In an indistinct storefront on Larkin St in the Tenderloin, sits Saigon Sandwich. Don't laugh when you see this place. In fact, you probably wouldn't even notice the shop if it wasn't for the line out front. There are no tables, credit cards, or plates. It won't be found in Frommers, Lonely Planet, of Foder's; but word on the street will get you there.
Saigon Sandwich is run by three middle-aged Vietnamese ladies who spoke but a little english. One runs the cash register; the other the bread; meats, and tofu; and the last the final fixings/assembly. Together they put out what are considered the best banh mi sandwiches in SF. The sandwiches come in pork, chicken, and tofu. We naturally went for two tofu banh mis.
Service was slow and the small store was crammed full. on the Saturday afternoon that we showed up, someone had a 200 sandwich party order that back up things further. After waiting about 20 mins, one of the ladies called out our order. At that very moment, the only two chair at the window counter opened up and we grabbed them.
The sandwich was served on a 6" French baguette that was crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. The juicy marinated tofu was glazed with sweet and sour sauce. The carrots and cilantro were freshly cut - tasted like they came from the Asian market up the street. However, it lacked the spiciness that typical of banh mi sandwiches. There were a few green peppers sprinkled in, but they were few and far between. With one collective bite, the sandwich tasted great - incorporating chewy bread, crispy carrots, citrusy cilantro, and juicy tofu. However the tofu and veggies were not evenly distributed which meant some bites were bread w/ tofu and others were bread w/ veggies. My advice - take it home; fix the fixings; slice it in half, eat it the right way.
All in all, a solid sandwich that I would go back to eat. But it's not a place I would take out of town visitors looking for the best of SF. I feel like hitting up the nom nom truck is a better "experience" than Saigon Sandwich. That's my take and I'm sticking to it.