Sunday, July 09, 2006

Zon Baguettes - Tustin

I heart Tustin.

Time and time again, it has proven itself as a fertile breeding ground for unique and eclectic restaurants. It's no wonder that when hunger hits, my mind and stomach inevitably wander into Tustin: one of O.C.'s best food towns.

Zon Baguettes is just exactly the type of place I expect to find here. A Vietnamese sandwich shop far removed from the hustle and bustle of Little Saigon's Bolsa Avenue, with no ties to any corporate franchise, it is an independent in every sense of the word -- a fitting new entry to Tustin's remarkable restaurant repertoire.

But its grand opening this past Saturday occurred without fanfare. There was a plastic banner draped over the front of the shop advertising the time and date of the event, but otherwise the traffic on Newport Avenue was oblivious. Most of the customers present that day seemed to be personally acquainted with the owner; well-wishers bringing gifts of plants tied up with bright red ribbons.

Nonetheless, the store was still busy with activity. And the space it occupied, although a fraction of the size of Lee's Sandwiches in Irvine, was just as polished.

I sampled three of their banh mi's, walking away with a free promotional baguette to boot.

Although the Shredded Chicken banh mi ($2.00) was what I ordered and paid for, it wasn't what I received. Instead, they mistakenly wrapped up a Grilled Chicken, which was actually a few cents more expensive.

For the sandwich, charbroiled strips of white meat chicken was stuffed inside a French bread hoagie roll with the usual suspects of pickled carrots/daikon, sprigs of cilantro, sliced cucumber and scorching jalapeno. The meat -- smoky sweet and moist -- went well with the accoutrements and most of all, the bread, which was supple with a hearty crust.

The BBQ Pork banh mi ($2.00) was adorned with thin slices of the Chinese restaurant staple, char siu. Lean and rimmed with red food coloring, the pork was tooth-tender, but it was the snappy and cooling garden fresh veggies that made up the bulk of the filling - a feature that had my inner vegetarian rejoicing.

However, had the carnivore in me not been suppressed by the muggy weather, it would have lamented that the skimpy serving of swine was swaying to the sorrier side of satisfactory.

They were more generous with the Special Combo ($2.75) which was layered with a few flaps of char siu and other cuts of meat they called "Vietnamese bologna" and "jambon." An earthy smear of chicken-liver pate was also present, but almost undetectable.

Still it was a tasty sandwich and quite filling since it's bigger and longer than the average banh mi. As a result, just one was enough to amply stamp out my hunger.

But if the sandwich hadn't been enough, there was that baguette that came free with a $5 minimum purchase. Tearing into it revealed a fluffy interior which came alive with slathering of butter. Each chewy bite produced a savory-salty tang and the mildly tart, intoxicating aroma of yeast.

The crust, although not as satisfyingly crackly and crisp like those at Top Baguette in Westminster, is worlds better than the rock-hard loaves sold by Lee's, which has the uncanny ability of cutting-up my cheek and inducing jaw fatigue within minutes.

Zon's baguettes are gentler souls, at home and at your service, here in Tustin.

Zon Baguettes
14081 Newport Ave.
Tustin, CA 92780


At 2:46 AM, Blogger Juliet said...

Sounds nummers. I will make a point of going. I guess our family will have lots of new places in Tustin to try on our next visit. The only one we went to last time was the place with the fish tacos.

At 7:40 AM, Blogger Passionate Eater said...

I couldn't agree with you more about your assessment of the baguettes from Lee's Sandwiches. They are "too" crusty and way "too" tasteless. I think that making baguettes short and squat helps to promote interior fluffiness and golden-brown crustiness. Lee's Sandwiches makes those long and skinny baguettes, which are dried out and tooth-shattering.

Also, yea! I am glad that you got a little surprise in getting a free grilled chicken upgrade! Just for that, I'd return to this place!!

At 8:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Elmo - You know, it's really hard to say bad things about a $2 sandwich...... It's great that you have diverse choices for food.

At 11:06 AM, Blogger Anne said...

I LOVE banh mi's but haven't really found a great one in Los Angeles...can you recommend a good one somewhere near Pasadena?

At 2:11 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Funny enough I tried the fish tacos place (Los Cotija's) for the first time last week. I'll probably blog about that experience next.


Also, the other problem with Lee's, I think, is that those machines overwork the dough to the point that its overrun by gluten. This makes for hard and leaden bread...although as a wiffle bat, Lee's baguettes fare quite well.


Yup. This $2 sandwich was filling, good, and cheap. It's a few more cents more expensive than Banh Mi Che Cali (which remains my favorite), but hey that's a few cents I'll spend if I can avoid 405 traffic at rush hour.

