Maneuvering down Scott Street nowadays can be a pain with the off-and-on construction of Metro's new light rail line and the University of Houston’s new football stadium. But weaving through the rocks, rumble, and vibrant orange traffic cones is worth it when the destination is Hoàng Sandwich, one of the surviving businesses in the strip at Scott and Elgin near the UH main campus.
3509 Elgin St.
A bookstore has come and gone, a bar turned Fish Place has seen its day, but Hoàng Sandwich remains one of the busiest places on that corner. During lunch hour, nearly every seat is filled in the shoebox-size Vietnamese eatery and for good reason: all the menu items are less than $7 and no matter you order, it comes in abundance.
The pho, for example, in its wide-rimed soup bowl is chockfull of meat or tofu, vegetables, and warm, sensational broth. While Hoàng Sandwich offers nearly 30 soups, my go-to is hu tieu bo kho, a beef stew with rice noodles (the number 50 on their menu of about 70 items).
Yes, it’s June, and, yes, it’s Houston, but in the comfort of Hoàng Sandwich's air-conditioned dining room and with a cold Thai tea in hand, that stew knows no season or region. The broth is dark and rich and the beef chucks are tender and fatty—so much so that fat jiggles off the sides and mingles with the broth, adding grease and zest. Chives, carrots, and onions drift on top and a ball of clear rice noodles bathes in all the flavors at the bottom of the bowl.
Of all the different variations of soup offered, they still have a rival on the menu: the simple banh mi are convenient, incredibly inexpensive, and tasty. Ten sandwiches are offered, including a tofu sandwich. A few of the meat options include ham, chicken, meatball, and sardines.
The grilled chicken sandwich (ga nuong) with its thick, flaky, crunchy French bread and shredded carrots, cucumbers, and fresh jalapeños is a satisfying $2.50 lunch. All of the sandwiches, in fact, are $2.50, and you can add extra meat for only 50 cents more.
You'll find other authentic Vietnamese dishes on the menu as well, including yaour Vietnam: sweet, tangy Vietnamese yogurt that's perfect for dessert. So pay no mind to those construction sites and headache traffic—you'll forget all about them once you're halfway through a cheap, delicious sandwich or elbow-deep in a bowl of soup at Hoàng Sandwich.