I did a U-turn on Gessner when I saw the sign in front of the Vietnam Poblano restaurant. I expected to find some kind of Viet-Mex fusion food inside. It turned out to be a pretty typical Vietnamese sandwich shop with a few twists. The sandwich fillings include Korean bulgogi and roasted pork belly, and you can add fried eggs or avocado.
"So what's the poblano part of the name about?" I asked the the Vietnamese-American counterman who took my order.
"When we started out, we thought we were going to serve tacos too, but we decided to focus on the sandwiches first," he explained. "We might add some more Mexican stuff later."
I got a roasted pork sandwich with avocado. The fatty roasted pork belly was rolled up and cut very thin so it looked like a slice of Italian salumi. The bread was fresh and crispy, and the rest of the fillings were excellent, except that all the seeds and white pith were cut out of the jalapeño so it had very little heat. I remedied that by adding some chile paste from a jar at the condiment stand.
The counter guy brought me free sample of the restaurant's alphabet soup. I was a little surprised. "Do they eat alphabet soup in Vietnam?" I asked him.
"No, but it's very popular in the Southwest," he explained.
"The Southwest?" I repeated with a puzzled expression.
"You know, Bellaire Boulevard," he said. "I think Saigon Pagolac started serving it, and now lots of Vietnamese restaurants down there have it."
The soup was mediocre, but I appreciated the geography lesson. Now I know that in H-town parlance, "the Southwest" means Chinatown—not Santa Fe.