Lee's Sandwiches at Eastport Plaza (Ben Waterhouse, Special to the Oregonian)
Lee's Sandwiches is a Vietnamese fast food chain, headquartered in San Jose, that serves foot-long banh mi and sugary drinks from 47 locations in California, plus a handful in Arizona, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas and, as of October, Portland's Eastport Plaza. While the deli's goods don't measure up to the best of its local competition, the new restaurant is a inexpensive spot for a post-movie meal or pre-Walmart caffeine boost.
Combination, top, and BBQ Pork banh mi from Lee's Sandwiches
The chow: The main event are sandwiches of Vietnamese or European cold cuts stuffed in a fresh-baked baguette that is somewhat denser than the ones made by An Xuyen or Binh Minh. The Combination ($4) offers pork headcheese and pate, a plus for adventurous eaters, but the BBQ Pork ($3.79) wins out on taste. Club sandwiches on croissants are also available ($4.60–$5). A heated case on the counter contains crisp spring rolls and pate chaud ($1.45), a pastry puff containing a juicy pork meatball. Throw in a pair of fried sesame-paste balls ($1) or a mysteriously green waffle filled with shredded coconut ($1.80) for dessert.
Real deals: Half Asian sandwich, $2.
Hangout factor: The restaurant is brightly lit and decorated in primary colors reminiscent of IKEA. A pair of TVs offer something to look at while you scarf your sandwich.
Pastries from Lee's Sandwiches: from left, pate chaud, banh cam (sesame balls) and coconut waffle
Liquids: Coffee ($1.90–$4.50); fruit smoothies ($2.50–$4.50); Italian soda ($3.30–$4.30); frappe ($4–$5); fountain soda ($2–$2.50); Thai iced tea ($2.90–$3.90); fresh-squeezed juice ($3–$5); sugarcane juice ($4–$5).
What's half-baked? Unless you love the smell of rotten garlic, stay away from the very fresh durian smoothie, which carries a strong enough scent to make the drive home unbearable.
Inside tips: Love Lee's coffee? Among the assorted packaged foods displayed for waiting customers is a concentrate that will let you make the alarmingly sweet stuff in the comfort of your home.
The numbers: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily; 4124 SE 82nd Ave., Suite 788; 503-206-4218; leesandwiches.com.
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