Walter Mencken 11 a.m., Nov. 27
New Kid on the (Market) Block
Brand new on Market.
This used to be some sort of donut place.
But this week I go past, see someone has written on the chalk sandwich board. “The District. Now open! Specialty sandwiches, salads, soups. Made fresh daily.” It sits right under a newly unfurled banner at 1021 Market Street. (Their phone's 619-269-6712.)
I kinda peer down inside. See menus. Trail down the stairs (it’s half underground in this new condo building), and find a pretty cool neighborhood sandwich joint.
“We opened Monday,” says Trong, who’s one of the owners. He and Teresa (his partner Mike’s sister) have been running the joint for its first four days.
“We’re still experimenting, with menu and hours,” Trong says. But he says Gustavo Torres, their “marvelous” chef, created it for them, including the “The District Dip,” a roll with pulled roast beef, Swiss cheese and horseradish cream. You can get it dipped, or with the broth on the side.
Most of the 'wiches go from $7 to $9. The District Dip is the most expensive at $10.
Why “The District?” “We just wanted to be part of this area, to give the feeling we were committed to this community,” Trong says.
Trong’s parents escaped from Vietnam and settled in DC. That’s where he learned the restaurant business. “The trouble with DC,” he says, “is it’s either freezing, or humid and hot like Vietnam. If you don’t love politics, there’s not much reason to stay. I came here to San Diego and knew I could never go back.”
I notice he has a “Saigon Banh Mi” sandwich ($6.95). Have to ask him about it.
“The French introduced the banh mi when they occupied Vietnam a century ago, maybe more,” says Trong. “I used to have one every day. It was always basically paté in a baguette. But then the people of Saigon started playing round with it, giving it a Vietnamese flavor. They added lemongrass, mint leaves, and things like pickled cucumbers and carrots. That’s what gives it a Vietnamese flavor.”
So, gotta try. And yes, you get that mint-pickled-lemongrass flavor coming through. Funny to think you’re really eating history here.
They also throw in little bowl of tomato fennel soup (usually $3.95) for a total of $7.95. And actually that soup is really good. Can taste basil in there. Oh, what da heck? I drink it direct from the container.
Trong says he hopes to get sidewalk seating and permission to sell wine and beer.
My. Doesn't that show you how far Market Street has come. And how quick East Village is filling in empty spots and moving on eastwards. You get a pretty good view of it from their below-ground lounge.
Few more trees and cafes and this could become what Broadway has failed to: quite the boulevard.