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 Best Banh Mi in America?

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BT

  • Total Posts: 3589
  • Joined: 7/3/2004
  • Location: San Francisco, CA
Best Banh Mi in America? Mon, 02/7/11 1:08 PM (permalink)

 
The nominees, please:
 
Seattle: Saigon Deli (1237 South Jackson Street), Sun Bakery & Cafe (658 South Jackson Street)
Portland: Best Baguette (8303 SE Powell Boulevard)
New York: Baoguette (61 Lexington Ave, multiple Manhattan locations), Momofuku Ssäm Bar (207 Second Ave, Manhattan), Ba Xuyen (4222 Eighth Avenue, Brooklyn), Tan Thanh (5818 Seventh Avenue, Brooklyn)
New Orleans: Dong Phuong Oriental Bakery (14207 Chef Menteur Highway)
Atlanta: Lee’s Bakery (4005 Buford Highway NE), Quoc Huong (5150 Buford Highway NE)
San Jose: Lee’s Sandwiches (260 East Santa Clara Street)
Los Angeles: Nom Nom Truck
San Francisco: Saigon Sandwich (560 Larkin Street)
 
Source:  http://tmagazine.blogs.ny...banh-mi-in-america/?hp
 
A few comments about the San Francisco nominee, with which I am very familiar:  The article says it is in "a particularly rough stretch of the Tenderloin."  Hogwash!  It's a block up the street from the Federal Building on a street that's perfectly safe (and swarming with Federal cops of one sort or another including FBI, not a few of them going to buy lunch) during any hours the shop is open.  On the other hand, it may not have the best sandwiches--just one block down the street, DIRECTLY across from the same Federal Building, is Wrap Delight whose owner and operator reportedly once worked at Saigon Sandwiches and who puts out IMHO an even better product. Both are crowded little holes in the wall, but Roadfooders know those kinds of places often put out the best food.
 
Oh, and for devotees of Lee's Sandwiches (of which I am also one), they have many outlets in San Francisco but the one that focuses on Vietnamese sandwiches (the rest sell sandwiches of all sorts at real bargain prices) is also on Larkin Street (officially dubbed "Little Saigon" by the city) one more block up the street from that Federal Building--so, yes, you have 3 outstanding Banh Mi sources in 3 blocks.
 
 
<message edited by BT on Mon, 02/7/11 1:11 PM>
 
#1
    Michael Hoffman

    • Total Posts: 17839
    • Joined: 7/1/2000
    • Location: Gahanna, OH
    Re:Best Banh Mi in America? Mon, 02/7/11 1:31 PM (permalink)
    Are those vegetables on that thing? Who eats vegetables on a sandwich?
     
    #2
      BT

      • Total Posts: 3589
      • Joined: 7/3/2004
      • Location: San Francisco, CA
      Re:Best Banh Mi in America? Mon, 02/7/11 1:54 PM (permalink)
      Michael Hoffman


      Are those vegetables on that thing? Who eats vegetables on a sandwich?

       
      What you can see is a standard Banh Mi topping of carrots marinated in a sweet vinegar marinade, raw jalapenos and cilantro.  Underneath that is some kind of meat (as described in the article)--mostly commonly roast pork but with a wide range of variations from pate to meatballs. Standard condiments applied to the bread are Hoisin sauce and mayo.  These things represent the history of Vietnam with its French colonialism (the roll), large Chinese (Hoisin, roast pork) and Thai (the marinated veggies which are in a dressing very like the cucumber salad found in many Thai places) influences.
       
      #3
        mar52

        • Total Posts: 7599
        • Joined: 4/17/2005
        • Location: Marina del Rey, CA
        Re:Best Banh Mi in America? Mon, 02/7/11 2:24 PM (permalink)
        Cilantro is standard?
         
         
        #4
          BT

          • Total Posts: 3589
          • Joined: 7/3/2004
          • Location: San Francisco, CA
          Re:Best Banh Mi in America? Mon, 02/7/11 2:37 PM (permalink)
          mar52


          Cilantro is standard?


