saigon shack, new york city

Saigon Shack
114 MacDougal St, New York, NY, USA

I sure wish I were the kind of person who could live in New York City, because I absolutely love it every time I'm here. It's the energy—cliché, I know, but what can you do? This town is a cocaine buzz even when you're not on cocaine.

Rutherford Chang's 'We Buy White Albums' exhibit

I was in specifically to catch Rutherford Chang's "We Buy White Albums" exhibit in Brooklyn, which was brilliant. A conceptual record store stocking only the White Album, but not selling it. As Yoko Ono herself would say, "Yes."

Always nice catching up with NYC

Walking around afterward, I was reminded how nice it always is to catch up with NYC. It had been far too long since I'd been back, and I chided myself for having been a stranger for so many years. It's like denying yourself the feeling of the sun on your face!

Even so, I couldn't help noticing changes here and there that weren't necessarily for the better. Like, I passed by a building site where they were putting up what would probably just be more goddamned condos.

Does New York really need more new condos?

And for this, they tore down a couple of historic buildings?! 🤧

Ah well, the march of time rolls on. Speaking of time, it was getting near lunchtime, and I happened upon a cute little Vietnamese café … and for reasons I couldn't explain, I stopped in my tracks.

An ominous éjà vu

Something so very familiar … where had I seen this sign before?

💥 BANG! 💥

An image … so hazy and half-recalled …

Another Saigon Shack

More of a feeling, really …

I shook my head. A dream, perhaps? No matter. The smell of braised meats and lemongrass had awakened my appetite. I went in to see about a sandwich.

Inside Saigon Shack

Inside, Saigon Shack was quite crowded, but not oppressively so—the place was alive with young New Yorkers who clearly knew good Vietnamese. The hostess managed to squeeze me in at the bar, which was fine. As she motioned me over to my seat, I noticed a giant hole in the floor …

💥 BANG! 💥

Another image.

Another Saigon Shack flashback

Darker, more disturbing. Something in me had shifted. Where was this coming from? What was the acrid, pungent scent filling the room? And the sound, from deep within the recesses of my mind, of helpless shrieking …

💥 CLANK! 💥

Saigon Shack's classic bánh mì

The plate clattered onto the bar as my server laid it down, snapping me back to the present. Ah, now this is what I was here for! One classic bánh mì sandwich, spicy. Just $5!

I bit into the first half of the sandwich and allowed the ingredients to meld across my tongue. So fresh, so delicious. Now, I'm not all about "authenticity" per se, but this was so perfectly executed in every way, it was hard to imagine a better version of this beloved Vietnamese classic.

💥 BANG! 💥

The flashbacks continue

Criminy jeez-cakes! What the fuck, I was born in 1979!

Review by Wimpempy Tarlisle, March 2013