Downtown Houston is known for its upscale restaurants, but it's even better known for the multitude of cheap Vietnamese dining available day and night. While Les Givral's on Milam is the most popular sandwich stop, Cali's is just around the corner and it's always nice to try something different, even if it seems pretty much the same—their menus are very similar. And if you thought Les Givral's had cheap banh mi (starting at $2.50), Cali's competitively prices theirs starting at $2.31. Yes. $2.31. So while it's an amazing deal, it's not the best place to take someone on a first date, lest you wind up looking cheap. However, you could just buy a round of banh mi for everyone there and look baller. (Still, it probably wouldn't add up to $20...)
The menu lineup features the usual suspects, ranging from rice and noodle plates to banh mi on soft French baguettes. You can order at the counter or sit down for service, and there are several fruit smoothies ranging from mango to jackfruit (we tried both, of course). While green jackfruit is used as a savory ingredient, ripe jackfruit has a vaguely familiar flavor akin to a cross between banana, figs, and maybe a hint of sweet pineapple.
I've been eating a lot less meat as of late and sprung for the tofu banh mi with an egg and didn't miss my usual grilled chicken version in the least. Not going to lie...the tofu was still tofu, and if you know me, you know my feelings about tofu. I'm trying SO HARD to like it. This was good, but not something I'd eat without a bunch of other delicious things surrounding it, like yolky eggs, cilantro, jalapeno, and grilled onions.
The kids had beef and chicken banh mi with an egg and didn't hesitate to polish off all of their food, spring rolls, and a fruit smoothie. (The mango was the best!) In all, we had 4 spring rolls, 4 sandwiches, and 3 smoothies for a grand total of $30. We could have saved $5 and skipped the spring rolls, but our eyes were 'bigger than our stomachs' and we over-ordered. Nothing a to-go box won't fix, right?