I should clarify when I say such bold statements.
Dining prices on the STRIP are insane. Starbucks cappuccinos can run up to $7, while a typical entree at a normal restaurant can still run close to $30. However, the rest of Las Vegas is actually perfectly fine. In fact, I’m a bit jealous of these Las Vegas residents. They have many of the benefits of California in terms of food (In & Out, Ranch 99, Sam Woo’s, Ten Ren Tea Station anyone?) without the astronomical real estate prices that follows.
One one the newest California transplants is Lee’s Sandwiches, which opened March 2011.
Bryan grew up on Lee’s Sandwiches since his church was right next to Little Saigon in Los Angeles. He’s always told me that Vietnamese sandwiches on the East Coast don’t come anywhere close to the ones out west. He speaks fondly of places out West like Lee’s, who bake their bread in-house and serve a mean sandwich for under $3.
After our crazy wedding anniversary photo shoot (and before another hike through more mountains in Las Vegas), we stopped at Lee’s Sandwiches to re-fuel.
The banh mi has an interesting cultural history. The French first introduced the basic French bread loaf to the Vietnamese in the early 20th century during the French colonization of Vietnam. Back then, a simple Parisian-style sandwich consisted of a French baguette, butter, and ham. These sandwiches (called “banh mi Tay“) were meant for the French locals living in the area, and were associated with expensive European delis.
French rule ended in 1954. Soon, the Vietnamese began adding their own local ingredients to the simple sandwich, such as pickled vegetables, cilantro, and other Southeast Asian herbs. A “poor man’s” version of the sandwich began showing up in local food tricycles (precursor to the modern food truck!) and the like. It became so popular, it eventually overtook the traditional French version (which also petered out because the French were gone from Vietnam by this point in time).
The banh mi was first introduced to the US after the Vietnam war, when refugees from Vietnam set up shops in the US.
Although today the word “banh mi” is today associated with the Vietnamese sandwich in America, the term actually technically only means “bread”, and a sandwich having meat would have a descriptor after it (e.g. banh mi thit = bread with meat).
Having fresh bread is crucial for a good banh mi. Lee’s is obsessive about the quality of their bread, baking fresh loaves continuous throughout the day. Behind the glass of the automated baguette factory, loaves of bread rotate in this huge oven.
Going beyond just being a sandwich place, this Lee’s in Las Vegas is complete with all sorts of other Asian goodies. For example, they have this automated machine that squirts out batter to make these little cakes called Deli Manjoo, which they serve in boxes of 20 or 24.
The sandwiches are solid here, and we ordered a variety. Prices are pretty cheap and the ingredients are fresh, so it’s a great way to grab a quick, healthy snack before heading out on the road.
They also have other Asian favorites, such as many varieties of boba tea (e.g., soy milk, honeydew, even durian!), taro desserts, Vietnamese spring rolls, and fried sesame balls. If you’re not a huge fan of Asian food, you can order more traditional “European Sandwiches,” such as a turkey club with bacon on croissant or a turkey cheese baguette. They also have ice cream.
Lee’s Sandwiches is located not far from the Strip in Chinatown on Spring Mountain Road. The parking lot can get a bit crowded at times, as this is just a very popular place to visit. Bring $10, an adventurous spirit, and an empty stomach. You’ll have lots of fun sampling the various things they have (and it will be a nice break for the wallet after being on the Strip!).
3989 Spring Mountain Rd
Las Vegas, NV 89102
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