I anticipate your first thought may be, "Ciabatta?" It may not win the authenticity debate, but the Kurobuta Pork Belly Banh Mi ($9.95) at Mendocino Farms is worth a step outside the comfort zone.
This self-proclaimed "playful take" on the Vietnamese sandwich has some familiar components: housemade pickled daikon and carrots and large, fragrant pieces of pork belly. Cucumbers, jalapeno, and cilantro also make an appearance, but the flavor here is less Vietnam and more Los Angeles artisanal.
Instead of a light smear of mayonnaise or pâté, there's chili aioli. Instead of the baguette, there is, yes, grilled ciabatta. Add all of these together, and you have a solid lunch pick that may just get you daydreaming about pickled vegetables, and all they could enhance. Lunch that gets you daydreaming about pickled vegetables? You see my point.
These days, Mendocino Farms is sprouting up all over the Los Angeles area, and it seems that no matter which location you visit, the line is always long. This is due in part to the sheer popularity of the sandwiches and also in part to the fact that someone takes each patron's order by hand before ushering the hungry eater toward the register. To stay patient, feel free to (indeed, you will be asked to) sample the sides and salads in the display case.
3rd and Fairfax 175 S. Fairfax Ave, Suite B, Los Angeles CA 90036 (map) 323-934-4261
West Hollywood 7100 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90046 (map) 323-512-2700
Marina Del Rey 4724 Admiralty Way, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292 (map) 310-822-2300