Bánh Mì, sitting pretty
  • Bánh Mì, sitting pretty
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Herb & Wood

2210 Kettner Boulevard, Little Italy

When Brian Malarkey opened Herb & Wood this summer, its wood-fired cuisine and killer ingredients instantly put it on the shortlist of restaurants I want to dine at on special occasions. But I can’t afford a lot of special occasions. What I can often afford is a reasonably good lunch.

That’s why Herb & Eatery hit my sweet spot. Part-deli counter, part grab-and-go market, this is the casual counterpart to Herb & Wood that faces Kettner Boulevard with — at least the day I visited — a unicorn statue out front.

No word on whether the unicorn is here to stay.

There are sausages and ice cream in the cold case, plus freshly squeezed orange juice, cold-brew coffee, beer, and other beverages. In time a lot of other items are to be added, including pâté. Still, there was chicken liver on the bánh mì I ordered for lunch, and it was good enough that I’d pick some up to take home. Same with the flattened chicken sausage topping the sandwich alongside julienned papaya and pickled carrots, adding refreshing acidity to the earthy spiced fowl parts.

A classy looking marketplace attached to an upscale restaurant

I split it with a friend for a listed price of $11.47. We decided to even things out by also splitting an olive poached tuna melt for $12.13. I don’t know what the odd number pricing is about, but I like the price for the quality being offered.

This may be the tuna melt you’ve been waiting for

Like the bánh mì, the tuna melt started with beautifully textured fresh bread, though here the baguette is traded for parmesan-olive focaccia. As I ate it I realized that part of me has been waiting my whole life for an elevated tuna melt to come along. I’ve eaten too many out of the can to expect the lightness of this fish, in a creamy sauce, punctuated by capers.

Herb & Eatery also offers custom salads featuring the likes of roasted grapes, cauliflower ceviche, and smoked trout. But either of these sandwiches is satisfying enough to win me over, and I haven’t even got to the pastrami, fried chicken, and breakfast sandwiches. Literally, a top chef opened a lunch counter that serves a thoughtful take of all my favorites. I won’t be waiting for anyone’s birthday to go back.

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