The Ultimate Midtown Bánh Mì Taste Test
Because the Houston Press office is in Midtown, I eat a lot of bánh mì.
Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg Can you guess where each of these is from? Answers on the last page!
Need a light lunch? Bánh mì. In a hurry? Bánh mì. Craving meat, veggies and carbs? Bánh mì. Want something spicy? Bánh mì. It's my go-to meal to satisfy just about any lunchtime criteria.
Unfortunately for someone in my position (food writer), I can be a creature of habit. That means I find one decent bánh mì spot without long lines, and I stick to it. Lately, that's been La Baguette on Milam. At least twice a week, I find myself there getting a fish sandwich, extra spicy.
But it seems any time I write about any bánh mì, as I did recently for 100 favorite dishes and previously in December for 2013's list of 100 favorite dishes people love to tell me I'm wrong. That particular bánh mì isn't the best; some other one is.
I'm settling this once and for all.
OK, maybe not once and for all, but I figured a taste test would be a good way to determine which spot actually does make the best bánh mì. I decided to try bánh mì thit nuong from five of the most popular places in Midtown: Cali Sandwich, La Baguette, Les Givral's Sandwich & Cafe, Simply Pho and the newly re-opened Thien An.
They all look similar, but they taste unique.
To make the taste test as fair as possible, I ordered the same sandwich at each place. Bánh mì thit nuong is a good litmus test for Vietnamese restaurants, and each place is sure to chargrill the pork or pickle the carrots in a slightly different manner.
A few things were the same throughout each sandwich, though. First, the bread was crusty but light. Second, each bánh mì sandwich contained one long, slightly pickled cucumber and one slice of raw jalapeño. Lastly, each also contained shredded carrots and fresh cilantro. It's the differences that set some sandwiches apart from others.
Here are the results.
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