A search for parking turned me on to a really cheap $3 lunch today. I was intending to eat at Vien Dong, home to tasty, inexpensive Vietnamese soup. I turned right off 38th, looking for parking and found a surprise – a second Cafe La Vie tucked into a refurbished house in a residential street. It's an outpost of the other Cafe La Vie on 38th.
The second Cafe La Vie has been open for about seven months and, like its sister restaurant around the corner, the menu is micro focused on Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches and Vietnamese coffee. The second location, however, is far more clean and spacious than its original counterpart.
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The sandwiches come with a choice of three meats – ham, turkey or pate. It's $3 for a sandwich with one meat and all the works. There's also a meatier deluxe sandwich on the menu for $4.50, but I opted for the cheaper versions.
My sandwich came with thinly sliced "ham" that was marbled with fat and had a sweet flavor. It's not your typical deli ham, but more a cut of pork you might find at a Vietnamese market. It came on a toasted, crunchy baguette smeared with a small amount of mayo and drizzled lightly with fish sauce. Tucked into the sandwiches were whole cilantro leaves, thin slices of jalapeno, pickled carrots and thin slices of cucumbers. My dining partner opted for the sandwich with turkey, ham and pate. He liked the interior fillings, but he thought the pate was too watery. I agreed. I'd stick with a sandwich without the pate.
Both sandwiches were a tasty and cheap treat at three bucks each, although not as good as the banh mi sandwiches I've enjoyed at the Vietnamese sandwich shops at 12th and Jackson in Seattle's International District (Saigon Deli and Seattle Deli have better selections and ingredients, and the last time I visited, the sandwiches were still under $3 each). But in Tacoma, a good banh mi sandwich is a rare find. And Cafe La Vie's sandwiches are cheap, filling and recession friendly at $3, which includes tax.
Speaking of good deals, if you're looking for ways to save your dining dollars, check out my collection of steals and bargains here.
Cafe La Vie (second location)
Where: 3724 Yakima Ave. S., 253-472-3724
Hours: 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily