Banh Mi Dac Biet at Thien An

We've been to Cali Sandwich (3030 Travis St.) more times than we can count. It's definitely our go-to cheap Vietnamese sandwich spot. But somehow, we missed Thien An (2905 Travis), only a short distance away.

On a mission to get us to try his favorite Vietnamese sandwich shop, our friend brought us banh mi dac biet sandwiches and soft spring rolls for lunch. We're adventurous eaters, so we didn't mind the mystery-meat sandwich we were about to consume.

According to the menu, a banh mi dac biet contains pate, ham, chicken, pork sausage and meatballs. To be honest, you can't really tell what is what, but we do know there were no meatballs on our sandwich. Our friend told us that sometimes the sandwich even has tripe. This is not for the faint of heart. For them, Thien An has regular Vietnamese sandwiches with just chicken, ham or veggies.

In addition to a wide variety of unusual meats, our sandwich came with cilantro, cucumber, pickled carrots, and large slices of fresh jalapeños with the seeds. You can also get the sandwich with Vietnamese mayo, but we prefer it with just Sriracha. But watch out for renegade hot sauce. Our friend squirted it in his eye on the first bite. Not the way you want to enjoy your sandwich.

All the different flavors came together to make a pretty good sandwich. The bread was crusty on the outside and a bit soggy on the inside from all the juices. The fresh jalapeños did get too spicy for even our hot sauce-addicted palate, so we just pulled them off the sandwich. But, the best part was the price.

For only $3, you get a big Vietnamese sandwich stuffed with lots of meats and veggies. Our dining companions ate the spring rolls after the sandwich, but we were full. It may not be the world's best sandwich, but it's a whole lot better than anything else you could get for $3. And now we have a good alternative to Cali.

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Jane Catherine Collins