Best Banh Mi - 2011
Ba Le Sandwiches
Part market, part sandwich shop, this bare-bones spot in a dilapidated strip mall boasts nothing more than a counter, a couple of refrigerators and a wall of self-serve frozen-yogurt machines. But that's enough, because those refrigerators hold everything needed to make authentic banh mi. Ba Le offers almost twenty varieties of the Vietnamese sandwich, illustrated in backlit pictures on the wall above the counter and all prepared to order. A crunchy, house-baked baguette is warmed up and then stuffed with silky pâtés, shaved meats made of various parts of pig, a smattering of vinegary pickled vegetables, jalapeño slices, a smear of mayo and, in the true spirit of banh mi's homeland, enough fresh cilantro (stems and all) and crisp cucumbers to make a salad. Once completed, the sandwich is wrapped in butcher paper and secured with a rubber band. And if you simply need more of one of the ingredients, Ba Le sells the pâté, the pickles and the baguettes in bulk.