Lee’s Store and Bakery

Another worthy source for one of Boston’s best budget sandwiches
By MC SLIM JB  |  May 14, 2010

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Lee’s Store and Bakery | Located at 982 Dorchester Avenue in Dorchester, is open from 6am to 9pm, Monday to Saturday, and 7am to 8pm on Sunday. Call 617.822.0098.
I’ve long relied on Web sites like Chowhound and Yelp for tips on new restaurants. Last year, I jumped on the social-media bandwagon, adding thousands of friends on Twitter and Facebook, many with restaurant-industry ties. My new intelligence channel quickly reaped benefits: when I bemoaned the closing of King Do Baguette, my lone known source for a sardine bánh mì, a Facebook friend suggested Lee’s. Sure enough, this little Dorchester bakery and convenience store, with its oddball mix of Western, Vietnamese, and Cantonese pastries, cakes, groceries, and sundries, has bánh mì for takeout in six varieties, including sardines.

Each bánh mì ($2.50) starts with the critical foundation of great bread, here a fresh 12-inch baguette with a super-crackly crust, courtesy of some added rice flour. This is filled with shredded, lightly pickled carrots, a long spear of fresh cucumber, a lot of fresh cilantro, some mandolined white onions, and a schmear of mayo, occasionally with the yellow tint of added oleo. Request “spicy” and it gets sprinkled with slices of tiny fresh green chilies, packing surprising heat. Last is the meat of your choice, including meatball (made from pork, crushed just before serving into a coarse pate), ham combo (actually a trio of cold cuts resembling head cheese, mortadella, and char siu pork), beef (like shredded brisket), or shredded pork skin (like steamed chicharrón, bland and quite chewy).

A few pointers: English is spotty here, so be sure to insist on “Vietnamese style,” or you’ll get an American sub with (gasp) cheese and none of the good salad-y stuff. Bánh mì are done for the day when the rolls are gone, so call ahead to check on availability after about 2pm. Sometimes there’s no Vietnamese iced coffee ($2); at other times, no Vietnamese beef stew with bread ($2.50). But there are always excellent smoothies ($3) based on an array of fruits both familiar (avocado, mango, strawberry/banana) and strange (like jackfruit or the confoundingly stinky/sweet durian), with or without tapioca pearls. Canned soft drinks ($1.50) range from standard American sodas to Asian beverages like coconut juice, flavored soymilk, and the amaro-like grass jelly drink. As for the much-sought sardine bánh mì, it’s just okay: the fish canned, lightly mashed, a bit like Chicken of the Sea. But that’s a quibble. I’m still elated to have found Lee’s: its terrific sandwiches rank among the tastiest under–$3 lunches in town.

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  Topics: On The Cheap , Internet, Science and Technology, Banh Mi,  More more >
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