On Monday, February 7, Slanted Door chef Charles Phan officially returns to the Mission — where his acclaimed Vietnamese restaurant got its start back in 1995 — to push mile-high banh mi and egg salad sandwiches on fluffy milk bread across the counter of his casual new sandwich shop, Chuck’s Takeaway.
As Eater SF reported earlier this month, the narrow, high-ceilinged space is actually the front of the chef’s 10,000-square-foot commissary kitchen, the beating stainless steel heart of his restaurant operations, where the chef spent many pandemic months perfecting his recipes for the perfect Vietnamese baguette, soft milk bread, and sourdough boule. And now, having finally achieved the ideal juxtaposition of crackly golden crust to airy interior, Phan is ready to roll out his tight menu of six sandwiches, all served on fresh-baked bread.
The CP No. 3 (the name being a sort-of inside joke about the best item on a menu always being the third) comes closest to a traditional banh mi, sporting a thick stack of three meats: made-in-house pate, pork cha, and chicken liver pate. But Phan insists putting pickles in banh mi only overwhelms the other ingredients, so a pile of vinegary vegetables comes on the side with shallot mayo, soft herbs, cucumber, jalapeno tucked inside the baguette. There’s also a vegetarian banh mi, the Wurster Hall, that swaps meat for eggplant, yuba cha, and a smooth mushroom pate.
Breaking from the banh mi form altogether, Phan and chef Dong Choi offer the Mom’s Meatballs starring pork meatballs and tomato sauce; an Italian-inspired bollito dripping with braised beef belly and piquant salsa verde; and that aforementioned egg salad on milk bread, intended to be an entirely soft textural experience. The final sandwich option is open-face; the Tuna by Design layers Olle’s olive oil tuna, more of that shallot mayo, and wild arugula on slides of sourdough.
All of the sandwiches cost $16, a price that reflects the fact that Phan and Choi, are making absolutely everything, from the bread and pate to the pickles and mayonnaise, in-house. Phan’s keeping things as simple as possible so the rest of the menu consists of three flavors — orgeat, raspberry, and passionfruit — of housemade spritzers inspired by childhood memories; coffee and espresso, including Vietnamese coffee, made with Saint Frank beans; and four varieties of tea. A trio of cookies (chocolate chip sea salt, oatmeal raisin, and peanut butter) aim to satisfy the sweet tooth.
The space itself is long and narrow, with diners entering through an understated door off 18th Street. Slide inside and look right to find a bank of warm wooden cubbies flaunting Phan’s new line of condiments called Wo Hing General Store. There’s a fragrant chile oil, dangerously hot housemade Sriracha, and hoisin. Local ceramics, cookbooks, and other sundries will fill out the selection. Customers will place orders at the wood-topped counter at the back of the space and take them to-go — perhaps home, perhaps up the street to Mission Dolores Park.
Chuck’s Takeaway will be open 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Friday starting February 7.