           
          Seems to be everywhere I've had Banh Mi.  Obviously, they will leave it off if you ask, but cilantro is used a lot in Vietnamese cooking.  It's pretty common in spring rolls too:
           

          Recipe for spring rolls here: http://allrecipes.com//Re...ring-rolls/Detail.aspx
          <message edited by BT on Mon, 02/7/11 2:44 PM>
           
          #5
            EdSails

            • Total Posts: 3581
            • Joined: 5/9/2003
            • Location: Mission Viejo, CA
            Re:Best Banh Mi in America? Mon, 02/7/11 2:39 PM (permalink)
            OH, what an article. By now I know that New Yorkers don't know much about CA-----even though they like to write as if they do. Yes, BT----when I'm in a rush I stop by for a quickie at one of the Lee's Sandwiches too-----they are decent and found in some areas where I would not found a banh mi otherwise. The Nom Nom Truck as the best in LA? C'mon, give me a break. They are good at making it a trendy sandwich for 20 somethings who would not go in a Vietnamese area, but the best? And at the price they charge (upwards of $6.00 each) most people who have had banh mi (which generally run around $3 or less here) laugh at the price.
            Of course, not mentioned in the article at all is a section of Orange County here, officially named Little Saigon. It has the largest Vietnamese community outside of Vietnam. I've had many banh mi in and around the area over the years, and some real standouts are here.
            For years I've gone to Banh Mi Che Cali Bakery. It's in a somewhat rundown shopping center with a huge Vietnamese market. But the line is usually out the door around lunchtime. The sandwiches are big, tasty and they've got some interesting other items besides the spring rolls to go. Last time I was there they were around $2.45 with a buy 2, get one free special. Banh Mi Chou Cu is also a good choice.
            For many years, I worked in Long Beach. Anaheim Street there is filled with Vietnamese places, but usually twice a week I'd go to Lily Bakery for their Bahn Mi. I was not happy when they raised their prices from $1.25 to $1.50, but that happens. They have the most delicious BBQ Pork Banh Mi, and I'd usually get an order of spring rolls to go with it.Sometimes even a fried banana!
            I could go on and on, but my point is this-----how could the author of that article write it and totally ignore the largest Vietnamese community in the US? Doesn't he think that there might just be a good banh mi there?
            Well, this has made me hungry now. I'm off--------and the choice is-----should I go to Top Baguette or just grab a quickie close by at Lee's?
             
            <message edited by EdSails on Mon, 02/7/11 2:43 PM>
             
            #6
              BT

              • Total Posts: 3589
              • Joined: 7/3/2004
              • Location: San Francisco, CA
              Re:Best Banh Mi in America? Mon, 02/7/11 2:55 PM (permalink)
              Speaking of Lee's, lots of photos of their Larkin St. (SF) location and food at http://www.yelp.com/biz_p...-ckR3CNd2_OaUYMXTc-wRg
               
              And here's a few photos of my fave, Wrap Delight:  http://www.yelp.com/biz_p...1a8IVW6BGMGvW6rTS10Bfg
              <message edited by BT on Mon, 02/7/11 2:57 PM>
               
              #7
                Michael Hoffman

                • Total Posts: 17839
                • Joined: 7/1/2000
                • Location: Gahanna, OH
                Re:Best Banh Mi in America? Mon, 02/7/11 3:00 PM (permalink)
                BT


                Michael Hoffman


                Are those vegetables on that thing? Who eats vegetables on a sandwich?


                What you can see is a standard Banh Mi topping of carrots marinated in a sweet vinegar marinade, raw jalapenos and cilantro.  Underneath that is some kind of meat (as described in the article)--mostly commonly roast pork but with a wide range of variations from pate to meatballs. Standard condiments applied to the bread are Hoisin sauce and mayo.  These things represent the history of Vietnam with its French colonialism (the roll), large Chinese (Hoisin, roast pork) and Thai (the marinated veggies which are in a dressing very like the cucumber salad found in many Thai places) influences.

                Yes, I know what's standard. It's what is standard that causes me to avoid them.

                 
                #8
                  BT

                  • Total Posts: 3589
                  • Joined: 7/3/2004
                  • Location: San Francisco, CA
                  Re:Best Banh Mi in America? Mon, 02/7/11 3:20 PM (permalink)
                  Michael Hoffman

                   Yes, I know what's standard. It's what is standard that causes me to avoid them.

                   
                  OK.  Your loss.
                   
                  #9
                    Michael Hoffman

                    • Total Posts: 17839
                    • Joined: 7/1/2000
                    • Location: Gahanna, OH
                    Re:Best Banh Mi in America? Mon, 02/7/11 3:24 PM (permalink)
                    No loss. I've tried them -- the first in Saigon. That's how I know I don't like them.
                     
                    #10
                      Foodbme

                      • Total Posts: 9567
                      • Joined: 9/1/2006
                      • Location: Gilbert, AZ
                      Re:Best Banh Mi in America? Mon, 02/7/11 3:34 PM (permalink)
                      BT,
                      If you ever come up to the PHX area, there's a Lee's in Chandler.
                      1901 W. Warner Road @ Dobson Road
                      Chandler, AZ 85224
                      Phone: (480) 855-1778
                       
                      We love their Baguettes. Get some every time we are nearby. Only a Buck but only stay fresh for less than a day. Makes good French Toast the next day.
                       
