Does everyone remember that Charles Phan’s Slanted Door used to be in the Mission? And that he took it away from us to go to the Ferry Building, where you have to fight with be-suited Financial District types to get a decent seat at the bar? It was just never the same when it left us, but now he’s back, with a takeway sandwich shop featuring house-made bread, just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the original Slanted Door.
Chuck’s Takeaway’s specialty is permutations of the Vietnamese banh mi and two or three other sandwich varieties. Chef Phan actually returned to Vietnam to study and learn how to make the famed baguette, and it shows.
For my first, I tried Jo Jo’s bollito.
Outstanding, swoon-worthy braised beef belly with salsa verde on a toasted bun, it came with a small side of pickled greens (chard, perhaps), tangy and sweet. Incredibly tender beef, and crazy juicy. The salsa verde actually had a bit of a spicy bite, which was a nice surprise. The bread. OH! THE BREAD! The bread was chewy, yet fluffy and delicious, plus it sopped up all the juices without being overwhelmed or losing its structural integrity.
Next, the banh mi:
Banh mi, known here as C.P.’s No. 3, was on a perfectly crispy, yet pillowy, French roll; he got the crust-to-crumb ratio just right. A friend said she hadn’t had a baguette of its ilk since being in Vietnam. Inside, superbly fresh-tasting, silky charcuterie: Pâté maison, pork cha, chicken liver pâté, shallot mayo, herbs, cucumber, jalapeño. Every flavor was distinct from the next. Stuffed with fresh greenery, the one thing I missed were pickled carrots and daikon. You can add the pickled romanesco that comes on the side and, while it’s a little awkward because of its bulk, it does add the desired sweet/tanginess to cut through the richness of the meats. A truly worthy rendition of this beloved sandwich. Worth it at $16? I’m going to say yes, as every part of these sandwiches is made in-house.
Next, the egg salad sandwich.
This is in the style of the famed Japanese egg salad sandwich, which are available in local convenience stores in Japan. They’re known for being ultra-creamy, and this was certainly that. Gorgeous orange yolks and clouds of perfectly tender egg whites all nestle lusciously in a not-too-much mustardy mayo, a bit Kewpie-like. The bread was akin to a Japanese milk bread: Puffy, soft and giving, but again sturdy enough to hold in all that richness. Our only beef was that it could have used a little more salt, as the egg mixture was a touch bland.
My final sandwich was the meatball:
The description of this beauty, before I finally got it in front of my gaping maw, led me to believe it was an Italian-style meatball sandwich, as the menu describes a tomato sauce. However, it’s clearly not; there was no discernible tomato sauce, and while it didn’t necessarily have a Vietnamese sensibility, it leaned more toward that. Lots of good scallion action. In any case, those pork balls were ineffably tender, herby, and once again the house-made baguette was perfect. As with the egg or banh mi, this could have used a touch more salt and/or heat, but still quite impressive, and very filling.
I’ve yet to try the wild Spanish mackerel baguette, or the veggie with mushroom pâté, but I’m sure to go back. I spoke to a manager there on one visit, who said they were considering opening on Saturdays soon. Seems like a no-brainer, as these would be great to take to a picnic at Dolores Park. You can order online or walk in. The wait times seem to be very short, even with the lines outside I saw in the first few days.
At the store, there’s also a nice array of prepared products to buy: Phan’s own Wo Hing crunchy chili crisp, fermented hot sauce, pottery, etc. Chuck’s Takeaway is also serving up Vietnamese coffee and Thai iced teas, fresh mandarin soda, and cookies — again, all house-made.
Very happy to see Chef Phan back in the old ‘hood!
Chuck’s Takeaway (website)
3332 18th St.