How I waited 6 hours to eat at Lee’s Sandwiches. Was it worth it?


Lee’s Sandwiches opened on Jan. 8 at Campus Pointe. (Diego Vargas/The Collegian)

By Diego Vargas

On a rainy Sunday morning, Lee’s Sandwiches opened in Campus Pointe to a long line of eager customers. In my attempt to go and try some food from the “world’s largest Bánh Mí chain,” I found myself a castaway in a sea of hungry patrons as the restaurant scrambled to keep up with the demand during its grand opening on Jan. 8.

Many were eager to be the part of the first 250 patrons, as they received a complimentary gift bag along with their order. By the time I had taken my place in line, the last of the gift bags were given out, and it would be four hours before I would even be able to give my order.

Below is a timeline of how it went:

8:00 a.m.: The sandwich shop opened its doors to a line of people that coiled out of the front door of the restaurant and continued into the empty lot next to it.

8:30 a.m.: I walked up to a line of 100s of people while rain poured on top of us.

11:30 a.m.:  By now, I had been waiting in line for three hours, but I expected this for a restaurant opening. When my part of the line drew near the front of the restaurant, a woman approached the line and yelled out in anger, “One hour for my order! It’s a whole hour for my order!” 

12:36 p.m.: After another hour of waiting, I was inside. I ordered a No. 6 off the menu, a barbecue pork, Chinese style sandwich with a mango smoothie. I then took a seat along with other customers waiting for their food. 

The inside of the restaurant was full of customers, some conversing, others waiting patiently. Despite having been waiting for four hours up to this point, I was in good spirits, supported by both my patient demeanor and by my own experience in fast food that allowed me to empathize with the rush of food service. Most, if not all, of the other customers were just as patient and the only voices being raised were that of the staff communicating with customers and with each other. 

Fifteen minutes after I took my seat, an employee announced that every single order would have a wait time of 3 hours because they were baking another batch of fresh bread.

While many people were visibly shocked, nobody left the line. By now, the restaurant was full of customers either waiting to order or waiting for their orders.

Keng Vang, who had been waiting since 8:40 a.m., was happy with the experience he had with the restaurant, but hoped they would implement a faster ordering process in the future.

“Hopefully they have a better system [in the future] so we don’t have to wait here like three to four hours,” he said. “Maybe come up with [a process] to let us go…and then be called back later.”

1:30 p.m.: Outside, a group of friends waited for their food, conversing with each other and with other customers about the predicament we had all found ourselves in.

“Since nine we waited three hours for the line, and once we got into order they told us [our order would take] an hour, but it’s been an hour and a half,” said Siv, who was cheerful despite the long wait.

Her friends shared Siv’s frustration, but they all were excited when they heard the shop was opening near their homes. Although they’ve been making friends in line, they’re shocked about the crowd that showed up.

“We didn’t think they were gonna be that slammed for the opening,” said Sam, who had been waiting with Siv, along with two other friends, Alvon and Michelle.

Siv and her friends purchased sesame balls to snack on while they waited. They were kind enough to share one with me. It was crunchy on the outside, with a soft interior and red bean paste filling. It was sweet but smoky as well, with a subtle undertone of earthiness from the paste. It has been the only food I’ve gotten to review for the hours I’ve waited here. 

Kekoa, Alvon’s French bulldog, stood neatly by his owner, watching us converse and licking his lips when he saw the sesame ball. I empathized with his hunger. 

Kekoa, a French bulldog belonging to Alvon, looking intently at my order from Lee’s Sandwiches. (Diego Vargas/The Collegian)

2:31 p.m.: By the time I walked back inside, I saw Vang leaving with his food. He told me my food was ready and I thanked him. We had both weathered the sea of customers as Lee’s. I drove away from the still crowded scene and returned home to try the food I almost gave up attaining. 

Review: The barbecue pork sandwich included pickled daikon and carrots, onions, jalapeños, cilantro, mayonnaise, salt and pepper served on a freshly made 10-inch baguette. It was very crunchy, with the pork adding a smoky and sweet flavor to even out the pickled taste of the veggies.

All of the ingredients come together in each bite to create a sandwich that is both appealing in flavor and in texture. The sandwich had just the right amount of each ingredient and was neither overflowing or lacking in them. It was easy to eat and hold, perfect for a sandwich on the go.

The mango smoothie was smooth and velvety. The flavor of mango was strong. It wasn’t overpowering, nor did it taste too much like an artificial mango flavor. The sweet and tangy flavor of the smoothie paired well with the prominent pickled taste of the sandwich. Unlike other smoothies you’d get at places like at fast-food restaurants, the smoothie was easy to drink and had a great consistency. It wasn’t thick to the point that it required you to labor your mouth to just get it to the top of the straw, but it also wasn’t watery; it was just right.

The long wait times can be attributed to the popularity of the franchise and the excitement that comes with a restaurant’s opening. My experience isn’t comparable to what the service will be like in a week when the orders start to ease down. 

Overall, the wait was not worth it. I don’t think any food is worth seven hours of waiting. However, the food at Lee’s Sandwiches is of a higher quality than what you’d find at a traditional fast food sandwich restaurant. 

On top of serving nearly a hundred different sandwich combinations, coffee, tea, boba milk tea and smoothie. If that wasn’t enough, they have a wide variety of pastries and appetizers.