Restaurant Review - Pangaea
Global grub: Off the beaten path with Pangaea The turn onto Huff Road at the Westside's corner of cool — where Mondo, Taqueria del Sol and Bacchanalia rest — seems like the wrong one. But lost among the textile outlets and imported knick-knack shops along this bumpy stretch is Pangaea, a sandwich shop with more world culture than can fit on a shelf. Its retrofitted warehouse features a line of bar stools set against a wall, a dozen or so tables, and an open, airy kitchen that affords a view of the creative process.Service: Chefs Tuan "Butch" Raphael and Jennifer Hultberg churn out sandwiches during morning and afternoon shifts and, with a friendly prep line, keep the place moving. Order at the counter and take a number. You won't have to wait long for someone to bring your plate to your table — for now.Oh me: The restaurant's Greek name, meaning "all lands," is your first clue as to the diversity of selections. Mexican tortas ($5.75), Italian panini, Middle Eastern kebobs ($6) and Vietnamese bahn mi round out the daily menu, which is supplemented by specials including baby back ribs and salads.The prosciutto and provolone panini ($6.25) is an easy favorite. The flattened bread comes bulging with the meat, cheese, marinated artichoke hearts, lettuce and tomato. The salty sandwich came with a side of sweet peanut noodles. I made sure to leave plenty of room on my next visit for the lemongrass barbecue pork bahn mi ($5.75). The Saigon specialty is made with an ultra-crusty but soft Vietnamese baguette, and includes marinated pork with fresh cilantro, pickled daikon radish and carrot, sliced jalapenos, soy sauce and mayo. Oh my: I unwrapped the paper surrounding my bahn mi egg sandwich ($3.25) and was greeted with a fresh, sweet, comforting aroma. Cilantro, sliced jalapenos, julienned carrots and daikon were tucked in a toasted baguette with a perfect fried egg — firm but a little runny. Egg sandwiches are a longtime pleasure of mine, reminding me of the mornings my family would wake up early to go on cross-country summer vacations — my mother pushing us out the door with a warm, gooey sandwich in hand. But the Pangaea version was new territory. The unbelievable mix of flavors made me a permanent convert. The less adventurous can try eggs layered with ham, chorizo, cheese or peppers on thick slices of bread. The fabled French toast, made with coconut mango bread pudding, is unavailable at the moment.Morning jitters Vietnamese coffee ($2.50) is a slow-drip concoction made from finely ground beans, and mixed with condensed milk. Its sweetness is enough to make you ignore the coffee's strength — until the caffeine jolt kicks in. Raphael gets his fire-roasted Blue Cloud brew from a local guy who (he claims) imports the stuff from Vietnam in exchange for auto parts. Talk about free trade.