Austin Guide to Bánh Mì
The Smoking Ho has gone international! Well not really. I am branching out from BBQ temporarily to do an Austin Food Bloggers Alliance City Guide on Bánh Mì. I am half Vietnamese and grew up on it so I do have some street cred, right? Anyhow I get annoyed when people misspell it bahn mi. That is like me spelling the Italian classic, pizaz. Well almost. Banh mi is a Vietnamese sandwich that is served on French bread. You will find it filled with all kinds of protein like grilled pork, pâté, fried eggs, tofu, meatballs, and head cheese. It is normally dressed with cucumber slices, cilantro, jalapeños, and pickled carrots and daikon with Vietnamese mayonnaise. When I took on this task, I thought it would be rather easy. Go to five or six place and take some pictures. Big mistake for assuming. There are a lot more restaurants than I realized that serve banh mi. I do not regret it though because I had a fun time doing it. Drum roll please...
10901 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78753 | 8:30 AM-7 PM daily
Although the thịt nướng (grilled pork) is money here, there are a lot of great options on the menu. They use a French baguette so there is less bread with more crunch. Add a pâté chaud and a Vietnamese iced coffee to your order, and you will thank me later.
Dang Bánh Mì
9070 Research Blvd, Austin, TX 78758 | 11 AM-9 PM daily
From the guys who brought us Plucker's comes a joint that brings us the Vietnamese classics. Pho, vermicelli, and banh mi. They even went to Vietnam to learn from the source. I got the Dang Original banh mi which has Char Siu pork belly, pork tenderloin, ground pork, homemade pâté, mint, cilantro, green onion, cucumber, Char Siu sauce, saté, Japanese mayo, and pickled papaya and carrots. It is not your typical banh mi, but it is for sure a hearty sandwich. Use the Dang Sauce liberally. It is a cross between Sambal and Sriracha.
Elizabeth Street Cafe
1501 S 1st St, Austin, TX 78704 | 8 AM-10:30 PM daily
Upscale Vietnamese cuisine? That is some kind of oxymoron. I used to frown upon this concept. The breakfast bánh mì changed my mind. 10 bucks? It is worth every penny. The sandwich comes stuffed with jalapeño fried eggs, crispy pork belly, avocado, mint, house-made mayo, sambal, and cilantro. A mouthful for sure. A tasty one that is.
10901 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78753 | 9 AM-9 PM daily
LiIy's is my favorite spot in Austin. I love xíu mại (Vietnamese meatballs), and they have the best ones in town. At $3.70, it is the cheapest banh mi in town as well. I have yet to try the other things on the menu that are not banh mi. That tells you something.
3632 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704 | 11 AM-4 PM Tue-Sat
My first place in Austin that I had banh mi from was at Lulu B's. I thought it was expensive, but I did grow up in Houston where you could at the time find a sandwich for under two bucks. Lulu B's used to be a trailer on South Lamar, but now they have a brick and mortar location. I tried the lemongrass tofu on this visit, and it was a great change of pace.
8557 Research Blvd, Austin, TX 78758 | 10 AM-6 PM Tues-Sun
Tucked away inside Hong Kong Supermarket, Ng BMT might be a hidden gem. I stumbled upon this place while doing research for the guide. Here, the bread makes the sandwich as it is baked fresh every day. It has a good amount of chew with a nice crust. The prices are very reasonable as well. The combo sandwich here consists of pâté, Vietnamese ham, and pork head cheese which is the golden standard for banh mi. The Texas Trinity. Subway's Cold Cut Trio (but better). You can only take it to-go though. As I finished the sandwich at work, I wanted more. It was fresh and tasty, but I was 20 minutes away. Boo.
8557 Research Blvd, Austin, TX 78758 | 10:30 AM-9 PM daily
I wonder now that Ng BMT is in the same parking lot, if Pho Van's banh mi business would suffer. This was the first place in Austin where I had pho when I was a freshman at UT. I went away from my normal order and got the grilled chicken banh mi here. It had a good flavor and texture. The rest of the sandwich brought everything together.
Saigon Le Vendeur
2404 E 7th St, Austin, TX 78702 | 11 AM-7PM Mon-Sat
Saigon Le Vendeur is close to my work so I go here frequently. The O.G. is a refreshing palate cleansing sandwich. It comes loaded with cold cuts of steam pork roll, cured pork roll sausage, and dried pork with liver pâté. I am always stuffed when I am done eating the sandwich. If I start off with an appetizer, I am miserable the rest of the day but in a good way. Their specials always look intriguing and amazing. Maybe someday.
Tâm Deli & Cafe
8222 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78753 | 10 AM-8 PM Wed-Mon
If there was THE banh mi place in town, a lot of people would pick Tâm's. It is a solid pick. I ordered the combination sandwich that came with Vietnamese ham, pâté, and roasted chicken. I thought it was an odd choice for the third meat though. The pickled carrots were grated instead of being julienned which takes away some of the crunchiness. The rest of the menu is really strong and has a lot of options. Besides the classics, the bánh cuốn (steamed rice rolls) hits the spot every time.
9200 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78753 | 10 AM-9 PM daily
In my humble opinion, Thanh Nhi is underrated in the Vietnamese food scene. I have never had a bad item from their extensive menu. I got the xíu mại (pork meatball) on this visit, and it was good. All of their banh mi cost $3.99 which is a great deal. When you go, order some nem nuong rolls. It is better than your traditional spring rolls.