Tag Archives: banh mi

IMG_1915

Pho 14 Makes a Wallet (and Stomach) Happy

At Pho 14 the other night, someone at our table told us about the insanely low food prices in Vietnam, where a bowl of pho cost $1.50 American dollars. A more expensive bowl of pho? $2.

Clearly, the phrase “cheap eat” is relative. There’s cheap, and then there’s CHEAP.

As restaurants in D.C. go, Pho 14 has to be included on our city’s list of cheap eats.  It’s not often that you examine your bill and are surprised — because it’s so low.

A big bowl of pho will run you $9.49. For bun, the vermicelli bowls, between $8.49 – $11.99.

For a banh mi, one of my top three favorite sandwiches in the entire world? $4.49.

A banh mi platter goes for $9.99 and comes with your choice of appetizer (I went with the spring rolls — not pictured) and a cup of pho broth (golden and rich with flavor).

IMG_1916

This banh mi contained grilled pork and provided all the usual pleasures of the sandwich, crunch and tang.

IMG_1915

Lucky for all of us, Pho 14 has three locations: Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan and Van Ness.

Let’s be thankful for cheap eats, and for cheap eats that taste this good.

Pho 14
4201 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC
202-686-6275

IMG_1072

A Banh Mi and Dessert in Old Town

One of the best things about December — other than the holidays — were the extra vacation days I’d saved up; savings that allowed me to take several Mondays and Fridays off.  It’s amazing what that extra day of weekend does for the spirits.

On one unseasonably warm December Monday (or seasonably warm depending on how bad global warming is getting), I decided to spend the day wandering around Old Town, Alexandria. It was a great opportunity to stroll, and the hours flew by as I window shopped along King St., admired art in the Torpedo Center, Christmas shopped at the Christmas Attic (which I believe sells Christmas items year-round), and lingered along the water and lighthouse at the rebuilt Jones Point Park (which offers plenty to read about its interesting history as a shipyard during World War I.)

Naturally, there were also stops for food. For lunch, Caphe Banh Mi, located away from the busy drag of King St. on Cameron St.

IMG_1073

The imperial rolls filled with crabmeat and other goodies were piping hot, straight out of the fryer.

IMG_1069

I was here for one thing though, the banh mi. This was a grilled pork banh mi, my favorite.

IMG_1070

IMG_1072

Flawless. The bread and crunchy fillings of jalapeno, cucumber, pickled radish, pickled carrots and cilantro were spot on. Only $5, too. Not too many places where you can get a $5 sandwich.

Later on in the day I wanted a sweet treat, so I popped into the bakery and cafe, La Madeleine.

Mini cafe au lait creme brulee? Um, yes please.

IMG_1076

Isn’t that a great looking hot chocolate?

IMG_1075

It’s so darn cozy in La Madeleine. It was hard to get moving again and leave.

I did leave — eventually — with a big smile on my face. A leisurely Monday spent in Old Town. That’s the way to ease into the work week.

Caphe Banh Mi
407 Cameron St.
Alexandria, VA
703-549-0800

La Madeleine
500 King St.
Alexandria, VA
703-739-2854

IMG_0537

Chipotle Goes Asian With ShopHouse

It took about ten seconds to decide what I wanted at ShopHouse. I’m not kidding, ten seconds. Bowl or Banh Mi… banh mi.  Meat… chicken and pork meatballs. Toppings… everything.

Done. Order placed.

ShopHouse is Chipotle’s Asian spinoff experiment, and the similarities are evident: streamlined menu that even the most profoundly dumb mouth-breather could decipher, rapid and efficient service and reasonable prices.

Like Chipotle, there are several choices of toppings for a given meat (or tofu). I asked for them all: spicy mayo, papaya slaw, crushed peanuts and herbs.  And then I hit the thing with Sriracha.

The chicken and pork meatballs are under there somewhere.

There’s one peeking out.

The meatballs were the weakest component of the sandwich. Not so much weak as kind of non-descript. I don’t remember much about them except that they tasted like meatballs. But the baguette was crusty, and the rest of the fresh toppings provided that recognizable banh mi crunch.

As banh mis go, it’s not quite the more authentic version you’ll get at a Vietnamese restaurant, and it’s more expensive. But $7 for Dupont Circle is pretty good.  If I worked around there, I’d probably grab lunch at ShopHouse all the time.

ShopHouse
1516 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC
202-232-4141

IMG_2895

Eden Center: Vietnamese Nirvana

The place is called, fittingly, Eden Center — a Vietnamese-American shopping center with around 120 stores and over 30 restaurants. I’ve never seen so many Vietnamese restaurants packed into one area. For a Vietnamese food-deprived soul from New York state, Eden Center is something of a miracle.

I hadn’t planned on eating during this visit. Wasn’t even hungry — I’d just come from lunch with my aunt and cousin’s family, and stopped by Eden Center solely with the intention to grocery shop at its supermarket, Cho Saigon — which, was closed for renovations. I started wandering around noticing restaurant after restaurant, each seemingly with a picture in the window of vermicelli, pho or banh mi.

Like this one:

Kids were also strolling out of bakeries holding bubble teas.

And what do ya know… the appetite kicked in. I think my stomach’s exact words were, Let’s do this.

I don’t even remember exactly which shop I walked into. May have been this one.

I left with a mango bubble tea.

And a grilled pork banh mi, which cost all of $3.

All those restaurants hawking banh mi sandwiches for $7 or $8 should be ashamed of themselves. This is how it’s done. Super-crusty baguette, succulent grilled pork, crunchy pickled radish and carrot, a smear of mayo, and a smattering of jalapenos and pungent cilantro.

So that was lunch #2, the lunch after lunch. Apparently stomachs have separate compartments for dessert, and separate compartments for banh mi and bubble tea.

Eden Center
6751 Wilson Blvd
Falls Church, VA

IMG_2701

A M.A.D Cafe Salad and a Vietnamese Banh Mi

A few weeks ago, I made the horrible mistake of driving to Brooklyn for a morning meeting. What a disaster. It was like we were stuck in mud on the BQE, and that was followed in town by lights, construction and more traffic.  In the time it took to reach Brooklyn and back, I could have been in New Hampshire.  If I had to make that drive every day, I’d steer myself right off the RFK Bridge.

On the way home, crabbiness and hunger spurred me to make a detour and get something to eat.  I swung off the Hutch in Pelham and stopped in at a spot I knew to be close by — M.A.D Cafe.

I’ve been told that M.A.D (“Modern American Dining,” in case you were wondering) serves good breakfast grub ; I can’t vouch for the breakfast, but I do know they have a solid selection of sandwiches. And I like their “build your own” salads, which is what I came for.

I chose mixed greens and added in cucumbers, chicken, blue cheese, and diced apple.

The initial reaction is, $9.50 for this? However, the container is deceptively deeper than it appears. I don’t get full easily, but this salad was big and hearty enough to satisfy the appetite.

This week I smartened up and took the train to Brooklyn. Way less stressful, especially once you get to Grand Central and begin traveling against the flow of morning commuters. Guess what I discovered on 7th Ave. in Park Slope — two Vietnamese banh mi shops, within blocks of one another. Damn you, residents of Park Slope!  Naturally, I had to try one.

This grilled pork banh mi came from Henry’s.

I cannot get enough of these sandwiches. And you know what? The banh mi made all the aggravation of Brooklyn worth it.

M.A.D Cafe
129 Wolfs Lane
Pelham, NY
914-738-7395

Henry’s
433 7th Ave.
Brooklyn, NY
718-788-8882