When it comes to seafood, I'm a fairly decent cook. If I outdo anybody, it's because I embrace an ingredient everybody overlooks out of ignorance or some misplaced sense of spite. It's the lowly sardine, that smelly little David to marine life's Goliath and primordial proof that even Nature sticks her fingers in the toot jar from time to time.
What ya don't know is that sardines are actually herring. Use 'em right, and sardines are a serious seasoning and a welcome addition to your body's engine, which in your case has apparently been misfiring since its days on the assembly line.
If sardines are that useful to a casual cook, imagine what roles they play between two slices of crusty bread at Saigon Sandwiches & Deli. This place is stuck in the middle of a tacky City Heights strip mall, with an oversize Laundromat and the grit from passing trucks for company—but its sardine sandwich ($3.25) is nothing short of culinary genius, its oily, briny taste nestled between zesty onions and balmy cucumber for balance. The vegetables are pickled, too—that leaves everything but the sardine in a semi-crunchy state, letting the fish stand out the way it should. Eleven other types of sandwiches and an omelet are on sale here, none more than $3.50. Get a $3 smoothie to go with your fare, and you can spend the rest of your $20 on a pack of Vietnamese cigarettes or a can of grass jelly, said to have a cooling effect on the body.
Saigon Sandwiches & Deli is at 4133 University Ave. and is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. The number is 619-284-3034. If you're calling ahead to reserve the restroom, forget it. This eatery has no public toilets. Then again, unless you're Larry Craig, you're probably not gonna eat your sandwich in a restroom. You're gonna savor it in the light of day, where it belongs.