My First: Banh Mi at Les Givrals

Categories: On the Menu

bahn mi lg.jpg
My banh mi cherry has been popped. A few weeks ago, after a vigorous yoga class at YogaOne, my yoga partner and I were famished and she suggested heading around the corner to Les Givrals. I'd never had banh javascript:void(0);mi and was excited to try it, having read several articles in praise of the Vietnamese sandwiches at Les Givrals right here on Eating Our Words.

On my friend's advice I ordered the Banh Mi #1 (Thit Nuong Pate) for $3, and I added the Bo Bia summer rolls--pre-rolled and wrapped--for another $3.25; with my bottled water, the grand total was $8.48 for what turned out to be a large amount of food. We sat down and got to work on our summer rolls while our sandwiches were being prepared.

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The rolls kept me good and busy. With large shrimp, mint, shredded lettuce and rice noodles wrapped in rice paper, these rolls were more than satisfying as an appetizer. I loved that I could taste the fresh mint, and I was even more impressed with how clean the shrimp tasted--pre-rolled, pre-wrapped shrimp rolls do not always go your way, if you know what I mean. The dipping sauce was equal parts sweet and rich but didn't hide any of the flavors of the roll. Just as I bit into my second roll, my sandwich was ready.

Since this was my very first banh mi, I didn't have anything to compare it to, but I enjoyed it. I found the fresh French bread to be very crusty on the outside and soft on the inside--necessary from a textural standpoint, to allow me to smash the sandwich to an edible thickness. The richness of the pate was highlighted by the brightness of the parsley and the sweetness of the barbecue pork. I liked the heat from the jalapeno pepper, although I would have liked it to be just a little bit hotter.

The veggies--cucumber and carrots--were crispy and fresh, and allowed me to create the illusion of eating a healthy post-yoga lunch. I initially feared that the bread would prove to be too filling, but it was not, although I did leave a bit in the basket. I ate both spring rolls and 98 percent of the sandwich and felt full, but not uncomfortably so.

I know Les Givrals is not the only place in Houston for banh mi, so I'll ask you--have I already scaled the ultimate Vietnamese sandwich summit, or should I be seeking higher ground?



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Location Info

Les Givral's Kahve - CLOSED

801 Congress St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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30 comments
Christine Ha
Christine Ha

Oh, or some people like Lee's Sandwiches--their baguettes are the best but sandwiches could be a little skimpy.

Christine Ha
Christine Ha

Alpha Bakery & Deli in the HK Mall on Bellaire or Don Cafe on Bellaire. 

Diggity
Diggity

Givral Hoang has the best banh mi in Houston, I have tried them ALL!

Nate
Nate

Love the Les Givrals on Milam. Great sandwiches. Really, really good. The little Vietnamese bakery just south of there, by Pho Saigon, has good banh mi as well. Not as good, but...

Christina Uticone
Christina Uticone

Thanks for all the great suggestions everyone! (And the corrections - woopsie!) I can't wait to try more banh mi.

Early Cuyler
Early Cuyler

Don Cafe on Bellaire. In my humble opinion, they have the best banh mi in the city. The meat is marinated just right(unlike Cali which in my opinion is way, way too sweet), and their homemade mayo brings it all home. Plus, they don't have the annoying 2x4 sculpture like the Givrals on Washington. Seriously, someone ordered way too much wood when they built that place...

trisch
trisch

IMHO you've scaled the peak and reached the nirvana of banh mi. I've sampled the offerings at all the other recommended shops, and I always end up back at the Midtown Les Givrals for my fix (with Cali down the street coming in a middle distance second). I particularly dislike Thien An across the street b/c their bread, while longer, is much too chewy and doesn't get the right crispiness on the outside.

Of course, it's all about personal preference, though, so have fun checking out all the options around town!

And BTW, that's cilantro on the banh mi, not parsley.

Paisely
Paisely

Glad you wrote about this.

Bonus points: a lot of these places mentioned have full menus in addition to sandwiches. Food is good overall, and a fraction of what you'd pay at some over-hyped place like Mai's. And much faster too!

LW
LW

Banh mi, not bahn mi...the correct usage is inconsistent in the piece and tags.

Betty Tieu
Betty Tieu

I almost brought that up too. Not Bo Bia. Glad I skimmed the comments first.

kylejack
kylejack

I like TH Cafe and Cali Sandwich. Which Les Givrals did you go to, though, because the Midtown one is great and the Market Square/Washington Ave one is just decent. Different ownership due to some divorces, or something.

Diana
Diana

Those rolls you have in the picture are Goi Cuon - Spring Rolls, not Bo Bia. Bo Bia has fried egg and Chinese sausage in it.

Gentian
Gentian

Cali next to YogaOne is better; as is Cafe TH, though it farther away.

A really great version is a the place Mai Pham recommended on Bellaire...what's it called?

Avoid the Les Givral Congress location. Lousy food, surly service.

FoodLuver
FoodLuver

Christina, Thien An Sandwiches, located on Travis, in Midtown area, offers a variety of banh mi with competitive pricing.

Those banh mi was my dinner during grad years.

On a personal note, try banh mi with meat balls. Ask them to put meatballs into a bowl, not in the sandwich. Take the road less travelled?

Have fun!

Jscar
Jscar

Don Cafe, I think is the name on Bellaire is the best I have had. Better bread and better ingredients. The meatball banh mi is my favorite.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I really like the sandwiches at Cafe Shoppe on St. Emanuel (inside the Kim Hung mall).

Mary
Mary

I also had my first one this month....at Revival Market. Awesome.

craig
craig

This place is kinda dirty and they are very stingy with the A/C.

Bruce R
Bruce R

I don't think there is a holy grail of banh mi. Some are better than others but the similarities outweigh the differences. I get most of mine from a place called NASA Fast Food, which despite the name is strictly a Vietnamese restaurant. NFF dude uses hot jalapenos (although japs are highly variable with respect to heat) and adds a bit of Maggi Seasoning.

Christina Uticone
Christina Uticone

I have a love/hate relationship w/ cilantro - I think it's good that I didn't know it was cilantro! Thanks! :)

LW
LW

Also, Givral Hoang down on Bellaire in Chinatown is the best. Yes, better than Don's Cafe right in front.

Christina Uticone
Christina Uticone

Oh shit! Thanks for the heads up. I usually take great notes. #fail

kylejack
kylejack

Is this the former Hoang Son spot? (straight ahead in the food court thing?)

Eric Henao
Eric Henao

They have been there for years and it was where I popped my Banh Mi cherry. Highly recommended.

Wyatt
Wyatt

Kind of dirty? You thinking about the same spot?

Christina Uticone
Christina Uticone

I liked that and I did NOT mean to! LOL. Les Givrals was clean as a whistle when I went. The doors were open - it was a nice day - so I can't comment on the A/C, but frankly I hate A/C so stingy doesn't bother me.

Kevin Shalin
Kevin Shalin

I have a love/love relationship with cilantro.  I'd eat a cilantro donut if one was out there. 

trisch
trisch

Growing up, I hated cilantro and resolutely picked it out of everything I ate, including banh mi. But once I discovered how balanced it makes the banh mi, I started trying it in all sorts of other dishes. Now I even like cooking with it at home. So there you have it -- banh mi got me over my fear of cilantro!

Diana
Diana

No problem. It could be that the shop had their little signs in the wrong place and confused you. I think Thiem Hing on Bellaire and Boone has the best banh mi. They bake their own bread and it is oh so gooooooood

craig
craig

Maybe they cleaned up their act. I still prefer Cafe TH for BM, where they are just stingy with the napkins.

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