I did not know existed until future guest-judge Cork tipped me off to a place right down the street. And let me just say, I like them. Quite a bit, really. I like them because they're cheaper than hell, firstly, and secondly because they taste good.

J.C.'s is about as small a restaurant as I've ever seen, barely enough room for three judges to stand at the counter and avoid the strange man/woman on the sidewalk incessantly asking if we could "Spare fifty cents, please!" But it can be done. Don't plan on eating there, but you can pick up a quick lunch or early dinner and shuttle it back to your crib or local saloon, as we did.

How much for a sandwich? $2.75. That's right, $2.75. That's two Sacagawea dollars and 25 cents more than 50 cents. Before tax, of course. But still, the value is astounding. For that you get your big ol' French roll filled with your choice of meats (or combination), shredded carrots, cilantro, mayo, paté (yeah, paté), jalapeños, and cucumber. Note the French influence there with the paté. I'm not sure what kind of paté that is, but it's really just a smear like a condiment, so don't worry too much.

This time around I got the B.B.Q. Pork sandwich, and it was quite good. Especially for $2.75. I kind of expected it to be more grilled-up, blackened, but it was all right. Judge Vardigan's B.B.Q. chicken, on the other hand, really WAS well-grilled, and I think I'll get that next time. Anyway, the whole sandwich is pretty different, with some real Viet flavors in there. Either the carrots are marinated in some sweet and sour kind of sauce (like you often have to dip with) or they add some dressing. And the cilantro packs quite a flavor burst. Might take a little of that off, like I did.

Before, I got the Combination sandwich, which Cork says is like the traditional Banh Mi Dac Biet they have in Vietnam. This one has everything listed above, but instead of chicken there is "pork patty, pork leg, and ham." Now, I'm not quite sure what "pork patty" is, but I'd say it's like pig baloney. That one was pretty good, too, but frankly I think I prefer bona fide hunks of warm meat, as opposed to the cold compressed variety. But hey, it's a taste of Vietnam for ya.

We threw in some imperial rolls and potstickers for good measure, which were both decent, for about four bucks each. They also offer noodle and rice dishes there besides the sandwiches, and I might give those a try, although I suspect the sandwiches are their specialty.

What it comes down to is a supreme bargain for an exotic sandwich, and that's right up our alley. Or right up Bush Street, in this case.

The ImpsVardigan

J.C.'s may be the cheapest place in Court history. It's hard to dislike that kind of precedent. $2.75 for a sandwich, and it's no bologna with American cheese and yellow mustard on white bread. It's an authentic Vietnamese sandwich crammed with unique fixings like pate, cilantro, and marinated carrots. I chose barbecue chicken, which was the unanimous winner among our choices. Surprisingly though, the ingredients did not add up to a whopping sum of flavor. They may have been using a weak strain of cilantro. And the jalapeno peppers, well, they left those off mine and gave them to Judge Turner instead, who did not want them to begin with. So I can't speak for those, but I'm sure they would have changed things.

We also saw an awful lot of microwaving going on, which you never like to see. In J.C.'s defense, we ordered pretty close to 7, closing hour. I think this is more of a lunch destination. I bet things are a little more fresh in the afternoon. Also, while $2.75 is a helluva deal, the sandwiches are not huge, and do not a dinner make. They are ideal for lunch, however. We threw in some imperial rolls and potstickers. The potstickers had been sitting out in Styrofoam containers under plastic wrap, and were then microwaved. The imperial rolls did not challenge my belief that there are no bad imperial rolls, but there was something off about them. We kept taking bites, then falling silent and staring quizzically at the food in our hands.

The Blue Lamp, where we ate, was a real downer. I used to really like this place, but on this night it was warmish beer out of bottles (tap trouble) and the jukebox forsaken for some CD full of wretched, interminable songs, the style of which I labeled "adult contemporary house." I don't know if there is such a thing, but that's what this sounded like.






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