House Special ($4.50)
The best bargain on the menu, it combines Vietnamese ham and pork roll along with some of the sweet glazed BBQ pork. You'd be hard pressed to find a better sandwich for under $5 (ok, the Pâté Supreme might fit the bill).
Grilled Minced Pork with Sweet Glaze ($4.50)
This is the sandwich that other banh mi shops around here call "BBQ pork." Minced pork meat with a sweet soy-based glaze comes bright pink with an addictive sweet-and-salty flavor. The minced pork here is fine, but it's better around the corner at Paris Sandwich on Grand Street.
Pork and Water Chestnut Meatballs ($5.00)
The meatiest of the bunch, the pork meatballs are a bit mushy (Vietnamese Xieu Mai always seem a bit mushy to me), but have some nice bits of water chestnut in them to add a bit of crunch.
Pâté Supreme ($4.50)
The best sandwich of the bunch, this is one of the best classic banh mi in Manhattan. Fresh tasting ham (Thit Nguoi), Vietnamese pork roll (Cha Lua), and pâté are perfectly balanced with the crisp pickled carrots and daikon and a generous amount of cilantro. If you want to know what a real traditional cold-cut banh mi tastes like, this is the place to get it.
The simplest of the chicken options here is also the best, with tender, juicy hunks of dark meat in a very mild soy marinade. Not too salty, not too sweet, and well balanced with the other condiments.
Soft sardines are stuffed into the banh mi with stewed onions. Not a personal favorite, but if sardines are your thing, you could do worse than this sandwich.
Beef with Lemongrass ($5.25)
I would have liked more char and crisping on the edges of the beef rather than the oniony, stewed texture you find in this sandwich. They're definitely better with pork here.
Curry Chicken ($5.25)
Juicy chunks of dark meat chicken are tender and moist, though I find the curry flavor to be a bit overwhelming when paired with all the other bright flavors going on in this sandwich.
Vegan Sandwich ($3.75)
It's a banh mi... without the filling. Sort of like ordering a burger and getting a lettuce, tomato, and onion salad. Because it's vegan, it's also missing the sweey mayonnaise-y spread. Dry and boring, don't bother.
House Special Vegetarian ($5.25)
The best of the vegetarian options here, though it's not as good as some of the meaty versions. Sweet sesame-scented marinated mushrooms and tofu form the bulk of the filling.
Vegan Chicken with Lemongrass ($5.25)
Of the two mock chicken options, this is the better one. The tofu-based "chicken" is a little rubbery, but the lemongrass flavor is decent. You're still better off with the tofu and mushroom version, though.
Vegetarian Curry Chicken ($5.25)
Another mock-chicken option, the vegetarian curry chicken has the same problem as the regular curry chicken—too many conflicting flavors in one bun. To be honest, vegetarian sandwiches are not Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich's specialty.
Summer Rolls ($4.50 to $5.25)
Summer rolls here come in three varieties: a vegetarian version with jicama, carrot, mushroom, and tofu; a shrimp version; and a shrimp and minced sweet pork version. All of them have pickled daikon and carrots along with shredded lettuce, vermicelli noodles, and nuoc cham for dipping. While the vegetarian rolls are the standard diminutive appetizer size, the meatier ones are mammoth in proportion, like mini burritos. One order is enough for a full-on meal if you're not feeling the whole sandwich thing.
Green Papaya Salad ($3.25)
Even with a generous splash of the peanut and fish-sauce based dressing, this salad could do with some more flavor. Some more fresh herbs beyond the token sprig of basil would go a long way to improving it.
Chicken Salad ($3.25)
A massive pile of shredded chicken mixed with carrots and cabbage, It's a lot of food for just a few bucks and the better of the two salad options here. There's "pepper" advertised as an ingredient, but there was no real heat to speak of. This is easily remedied by asking for extra chilis or hot sauce when ordering. (You should.)