Best $2 Lunch - 2004
It's only a cramped storefront straddling the Civic Center and Tenderloin border, but Saigon Sandwiches has the best Vietnamese sandwiches in the city -- some say the country -- and they cost all of $2. Called banh mi, the traditional sandwiches are packed within a French bread bun, and you can choose from spicy or barbecue chicken, several kinds of pork, and even liverwurst. (Pork, whether meatball, roasted, or fancy, is probably the most popular.) The bun is dressed with mayonnaise and vinaigrette, and the vegetables and spices -- including cilantro, carrots, and hot peppers -- meld perfectly with the warm, juicy meats. Really, these are amazing sandwiches, and folks pack the tiny spot at lunch, when friendly older Vietnamese women keep the line moving briskly. While you're waiting, pick up a side or dessert from the boxes lining the walls and counters -- the bean doughnuts and crab-cake chips are worth trying. Be warned: There's no seating area to speak of, so you'll have to take your sandwich to the grass or benches around City Hall. But for a quick, cheap, mouthwatering lunch on the go, this place can't be beat.