If There’s a Better Downtown Sandwich Than Mendocino Farm’s Pork Belly Banh Mi, I’d Like to Know About It
There are sandwiches, and then there are SANDWICHES. Sandwiches are those things your boring co-worker eats or brings from home. Turkey and swiss, grilled chicken and avocado, deli counter roast beef with lettuce and tomato… the list goes on and on. Do they taste bad? Of course not. Who doesn’t like a good sandwich? But they’re not Midtown Lunches. I’m looking to get something more out of my lunch hour… and by more, I mean can you dip that roast beef sandwich in some gravy?’ Deep fry that chicken? Do something that shows you care just a little bit (beyond buying your bread from a good bakery, or not pre-slicing your boar’s head.)
When I first heard about Mendocino Farms, the ultra popular sandwich shop with two locations Downtown, I was pretty skeptical. This is L.A. after all, and there are no shortage of recommended lunch options that clearly put “healthy” in front of “tasty”. I like farm fresh. I like quality ingredients. But I also like things that taste delicious (ideally, with no attention paid to calories), and nobody brings all that together in sandwich form better than Mendocino Farms.
First off, any place that has fatty braised meats on display in dutch ovens is an automatic winner in my book. It also makes up for the fact that they offer their sandwiches “salad style” (WHY, LORD, WHY?!?) Spending over $8 on a sandwich, with no sides, is not ideal- but there’s not a boring sandwich on the list (they even make the turkey club sound good, and believe me that’s a hard thing to do IMO.) And they not only have seasonal sandwiches that change every 3 months, but daily “secret specials” that change monthly, and a Chef’s pick that changes with the farmer’s market.
After seeing the pork belly in that dutch oven, not ordering the Kurobuta Pork Belly Banh Mi would have been a crime against humanity… and boy am I glad I did. The braised pork was equal parts fatty and meaty, with perfect caramelization. The sweet richness of the meat was cut by the pickled veggies that come standard on any banh mi, and the jalapenos added a nice kick.
The bread was all wrong for anything that wears the “banh mi” moniker, but if you just think of it as a sandwich, it’s practically perfect in every way.
We also couldn’t resist ordering the braised lamb (are you seeing a pattern here) sandwich, a Spring special that will only be available until June 1st. If idea of braised, pulled apart, tender lamb is appealing to you, you’ll love this sandwich… although as a warning, being a big fan of goat cheese helps as well (it drowns out some of the other ingredients.)
The wine country steak and brie was also a winner, although up against braised dutch oven goodness the well cooked meat came off as slightly tough. (But only because it was being eaten right after fall apart tender lamb and pork.) I love horseradish + beef, and the brie added a creamy funkiness that took it to a level beyond your average steak sandwich.
In other words, if you work Downtown and haven’t been to Mendocino Farms yet- what the hell is wrong with you? (It’s not like nobody has written about how great is it.) Even if neither location is close to your office, it’s worth traveling the extra distance… provided you’re the kind of person who would choose braised lamb and pork belly over a $5 foot long.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- So bored of the typical sandwich menu. Give me something new…
- I loved braised meats!
- American, provolone, and swiss are not the only cheeses that are sandwich worthy
- They have seasonal sandwiches, and monthly specials… so you’ll never get tired of the menu
- I don’t mind spending extra $$ when the ingredients are this good (and well prepared)
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- $9 for a sandwich?! No thanks. I can get a foot long at Subway.
- Pork belly is too fattening
- Can I just get a plain turkey sandwich?
- Ciabatta?! That is not a banh mi…
- Did I mention the sandwiches are too expensive?
- Why did they put two of these places right next to each other!? Branch out a little bit!
- WTF… no lunchtime parking validation?
Mendocino Farms (Two Locations)
- 300 S. Grand (in the Downtown Plaza water court), 213-620-1114
- 444 S. Flower (on 5th), 213-627-3262