March 17, 2010

Eat & RunKim's sandwiches pack a lot of taste for a small price

— From staff reports

Simply put, Kim's Sandwich and Cafe on Portland's St. John Street is a great find. It would be pretty darn hard to find a better value for a really tasty lunch.

For just $2.75 to $3, you get a 10-inch sandwich on a baguette-style roll, with fillings including Vietnamese shredded pork with scallion sauce, Asian meatballs, cured pork with pate and barbecue beef.

Sandwiches are piled high with pickled daikon and carrots, onion, spicy peppers, cilantro, house mayonnaise, soy sauce and cucumbers. The most expensive sandwich is $3.50, and features grilled pork, barbecue steak and a pate.

The sandwiches at Kim's are listed as ''French'' or ''Paris sandwiches.'' Vietnam was a French colony, and lots of Vietnamese cooking has a French influence.

On a recent Friday, I bought four sandwiches on the way home and spent just $11. The four I sampled were barbecue beef steak with scallion sauce, $2.75; Vietnamese shredded pork with scallion sauce, $2.75; Asian meatballs, $2.75; and grilled chicken, $3.

The rolls were not quite as hard as baguettes, but lightly crispy on the outside. They were delicious, and had the perfect consistency for holding in fillings without being too chewy.

The scallion sauce on the sandwiches was only slightly spicy, and a little sweet. The vegetables all tasted fresh and crispy. The Asian meatballs were pork, and tasted like the inside of a dumpling. The shredded pork and shredded chicken were both tender, and the barbecue beef had a nice spicy kick to it.

There are about a dozen sandwiches in all. Other sandwiches range from ham and turkey to the ''special combination'' featuring jambon, headcheese, pork roll and pate for $2.75.

The menu also includes fruit smoothies ($3) and French-style or Vietnamese-style coffee ($2), as well as various other drinks and desserts. The place is also a market/gift shop, so there are all sorts of packaged Asian foods and things to take home and cook, such as sausages.

It's a lively place to wait for your sandwiches, as you can browse clothing, trinkets and foods from Vietnam while Asian music blares from loudspeakers. There's plenty for small children to look at and see and hear while waiting.

Kim's is located on St. John Street, across from Union Station Plaza and just a block off Congress Street.

When or if the weather improves, Kim's would be a great place to grab some sandwiches before heading to a bench on the Western Promenade for a picnic.

And you should know that Kim's doesn't take credit or debit cards, cash only. But you won't need much.

The Features staff of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram anonymously samples meals for about $7.

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