Banh Mi · Restaurants · Sandwiches · Vietnamese

Thi Thi – Chinatown Institution

Divine Offering met me in Chinatown for lunch. She has an obsession with sandwiches and was craving a banh mi from Thi Thi. We arrived at 12:00 p.m. and waited in line for 23 minutes. Sometimes the line doesn’t move because a customer orders five or ten subs for their friends. Personally, I think Thi Thi should ban this unfair practice and enforce stricter rules when ordering.

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Even though I haven’t eaten at Thi Thi for three years, the owner’s son still recognizes me. He asked me why I haven’t been coming around. I told him it was because I bring my lunch to work. What I didn’t tell him was that when I was a frequent customer, I put on too much weight. The owner interjected and suggested that I should walk more. He observed that the Japanese are so slim because they walk everywhere and don’t drive. He pointed to my sub and asked me if he should make it slimmer. I wanted to say, “Hell no! Leave my banh mi alone! It’s been three lonely years!” Instead, I pursed my lips and indignantly shook my head. For this post, let’s listen to “Let it beby The Beatles.

I ordered the Thi Thi special ($7) – cold cut meat combo with a sprinkling of sate beef. I asked for pate and no mayonnaise. The owner toasts the sub with all the meats before topping it up with vegetables.  I asked for all the toppings but no cilantro. I always request two chili peppers. The owner cuts it up fresh for each order.  In every couple of bites, you get a spicy mouthful.

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The sandwich is the size of Subway foot long. The bread is warm and crusty. The secret to Thi Thi’s deliciousness is the pate mayonnaise – the sauce is both light in texture but rich in flavour. I love how the pate oozes through the air pockets in the bread.

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The vegetables are fresh and crunchy. The cucumber is cut into long thin ribbons. The carrots are pickled and add a contrasting tartness to the savoury flavours of the meats. I like how the bread and meats are warm but the vegetables are cool.

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I tried to munch as slowly as possible because Divine Offering is a leisurely eater. She says it usually takes her half an hour to eat a sandwich, and that’s fast for her. When she realized I had to get back to the office, she started cramming the last quarter of her sub into her mouth. She looked uncomfortable but even when she was scarfing down her food, she was still really slow. At one point I thought she was going to choke. I should have told her to take her time, but I remembered how my colleague once jokingly referred to me as Cratchit. Thanks Divine Offering for making sure I got back to work on time.

Note: Cash only.

Thi Thi Vietnamese Submarine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

17th Ave · Beer · Comfort food · Happy Hour · Restaurants

Alumni Sandwiches

L called me at work to tell me he won an award. Not only that, he was taking his broad out for dinner! There are two restaurants I’ve been wanting to try – Alumni Sandwiches and Pad Thai Restaurant. I picked the former because it was closer to our house. For this post, let’s listen to an old goodie that I heard playing that night – Lauryn Hill “Doo-Wop (That Thing)”.

Our server was bubbly and brimming with excitement when we ordered. She seemed genuinely thrilled when we ordered her favourite dishes. She recommended the Hot Chicken Sandwich ($12), Mexican Torta ($13), and the Chicken Parmesan sandwich ($13). L and I were already hot chickened out, as we just returned back from Nashville. I wanted to try the Vegetarian Torta but L said he wouldn’t share it with me unless there was meat. We decided on the Mexican Torta, Chicken Parmesan sandwich and a Mac Salad ($3). For the torta, I asked for the cilantro on the side so L could still have that noxious weed.

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I planned on ordering  a cocktail but our server told me about their happy hour special, $5 house wine, Alumni lager and a lemonade cocktail. Their house wine is described as “good red” and the other red available is called “better red”. If you are fussy about your wine, don’t get the house. I don’t know why I keep doing this to myself. Actually, I do. I’m hopeful that I’ll find a wine that I love and that’s cheap. I like to dream big. L was happy with his happy hour drink, the Alumni lager. He remarked it was refreshing and ice-cold. I took a sip – nothing wrong with the house beer. Pleasant and easy to drink.

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The Mexican Torta was heavy with ground chorizo and creamy with the Monterey Jack cheese, refried beans and green goddess sauce. This is a messy sandwich. The saucy mixture would periodically ooze out.

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The coleslaw gave the filling a satisfying crunch and the jalapenos provided a spicy heat. I liked how the ciabatto bread was crispy and light. I liked the temperature of the sandwich. It warmed me up a like a bowl of steaming hot soup.

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The Chicken Parmesan was a lighter sandwich compared to the torta. The breaded chicken was thinly sliced an melded with the provolone cheese and tomato sauce. The bright lemon dressed kale salad made this sandwich pop and gave it a bright zing.

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I was a fan of the macaroni salad. The noodles were cold and firm. The macaroni salad tasted like my homemade potato salad. I could taste egg, onion and something tangy.

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To end our meal, we shared an Apple Pie ($7). The crust was flaky and warm. The apples were diced into small little cubes and the sauce actually tasted like apples instead of just sugar and cinnamon. The dulce de leche and vanilla bean ice cream tasted homemade.

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I did end up ordering a cocktail – the Oaxaca Old Fashion ($10). I found this drink smokey and sweet. I should have ordered it in the beginning of my meal, because it didn’t pair well with the apple pie.

I have a greater appreciation of the food scene in Calgary since I’ve returned back from Nashville. In Nashville, the food was good, but it because it was triple fried. You can taste the quality ingredients Alumni uses in all their food. The sandwiches I tried don’t fall into the health food category, but the ingredients tasted real and not processed.

These aren’t the sort of sandwiches you can make at home. I can honestly say I’ve never enjoyed a sandwich more. My brother-in-law Dave is a sandwich connoisseur and previously held title of sandwich artist. He’s been replaced by Alumni. L and I agreed we have to take him here to be wowed. Hitting the Sauce gives Alumni Sandwiches two phat thumbs up.

Alumni Sandwiches Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato