True dining bargains are so few and so far between in Paris that by the time you discover a new one, the previous find has usually turned into an old legend that the Elders like to recount around the fire while the Young sit there and wish they’d brought their iPod.
But when it comes to lunch and fuss-free food, Paris has no shortage of hole-in-the-wall gems: you just need to know where to look. And today, let us look in the general direction of Belleville and, more precisely, a little street off the general hullabaloo of the boulevard.
There hides a Vietnamese sandwich joint called Saigon Sandwich. Barely larger than my kitchen, it is the workshop of one sandwich-making artist, a middle-aged man who takes immense pride in the quality and freshness of his subs, assembled to order throughout the day.
To those unfamiliar with the Vietnamese sandwich, let me introduce the bánh mì, a deceptively simple combination of meat, crudités (cucumbers, carrots, daikon, onions, cilantro, chili), and some sort of dressing (most often mayonnaise, garlic chili sauce, Maggi sauce, or a combination thereof) on a piece of light-textured baguette — a little souvenir of the friendly presence of the French in Vietnam in the 19th and 20th century.