Even with the few slices of char siu in the BBQ Pork sandwich, I was quite happy and sated.


I'd recommend Banh Mi Che Cali (which I believe is in Rosemead). It's perhaps the best in Little Saigon, and I've heard the branch in SGV is just as good.

At 4:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

isn't "jambon" french for ham?
sounds great. i love all your reviews!!

At 7:06 PM, Blogger 冬冬 said...

tried Zon Baguettes today... had their Special Combo.

It's true that they do give you more meat than Lee's Sandwiches, but like you said, the pate was only a little smear and with no taste. Pate is the ingrediant that I love the most about these sandwiches, so it was a thumbs down for me. :P

At 7:30 PM, Blogger Christine D. said...

So my sister and i were deciding what to eat for dinner. She's REALLY picky and i can't take her anywhere new unless she's in the mood for something that i crave (happens like once in a blue moon). I said "What some banh mi?" She said "NO!"

Guess I'll have to try this place by myself one of these days.

At 7:31 PM, Blogger Christine D. said...

lol i meant "want" not "what"

I talk fobby even though i was born here!!

At 9:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Tustin is truly a great secret for food. Between Honda-Ya and a ton of other places I have seen, I am constantly amazed that it gets overlooked.

Great review as always. I am now craving a banh mi, but I have to go to Lee's in Mesa to get one. :o(

Oh, well, guess I will settle for a cheese crisp. :o)

Best wishes.

At 1:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm all for the proliferation of these vietnamese sandwich joints! They're a great alternative to traditional fast food and I love them oh so much. Guess I gotta start visiting Tustin more often :)

At 6:49 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


You're right! Jambon is French for ham! Makes sense now when I think about it.


Pate is the best! Banh Mi Che Cali's sandwiches are redolent of the stuff...which is why I love 'em. Too bad Zon's a little stingy with it. Perhaps they're afraid the people in the neighborhood aren't ready yet.


This place is great when those banh mi cravings hit and you don't want to get on the 405 to quench it. It doesn't take the place of Banh Mi Che Cali, but it sure has made Lee's nothing but a distant memory in my mind.


I hope you do get to try it soon. If not for anything else but to get the free baguette with a $5 minimum purchase.


Next time you come down, I'm going to treat you to Zon's or better yet Banh Mi Che Cali, time permitting.


I don't know how far you live from Tustin, but with Honda-Ya, Dosa Place, Noodle Avenue, Zov's, Tropika, Waikiki Hawaiian Grill, and countless others, I'd drive from as far as La Habra to eat in this city. Thankfully, I live only a few minutes away.

At 10:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

tried zon on Saturday.....had the dac biet. flavorless and bland. the sandwiches at the food to go joint on mcfadden are much better. pho cali still reigns supreme for me

At 7:24 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


There's a to-go place on McFadden? What's it called? And where? I'm curious.

The Bill,

I concur. Even after the $0.25 price hike, Banh Mi Che Cali is still the best bargain and the best tasting!

At 4:28 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Hope you like it! BTW, the Chocolate Smoothie is pretty refreshing in this weather, but the Honeydew Smoothie was a bit too sour.

At 10:56 AM, Blogger e d b m said...

Lee's always cuts up the roof of my mouth - not a delightful culinary experience. I usually order two, but the 2nd one is left for later eating due to injuries. I prefer Baguette Express on Valley Blvd (Rosemead) over Lee's and Mr. Baguette because the bread is softer.

At 9:45 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Added to that Lee's really skimps on the fillings. One thing I do love at Lee's are those deep fried hot wings. Except, I think the last time, they were the cause of really bad food poisoning.

At 2:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recommendation, this place is awesome! Best baguette I've had outside of Paris.

At 5:15 PM, Blogger OC Paul said...

I stopped by for lunch and found that they had pre-package vermicelli noodles with egg rolls and grilled bbq pork (otherwise known as Bun Cha Gio). It was ready to go with no wait so I tried it and it was pretty good even with the soggy eggrolls. It's not on their menu but they'll make it for you if you ask. I believe it was about $4.

At 9:16 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


It's good ain't it? It's best to eat their sandwiches and baguettes in store, as they degrade exponentially the longer you wait. I had it for lunch the other day and the crisp, hot crust and supple crumb hit the spot.

My favorite is the Vietnamese meatball. Their other items are good too, but the BBQ pork is still skimpy...really skimpy!

OC Paul,

Excellent tip! I might ask for them to make me a fresh one when I lunch there next.

At 11:42 AM, Anonymous Kim at Rustic Garden Bistro said...

Greetings from a Tustin resident. I LOVE THIS PLACE. :)


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