                       
                      #11
                        MiamiDon

                        Re:Best Banh Mi in America? Mon, 02/7/11 4:11 PM (permalink)
                        It should be mentioned that Lee's has all the trappings of a mall fast-food franchise.
                         

                         
                        #12
                          Foodbme

                          • Total Posts: 9567
                          • Joined: 9/1/2006
                          • Location: Gilbert, AZ
                          Re:Best Banh Mi in America? Mon, 02/7/11 5:49 PM (permalink)
                          MiamiDon


                          It should be mentioned that Lee's has all the trappings of a mall fast-food franchise.



                          So, this is a bad thing?? The one I go to is a free standing unit. They're a franchise so I guess they can open wherever they like.
                           
                          #13
                            1bbqboy

                            • Total Posts: 4542
                            • Joined: 11/20/2000
                            • Location: Rogue Valley
                            Re:Best Banh Mi in America? Mon, 02/7/11 6:05 PM (permalink)
                            Foodbme


                            MiamiDon


                            It should be mentioned that Lee's has all the trappings of a mall fast-food franchise.



                            So, this is a bad thing?? The one I go to is a free standing unit. They're a franchise so I guess they can open wherever they like.
                            You'll have to ask TJ.

                             
                            #14
                              MiamiDon

                              Re:Best Banh Mi in America? Mon, 02/7/11 6:29 PM (permalink)
                              Foodbme


                              MiamiDon


                              It should be mentioned that Lee's has all the trappings of a mall fast-food franchise.



                              So, this is a bad thing?? The one I go to is a free standing unit. They're a franchise so I guess they can open wherever they like.

                              Yes, it is.  It is plastic, corporate, standardized and the food is prepared with no love.
                               
                              #15
                                BT

                                • Total Posts: 3589
                                • Joined: 7/3/2004
                                • Location: San Francisco, CA
                                Re:Best Banh Mi in America? Mon, 02/7/11 6:46 PM (permalink)
                                MiamiDon


                                Yes, it is.  It is plastic, corporate, standardized and the food is prepared with no love.

                                 
                                I totally disagree.  There is a considerable variation in Lee's outlets I suppose but I am used to the ones in downtown San Francisco.  Here, the one in "Little Saigon"is sort of an exception in that it has almost strictly Vietnamese specialty items like Banh Mi.  But the outlets in the Financial District that I more often patronize are excellent places making standard sandwiches fast and cheap.  There, it's quite fascinating to watch the process as they have 5-10 (usually Asian) folks behind the counter serving a line that often stretches out the door at lunch time.  When it's your turn, you march up to the counter in front of whichever sandwich-maker is not busy and tell them your order (from a menu board that must offer 50 different kinds of sandwiches) including type of bread you want.  They then make you a well-stuffed sandwich to order from fresh ingredients of top quality. Nothing "plastic" about it and not even really "standardized" in the sense that, unlike say Subway, none of the items are pre-weighed or pre-packaged or whatever. They make a sandwich pretty much as most people would make it at home, with the same quality ingredients, and using the condiments and so on just exactly as you specify.
                                 
                                And you know what?  I even sometimes feel a bit of love from those dedicated Asian sandwich-making ladies.  I don't know where Lee's recruits them, but they are really good at making sandwiches and not uncommonly do it with a big smile.
                                 
                                You can probably tell I'm a fan, but why not?  You can't get a $4 BLT or tuna salad sandwich made just the way you want it just anywhere.
                                <message edited by BT on Mon, 02/7/11 6:48 PM>
                                 
                                #16
                                  quijote

                                  • Total Posts: 643
                                  • Joined: 12/22/2007
                                  • Location: Milwaukee, WI
                                  Re:Best Banh Mi in America? Mon, 02/7/11 11:35 PM (permalink)
                                  In Chicago, Ba Le (5016 N. Broadway) has received quite a lot of acclaim for their banh mi, and many members of The Contingent are devotees. I'm not sure if Ba Le's banh mi are the best (there are quite a few banh mi places in the metro area), but they're probably the most well known and a foodie cult has emerged around them.
                                   
                                  In Milwaukee, the best banh mi come from Banh Mi Nhu Y, a sandwich shop inside a large Asian supermarket (Pacific Produce/Viet Hoa, 5455 S. 27th) on the southside.  I find them, and the ones from Ba Le in Chicago, to be as good as any I've had in NYC and SF.
                                   
