Cambodia Town’s Khmer cuisine is the stuff foodie headlines are made of. But the neighborhood is now also home to a Vietnamese bakery that deserves its own recognition for Long Beach’s best banh mi, the Vietnamese staple sandwich served on a baguette.
KC’s Bakery (1171 E. Anaheim St.) opened in late 2016, taking over the space once occupied by Lily Bakery, which also served banh mi and various Vietnamese and Khmer snacks.
The eatery’s been completely remodeled and now sports a shiny modern look featuring a register next to a glass display case full of goodies, a pick-up counter and a few tables. It’s cute—an adjective not easily achieved by an establishment sandwiched between a dentist’s office and a MetroPCS storefront.
My history with banh mi is a complicated one: Many nights in my college years were spent at Lee’s Sandwiches, the Vietnamese fast food chain famous for its namesake dish. I chomped on hard baguettes that nearly sent me to the emergency room for hundreds of little scrapes to the roof of my mouth, ultimately settling for self-medication in the form of an avocado smoothie.
I was young and dumb. I later had encounters with banh mi the way they are meant to be served, on pillowy soft, freshly baked baguettes. That’s the way KC’s Bakery does them.
The menu of sandwiches is simple and stunningly affordable—any variety costs just $3.50. The owner, Kim Chi Nguyen, has expressed interest in doing a reboot of the menu soon, so here is my very public plea for her not to raise the prices because this is one of the best values in town.
My favorite banh mi has to be the meatball, which comes with pate, (a minimal amount that blends well into the actual meatballs) and the usual vegetable accompaniments of cucumber, cilantro and radish. The pate and egg is also a great choice, especially for breakfast.
Surprisingly, another one of my favorites is the vegetarian. The mushrooms and cucumber provide a great textural contrast to the soft baguette, and you’ll feel relatively healthy despite inhaling a big loaf of bread.
The barbecue pork is an easy go-to, served with the perfect combination of sweet and juicy barbecue pork and crisp pickled radish.
Beyond the sandwiches, the baked goods are also made in-house and worth an early-morning visit (KC’s opens at 6:30 a.m. on weekdays, 7 a.m. on weekends).
The bakery has become known for its pate chaud, a savory puff pastry filled with meat. Absolutely grab at least one of these if you’re able. Croissants are also beautifully made here, and filled with fruit, ham and cheese, or chocolate.
To wash it all down, there’s a sizable drink menu, but the most popular option is the Vietnamese coffee. Stronger than the typical American cup of joe, Vietnamese coffee beans are often over roasted intentionally, imparting a more bitter flavor that’s complemented (or alleviated, depending on your taste) by milk and sugar.
Whether hot or cold (try both—on different occasions, of course), you don’t need to bother asking for adjustments: It’s going to be sweet and it’s going to be strong.