Food, Beer, and Travel

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Posts Tagged ‘Vietnamese’

Santa Ana – Coffee Factory

Posted by jwpiper on February 21, 2009

There are few restaurants which I’d consider it a sin not to make an effort to get to and Coffee Factory in Santa Ana, CA is one of them. I was first recommended this place a few trips to Los Angeles ago by the owner of Benley Vietnamese Kitchen in Long Beach. Benley is an excellent small restaurant worthy of a post of its own, but they didn’t have bánh mì, Vietnamese cuisine’s flavor explosion of a sub sandwich. So I asked where I could get the best bánh mì around and they sent me to Coffee House in Santa Ana – a restaurant which if I ran into it while driving down the street, I never would stop inside. And what I would have missed. In all of my visits to this restaurant, the weather has been perfect so the outside tables are full with sunglass-wearing Vietnamese sharing french pressed coffee and tea. Inside and out, you won’t find any non-Vietnamese people here unless you’re there on a day when I am. In fact, it’s just about in the middle of a strip mall in the middle of the largest Little Saigon I’ve ever been to.

I’ve never ventured out from bánh mì in my visits to Coffee House, but they do have pho and several other dishes which look wonderful. But I digress: I should be talking about the bánh mì. I have a general disdain for purchasing sandwiches and subs. There are definitely exceptions to this rule, but I caricaturize my opinion for the purposes of making fun of my colleagues who order sandwiches, in one form or another, pretty much every day of the week. But my true objection to purchasing sandwiches lies in the fact that most of them from most places can be made better and cheaper at home. Coffee Factory bánh mì is the exalted antithesis of these lesser examples.

For those unfamiliar with the bánh mì formula, they consist of pickled vegetables (usually carrots and turnips) and fresh cucumber and chillies along with some meat. At Coffee Factory, they add fresh cilantro. This time I had BBQ pork and pork meatball… so delicious. In general, bánh mì are my favorite expression of a sub, but here they use the best french bread I’ve had outside of Europe, hands down – soft and airy on the inside and crumbly crusty on the out. These sandwiches are absolutely transcendent at prices ranging from $2.75 to $3.25. Now, you’ll need two of them to be full (and I’ve been laughed at fro how much I’ve ordered before), but that’s opportunity for variety or to try the pho.

I like to finish off with a cup of frozen yogurt topped with mangoes. For anyone not in the know about Southeast Asian frozen yogurt, this isn’t TCBY soft-serve, this is truly plain, sour yogurt in frozen form. Simple, bright, and delicious – topped with candy sweet super-ripe mangoes makes a wonderful snack or finish to just about any meal.

I can only assume that there’s plenty of other delicious restaurants in the area. I don’t know if I’ll take the risk on my limited trips unless I get a reliable tip on one in particular. But every trip I make to LA, a city filled with delicious food, includes an earnest effort to make it to Coffee Factory.


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