photo credit: Julia Chen
We had high expectations for Chuck’s Takeaway. After all, the bánh mì shop is from the chef behind The Slanted Door, the longstanding and beloved upscale Vietnamese restaurant. But similar to a lukewarm Jack Harlow verse or our recent tweet that only got one like, the sandwiches at Chuck’s mostly fall flat.
This takeout-only lunch place in the Mission isn’t a traditional bánh mì spot. They serve mainly bánh mì, but there are a few other kinds of sandwiches not on baguettes, like egg salad on milk bread and Greek-style lamb stuffed in pita. And instead of just variations of grilled meats, fillings range from roasted eggplant with mushroom pâté to pork cha with shallot mayo. We’re completely down to see different ingredients in our bánh mì. But while the sandwiches are not outright bad, they simply lack flavor. And at $16 a piece, you’re better off spending that money at other bánh mì shops in the city, like Saigon Sandwich or Ty Sandwich.
The fillings are where Chuck’s runs into problems. The pâtés and pork cha in CP’s No. 3—their take on a special combination—are too mild to taste like anything substantive. And the vegetarian version with eggplant is overpowered by cilantro. It doesn’t help that the seasonally rotating roster of pickles comes on the side. But even when you add the crunchy pickled jalapeños, cauliflower, or sliced carrots into the sandwiches, there’s still not enough flavor to give each bite the umami punch we crave in a bánh mì.
There are redeeming qualities to a meal here. For starters, the baguettes are fantastic. They’re made in-house, and are crispy on the outside and airy in the middle—we have no notes. The chocolate chip, peanut, and oatmeal raisin cookies are perfectly baked and, like Riley Curry at a 2015 NBA press conference, will absolutely steal the spotlight. And the wall covered in quirky dog portraits might make you briefly forget about the fact that you just spent $7 on an iced coffee the size of a hamster.
The idea of using ingredients we don’t usually see in bánh mì sounds exciting and fresh. But Chuck’s doesn’t execute this vision in a way that makes us want to come back. For now, there are other spots we’ll head to when we’re in the mood for bánh mì.
CP’s No. 3
The mild flavors of the pork and chicken liver pâtés, pork cha, shallot mayo, and cucumber make this a pretty underwhelming sandwich. We just wish the pâtés were richer and that there was more saltiness to them. However, the bread is excellent.
One of the vegetarian options on the menu, and one of the sandwiches we’d probably order again. The slow-cooked eggplant, tofu “cha,” and mushroom pâté under a mountain of cilantro have a nice earthy taste. Most of the flavor here actually comes from the sliced jalapeños, though.
Jo Jo’s Bollito
One of the three non-bánh mì sandwiches on the menu. The Italian-inspired combo has a toasted bun, braised beef belly, and salsa verde—and sounds great on paper. Unfortunately, the beef belly is overwhelmed by too much fat, and the sandwich devolves into a squishy mess.
Another bánh mì we wish had more flavor. The tender texture we look for in a meatball is there, but it just ends up tasting like a diluted version of pork.
This is an injection of caffeine straight into your bloodstream, and overall fantastic. It’s caramel-y and creamy, and brewed to order. Be warned: it’s served in a comically small cup.
Chocolate Chip Cookie
It’s crisp, golden-brown perfection, and finished with a sprinkling of sea salt. We hate to say it—this might actually be the best thing on the menu.