                                  #17
                                    Twinwillow

                                    • Total Posts: 4898
                                    • Joined: 4/15/2006
                                    • Location: "Big D"
                                    Re:Best Banh Mi in America? Tue, 02/8/11 12:50 AM (permalink)
                                    In Garland, (Dallas) Texas. La Me serves the best Banh Mi  
                                    in the area. 
                                     
                                    #18
                                      Foodbme

                                      • Total Posts: 9567
                                      • Joined: 9/1/2006
                                      • Location: Gilbert, AZ
                                      Re:Best Banh Mi in America? Tue, 02/8/11 1:07 AM (permalink)
                                      Yes, it is.  It is plastic, corporate, standardized and the food is prepared with no love.
                                       
                                      The ones I get in Chandler AZ are not Plastic, not Corporate (Privately owned), and there's enough love in them to make for a tasty sandwich. The Bread is OUTSTANDING!
                                       
                                      #19
                                        MilwFoodlovers

                                        • Total Posts: 3091
                                        • Joined: 3/31/2001
                                        • Location: Milwaukee, WI
                                        Re:Best Banh Mi in America? Tue, 02/8/11 7:15 AM (permalink)
                                        I'd love to try every Banh Mi in America and then I could make an informed opinion as to who's Banh Mi is best. If only I was younger, I could make it my life's work.
                                         
                                        #20
                                          MiamiDon

                                          Re:Best Banh Mi in America? Tue, 02/8/11 9:02 AM (permalink)
                                          Here is the incredible roast pork banh mi from Lee's:
                                           

                                           
                                          #21
                                            dimmie2

                                            • Total Posts: 238
                                            • Joined: 12/17/2010
                                            • Location: Marina del Rey, CA
                                            Re:Best Banh Mi in America? Tue, 02/8/11 5:42 PM (permalink)
                                            That looks delicious.  I like the variety of veggies.
                                             
                                            #22
                                              MiamiDon

                                              Re:Best Banh Mi in America? Wed, 02/9/11 9:57 AM (permalink)

                                               
                                              #23
                                                NYPIzzaNut

                                                • Total Posts: 3127
                                                • Joined: 3/8/2008
                                                • Location: Sardinia, OH
                                                Re:Best Banh Mi in America? Wed, 02/9/11 10:14 AM (permalink)
                                                dimmie2


                                                That looks delicious.  I like the variety of veggies.

                                                Lots of veggies and little meat and a great baguette and Vietnamese sauces and seasonings - sounds wonderful - I have yet to experience this treat.
                                                 
                                                #24
                                                  BT

                                                  • Total Posts: 3589
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                                                  Re:Best Banh Mi in America? Wed, 02/9/11 2:48 PM (permalink)
                                                  NYPIzzaNut

                                                   
                                                  Lots of veggies and little meat and a great baguette and Vietnamese sauces and seasonings - sounds wonderful - I have yet to experience this treat.

                                                   
                                                  The best ones, including at Lee's, have plenty of meat although I imagine they'll put less if you ask almost anywhere (they'll make more by doing so).  
                                                   
                                                  Their other "best feature", which some have alluded to here, is that they should be CHEAP.  In SF, most are around $2.00 to $2.50.  Actually, I noticed that at my fave in SF, Wrap Delight, they are $2.50 at lunch time but as closing time in the late afternoon approaches the price declines to $2.00.
                                                   

                                                  <message edited by BT on Wed, 02/9/11 2:51 PM>
                                                   
                                                  #25
                                                    CCinNJ

                                                    • Total Posts: 7751
                                                    • Joined: 7/24/2008
                                                    • Location: Bayonne, NJ
                                                    Re:Best Banh Mi in America? Wed, 02/9/11 7:02 PM (permalink)
                                                     
                                                    #26
                                                      missvuster

                                                      • Total Posts: 69
                                                      • Joined: 6/9/2011
                                                      • Location: irvine, CA
                                                      Re:Best Banh Mi in America? Tue, 06/14/11 12:11 AM (permalink)
                                                      The Banh Mi at Banh Mi Che Cali in Westminster, CA ... you SHOULD! The bread is almmosst as good the bread i've had in vietnam! They're sandwiches are buy two get one free...and they're open 24 hours!
                                                       
                                                      Tip: If youre buying banh mi to save for later, and not right away...ask for the vegetables to be packaged separate so that later on when you do decide to eat the sandwich, you can heat up the banh mi in the oven, take it out and then add the vegetables so theyre still fresh :] (thank my mom!)
                                                       
                                                      #27
                                                        Pigiron

                                                        • Total Posts: 1384
                                                        • Joined: 5/11/2005
                                                        • Location: Bergen County, NJ
                                                        • Roadfood Insider
                                                        Re:Best Banh Mi in America? Tue, 06/14/11 7:56 AM (permalink)
                                                        I vote for Baogette. Their sandwich is a work of art. Perfection. They also do a catfish version that is phenomenal.
                                                         
                                                        #28
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