San Francisco is rife with food trucks, food pop-ups and food incubators. All with great ideas for food looking to build an audience and following in hopes of one day turning their dream into a full fledged brick and mortar business. One such success story is Bun Mee. They seem to have made the progression up the foodie ladder to become a pretty popular sandwich shop with not one but two locations. I'd had their takes on a banh mi during their food pop-up/food market days but had yet to try their fully established location on Fillmore. When I saw they opened a second store on Market Street I thought now was a good time to give both of them a try and see how they were holding up. Here's a shot of the inside of both places.
The new Market Street location (which used to be a Wendy's where homeless folks held the door open for you looking for change--they don't do that here) is a long space with high ceilings making it seem big which in relation to the original it is. Fillmore is a short narrow space that gets full quickly and can feel crowded, which is probably why many folks got theirs to go when I was there. But roominess aside, the menus are the same and since they are known first for their sandwiches I went with those to get a taste and see if one does it better than the other. (okay they really don't but it seemed like a good idea for this post) From Market Street I got the belly bun and from Fillmore I got Hanoi-style crispy catfish.
Each comes with a few of the same toppings--cilantro, cucumber, shaved onion, pickled carrot and daikon and jalapeño. (I recommend getting them all) The belly is Kurobuta pork belly with salted radish relish and for $1 extra I had them add an egg, which I also recommend. After one bite I knew this was a great sandwich. Every flavor on here was strong and complimentary to one another. The belly was fatty, rich and tender and the relish added some nice saltiness which itself was offset by the sweetness of the pickled carrots and daikon. The egg was also perfectly cooked with just a touch of yolk to break and run through the sandwich. Even the cilantro helped give it a flash of brightness in flavor. Somehow it all just works perfectly. It is a bit messy after the first few bites so get plenty of napkins or use a fork and knife if you are overly tidy. Either way it's definitely worth trying.
The Hanoi-style crispy turmeric fried catfish came with the same basic toppings plus a red curry mayo. Best I could tell Hanoi-style just means deep fried because that's what it looked like--a very lightly battered and deep fried piece of fish. The turmeric I really couldn't taste flavor wise, it really just gave the fish a slight yellow color on the outside. Though it didn't really matter. I'm a catfish fan and this was light, flaky and cooked just right. Sometimes it did get lost a bit under all the toppings from the sweet to the hot to the red curry mayo. Overall I did like this sandwich but wish the piece of fish had been just a bit bigger and maybe cut down on the carrots a touch, otherwise, it was still good. But if I have to choose I'd go with the belly.
While there I also got sides of sweet potato fries and salt and pepper fries.
Both of these were fine, cooked to order, hot and crispy. The sweet potatoes came with the red curry mayo as a dipping sauce and the mix of sweet and spicy was very tasty. The fries came with sautéed onions and jalapeños which for me didn't really add that much to them. Would have much preferred to have that dipping sauce with these also, I'll know to ask for it for next time. Otherwise, decent basic sides but you should really get the sweet potatoes.
Sandwiches here run $6.75 which from my journeys around town are a darn good price considering most places start around $8 and go up from there. The fries are $3 a basket and there are more than enough for two people to share, unless you are really hungry. All in all the place is that rarest of creature in San Francisco--good value and good food for not a lot of money. Service wise, even though Fillmore was packed they day I went the food came out quickly and hot. At Market Street, I was there on a late afternoon and while it wasn't too busy it did take about 20 minutes for the sandwich and fries to come up, plus there was some confusion about whether they would bring it too me or if I had to come get it. I figured since I got one of those numbers on a stick they'd deliver, but after those 20 minutes I went up to check on my food and it was sitting on the counter and I had to ask for it. A little strange but since they've only been open about a month I'll look past it. Plus the sandwich was pretty damn good and in the end good food always win out, right?