I’m always on the prowl for something new, especially when it comes to a good banh mi. Done so well, so often around San Francisco, it isn’t always easy to find one that’s different and exciting. Made with crunchy veggies and mayo on French bread, the already-perfect Vietnamese sandwich can only get so much better, so it’s the protein that has the leading role. Classics often come with pâté or head cheese, lemongrass chicken or crispy pork, and sometimes tofu or fish. But every once in a while, something pings my antennae that there’s a new sandwich on the block — and this time, it’s messy.
Bun Mee, with locations in Lower Pac Heights and Downtown, offers nine different types of gourmet banh mi, including pork belly and “juicy steak,” along with items such as garlic fries and kale mango salads. But the variation that sent me spiraling into a glorious banh mi black hole, deep into sandwich galaxies I never knew existed, was the sloppy bun.
The sloppy bun is a red curry ground beef banh mi, sweet and bright with a tingling spiciness. The tender ground beef pops and cracks against the fresh pickled carrots, cucumber, and onion, while the bread is soft, with the wonderful pull and tear of a classic sloppy joe. (It takes me back to eating one of those on the back porch in summertime, in fact.) And if that isn’t enough slop for you, add a fried egg. The yolk adds a delicious, buttery texture to the mix, binding it all together. It’s a decadent take on a classic, and I’m all for it.
This sandwich is great. It’s familiar and still tastes like something I’ve never eaten before. Sometimes, all it takes is the merging of two completely different concepts to create something magnificently bizarre, and that is exactly what the sloppy bun is.
Bun Mee, 650 Market St. and 2015 Fillmore St., bunmee.co