We've been keeping our eyes on Khe-Yo, Soulayphet Schwader's Lao restaurant in Tribeca, and you can expect a review down the line. But right now we're focused its brand new take out sandwich counter, Khe-Yosk, a spare operation selling banh mi dressed up with braised meat and foie gras for $11 apiece.
'banh mi' on Serious Eats
In a city full of many delicious foods, there is a bit of a shortage of truly excellent Vietnamese sandwiches. That' being said, New York isn't completely devoid of decent bánh mì, and the sandwiches we tried at Sao Mai were a sure indicator that we're moving in the right direction.
The coconut curry lamb from Xe Máy was our introduction to the sandwich shop's twists on the classic Vietnamese sandwich. The "Hog" ($6), with its flavorful grilled pork, is truer to banh mi form.
The meats at Banh Mi Saigon lean towards the standard or mediocre, which is where these meatballs come in.
Bún-Ker opened about six weeks ago on a gloomy stretch of Metropolitan Avenue in Ridgewood, and while I wouldn't call it destination Vietnamese fare yet, it's already looking like a great addition to the neighborhood. Case in point: this spicy fish banh mi.
There was a time back when your only options for Asian food in the Morningside Heights vicinity were a semi-decent Korean barbecue joint, pre-fab Japanese-ish sushi, or takeout Chinese joints that specialized in fried chicken. Things have improved massively since then. Today there's not just one, but two Vietnamese sandwich shops within walking distance of one another in the vicinity. I decided to hop on my bike and check them out in a head-to-head sandwich-off.
Hing Won's New York-Chinese banh mi is a solid choice in a neighborhood lacking in reliable lunch spots.
The West Village's Saigon Shack carries an extensive selection of Vietnamese fare, from steaming bowls of pho to an enticing array of vermicelli noodle and fried rice dishes. But come lunch time, the crowd that descends on this little restaurant are fixated on one thing: banh mi.
When glancing around Midtown's Hing Won Chinese Noodle Shop, banh mi are probably not the first dish that comes to mind. But these sandwiches filled with Chinese roast meat get the job done—especially for midtown.
Everything tastes good on a crusty baguette with cucumbers, pickled veggies, mayonnaise, and plenty of cilantro and jalapenos. That's why Eater X, who must remain nameless due to his government job in Chinatown, invented this mashup of a salt baked soft shell crab from Great NY Noodletown stuffed into a vegetarian Vietnamese sandwich from Banh Mi Saigon.
Jo Ju's owners bill their café as the home of the modern banh mi. (It seems to us there are many places that could claim that title, but we're not here to dispute that.) Their beef bulgogi ($5), thinly sliced rib eye with red kimchi and a spicy butter-mayo spread smeared on the baguette, recalls a steak hoagie gone Southeast Asian.
When we set out to find the best banh mi in Manhattan, we used the mixed cold cut banh mi as our benchmark. With this criteria, we know that within the confines of Chinatown, Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich on Broome Street serves the best. That said, how do their other sandwiches stack up? Do they do as well with hot sandwiches? Vegetarian sandwiches? Chicken? Are any of their salads worth a damn? And what about those summer roll appetizers? We decided to find out the only way we know how: by tasting everything on the menu.
Get the Grilled Pork ($4.75) instead of the cold cuts. It fares better under the heat of the toaster, and is not overly sweet like the ones at Bánh Mì Saigon down the street can be.
The bánh mì at An Nhau may not be the greatest in the world (its major failing is that it comes with a sriracha-like hot sauce when you order it spicy instead of fresh chilis), but its cold cuts are pretty awesome.
Bánh mì seem easy to come by these days, with mainstream spots like Baoguette making the classic Vietnamese sub a household name; but funky little shops like Sau Voi Corp that sell them for $4 beside packs of cigarettes and lotto tickets are still a rare gem.
When done right, banh mi are an insanely tasty combination of contrasting textures and flavors, but the overall impression, as with much Vietnamese food, is of lightness and freshness. Where in Manhattan can you find the best sandwich? This week, I visited bành mí shops all over Manhattan to answer this question.
The only thing better than a great beer bar is a great beer bar with good food. The plump little Banh Mi sandwich ($5.50) at Blind Tiger doesn't have much in common with those Vietnamese baguettes, but after a few Six Points and Schlenkeria Marzens, this matters less.
The chicken banh mi ($10, drink included) at Má Pêche is a good sandwich, but a bánh mì, it is not.
[Photographs: Robyn Lee] The Serious Eats office was craving banh mi recently, real bad, and then it clicked: that Vietnamese restaurant Co Ba just opened recently and isn't that far from us! Co ba is the common nickname for...